Listening to the Dhamma

There is no Self

by Nina van Gorkom | 1998 | 18,252 words

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Chapter 6 - The Eradication Of Defilements

During our sessions in Thaton, coffee, tea and lychee juice was passed around. The lychee juice was made from fruits of the orchard belonging to the owner of the hotel. We cannot help having attachment as soon as we taste a delicious flavour. However, we cannot force ourselves not to have lobha, it arises when there are conditions for it but it can be object of right understanding. The different degrees of defilements were another topic of our discussions. Akusala citta arises more often than we realize. Many times we do not recognize akusala as akusala because we have accumulated ignorance from life to life. Through the development of vipassana we learn that akusala is a conditioned reality, non-self. Only right understanding developed in vipassana can eventually eradicate akusala. So long as we take it for self it cannot be eradicated. When we listen to the Dhamma and study what the Buddha taught about akusala cittas we shall have less ignorance about them. It is most beneficial to learn the details of the different types of cittas and the conditions through which they arise, otherwise we take akusala for kusala, and we do not notice that there is akusala citta when it is more subtle. By the study of the Dhamma we begin to think in the right way about realities and this can be a condition later on for the arising of samma-sati, right mindfulness.

Akusala cittas can be coarse, medium or subtle. The coarse defilements, vitikkama kilesa, are the unwholesome actions through body, speech or mind, such as killing, stealing or lying. The medium defilements, pariyutthana kilesa, are the akusala cetasikas which arise with the citta but which do not have the intensity to motivate unwholesome deeds at that moment. Akusala cittas can be classified according to their roots, hetus ,in three groups: lobha-mula-cittas, which are rooted in moha, ignorance, and in attachment, lobha; dosa-mula-cittas, which are rooted in moha and dosa, aversion; moha-mula-cittas which have moha as their only root. Besides the roots there are other akusala cetasikas which arise with these akusala cittas.

The subtle defilements, anusaya, do not arise with akusala citta, but they are latent tendencies; they lie dormant, they are like microbes investing the body. We do not notice them, but they are there, accumulated in the citta; they are pertinacious and they condition the arising of defilements again and again. The inherent or latent tendencies have been accumulated from life to life. The first javana cittas of every living being who is born are lobha-mulacittas, cittas rooted in attachment. These are conditioned by the latent tendencies accumulated in the past.

After many happy hours of listening to the Dhamma in the Dong Devi Temple we took a walk in the dusk, enjoying the view of the mountains. A beautiful meal was served to us outside and then we travelled to Chiang Dao where we arrived towards the evening. Here, in the hall of the Hotel where we stayed, Acharn Sujin arranged another Dhamma discussion. One of the topics
was the latent tendencies. There are seven latent tendencies:

  1. the latent tendency of desire for sense pleasure (kamaraganusaya)
  2. the latent tendency of aversion (patighanusaya)
  3. the latent tendency of conceit (mananusaya)
  4. the latent tendency of wrong view (ditthanusaya)
  5. the latent tendency of doubt (vicikicchanusaya)
  6. the latent tendency of desire for becoming (bhava-raganusaya)
  7. the latent tendency of ignorance (avijjanusaya)

Acharn Sujin pointed out that we do not have to learn this list by heart, but that we can remember them when we consider the different akusala cittas which are conditioned by them. When lobha-mula-citta arises which likes pleasant objects it is clear that there is the latent tendency of desire for sense pleasure which is unabandoned; it does not arise with the citta but it conditions the arising of lobha. So long as this latent tendency has not been eradicated it conditions attachment to sense objects again and again. Even when we walk or move our hand there is likely to be attachment. After seeing or hearing there is attachment very often, but we do not notice it. Cittas arise and fall away extremely rapidly. The lobha-mula-citta falls away again, it is gone, but there is a new accumulation of the tendency to lobha added to what was there already. Unwholesome tendencies are carried on from one moment of citta to the next one since each citta is succeeded by the next citta. If we consider this it helps us to see the danger of akusala dhammas. The study of each detail of the Dhamma is beneficial, it can be a condition to be less neglectful with regard to the development of kusala. When our objective is not dana, generosity, sila, which includes not only abstaining from ill deeds but also helping others and paying respect, or mental development, which includes study of the Dhamma, the development of calm and of vipassana, we act, speak and think with akusala citta. Conceit and wrong view can accompany lobha-mula-citta, but they do not accompany every lobha-mula-citta and they do not arise at the same time. When conceit or wrong view arises they are conditioned by the latent tendencies of conceit and wrong view. Clinging to rebirth accompanies lobha-mula-citta, and when it arises it is clear that the latent tendency of desire for becoming is still unabandoned. Thus, when we consider lobha-mula-citta, we can remember four latent tendencies which condition its accompanying akusala cetasikas: attachment to sense pleasures, wrong view, conceit and attachment to rebirth.

