by Nina van Gorkom | 1999 | 122,172 words

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Chapter 31 - Six Pairs Of Beautiful Cetasikas

tranquillity of body, kaya-passaddhi
tranquillity of mind, citta-passaddhi

lightness of cetasikas, kaya-lahuta
Iightness of citta, citta-lahuta

pliancy of cetasikas, kaya-muduta
pliancy of citta, citta-muduta

wieldiness of cetasikas, kaya-kammannata
wieldiness of citta, citta-kammannata

proficiency of cetasikas, kaya-pagunnata
proficiency of citta, citta-pagunnata

uprightness of cetasika kaya-ujukata
uprightness of citta, citta-ujukata

Among the sobhana cetasikas, beautiful cetasikas, which accompany each sobhana citta, there are twelve cetasikas which are classified as six pairs. Of each pair one cetasika is a quality pertaining to the accompanying cetasikas and one a quality pertaining to citta. The first pair is:

  1. tranquillity of body, kaya-passaddhi
  2. tranquillity of mind, citta-passaddhi

The Pali term kaya means body, but it can also stand for the "mental body" which are the cetasikas. According to the Dhammasangani (40, 41) tranquillity of body is the calming, the tranquillizing of the cetasikas and tranquillity of citta is the calming, the tranquillizing of citta. Thus, tranquillity of body allays agitation of the accompanying cetasikas and conditions the quiet smooth and even way of their functioning; tranquillity of citta allays agitation of the citta it accompanies.

The Atthasalini (Book I, Part N, Chapter 1, 130) explains about tranquillity of body and tranquillity of mind:

... These two states taken together have the characteristic of pacifying the suffering of both mental factors and of consciousness; the function of crushing the suffering of both; the manifestation of an unwavering and cool state of both; and have mental factors and consciousness as proximate cause. They are the opponents of the corruptions, such as distraction (uddhacca), which cause the disturbance of mental factors and of consciousness.

The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 144) gives a similar definition. Tranquillity is the opponent of restlessness or distraction, uddhacca, which prevents the arising of kusala citta. When we, for example, strive after something with attachment, there is also restlessness and there cannot be calm, Not only when we want to have something for ourselves, but also when we merely like something such as a particular colour there is restlessness, and then there is no calm. We keep on being infatuated with pleasant sense objects and we may not notice attachment which is subtle. At such moments there is restlessness.

When the citta is kusala citta there is calm of citta and cetasikas, there is no restlessness nor agitation at that moment. There is a "cool state of mind", no infatuation with the object which is experienced, no restlessness. However, it is not easy to recognize the characteristic of calm. The different types of citta succeed one another very rapidly and shortly after the kusala cittas have fallen away akusala cittas tend to arise. Right understanding has to be keen in order to know the characteristic of calm. If there is no right understanding we may take for calm what is not calm but another reality. For example, when we are alone, in a quiet place, we may think that there is calm while there is actually attachment to silence.

There are likely to be misunderstandings about calm. What we call calm or tranquillity in conventional language is not the same as the realities of tranquillity of cetasikas and tranquillity of citta. Someone may think that he is calm when he is free from worry, but this calm may not be kusala at all. There may be citta rooted in attachment which thinks of something else in order not to worry. At such a moment he cannot at the same time think of the object of his worry since citta can experience only one object at a time.

Or people may do breathing exercises in order to become relaxed. Tranquillity of cetasikas and tranquillity of citta which are sobhana cetasikas are not the same as a feeling of relaxation which is connected with attachment. We should know the characteristic of true calm which is wholesome.

There are many degrees of calm. When we are generous or observe the moral precepts there is calm of cetasikas and of citta. At such moments there is no restlessness, agitation or worry. The feeling which accompanies the kusala citta is also calm. We may notice the difference between pleasant feeling which accompanies attachment and pleasant feeling which accompanies generosity; these feelings have different qualities. Those who have accumulated inclinations for higher degrees of calm can develop it if there is right understanding which knows precisely the characteristic of calm. Those who are able to cultivate samatha and attain jhana experience a high degree of calm since there are at the moments of jhana no sense impressions and thus no enslavement to them. However, even the calm of the highest stage of jhana cannot eradicate defilements. They will arise again after the jhanacittas have fallen away.

People in the Buddha's time and also people before his time developed calm, even to the degree of jhana, if they had accumulated the skill and the inclination to do so. The development of calm is not specifically Buddhist. The fact that the Buddha and his disciples developed calm to the stage of jhana does not mean that everybody has to develop jhana in order to be able to also develop vipassana. The Buddha explained that also jhanacitta could be object of insight, in order to help those who were able to attain jhana not to cling to it, but to understand it as it is impermanent and not self. We should remember this whenever we read in the scriptures about the attainment of jhana.

