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 17 - Different Aspects Of The 24 Conditions

Summarizing The 24 Conditions

Summarizing the twenty-four conditions, they are:

  1. root-condition (hetu-paccaya)
  2. object-condition (arammana-paccaya)
  3. predominance-condition (adhipati-paccaya)
  4. proximity-condition (anantara-paccaya)
  5. contiguity-condition (samanantara-paccaya)
  6. conascence-condition (sahajata-paccaya)
  7. mutuality-condition (annamanna-paccaya)
  8. dependence-condition (nissaya-paccaya)
  9. decisive support-condition (upanissaya-paccaya)
  10. prenascence-condition (purejata-paccaya)
  11. postnascence-condition (pacchajata-paccaya)
  12. repetition-condition (asevana-paccaya)
  13. kamma-condition (kamma-paccaya)
  14. vipaka-condition (vipaka-paccaya)
  15. nutriment-condition (ahara-paccaya)
  16. faculty-condition (indriya-paccaya)
  17. jhana-condition (jhana-paccaya)
  18. path-condition (magga-paccaya)
  19. association-condition (sampayutta-paccaya)
  20. dissociation-condition (vippayutta-paccaya)
  21. presence-condition (atthi-paccaya)
  22. absence-condition (natthi-paccaya)
  23. disappearance-condition (vigata-paccaya)
  24. non-disappearance-condition (avigata-paccaya)

The Buddha taught the conditions for each reality which arises. These conditions are not abstractions, they occur now, in our daily life. What we take for our mind and our body are only elements which arise because of their appropriate conditions and are devoid of self. We should often consider how our body comes into being. At the first moment of our life kamma produced the heart-base and other rupas together with the rebirth-consciousness, and throughout our life kamma continues to produce the heart-base and the sense-bases. Not only kamma, but also citta, heat and nutrition produce rupas of the body. When we touch the body hardness appears, but this is only an element which arises and falls away; nobody can cause its arising and it does not belong to "our body". Through awareness of realities we will understand more clearly that there are only elements which arise because of their own conditions.

The different cittas which arise are dependent on many different conditions. Cittas succeed one another without any interval. Seeing arises time and again and after seeing has fallen away akusala cittas usually arise. We cling to visible object, or we take it for a being or a person. Defilements arise because they have been accumulated and they are carried on, from moment to moment, from life to life. They are a natural decisive support-condition, pakatupanissaya-paccaya, for akusala citta arising at this moment. Akusala citta has become our nature, but if we see the disadvantage of akusala there are conditions for the development of right understanding which can eradicate akusala.

We are so used to the idea of seeing living beings, people and animals, and we do not realize that we are deluded about reality because of our accumulated ignorance and wrong view. When we watch T.V. and we see people moving, we know that there are no people there. There are rapidly changing projected images on a screen and this gives us the illusion that there are people who are acting. These images are merely different colours which appear through the eyesense and then we know the meaning of what we see, we think of concepts on account of what we see. The same happens in real life. There is seeing of visible object and then we take what we see for people or things which last. Persons are not real in the ultimate sense, no matter whether we see them on a screen or in the world around us. The world with people, living beings or things is real in conventional sense. The Buddha taught that there is ultimate truth and conventional truth. We do not have to avoid thinking of conventional truth, of concepts of people and things; we could not lead our daily life without thinking of concepts and dealing with concepts. We have to know what the different things and matters are we are dealing with time and again. We have to pay attention to the people we meet in our social life, we could not give assistance to them without thinking of them in terms of concepts. When we develop generosity we need to think of the gift we wish to give and of the people to whom we are handing the gift. We could not develop kindness and compassion without thinking of people. However, we should know the difference between conventional truth and ultimate truth.

Right understanding can be developed so that it can be known when a paramattha dhamma, an ultimate reality, is the object of citta and when a concept. When we know that there is this person or that thing, we should realize that citta has arisen and knows at that moment a concept. The citta which thinks of a concept is a paramattha dhamma, the concept is not. In our daily life the object of citta is either a paramattha dhamma or a concept. The cittas which experience sense objects through the six doorways experience paramattha dhammas, but if satipatthana is not developed it is not known that rupas such as visible object or sound are paramattha dhammas. When satipatthana is developed only a paramattha dhamma is the object of awareness, not a concept. Only paramattha dhammas have the characteristics of impermanence, dukkha and anatta, non-self, which should be realized as they are, so that defilements can be eradicated. We may think of concepts with kusala citta or with akusala citta. The Buddha and the arahats also thought of concepts but they were not deluded about them, they had no defilements on account of them. If we cling to concepts and take them for things which really exist, which are permanent or self, we are deluding ourselves. Clinging to concepts of person or self leads to many other kinds of defilements, it leads to a great deal of sorrow.

