An outline of the 24 Conditions as taught in the Abhidhamma

by Nina van Gorkom | 2003 | 56,782 words

Conditionality of Life in the Buddhist Teachings An outline of the 24 Conditions as taught in the Abhidhamma...

Chapter 1 - Root-Condition


The first condition mentioned in the "Patthana" is root-condition, hetu-paccaya. There are three akusala hetus: lobha, attachment, dosa, aversion, and moha, ignorance, and these can have many degrees. Lobha can be a slight attachment or it can be clinging, greed or covetousness. Dosa can be a slight aversion, or it can be as intense as anger or hatred. Moha is ignorance of realities, it is ignorance of what is kusala or akusala, and ignorance of the four noble truths.[1] Moha is the root of everything which is akusala, it arises with each akusala citta. There are three sobhana (beautiful) hetus: alobha, non-attachment or generosity, adosa, non-aversion or kindness, and amoha, panna or right understanding. The three sobhana hetus can have many degrees, they can even be lokuttara (supramundane), when they accompany lokuttara citta which experiences nibbana.

These six roots are actually cetasikas or mental factors which accompany citta. They are called root, since they are the firm foundation of the citta. Just as a tree rests on its roots and receives sap through the roots in order to grow, evenso are the akusala cittas and sobhana cittas dependent on the presence of the roots and they cannot occur in their absence. Thus, the roots are powerful conditions for the cittas which are rooted in them.

When akusala citta arises it is always rooted in moha, and it may have in addition the root of lobha or of dosa. The twelve types of akusala citta are classified according to hetu: eight types are rooted in moha and lobha, and they are called lobha-mula-cittas,[2] two types are rooted in moha and dosa, and they are called dosa-mula-cittas,[3] two types are rooted only in moha, and they are called moha-mula-cittas[4].

All sobhana cittas have to be rooted in alobha and adosa and they may or may not be rooted in amoha or panna as well. Of the eight types of maha-kusala cittas (kusala cittas of the sense-sphere),[5] the eight types of maha-vipakacittas and the eight types or maha-kiriyacittas (of the arahat),[6] four types out of the eight are accompanied by panna and four types are not accompanied by panna, thus, accompanied by two sobhana hetus.[7]

People who develop samatha, tranquil meditation, may have accumulated skill for the attainment of jhana, absorption. When there are the right conditions jhanacittas arise. There are jhanacittas of different stages of rupa-jhana, material jhana, and arupa-jhana, immaterial jhana[8] The rupa-jhanacittas (rupavacara cittas) and the arupa-jhanacittas (arupavacara cittas) always have three hetus, because there cannot be absorption without panna.

Through the development of insight, vipassana, right understanding of realities gradually grows and when understanding has been developed to the degree that enlightenment can be attained, lokuttara cittas which experience nibbana arise. Lokuttara cittas always have three hetus because they are accompanied by panna which is lokuttara.

Not all cittas have hetus, there are also rootless cittas, ahetuka cittas which may be vipakacittas (result) or kiriyacittas (neither cause nor result, inoperative). When visible object impinges on the eyesense, it is experienced by cittas arising in the eye-door process[9]; it is experienced by seeing which is ahetuka vipakacitta, and by other ahetuka cittas and then cittas performing the function of javana (impulsion or "running through the object") arise, and these are (in the case of non-arahats) kusala cittas or akusala cittas and thus with hetus. After the eye-door process is over, visible object is experienced through the mind-door; there is the mind-door adverting-consciousness which is ahetuka and then there are javana-cittas which are kusala cittas or akusala cittas.

Good deeds or bad deeds are performed during the moments of javana. Then kamma is accumulated which can produce its result later on. One also accumulates good and bad tendencies which condition the arising of kusala citta or akusala citta in the future. When kusala javana-cittas are accompanied by panna which is right understanding of realities, right understanding is accumulated.

As we have seen in the classification of cittas rooted in sobhana hetus, there are vipakacittas with hetus[10]. Kamma produces rebirth-consciousness, patisandhi-citta, which is vipakacitta, and this vipakacitta, depending on the type and degree of kamma which produces it, may be: ahetuka, or accompanied by two roots, namely alobha and adosa, or accompanied by three roots, and in that case it has panna in addition. The roots condition the citta and the accompanying cetasikas by way of root-condition. All bhavanga-cittas (life-continuum)[11] and the cuti-citta (dying-consciousness) are of the same type of citta as the patisandhi-citta.

It is important to know which type of citta arises at the present moment. Is it with roots or is it rootless? Is it akusala citta or kusala citta? Cittas rooted in lobha are bound to arise time and again, since lobha has been accumulated for aeons. The first javana-cittas of every living being are lobha-mula-cittas. There is clinging to all kinds of objects which present themselves through the six doors and clinging is extremely hard to eradicate. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Twos, Ch XI, §1):

Monks, there are these two longings hard to abandon. What two? The longing for gain and the longing for life. These are the two.

Time and again we want to gain something for ourselves. When we get up in the morning and we eat breakfast we are clinging to coffee or tea, but we do not notice that there are the hetus of moha and lobha which condition the citta by way of root-condition. We cling to seeing or to visible object, but we do not notice it, we are so used to clinging. We have longing for life, we want to go on living and experiencing sense objects. That is why there are conditions for rebirth again and again. It is impossible for us not to have longing for life, only the arahat has eradicated it. We would like to have kusala citta more often, but it cannot arise without the hetus which are alobha and adosa. Without these hetus we cannot perform any wholesome deed, we cannot speak with kindness and generosity. When amoha or panna does not accompany the kusala citta right understanding of realities cannot be developed. There is no self who can control hetu-paccaya, root-condition; akusala hetus and sobhana hetus are anatta.

With regard to root-condition, the roots, hetus, are the dhammas which condition the citta and cetasikas they accompany and also the rupa which is produced by the citta at that moment. For instance, lobha-mula-citta, citta rooted in attachment, has two hetus: lobha, attachment, and moha, ignorance. Lobha and dosa condition the citta and its accompanying cetasikas by way of root-condition. Moreover, rupa produced by lobha-mula-citta is also conditioned by the roots of lobha and moha. In the case of root-condition, the hetus which are the conditioning factors (the paccayas) and the dhammas they condition (the paccayupanna dhammas) arise simultaneously. The "Patthana" (Analytical Exposition, II, 1) gives the following definition of root-condition:

The roots are related to the states[12] which are associated with roots, and the rupa produced thereby, by root-condition.

Citta is one of the four factors which can produce rupas, the others being kamma, temperature (utu) and nutrition (ahara). Citta can produce the eight inseparable rupas which are: solidity, cohesion, temperature, motion, colour, odour, flavour and nutritive essence[13]. There is a rupa which is space, akasa, and this rupa has the function of separating the different groups or units of rupas produced by each of the four factors. Akasa itself is produced by each of the four factors, and thus also by citta. Citta can produce sound, and it also produces the three "mutables" (or changeability of rupa), vikara rupas, which are: lightness (lahuta), wieldiness (muduta) and adaptability (kammannata). These three rupas condition the suppleness of the body so that it can move. Citta also produces the two kinds of intimation, namely: bodily intimation (kaya-vinnatti), gestures, movements of the body and facial movements by which we express our intentions, and speech intimation (vaci-vinnatti). Citta is assisted by the accompanying cetasikas when it produces rupa.

When we are angry and we show this by our facial expression, akusala citta produces the rupa which is bodily intimation. Bodily intimation is then conditioned by the hetus which are moha and dosa by way of root-condition. We may raise our hand and hit someone else. Then akusala kamma through the body is being performed and the rupa which is bodily intimation is the body-door of this kamma. That rupa is conditioned by root-condition. When we flatter someone else in order to be liked by him we speak with lobha-mula-citta. Then the rupa which is speech-intimation is conditioned by moha and lobha by way of root-condition. Or we may commit akusala kamma through speech, for example, when we are lying. Lying may be done with lobha-mula-citta when we want to gain something, or with dosa-mula-citta when we want to harm someone else. The rupa which is speech is then conditioned by the accompanying roots by way of root-condition.

When we clean the house or when we cook, do we realize by which hetus our bodily movements are conditioned? There can be awareness at such moments. We may write a letter to someone else with kindness, metta, and then the rupas which arise while we move our hands are produced by kusala citta. The accompanying sobhana hetus condition these rupas by way of root-condition. However, there are likely to be akusala cittas arising alternately with kusala cittas. There may be right understanding of nama and rupa while we write and then the citta is accompanied by alobha, adosa and amoha.