If someone has accumulated the capability to reach higher degrees of calm even to the stage of jhana, they will arise because of conditions Anything which arises can be object of awareness, and thus also jhana. The attainment of jhana is not an aim in itself, neither is it a necessary requirement for the attainment of enlightenment.

We can have moments of calm in our daily life when we study the teachings and reflect on them in a wholesome way. The object of reflection is then actually one of the forty meditation subjects of samatha, that is, recollection of the Dhamma. This meditation subject comprises recollection on the teachings as well as recollection on nibbana and the eight types of lokuttara cittas which experience it, the "nine supramundane dhammas", included in the Dhamma which is the second of the Triple Gem. There can also be moments of calm when we develop loving kindness or one of the other meditation subjects which suit our inclinations. However, we should remember that it is extremely difficult to attain jhana or even "access-concentration".[1]

We read in the Visuddhimagga (XII, 8) that only very few people, "one in a hundred or a thousand" are able to do so. If someone only wants to develop calm without right understanding of its characteristic, he is likely to cling to calm without knowing it. If calm arises it does so because of conditions and there is no self who can exert power over it.

Tranquillity of cetasikas and of citta accompany each kusala citta and thus, they arise also when insight is being developed

When there is right understanding of a nama or a rupa which appears there is calm at that moment. When, for example, visible object is known as only a rupa appearing through the eyesense, not a person, there is calm. At that moment there cannot be disturbance caused by desire nor can there be annoyance. Even when someone treats us badly there can be right understanding of the objects appearing through the six doors, and then we are not perturbed nor afraid.

Calm is one of the factors of enlightenment. We read in the Book of Analysis (Chapter 10, Analysis of the Enlightenment Factors, 469) :

... That which is calmness of body (cetasikas), that calmness enlightenment factor is for full knowledge, for enlightenment, for full emancipation also.

That which is calmness of consciousness, that calmness-enlightenment factor is for full knowledge, for enlightenment, for full emancipation also.

As right understanding develops the enlightenment factor of calm develops as well. We do not have to aim at calm. When the enlightenment factor of calm accompanies at the moment of enlightenment lokuttara citta, it is also lokuttara. As defilements are eradicated at the subsequent stages of enlightenment there will be more peace of mind, less restlessness. The arahat who has eradicated all defilements has reached true caIm which cannot be disturbed again by defilements. We read in the Dhammapada (verse 96) about the arahat:

Calm is his mind, calm is his speech, calm is his action, who, rightly knowing, is wholly peed, perfectly peaceful, and equiposed.

The next pair of sobhana cetasikas is:

  1. lightness of cetasikas, kaya-lahuta
  2. lightness of citta, citta-lahuta

According to the Dhammasangani (42, 43), this pair of cetasikas consists in the absence of sluggishness and inertia, they have "alertness in varying". The meaning of this will be clearer when we read what the "Mula-Tika"[2] states about lightness of citta: "the capacity of the mind to turn very quickly to a wholesome object or to the contemplation of impermanence, etc."

The Atthasalini (I, Book I, Part IV, Chapter 1, 30) explains :

Kaya-lightness is buoyancy of mental factors; citta-lightness is buoyancy of consciousness. They have the characteristic of suppressing the heaviness of the one and the other; the function of crushing heaviness in both; the manifestation of opposition to sluggishness in both, and have mental factors and consciousness as proximate cause.

They are the opponents of the corruptions, such as sloth and torpor, which cause heaviness and rigidity in mental factors and consciousness.

The Visuddhimagga (IXV, 145) gives a similar definition. Lightness is the opponent of sloth and torpor (thina and middha), which cause heaviness and sluggishness with regard to kusala. When there is akusala citta, there is mental heaviness and we are unable to perform any kind of kusala. Kusala citta needs confidence (saddha), it needs mindfulness or non-forgetfulness and it also needs mental lightness which suppresses heaviness and rigidity. When there is lightness of cetasikas and of citta they react with alertness so that the opportunity for kusala is not wasted.

There are many moments of unawareness. There are seeing, visible object or hardness time and again, but we may be dull and tired without any interest in awareness. However, when mindfulness arises there are also lightness of cetasikas and of citta which perform their functions: all tiredness is gone and there is alertness. Lightness is needed for the development of right understanding. When understanding of what appears through one of the six doors is being developed, there is also lightness which "crusher slugishness. If this moment is not wasted realities can eventually be seen as impermanent and not self.