When someone has lost a person who was dear to him he seems to live with his memories of the person he loved, he lives with his dreams, with an illusion. However, also when a beloved person is still alive we live with our dreams; we take the person we believe we see, hear or touch for reality. Someone who is in love with another person is actually in love with his own concept of that person, with an idealized image he has of that person. He does not have understanding of realities, of the different cittas which arise because of their approriate conditions. When he finds out that the image he has of another person is completely different from reality he may experience disillusion. We may have idealized images of other people and have expectations about them which cannot be realised. We have learnt about nama and rupa and about the conditions for their arising, but theoretical understanding is not enough. We should consider ultimate realities in daily life. We tend to forget that seeing is only a conditioned reality and that visible object is only a conditioned reality, and therefore we are easily carried away by sense impressions. It is beneficial to remember that seeing, hearing and the other sense-cognitions are vipakacittas, cittas which are results of kamma. They arise at their appropriate bases, vatthus, which are also produced by kamma. These bases have to arise before the sense-cognitions and they condition these by way of prenascent dependence-condition. Visible object and the other sense objects are rupas which also have to arise before the sense-cognitions and which condition these by way of prenascent dependence-condition. Each reality which arises does so because of a concurrence of different conditions which operate in a very intricate way. We should not try to pinpoint all the different conditions for the nama and rupa which appear. However, the study of different conditions helps us to understand that there isn't anybody who can control realities, that realities arise because of their own conditions. Nobody can cause the arising of seeing. There was also seeing in past lives and there will be seeing in next lives. Seeing always sees visible object. The object of seeing is always the same, but the thinking about what is seen changes. We ourselves and other people were different beings in past lives with different ways of thinking and we will be different again in lives to come. We think with cittas conditioned by root-condition, hetu-paccaya; these cittas can have akusala hetus or sobhana hetus. On account of what is seen or heard there is happiness or sorrow, but we are ignorant of realities. If there can be mindfulness of one reality as it appears through one of the six doors, we will know the difference between the moments of mindfulness of a reality and the moments there is thinking of an image of a "whole", a person or a thing. By being mindful of just visible object or sound we learn to distinguish between the objects appearing through the five sense-doors and the mind-door.

When there is right understanding of a reality as it appears one at a time, we do not expect other people to behave according to an idealized image. Someone may insult us, but if we can see that there is nobody who can hurt us we will be less inclined to take unjust treatment personally. When words of praise and blame are spoken to us, the hearing is result produced by kusala kamma or akusala kamma. When we think about the meaning of the words which were spoken to us defilements tend to arise. We take what we hear very seriously and we forget that what is experienced by hearing is only sound. Depending on our accumulations we may be afflicted on account of what is heard, we think about it for a long time. We are so affected by what others say or do to us because of clinging to ourselves. Life is short, a moment of experiencing an object is very short. If there were no citta which experiences an object the world and everything in it would not appear. The sotapanna who has no more wrong view about person or self understands that there are only conditioned nama and rupa, no people. We forget that the citta which hears only hears sound, that in realty there isn't anybody's voice, not my voice or someone else's voice. When we do not expect praise we will be less affected by blame. When we are insulted we will be less resentful. We should learn to forgive. Forgiving is a kind of dana, generosity, and at such a moment there is kusala citta instead of akusala citta. All kinds of wholesomeness should be developed along with right understanding because the clinging to self and the other defilements are deeply rooted. We have accumulated conceit and we do not notice it when it arises. We find it difficult to forgive others because conceit is obstructing. We keep on thinking, "Why did he do this to me", because we find ourselves important. Forgiving is a means to have less conceit. When we perform good deeds we tend to cling to "our kusala", we want to be a "good person". As we have seen, even kusala can be a natural decisive support-condition, pakatupanissaya-paccaya, for akusala[1]. While we study the conditions we learn that there are many factors which can condition akusala citta. Sense objects can condition akusala citta by way of object-condition, object predominance-condition or object decisive support-condition[2]. Akusala roots, hetus, condition akusala citta by way of root-condition, hetu-paccaya[3]. When akusala citta arises there is not only one type of citta but seven types since each javana-citta conditions the next one by way of repetition-condition, asevana-paccaya[4]. When lobha-mula-citta arises it can be the object of lobha-mula-citta which arises later on, in another process, because we like being attached. We accumulate clinging from life to life; the lobha which arises now is a natural decisive support-condition for lobha arising in the future. We may have regret of our attachment and then attachment is the object of dosa-mula-citta with regret. Since we have accumulated such a great deal of defilements, our speech is produced more often by akusala citta than by kusala citta. We cling to speech and take it for self and "mine".