As regards root-condition, hetu-paccaya, at the first moment of life, if the rebirth-consciousness, patisandhi-citta, is accompanied by roots, these roots condition the citta and accompanying cetasikas by way of root-condition. The patisandhi-citta cannot produce rupa, but, in the planes where there are nama and rupa, the five khandha planes, the rupa arising at the moment of birth is produced by kamma. Thus, both the patisandhi-citta and the rupa which arises at the same moment are result of kamma, a deed previously done. In the case of human beings, kamma produces at the first moment of life three groups of rupa, one group with the heart-base[14], one group with sex (male or female) and one group with bodysense. Since the kamma which produces nama and rupa at the moment of birth is of different degrees, the mental result and the bodily result are also of different degrees. We can see that human beings are born with different mental and bodily capacities. Some people are beautiful, some ugly, some are apt to few illnesses, some to many illnesses. The patisandhi-citta may be ahetuka (rootless) and in that case one is born handicapped[15]. Or the patisandhi-citta may be accompanied by two or three sobhana hetus, depending on the degree of kusala kamma which produces it. These hetus are of different degrees. When the patisandhi-citta is rooted in sobhana hetus, these hetus condition the citta, the accompanying cetasikas and the rupas which are produced by kamma and which arise at the same time as the patisandhi-citta. Thus we see that the diversity of the nama and rupa of human beings from the moment of birth is dependent on conditions.

The "Patthana" (Faultless Triplet, Kusala-ttika, Ch VII, Investigation Chapter, Panha-vara, I, Conditions Positive, 1, Classification Chapter, Root 7, 403) states about root-condition at the first moment of life:

At the moment of conception, resultant indeterminate roots (hetus which are vipaka)[16] are related to (their) associated aggregates (khandhas)[17] and kamma-produced matter by root-condition.

Not only cittas of the sense-sphere, kamavacara cittas, which are accompanied by roots, are conditioned by these roots by way of root-condition, hetu-paccaya, also cittas of higher planes of consciousness, namely jhana-cittas and lokuttara cittas, are conditioned by the accompanying roots by way of hetu-paccaya. As to rupavacara cittas (rupa-jhanacittas), rupavacara kusala citta, rupavacara vipakacitta and rupavacara kiriyacitta (of the arahat) produce rupa. That rupa is then conditioned by the hetus accompanying the rupa-jhanacittas by way of hetu-paccaya. As to arupavacara cittas (arupa-jhanacittas), arupavacara kusala citta and arupavacara kiriyacitta produce rupa, and these rupas are then conditioned by the hetus accompanying those cittas by way of hetu-paccaya. Arupavacara vipakacittas do not produce any rupa; these cittas which are the result of arupa-jhana, arise in arupa-brahma planes where there is no rupa, only nama[18]. Lokuttara cittas produce rupa[19]. The rupa is then conditioned by hetus which are lokuttara, by way of hetu-paccaya.

In the "Patthana" we read about many aspects of conditional relations between phenomena and we should consider these in our daily life. The study of root-condition can remind us to consider whether there is kusala citta or akusala citta while we act, speak or think.

The roots which arise together condition one another by way of root-condition. Alobha and adosa always arise together and they may or may not be accompanied by amoha, panna. When there is amoha, the two other roots which accompany the citta, namely alobha and adosa, are conditioned by amoha. For instance, right understanding may accompany generosity, alobha. While we give we may realize that generosity is only a type of nama, not self, and then the generosity is purer, it has a higher degree of wholesomeness than generosity which is not accompanied by right understanding. When someone is born with maha-vipakacitta (vipakacitta of the sense-sphere accompanied by sobhana hetus), this citta may be accompanied by panna or unaccompanied by panna. When the patisandhi-citta is accompanied by panna one may, if panna is developed during that life, attain enlightenment.

Moha and lobha condition one another, and moha and dosa condition one another. We may find it difficult to know the characteristic of moha and we tend to forget that when there is lobha there is moha as well, or when there is dosa there is moha as well. We should remember that whenever akusala citta arises, there is ignorance of realities. When we, for example, cling to a pleasant sound, we are at such a moment blinded, we do not see the object as it really is, as a conditioned reality which is impermanent. When we are annoyed, there is dosa as well as ignorance. We do not like to have dosa because we do not like unpleasant feeling, but we do not understand the conditions for dosa, we forget that ignorance conditions it. When there is ignorance we do not see the danger and disadvantage of akusala. When we develop metta dosa can be temporarily subdued, but for the eradication of dosa the development of right understanding of realities is necessary. Only the ariyan who has attained the third stage of enlightenment, the anagami (non-returner), has developed panna to such degree that dosa has been eradicated. Ignorance leads to all kinds of defilements and only right understanding of nama and rupa can finally eradicate ignorance.

The akusala hetus, unwholesome roots, are dangerous; they are accumulated and they cause the arising of akusala cittas again and again. They prevent us from kusala and cause disturbance of mind. We read in the "Itivuttaka" (Khuddhaka Nikaya, "As it was said", Book of the Threes, Ch IV, §9)[20]:

There are three inner taints, three inner foes, three inner enemies, three inner murderers, three inner antagonists. What are these three? Greed is an inner taint... hatred is an inner taint... Delusion is an inner taint, an inner foe, an inner enemy, an inner murderer, an inner antagonist.