Another pair of the sobhana cetasikas is:

  1. pliancy of cetasikas, kaya-muduta
  2. pliancy of citta, citta-muduta

According to the Dhammasangani (44, 45) this pair of cetasikas consist in suavity, smoothness and absence of rigidity.

The Atthasalini ( I, Book I, Part IV, Chapter 1, 130) explains: Chapter lV, 10.

They have the characteristic of suppressing the rigidity of mental factors and of consciousness; the function of crushing the same in both; the manifestation or effect of setting up no resistance; and have mental factors and consciousness as proximate cause. They are the opponents of the corruptions, such as opinionatedness (ditthi) and conceit which cause mental rigidity.

The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 146) gives a similar definition.

Pliancy of cetasikas and of citta are the opponents of wrong view and conceit. Wrong view causes rigidity and inflexibility. When someone, for example, is attached to wrong practice of the eightfold Path it shows that there is mental rigidity. He may stick to his old habits and way of thinking and then it is very difficult to eradicate wrong view. Someone may, for example, think that he should be at leisure or in a quiet place before he can develop right understanding. Even when we know in theory that this is not right it may happen that we still presume that there cannot be awareness when we are tired or in a hurry.

Such presumptions are a hindrance to develop understanding of whatever reality appears in out daily life. When we have listened to the Dhamma and we consider it there can be a beginning of the development of insight. we should not expect understanding to be perfect at once, but at least we can begin to develop it now.

As we have read in the definition, pliancy of cetasikas and of citta are the opponents also of conceit. When there is conceit there is mental rigidity, we are inclined to compare ourselves time and again with others in a conceited way as regards health, appearance, gain, honour or intelligence. conceit is extremely hard to eradicate, only the arahat has eradicated it completely.

Pliancy of cetasikas and of citta assist the kusala citta so that there is no mental rigidity or intolerance, but open-mindedness to what is right. The Atthasalini (I, Book I Part IV, chapter II, 151) explains further on about mental pliancy that it is suavity, non- roughness and non-rigidity. When there is loving kindness there is suavity and gentleness. Mental pliancy or malleability is indispensable for each wholesome action. Pliancy is also necessary in order to listen to the Dhamma, to receive it with open-mindedness and to be mindful of the reality which appears in order to know it
as it is.

We read in the Gradual Sayings (IV, Book of the Eights, chapter II, 2, Siha the general) that Siha visited the Buddha and questioned him on different points. The Buddha knew that Siha had accumulated right understanding and that it was the right time for him to receive the Dhamma. He did not explain to Siha immediately the four Noble Truths, but he gave him a gradual discourse. We read:

Then the Exalted One preached a graduated discourse to Siha, the general, that is to say: on almslgiving, the precepts and on heaven. He set forth the peril, the folly and the depravity of lusts and the blessedness of renunciation.

And when the Exalted One knew that the heart of Siha. the general. was clear, malleable, free from hindrance, uplifted and lucid, then he revealed that teaching of Dhamma which Buddhas alone have won. That is to say: Dukkha, its coming to be, its ending and the Way.

Just as a clean cloth, free of all stain, will take dye perfectly; even so in Siha, the general, seated there, there arose the spotless, stainless vision of Dhamma; that whatsoever be conditioned by coming to be, all that is subject to ending.

It was the right time for Siha to receive the Dhamma, He saw things as they are and attained enlightenment,

Another pair of sobhana cetasikas is:

  1. wieldiness of cetasikas, kaya-kammannata
  2. wieldiness of citta, citta-kammannata

Kammannata can be translated as wieldiness or workableness.[3] The Atthasalini (I, Book I, Part IV, chapter 1, 131) explains that they suppress unwieldiness in cetasikas and citta, and that they should be regarded as "bringing faith in objects of faith, and patient application in works of advantage, and are like purity of gold."[4]

When there is wieldiness, citta and cetasikas we like gold which has been made workable. The "Mula-Tika"[5] expresses this as follows :

Workableness signifies that specific or suitable degree of pliancy or softness which makes the gold, that is, the mind, workable. While the mind is in the flames of passion it is too soft to be workable, as molten gold is. If on the contrary, the mind is too rigid then it's comparable to untempered gold.

Wieldiness is the opponent of the "hindrances", such as sensuous desire (kamacchanda) and anger or hate (vyapada), which cause mental unwieldiness. We read in the Kindred Sayings (V, Maha-vagga, Book II, Chapter IV, 3, Corruptions) about five corruptions of gold whereby gold is impure, brittle, not pliant or workable. It
is the presence of other metals, of iron, copper, tin, lead and silver which makes it unwieldy. Even so the five hindrances make the mind unwieldy. We read:

... Likewise, monks, there are those five defilements of the mind, owing to which the mind is not pliant, not workable, impure, brittle and is not perfectly composed for the extinction of the passions.

