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 10 - Repetition-condition


Repetition-condition, asevana-paccaya, pertains only to nama, namely to the javana-cittas arising in a process of cittas. Javana-cittas are kusala, akusala or, in the case of arahats, kiriya. With regard to cittas of the sense-sphere, kamavacara cittas, there are usually seven javana-cittas in a process of cittas and these are all of the same jati, kusala, akusala or kiriya[1]. The first javana-citta conditions the second javana-citta by repetition-condition, asevana-paccaya, thus, the first javana-citta is the conditioning dhamma (paccaya dhamma) and the second one is the conditioned dhamma (paccayupanna dhamma). After that the second javana-citta which is in its turn the conditioning dhamma, conditions the third one, and so on, until the seventh javana-citta which does not condition the succeeding citta in this way since it is the last javana-citta.

We read in the "Patthana" (Analytical Exposition, Repetition-condition):

Preceding faultless states (kusala dhammas) are related to subsequent faultless states by repetition-condition.
Preceding faulty states (akusala dhammas) are related to subsequent faulty states by repetition-condiiton.
Preceding functional indeterminate states[2] are related to subsequent functional indeterminate states by repetition-condition.

We read in the Visuddhimagga (XVII, 87) about repetition-condition:

A dhamma that assists the efficiency and power of the proximate (next) in the sense of repetition-condition, like repeated application to books, and so on....

Just as one, in learning by heart, through constant repetition, becomes more proficient in reciting texts, evenso supports the preceding javana-citta the succeeding one by repetition-condition.

In the sense-door process the javana-cittas follow upon the determining-consciousness (votthapana-citta) and in the mind-door process upon the mind-door adverting-consciousness (mano-dvaravajjana-citta). The javana-cittas experience the same object as the preceding cittas in the process, they "run through" the object[3], but, except in the case of the arahat, they experience it in a wholesome way or in an unwholesome way. Whether the javana-cittas are kusala cittas or akusala cittas depends on natural decisive support-condition which includes one's accumulated inclinations, and also on root-condition and on several other conditions. When we experience a pleasant object through one of the senses, there may be wise attention or unwise attention to the object. We have accumulated a great deal of attachment and therefore lobha-mula-cittas tend to arise on account of a pleasant object. When the first javana-citta is lobha-mula-citta without wrong view and accompanied by pleasant feeling[4], the succeeding javana-citta which is conditioned by the preceding one by way of repetition-condition, is of the same type and so it is with the following ones. During these moments we accumulate more lobha. When the first javana-citta is kusala citta with panna, the following javana-cittas are of the same type. During these moments panna is accumulated.

As we have seen (in Ch 4), each citta conditions the succeeding citta by way of proximity-condition, anantara-paccaya, and by way of contiguity-condition, samanantara-paccaya. Moreover, a preceding citta can condition a succeeding citta by way of decisive support of proximity, anantarupanissaya-paccaya[5]. Javana-citta, besides being a condition for the next one by way of repetition, is also a condition for the next one by way of proximity, contiguity and decisive support of proximity. Realities can be related to each other by way of several conditions. Repetition-condition only pertains to javana-cittas. The last javana-citta in a process does not condition the next one by way of repetition-condition, because it is succeeded by a citta of a different jati[6]. The cittas which are repetition-condition have to be of the same jati. Thus, if the first javana-citta is akusala, the following ones are also akusala, and if the first javana-citta is kusala, the following ones are also kusala.

The javana-cittas which are repetition-condition are the following[7]: akusala cittas, maha-kusala cittas (of the sense-sphere), maha-kiriyacittas (of the arahat), the smile-producing citta of the arahat (ahetuka kiriyacitta), the rupavacara kusala cittas and kiriyacittas (rupa-jhanacittas) and the arupavacara kusala cittas and kiriyacittas (arupa-jhanacittas).

The performing of akusala kamma or kusala kamma occurs during the moments of javana and these can produce results later on. Moreover, during the moments of javana unwholesome or wholesome tendencies are being accumulated. Thus, the moments of javana condition our life in the future. When we are not intent on kusala, the javana-cittas are akusala. When we are daydreaming or walking around there are bound to be akusala cittas but we may not notice this. When we speak, we may not lie or use harsh words, but we may not notice how often we are engaged in idle, useless speech. When we, for example, talk about the weather or about what we are going to do tomorrow, we may not notice the many akusala cittas which motivate our speech. Because of natural decisive support-condition one kind of akusala can lead to another kind, and therefore, each kind of akusala is dangerous. So long as we are not an arahat we still have conditions for useless speech, but the study of the Dhamma can remind us to be aware while we speak. By right understanding it can be known whether akusala citta or kusala citta motivates our speech.