Greed is a cause of harm,
Unrest of mind it brings.
This danger that has grown within,
Blind folk are unaware of it.

A greedy person cannot see the facts
Nor can he understand the Dhamma.
When greed has overpowered him,
In complete darkness is he plunged.

But he who can forsake this greed
And what to greed incites, not craves,
From him will quickly greed glide off,
As water from the lotus leaf.

The sutta then speaks about the danger and the forsaking of hate and of delusion. We read about the forsaking of delusion:

But who has shed delusion's veil,
Is undeluded where confusion reigns,
He scatters all delusion sure,
Just as the sun dispels the night.

Feelings are also conditioned by the accompanying hetus by way of hetu-paccaya. Pleasant feeling is different depending on whether it accompanies akusala citta or kusala citta. There is unrest of mind with the pleasant feeling accompanying clinging and there is calm with the pleasant feeling accompanying generosity. When there is awareness we may realize that these two kinds of pleasant feeling are different. It is useful to read about the different conditions of phenomena, but we should consider their implications in daily life, so that we can understand what kind of life we are leading. Is it a life full of lobha, dosa and moha, or is right understanding being developed?

Footnotes and references:


The truth of dukkha, suffering, of the origin of dukkha, which is clinging, of the cessation of dukkha, which is nibbana, and of the Path leading to the cessation of dukkha.


Mula also means root. Four types are accompanied by somanassa, pleasant feeling, four types by wrong view, four types are asankharika, not-induced or spontaneous, four types are sasankharika, induced. Altogether there are eight types.


One type is not-induced and one type is induced.


One is called accompanied by restlessness, uddhacca, and one is accompanied by doubt, vicikiccha.


Maha means great.


The arahat does not have akusala cittas nor kusala cittas, he does not perform kamma which produces result. When he has sobhana cittas, cittas accompanied by beautiful qualities, they are inoperative, maha-kiriyacittas which do not produce result.


Four types are accompanied by somanassa, pleasant feeling, four types are accompanied by upekkha, indifferent feeling. Four types are asankharika, not induced, four types are sasankharika, induced.


The meditation subjects of rupa-jhana are dependant on materiality, whereas those of arupa-jhana do not and thus, arupa-jhana is more tranquil, more refined.


The objects which impinge on the six doors are experienced by several cittas arising in a process, which each perform their own function. Some of these cittas are ahetuka kiriyacitta, some ahetuka vipakacitta, and some are accompanied by roots, namely the javana-cittas which are either kusala cittas or akusala cittas. See Appendix 1.


Some vipakacittas are ahetuka, rootless, such as seeing-consciousness or hearing-consciousness,  and some vipakacittas are accompanied by roots.


Bhavanga-cittas arise in between the processes of cittas, they preserve the continuity in the life of a being. They do not experience the objects which impinge on the senses and the mind, they experience their own object, which is the same as the object experienced by the rebirth-consciousness.


"States" stands for dhammas, realities; "states which are associated with roots" are the realities which arise together with the roots, namely, citta and cetasikas.


Rupas arise and fall away in groups or units, and these consist of at least eight rupas, which are called the inseparable rupas. Some groups of rupas consist of more than eight rupas, but the eight inseparables always have to be present.


In the planes of existence where there are nama and rupa citta must have a physical base or place of origin. For seeing, hearing and the other sense-cognitions the corresponding senses are the physical bases. All the other types of citta also have a physical base, and this rupa is called the "heart-base".


The kusala kamma which produces a patisandhi-citta which is kusala vipaka without roots is weaker than the kusala kamma which produces a patisandhi-citta with two roots or three roots. There are many different kammas with different degrees which produce their results accordingly.


As I explained in my Introduction, realities, dhammas, can be classified as threefold:  as kusala, as akusala and as indeterminate, avyakata. Indeterminate dhammas include vipaka and kiriya, inoperative. Thus, hetus which are "resultant indeterminate" are hetus which are vipaka.


The associated aggregates are the citta and cetasikas, which arise together with the roots.


The rebirth-consciousness in a higher plane of existence, namely, in a rupa-brahma plane or an arupa-brahma plane, is the result of jhana.


In the planes of existence where there are nama and rupa, citta produces rupas such as solidity, heat, suppleness, etc. throughout life. The lokuttara citta which experiences nibbana also produces rupas.


I am using the translation by Ven. Nyanaponika, in "Roots of Good and Evil", Wheel no. 251/ 253, B.P.S. Kandy.

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