Which are those five?

  1. Sensual desire,
  2. ill will,
  3. sloth and torpor,
  4. agitation and worry,
  5. doubt-

these are the defilements of the mind owing to which the mind is not pliant, not workable, impure, brittle and is not perfectly composed for the extinction of passions.

As we have seen, according to the Atthasalini, wieldiness brings faith (saddha) in objects of faith and patient application in kusala. Wieldiness is necessary for each kind of kusala, for generosity (dana), for morality (sila), for the development of calm and for the development of insight. Wieldiness makes the mind workable so that one can apply oneself to kusala with confidence and with patience. When someone, for example, wants to develop calm with loving kindness as meditation subject, he cannot be successful when there is no mental wieldiness.

When there is ill-will there is rigidity instead of wieldiness. In order to have loving kindness for all beings, not only for dear friends, but also for people one does not know or even for one's enemies, there has to be wieldiness. Without wieldiness one cannot succeed in becoming calm with any meditation subject.

Wieldiness of cetasikas and of citta also perform their functions in the development of insight; they are conditions for patience in the development of right understanding of nama and rupa. When there is right understanding of a nama or a rupa as only a conditioned reality, not self, there is wieldiness of mind. The development of insight leads to the eradication of the hindrances. The person who has eradicated them has no more unwieldiness but perfect wieldiness.

Another pair of sobhana cetasikas is:

  1. proficiency of cetasikas, kaya-pagunnata
  2. proficiency of citta, citta-pagunnata

According to the Dhammasangani ( 48, 49) this pair of cetasikas consists in fitness, competence and effidency. Pagunnata is fitness, competence or efficiency in the performance of kusala.

The Atthasalini (I, Book I, Part IV, Chapter 1, 131) explains that proficiency of cetasikas and of citta suppress mental illness and that they are the opponents of the corruptions, such as diffidence which cause mental illness.[6]

When the citta is akusala citta, there is diffidence, lack of confidence in kusala and then there is mental sickness. Mental proficiency assists the kusala citta and then citta and cetasikas are healthy and skilful so that they can perform their functions in the most efficient way.

There are many degrees of effidency in kusala. When right understanding is being developed, it conditions profidency and skilfulness in all kinds of kusala. The sotapanna has eradicated wrong view, doubt and stingness, and he will never neglect the five moral precepts. His generosity and his observance of morality is purer than the generosity and morality of the non-ariyan, he has no clinging to a wrong idea of "my kusala". His confidence in the Buddha's teachings has become unshakable, it has become a "power".

He has, in comparison to the non-ariyan, a higher degree of efficiency and competence with regard to kusala. He can assist others in a competent and efficient way, and thus we see that the development of right understanding also bears on one's relationship with others. We read in the Gradual Sayings (V, Book of the Elevens, Chapter II, 4, Subhuti) that the Buddha spoke to Subhuti about the traditional marks of belief (saddha) in a believer. One of these "traditional marlts" is the following:

... Again, in all the undertakings of his fellows in the brahma-life, be they matters weighty ar trivial, he is shrewd are energetic, possesing ability to give proper consideration thereto, as to what is the fit thing to do and how to manage it. in so far as a monk is such, this also is a traditional mark...

There is a higher degree of proficiency as higher stages of enlightenment are attained and defilements eradicated. At the stage of arahatship profidency has reached perfection.

The last pair of sobhana cetasikas is:

  1. uprightness of cerasika, kaya-ujukata
  2. uprightness of citta, citta-ujukata

According to the Dhammasangani (50, 51) this pair of cetasikas consists in straightness and rectitude, being without deflection, twist or crookedness.

The Atrhasalini (I, Book I, Parr IV, Chapter I, 131) explains that uprightness of cetasikas and of citta crush crookedness and that they are the opponents of the corruptions, such as deception and craftiness, which cause crookedness in mental factors and consciousness.[7]

Uprightness is the opponent of deception and craftiness. There may be moments that one's behaviour is insincere. We read in the Visudahimagga (I, 60-84) about the behaviour of the monk who tries to obtain the requisites by hypocrisy, by hinting, flattery, indirect talk, grimaces and. gestures. He pretends to be better than he in reality is in order to be admireed. We read (I, 70) :

Here someone of evil wishes, a prey to wishes, eager to be admired, (thinking) "Thus people will admire me", composes his way of walking, composes his way of lying down; he walks studied, stands studiedly, sits studiedly, lies down studiedly; he walks as though concentrated, stands, sirs, lies down as though concentrated: and he is one who meditates in public...