When an unpleasant object is experienced, dosa-mula-citta is likely to arise. So long as the latent tendency of patigha, which is aversion, is unabandoned it conditions the arising of dosa-mula-citta.

Ignorance arises with each type of akusala citta. So long as the latent tendency of ignorance has not been abandoned there will be akusala citta. There are two types of moha-mula-citta which have moha as their only root: one type is accompanied by doubt and one is called "accompanied by restlessness" . When one has doubt about the Buddhas teaching, about enlightenment, about nama and rupa, it is evident that the latent tendency of doubt is still unabandoned. When we consider the two types of moha-mula-citta which are bound to arise in our life, we can remember that the two latent tendencies of ignorance and doubt are unabandoned. Thus, the akusala cittas which are classified according to their roots and the akusala dhammas which can accompany them can remind us of the latent tendencies which are still there, unabandoned, like the germs of the disease of defilements.

The latent tendencies are eradicated at different stages of enlightenment: wrong view and doubt are eradicated by the sotapanna; desire for sense-pleasures and aversion are not eradicated by the sakadagami (the once-returner, who has attained the second stage of enlightenment) but they have become attenuated; these tendencies are eradicated by the anagami (the non-returner who has attained the third stage of enlightenment); clinging to rebirth and ignorance are eradicated by the arahat. The latent tendencies are deeply rooted and hard to eradicate. By the development of samatha to the degree of jhana, absorption, defilements can be temporarily subdued, but the latent tendencies cannot be eradicated. Only by the development of vipassana all latent tendencies can be completely eradicated so that there are no conditions for the arising of akusala dhammas.

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (IV, Salayatana Vagga, Fourth Fifty, Ch 3, 190, The Sap-tree) that the Buddha said to the monks:

"If in any monk or nun, monks, that lust, that malice, that ignorance which is in objects cognizable by the eye exists, be not abandoned, then, when even trifling objects, not to speak of considerable objects, cognizable by the eye, come into the range of the eye, they overspread the heart. Why so? Because, monks, that lust, that malice, that ignorance exists, is not yet abandoned.

If any monk or nun, monks, that lust... that is in mental objects cognizable by the mind exists, be not abandoned... they overspread the heart. Why so? Because of that lust... that is not yet abandoned.

Suppose, monks, a sap-tree, either a bo-tree or a banyan or fig-tree or bunched fig-tree or any tender young tree. Then if a man cuts into it with a sharp axe, whenever he does so the sap flows out, does it not?"

"Yes, lord."

"Why so?"

"Because sap is in it, lord."

"Just so, monks, if in any monk or nun that lust, that malice, that ignorance which is in objects cognizable by the eye... in the tongue... in mental objects cognizable by the mind exists, be not abandoned, then, when even trifling objects, not to speak of considerable objects, cognizable by the eye come into the range of the eye, they overspread the heart. Why so? Because that lust... is not yet abandoned. But if they be abandoned they do not overspread the heart.

Suppose, monks, a sap-tree, either a bo-tree or banyan or fig-tree or bunched fig-tree that is dried up, sapless, past its season, and a man with a sharp axe cut into it. Would sap come out?"

"Surely not, lord."

"Why not?"

"Because no sap is in it, lord."

" Just so, monks, as I have said... if in any monk or nun that lust, that malice, that ignorance which is in objects cognizable by the eye exist not, if they be abandoned,- then, when even trifling objects, not to speak of considerable objects, come into the range of the eye, they do not overspread the heart. Why so? Because that lust, that malice, that ignorance exist not, because
they are abandoned.

So also of the tongue and mental objects cognizable by the eye... they do not overspread the heart because they exist not, because they are abandoned."

Learning about the latent tendencies which condition defilements teaches us that defilements are non-self, anatta. Time and again akusala cittas arise, but often we do not notice them. Medium defilement, pariyutthana kilesa, which arises with akusala citta may be, for example, lobha which arises after seeing or hearing, a slight attachment to visible object or sound which we do not notice. There are different degrees of medium defilements, they can be very slight or more intense. We discussed defilements which are classified in different groups, such as the "fetters" (samyojana) which fetter us to rebirth again and again, or the "intoxicants" or "cankers" (asavas), which are fermenting and keep on flowing from birth to death.

Acharn Sujin reminded us that even a slight attachment is a canker. The asavas are:

  1. the canker of sensuous desire
  2. the canker of becoming (birth)
  3. the canker of wrong view
  4. the canker of ignorance.