When we perform good deeds or evil deeds there are many processes with javana-cittas, and each one of these cittas conditions the next one by way of repetition-condition, except the seventh javana-citta. The teaching of repetition-condition reminds us of the danger of akusala citta. When akusala citta arises, there is not only one type but seven types succeeding one another, and during these moments we accumulate the tendency to akusala so that akusala citta will arise again in the future. When we see the disadvantage of akusala there are conditions for the arising of kusala citta. When kusala citta arises there are seven types of kusala citta succeeding one another. When we apply ourselves to kusala, kusala is being accumulated. This should encourage us to perform all kinds of kusala so that there will be kusala citta again in the future. Even when we speak a word of kindness or help someone just for a moment, for example getting something he needs and handing it to him, there are opportunities for kusala cittas. We should not neglect such opportunities or find them insignificant. Each moment of kusala is valuable because at such a moment we do not think of ourselves, there is no lobha, dosa or moha. A wholesome deed is never lost, even if it seems to be of no importance, because kusala is accumulated and it can be a natural decisive support-condition for kusala in the future.

We read in the "Atthasalini" (Expositor I, part IV, Ch VIII, 159, in the section on the Bases of Meritorious Action) that, when one performs dana, there can be kusala cittas before, during and after the wholesome deed:

Now, as to these bases, when we think, "I will give in charity", the citta works by one or other of those eight classes of kusala citta of the sense-sphere[8]; in making the gift, we give by one of them; in reflecting, "I have given in charity", we reflect by one of them....

The same is said about the other ways of kusala. It is beneficial to know that there are opportunities for kusala citta, not only at the moments we perform a deed of generosity, but also before and afterwards, while we consider our wholesome deed. However, it depends on conditions at which moment kusala citta arises, nobody can have control over this. It may happen that after having given a gift we have regret and then there are akusala cittas. We should not have aversion towards akusala citta which arises, because then we accumulate more akusala. Akusala citta arises because of conditions. There can be awareness of akusala so that it can be seen as non-self. At the moment of awareness there is kusala citta.

Kusala javana-cittas of the sense sphere are classified as eight types: they can be accompanied by pleasant feeling or by indifferent feeling, they can be accompanied or unaccompanied by panna, they can be prompted or unprompted (by external aid or by oneself). However, because of different conditioning factors the variety is much greater. If we have more knowledge of these conditioning factors we shall understand more clearly the great diversity of citta. Cittas are variegated because they are conditioned by different roots which have different intensities. The panna which may accompany citta can be of many degrees and intensities. It can be intellectual understanding which stems from reading and considering, or it can be direct understanding of the characteristics of realities. Citta can be conditioned by the four predominant factors of chanda (desire-to-do), viriya (energy), (firmness of) citta or vimamsa (investigation of Dhamma, panna cetasika[9]) and these can be of many degrees. Citta experiences objects and these can condition citta in different ways: by way of object-condition, of object-predominance-condition or of decisive support of object[10]. Kusala citta is accompanied by different sobhana cetasikas which condition the citta. We all have different accumulations and thus the type of kusala citta and its intensity varies for different people. There is a great diversity of kusala cittas but the Buddha classified them as eight types.

The "Atthasalini" (in the same section as quoted above, 160, 161) mentions the eight types of kusala citta and states that the Buddha's knowledge is more infinite than space, the worldsystems, and the beings in the worldsystems. We read:

... Now, all these classes of kusala cittas experienced in the realm of sense, arising in the countless beings in the countless worldsystems, the Supreme Buddha, as though weighing them in a great balance, or measuring them by putting them in a measure, has classified by means of his omniscience, and has shown them to be eight, making them into eight similar groups....

The javana-cittas arising in one process of citta are of the same jati, but the plane of consciousness is not always the same. This happens in the process when someone develops samatha and attains jhana, and also in the process when someone develops vipassana and attains enlightenment. As regards the attainment of jhana, jhanacittas do not have sense objects, they are not kamavacara cittas, cittas of the sense sphere. But in the process when jhana is attained there are first kamavacara cittas which are, in the case of non-arahats, maha-kusala cittas which experience the meditation subject through the mind-door[11]. Each one of the maha-kusala cittas is repetition-condition for the next one and the last maha-kusala citta in that process conditions the jhana-citta, which is of a different plane of citta, rupavacara citta, by way of repetition-condition. When someone is not yet skilled, only one moment of jhana-citta arises, but when he has become proficient there can be many moments of jhanacitta (Visuddhimagga IV, 78, and IV, 125). Each one of these jhanacittas conditions the next one by way of repetition-condition, except the last one in that process.