We all want to be admred and therefore we may pretend to be better than we really are. Even when it seems that we are generous there tend to be selfish motives for our actions. We may expect something in return, we want to be praised, to be popular. Speech which seems pleasing may be directed towards selfish gain. Uprightness crushes such insincerity. It assists each kusala citta. There are many degrees of uprightness. To the extent that right understanding develops also uprightness develops. The ariyan is called the person who is on the straight, true and proper way (ujupatipanno, Vis. VII, 90-92).

He is on the middle Path, avoiding extremes; he is on the Path which leads to the eradication of defilements. One is on the middle Path when there is the development of understanding of whatever reality appears, even if it is akusala. We can develop right understanding in daily life, no matter whether we laugh or cry, no matter whether we are angry or generous. Thus we will learn the truth, we will learn that each reality which arises is conditioned and that it is non-self. In the above quoted explanation of insincerity in the Visuddhimagga we read about the monk who walks, stands, sits and lies down as though concentrated.

Someone may believe that he is doing the things with concentration which is kusala, although this is not so. When there is mindfulness of realities we can find out whether the citta which presents itself is kusala citta or akusala citta.

We will come to know ourselves and thus we will become more sincere. The person who is on the middle Way is honest wish himself and he does not pretend that he is without defilements. Defilements can only be eradicated if they are known as they are straightness of cetasikas and of citta accompany the citta which develops understanding and they assist the citta in this task.

Summarizing the six pairs of sobhana cetasikas, they are:

  1. calm of cetasikas, kaya-passaddhi .
  2. calm of citta, citta-passaddhi
  3. lightness of cetasikas, kaya-lahuta
  4. lightness of citta, citta-lahuta
  5. pliancy of cetasikas, kaya-muduta
  6. pliancy of citta, citta-muduta
  7. wieldiness of cetasikas, kaya-kammannata
  8. wieldiness of citta, dtra-kammannata
  9. proficiency of cetasikas, kaya-pagunnata
  10. proficiency of citta, citya-pagunnata
  11. uprightness of cetasikas, kaya-ujukata
  12. uprightness of citta, citta-ujukata

 These six pairs accompany all sobhana cittas. They are necessairy for each kind of kusala, be it generosity (daa), morality (sila), the development of calm (samatha) or insight (vipassana). They assist the kusala citta and its accompanying cetasikas, so that wholesomeness can be performed in an efficient way. They are counteractive to the hindrances of sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and regret, and doubt. when the six pairs are present the hindrances do not arise; citta and cetasikas are healthy and skilful in performing their functions. Right understanding is the factor which conditions most of all the development of all the wholesome qualities represented by the six pairs. In the arahat they have reached perfection.

As we have seen, there are at least nineteen sobhana cetasikas which accompany each sobhana citta.[8] All these cetasikas accompany the sobhana cittas of the sense-sphere (kamavacara sobhana cittas), the sobhana cittas which are rupa-jhanacittas (of fine-material jhana) and arupa-jhanacittas (of imnaterial jhana), and the sobhana cittas which are lokuttara cittas.

This does not mean that all these sobhana cittas are accompanied by only nineteen sobhana cetasikas. In addition to the nineteen sobhana cetasikas which accompany each sobhana citta, there are six more, and I shall deal with these in the following chapters.


  1. Why are pliancy of cetasikas and of citta the opponents of wrong view and conceit?
  2. Why is it said that there is freedom from illness when there is proficiency of cetasikas and of citta?
  3. Why is diffidence, lack of faith (saddha), the cause of mental illness?
  4. Why has the sotapanna a higher degree of proficiency in kusala than the non-ariyan?
  5. Why does uprightness develop to the extent that right understanding of realities develops?
  6. Why is the ariyan called a person who walks straight?
  7. Which factor conditions most of all the growth of all wholesome qualities?
June 30, 2001

Footnotes and references:


See Chapter 6.


A subcommentary quoted by Ven. Nyanaponika in Abhidhamma Studies


See Dhammasangani 46, 47.


See also Visuddhimagga, XIV, 147.


See Abhidhamma Studies by Ven. Nyanaponika. Chapter IV, 10


See also the Visuddhimagga, XIV, 148.


See also the Visuddhimagga , XIV , 149


see Appendix 8 for a summary of them and of the sobhana cittas they accompany.

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