They are not theory, they pertain to our daily life. The canker of ignorance keeps on flowing, we are ignorant of what occurs innumerable times in daily life, of seeing or hearing. Acharn Sujin spoke many times about seeing which sees visible object. Some people may not find it interesting to hear so often about seeing, but it is most beneficial to be reminded of seeing which sees visible object. We can realize our ignorance at such moments. We forget that seeing only sees what impinges on the eyesense: colour or visible object. It is at another moment that we think of the person or thing we perceive. Cittas arise and fall away extremely rapidly, but we do not realize that cittas arise and fall away, succeeding one another. When we read the scriptures we can notice that the Buddha repeated time and again that pleasant or unpleasant objects are experienced through the eyes, the ears and the other doorways, and that on account of the objects defilements arise. We cannot be reminded of the truth often enough.

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (IV, Salayatana Vagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, Second Fifty, Ch 5, 94, Including (the sixfold sense-sphere) that the Buddha said:

There are these six spheres of contact, monks, which are untamed, unguarded, unwatched, unrestrained, bringers of Ill. What six?

The eye, monks... the tongue... the mind, ... are untamed... bringers of Ill

There are these six spheres of contact, monks, which are well tamed, well guarded, well watched, well restrained, bringers of happiness. What six?

The eye... the tongue... the mind...

Thus spoke the Exalted One... Then the Master added this further:-

He meets with Ill, monks, who has not tamed

The sixfold impact of the sphere of sense.

They who have learned the mastery of these,

With faith as companion,- they dwell free from lust.

Beholding with the eye delightful things

Or things unlovely, let him restrain his bent

To lust for loveliness, and let him not

Corrupt his heart with thoughts of "O, it is dear".

And when, again, sounds sweet or harsh he hears,

Not led astray by sweetness, let him check

The error of his senses. Let him not

Corrupt his heart with thoughts of "O, it is sweet."

If some delightful fragrance meet the nose,

And then again some foul malodorous stench,

Let him restrain repugnance for that stench,

Nor yet be led by lust for what is sweet.

Should he taste savours that are sweet and choice,

And then again what is bitter to the tongue,

He should not greedily devour the sweet,

Nor yet show loathing for the bitter taste.

By pleasures impact not inebriate,

Nor yet distracted by the touch of pain,

To pain and pleasure both indifferent

Let him be free from likings and dislikes.

Obsessed (by lusts) are others: so obsessed

They know and so they fare. But he dispels

All the worlds vulgar fashionings of mind,

And treads the path renunciation-bound.

By contact of these six, if mind be trained,

The heart is never shaken any more.

Overcome these two, O monks,- lust and hate.

Pass you beyond the bounds of birth and death.

The arahat has eradicated all defilements and he is freed from the cycle of birth and death. We cannot force ourselves not to have defilements, but they can be objects of awareness so that they can be seen as they are, as impermanent and anatta. Through the development of satipatthana we shall come to know our defilements. We should understand our defilements, not avoid being aware of them; that is wrong practice which is a form of ditthi, wrong view. Only the sotapanna has eradicated wrong practice. If we try to induce sati, there is wrong practice; we are already on the wrong Path, and if this is not known, right understanding cannot develop. We may mislead ourselves taking akusala for kusala. We may believe that there is confidence, saddha, when we listen to the Dhamma, but there may be moments of clinging to calm or to pleasant feeling while we listen. Or there may be conceit with regard to kusala, we find "our kusala" very important. When we find ourselves important there is conceit. Khun Tongchai reminded us of the passage about the objects of conceit in the "Book of Analysis" (Vibhanga, Ch 17, Analysis of Small Items):

Pride of birth; pride of clan; pride of health; pride of youth; pride of life; pride of gain; pride of being honoured; pride of being respected; pride of prominence; pride of having adherents; pride of wealth; pride of appearance; pride of erudition; pride of intelligence; pride of being a knowledgeable authority....

Khun Tongchai Sangrat had collected several texts which he read from a notebook. He is called the "Diamond", he is the "Diamond of the North", because he lives in Chiangmai. He organizes Dhamma discussions and supports the Dong Devi Temple. Some years ago he showed great hospitality to the people of the Dhamma Study and Propagation Foundation in his Lana Resort. He promotes Acharn Sujin's radio programs in many radio stations all over Thailand. Thanks to his efforts many people can listen to her talks and learn about the development of satipatthana.

Conceit is so deeply rooted and it takes many lives before also the more subtle forms of conceit are eradicated; only the arahat eradicates conceit completely. The sotapanna has eradicated wrong view, and although he does not take any reality for self, he may still cling to his abilities and his wisdom with conceit.

Acharn Sujin reminded us that there are many moments of conceit we do not notice. For example when someone's dress is red we may think: "O, look at that red dress", and then there may be some contempt; we may think with conceit that we would not dress in that way. We are so used to finding ourselves important that we overlook such moments. Conceit may arise when we speak, when we stress what we say with gestures; we find our words very important. We may have conceit because of honour or possessions, but the citta which thinks of the importance of honour and possessions falls away immediately. Through the development of satipatthana one will acquire more understanding of citta which falls away immediately, more understanding that
life is only one moment of citta. We do not own honour and possessions.

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