In the process during which enlightenment is attained, there are first maha-kusala cittas[12] accompanied by panna which clearly sees the reality appearing at that moment as impermanent, dukkha or anatta. One of these three characteristics of reality is at that moment penetrated by panna. Each of these maha-kusala cittas is repetition-condition for the next one. The last maha-kusala-citta, the "change-of-lineage", arising before the magga-citta, the lokuttara kusala citta, experiences an object different from the preceding ones, namely nibbana. The "change-of-lineage", which is kamavacara citta, conditions the magga-citta by way of repetition-condition but the magga-citta itself is not repetition-condition for the phala-citta. The phala-citta is of a different jati, the jati which is vipaka. The phala-citta which is the result of the magga-citta and immediately succeeds it, performs the function of javana, but it is not repetition-condition. When we develop vipassana, awareness of nama and rupa occurs during the moments of javana. Just as one by applying oneself again and again to study becomes more proficient in understanding texts, evenso can there be more proficiency in understanding realities when there is repeated application of understanding during the moments of javana-cittas. Each one of these conditions the next one by repetition-condition and in this way understanding can be accumulated.

When there is no mindfulness, there is bound to be clinging during the moments of javana. When we, for example, use a soft cushion, there is likely to be clinging but we may not notice it. When sati arises, there can be understanding of softness as only a rupa, not a cushion, or, when the experience of softness is the object of sati, it can be realized as only a nama, an experience. We may think that we can possess things and this can lead to covetousness, avarice, jealousy and many other kinds of defilements. In reality there is no possessor, only seeing which experiences visible object, or touching which experiences tangible object, and other moments of experiencing one object at a time. All these realities fall way, they do not stay. Gradually we may know the difference between moments without sati, when we cling to concepts we are thinking of, and moments with sati, when only one reality at a time appears through one of the six doors. Not theoretical understanding, but only direct understanding of realities can lead to eradication of defilements. Enlightenment can be attained only if there have been many processes with javana-cittas accompanied by right understanding of realities, even in the course of countless lives.

The following sutta from the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Maha-vagga, Book II, XLVI, Kindred Sayings on the Limbs of Wisdom, Ch IV, §8, Restraint and hindrance) reminds us of the importance of listening to the Dhamma and considering it as condition for the development of the factors leading to enlightenment. We read that the Buddha said:

Monks, there are these five checks, hindrances and corruptions of the heart, which weaken insight. What five?
Sensual desire, monks, is a check and hindrance, a corruption of the heart, that weakens insight. Malevolence... sloth and torpor... excitement and flurry... doubt and wavering... These five... weaken insight.
The seven limbs of wisdom[13], monks, if unrestrained, unhindered, if cultivated and made much of with uncorrupted heart, conduce to realizing the fruits of liberation by knowledge. What seven?
Herein a monk cultivates the limb of wisdom that is mindfulness... the limb of wisdom that is investigation of the Dhamma... the limb of wisdom that is energy... the limb of wisdom that is rapture (piti), the limb of wisdom that is tranquillity... the limb of wisdom that is concentration... the limb of wisdom that is equanimity, that is based on seclusion, on dispassion, on cessation, that ends in self-surrender.

Now, monks, at the time when the ariyan disciple makes the Dhamma his object, gives attention to it, with all his mind considers it, with ready ear listens to the Dhamma, - at such time these five hindrances exist not in him: at such time the seven limbs of wisdom by cultivation go to fulfilment....

Footnotes and references:


Cittas can be of four jatis, or classes, namely: kusala, akusala, vipaka and kiriya. Jati literally means "birth" or nature.


Avyakata dhammas, neither kusala nor akusala, which are in this case functional, kiriya.


Javana literally means "running".


There are eight types of lobha-mula-citta, see Appendix 2.


See Ch 7.


It may be succeeded by tadarammana-citta, registering-consciousness, which is vipakacitta produced by kamma and which still experiences the same object. Or it may be followed by bhavanga-citta.


For details see Appendix 3.


See Appendix 2 for the eight classes of maha-kusala cittas.


See Ch 3.


[98] See Ch 2, Ch 3 and Ch 7.


See Appendix 3 for details.


See Appendix 3 for details.


Bojjhanga or factors of enlightenment.

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