However, as we have seen, it is citta which produces the rupa which is speech while it arises at the same time. There is no self who decides to speak and then orders the occurrence of speech. Citta which produces rupa conditions rupa in many different ways: by conascence-condition[5], by dependence-condition[6], by nutriment-condition[7], by faculty-condition[8], by conascent dissociation-condition, by conascent presence-condition and non-disappearance-condition[9]. Kusala citta or akusala citta which produces rupa, for example the rupa which is speech, conditions that rupa by way of root-condition[10]. If citta is a predominant factor among the four factors which can be conascent predominance-condition[11], it conditions the rupa it produces by way of conascent predominance-condition. The study of conditions makes it clearer to us that our life consists of only fleeting phenomena which arise because of their own conditions. We are reminded that there is no self who could control the events of our life.

There are many factors which condition akusala now and also in the future and by learning about these conditions we acquire more understanding of the dangers in the accumulation of akusala. When we have understood that akusala leads to dukkha we will not forget the purpose of the study of Dhamma: the development of right understanding which leads to the eradication of the clinging to the wrong view of self and of all defilements.

As we have seen, wholesome qualities such as dana, sila, metta, patience or detachment are "perfections" which have to be developed for aeons along with right understanding in order for us finally to attain enlightenment[12]. All these wholesome qualities are perfections which eventually lead to enlightenment only if the goal is the eradication of defilements. If we merely think of the goal it is not enough. We should not be forgetful at this moment and develop each kind of kusala for which there is an opportunity. If there can be sati and panna at this moment we will realize that akusala is not beneficial and then there are conditions for different kinds of kusala. They can arise alternately with satipatthana. When akusala arises it can be realized as a conditioned nama, not self, and then there is kusala citta. There is no self who can make kusala citta arise at will or who can choose which level of kusala will arise.

Right understanding of the benefit of kusala can condition its arising. We may see the benefit of generosity, dana. When we give away useful things to others we should not expect any gain for ourselves, our aim should be to have less attachment to things. Only when our aim is having less defilements dana is a perfection leading to enlightenment. We should come to know the different cittas which arise in our life. To what purpose do we study the conditions of realities? We may study because we want to become "somebody with a great deal of kusala and understanding", but then we have not understood the purpose of the study of Dhamma. There should be less clinging to the idea of self, more humility. Thus, we need the perfection of truthfulness (sacca), we need to realize when kusala citta arises and when akusala citta; we should not delude ourselves as to the different realities which appear. There must be the firm resolution as to the right purpose we strive after: the eradication of wrong view and other defilements. The perfections of truthfulness and of resolution (aditthana) support the development of the other perfections. All wholesome qualities condition one another.

The study of conditions helps us to have more understanding of the factors which cause us to continue being in the cycle of birth and death. Because of ignorance and clinging life has to go on and on, until there is the elimination of the cause of rebirth. There is no self who chose to be in the cycle of birth and death and there is no self who can eliminate the cause of rebirth. Everything occurs according to conditions, but this should not make us desperate. When we hear the Dhamma and consider it, we learn how to develop the right conditions leading to the end of dukkha. In the "Kindred Sayings" (I, Sagatha-vagga, V, Suttas of Sisters, §9), in the "Sela-sutta", we read that at Savatthi Mara addressed Sister Sela:

Who was it that made the human puppet's form?
Where is the maker of the human doll?
Whence, tell me, has the puppet come to be?
Where will the puppet cease and pass away?

Sela answered:

Neither self-made the puppet is, nor yet
By other wrought is this ill-plighted thing.
By reason of a cause it came to be,
By rupture of a cause it dies away.
Like a certain seed sown in the field,
Which, when it comes upon the taste of earth,
And moisture likewise, by these two grows,
So the five khandhas, the elements,
And the six spheres of sense[13] -- even all these,
By reason of a cause they came to be;
By rupture of a cause they die away.

Then Mara the evil one thought: "Sister Sela knows me", and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

Footnotes and references:


See chapter 8.


See chapters 2, 3 and 7.


See chapter 1.


See chapter 10.


See chapter 5.


See chapter 6.


See chapter 12. Citta is one of the three mental nutriments and as such it can condition rupa by way of nutriment-condition.


See chapter 13. Citta is mind faculty, manindriya, and as such it can condition rupa by way of faculty-condition.


See for these last three conditions chapter 16.


See chapter 1.


See chapter 3. Chanda, desire-to-do, viriya, energy, citta and vimaÿsa, investigation of dhamma, are four factors which can be conascent-predominance-condition. Only javana cittas accompanied by at least two roots can be predominance-condition.


The Buddha, when he was still a Bodhisatta, had to develop these perfections for an endlessly long time in order to attain Buddhahood.



Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: