Piti, by Nina Van Gorkom (from Cetasikas):
Piti, translated as enthusiasm, zest or rapture, is another cetasika among the six "particulars" which arise with cittas of the four jatis but not with every citta. Piti can be kusala, akusala, vipaka or kiriya
When we think of enthusiasm we presume that it is always kusala. We praise people who are enthusiastic. However, when we study the Abhidhamma we learn that enthusiasm is not always kusala, that it arises also with akusala cittas. There are many more akusala cittas in our life than kusala cittas and thus, when there is enthusiasm it is more often akusala than kusala. Don't we often take for kusala what is in fact akusala? Through the study of the Abhidhamma we will have more understanding of kusala and akusala and of the different conditions for their arising.
The Visuddhimagga (lV, 94) gives the following definition of piti:
...It refreshes (pinayati, gladdens, satisfies), thus it is happiness (piti) (1 Pinayati is the causative of pineti which means: to gladden, please, satisfy or invigorate.). It has the characteristic of satisfaction (2 The English translation uses here: endearment.) (sampiyayana). Its function is to refresh the body and the mind; or its function is to pervade (thrill with rapture). It is manifested as elation..
The Atthasalini ( I, Part lV, Chapter 1, 115) gives a similar definition of piti (3 see also Dhammasangani 9).
Piti takes an interest in the object which citta cognizes and which is also experienced by the accompanying cetasikas. It is satisfied, delighted with the object and it "refreshes" citta and the accompanying cetasikas.
In the case of the kamavacara cittas (cittas of the sense-sphere) piti arises with the cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling (somanassa). Thus, whenever there is somanassa, there is also piti. Piti is not the same as pleasant feeling, its characteristic and function are different. Piti is not feeling, vedanakkhandha, but sankharakkhandha (the khandha which includes all cetasikas except vedana and sanna).
Pleasant feeling experiences the flavour of the object, its function is to exploit in one way or other the desirable aspect of the object (Vis. XIV, 128). Piti does not feel, its characteristic is, as we have seen, satisfaction and its function is refreshing or invigorating body and mind, or to pervade them with rapture. Piti takes an interest in the object and is delighted with it, it has its own specific function while it assists the citta; its function is different from the function of feeling.
The Visuddhimagga (IV, 100) explains in the section on the first jhana the difference between pleasant feeling (sukha, translated here as "bliss") and piti (translated here as "happiness") which are both jhana-factors. We read:
And whenever the two are associated, happiness (piti) is the contentedness at getting a desirable object, and bliss (sukha) is the actual experience of it when got. Where there is happiness there is bliss; but where there is bliss there is not necessarily happiness (1 This is in the case of the rupavacara cittas of the fourth stage of jhana (of the five-fold System), which are accompanied by happy feeling, sukha, but not by piti.) Happiness is included in the sankharakkhandha; bliss is included in the vedanakkhandha. If a man exhausted in a desert saw or heard about a pond on the edge of a wood, he would have happiness; (he went into the wood's shade and used the water, he would have bliss...
The different words which are used to describe pleasant feeling and enthusiasm and also the above-quoted simile can help us to have theoretical knowledge of these two realities. If there is mindfulness of realities when they appear, a more precise understanding of their characteristics can be developed. However, we should not try to "catch" particular realities, it depends on conditions of which reality sati is aware.
As we have seen, in the case of the kamavacara cittas, piti arises with the cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling. Whenever there is interest in the object and delight with it there is also pleasant feeling; in such cases there cannot be indifferent feeling or unpleasant feeling.
In the case of akusala cittas, piti arises with the types of lobha-mula-cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling (1 See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 4.). When the lobha-mula-citta is accompanied by pleasant feeling, the lobha is more intense than when it is accompanied by indifferent feeling. Piti which arises together with lobha-mula-citta accompanied by pleasant feeling takes an interest in the desirable object, it is delighted, thrilled with it. For example, when we have thoroughly enjoyed listening to beautiful music we may applaud with great enthusiasm. When we admire a musician, a painter or a famous sportsman, there may be many moments of lobha-mula-citta with piti. Whenever we are attached to an object with pleasant feeling, there is also piti. The object may be a pleasant sight, a beautiful sound, a fragrant odour, a delicious flavour, a pleasant tangible object or an agreeable object experienced through the mind-door. There are many moments of akusala piti we are not aware of.
Piti does not arise with dosa-mula-citta. When dosa-mula-citta arises, the citta dislikes the object and then there cannot be at the same time a pleasurable interest. Piti does not arise either with moha-mula-citta; at the moment of moha-mula-citta there is no enthusiasm, .
As regards ahetuka cittas (2 See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 8 and 9. There are eighteen types of ahetuka cittas, without akusala hetus or sobhana hetus, "roots". They are the sense-door-adverting-consciousness, the "five pairs" of sense-cognitions (seeing, hearing, etc.), two types of receiving-consciousness, three types of investigating-consciousness, the mind-door-adverting-consciousness and the smile-producing consciousness of the arahat.), only the two types which are accompanied by pleasant feeling arise with piti: 'one type of santirana-citta which is kusala vipaka and investigates an extraordinarily pleasant object (3 Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 13.) and the hasituppada-citta, the smile-producing consciousness of the arahat (4 Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 9.).
When there is seeing, which is one of the dvi-pancavinnanas (sense-cognitions), there is no delight or enthusiasm about visible object, seeing merely sees it. If visible object is an extraordinarily pleasant object, the santirana-citta in that process which investigates visible object is accompanied by pleasant feeling and piti. The javana-cittas of that process may or may not be accompanied by piti. If they are accompanied by pleasant feeling they are also accompanied by piti.
As regards the kamavacara sobhana cittas (beautiful cittas of the sense-sphere), only the types of citta which are accompanied by pleasant feeling arise with piti. when we, with generosity and full of joy, help someone else, the kusala citta is accompanied by pleasant feeling and also by piti which invigorates body and mind. Even if there was tiredness before, it is gone; one is refreshed. The same may happen when one reads a sutta with kusala citta accompanied by joy and enthusiasm. At such a moment one is not bored or tired, there is piti which takes a pleasurable interest in the object.
Sometimes we are full of joy and enthusiasm while we help others, while we give something away or while we are performing other ways of kusala, but it is not always possible to have joy and enthusiasm at such moments. There are also moments of kusala citta accompanied by indifferent feeling, upekkha, and then there is no piti. It depends on conditions whether piti arises or not. when one has great confidence in kusala and sees the benefit of it there are conditions for the arising of joy and enthusiasm while applying oneself to it. When kusala citta with pleasant feeling arises the accompanying piti invigorates the citta and the other cetasikas. viriya, for example, is intensified by piti. We may be able to notice that, when there is joy and enthusiasm for kusala, we also have more energy to perform it.
There is another aspect of piti: it can become an enlightenment factor. The other enlightenment factors are, as we have seen, mindfulness, investigation of the Dhamma (dhamma vicaya), energy (viriya), calm (passaddhi), concentration (samadhi) and equanimity (upekkha) (1 see Chapter 9, viriya.) . when the enlightenment factors have been developed through satipatthana, they lead to the realization of the four noble Truths. when we have just started to be mindful of nama and rupa, we cannot expect the enlightenment factors to be developed yet. They will develop through satipatthana.
The Atthasalini (75) mentions the following factors which are conducive to the arising of the enlightenment factor of piti:
...recollection of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, of sila, of generosity, of devas, of peace (nibbana), avoidance of rough (I.e. ill-tempered persons), serving meek persons, reflection on a Suttanta which instills confidence and a tendency to all this.
When we read a sutta, ponder over it and test the meaning by being mindful of the realities the Buddha taught time and again we can prove the truth of his teachings. Thus our confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the sangha can grow and we will be inspired to continue to develop the eightfold Path. There can be conditions for the arising of enthusiasm which invigorates citta; and the accompanying cetasikas. Also piti can be object of mindfulness so that panna can see it as it is, as not self. We should remember that without the development of satipatthana the enlightenment factor of piti and also the other enlightenment factors cannot develop.
We read in the "Mahanama-sutta" (GradualSayings,Book of the sixes, chapter I, 10) that the Buddha recommended Mahanama to recollect the Buddha, the Dhamma, the sangha, sila, generosity and devas (their good qualities). According to the Visuddhimagga Mahanama was a sotapanna, thus, he had right understanding of nama and rupa and he did not take any reality for self. We read:
...Mahanama, what time the ariyan disciple minds the Tathagata, his heart is never overwhelmed by passion, never overwhelmed by hatred. never overwhelmed by delusion; then, verily, is the way of his heart made straight because of the Tathagata. And with his heart's ways straightened. Mahanama, the ariyan disciple becomes zealous of the goal, zealous of Dhamma, wins the joy that is linked to Dhamma; and of his joy zest (piti) is born; when his mind is rapt in zest, his whole being becomes calm; calm in being, he experiences ease; and of him who dwells at ease the heart is composed.
Mahanama, of this ariyan disciple it is said: Among uneven folk he lives evenly; among troubled folk he lives untroubled; with the ear for Dhamma won, he makes become the ever minding of the Buddha.
The same is said with regard to the other recollections. According to the Visuddhimagga (VII, 121) only the ariyan disciple can cultivate the above mentioned subjects with success, since the non-ariyan cannot really fathom the meaning of these subjects. If one has not attained enlightenment, how could one know what it means to be enlightened and how could one clearly understand the meaning of "Buddha"? Nevertheless, also the non-ariyan can think of the Buddha with confidence and then piti may arise as well.
We cannot induce the arising of kusala piti, it can only arise because of its own conditions. shortly after kusala piti has arisen and fallen away, attachment is bound to arise. we may feel very satisfied about "our kusala" and we may find it very important to have piti. we may think that it can last, but in reality it falls away immediately. It is essential to realize the difference between kusala citta and akusala citta; thus we will see that there are not kusala cittas all the time, even when we think that we are performing kusala. we may expect pleasant things from other people, we like to be praised by them, we want to show others our good qualifies and our knowledge, or we are attached to the company of people. Defilements are so deeply rooted and they arise whenever there is an opportunity for their arising. There are many objects which can condition lobha and lobha can be Accompanied by somanassa and piti. Enthusiasm which is unwholesome can arise very shortly after enthusiasm which is wholesome and it is hard to know their difference. we may find it discouraging to discover that there are many more akusala cittas than kusala cittas, but at the moment of knowing akusala citta as it is there is right understanding. At such a moment the citta is kusala citta and there is no aversion nor feeling of discouragement.
Not only maha-kusala cittas, kusala cittas of the sense-sphere, which are accompanied by somanassa arise with piti, but also the maha-vipakacittas and the maha-kiriyacittas which are accompanied by somanassa arise with piti. As regards maha-vipakacittas, these are produced by kamma, and thus it depends on the kamma which produces the maha-vipakacitta whether it is accompanied by somanassa and piti or not. Among those who are reborn with maha-vipakacitta, some are born with somanassa and piti, others with upekkha and in that case there is no piti. If one is born with somanassa and piti, all bhavanga-cittas of that life and also the cuti-citta (dying-consciousness) are accompanied by somanassa and piti as well (1The other jhana-factors are: vitakka, vicara, sukha (happy feeling) and samadhi.)
Piti has many intensities. The Visuddhimagga (IV, 94) and the Atthasalini II, Part IV, Chapter 1, 115, 116) explain that there are five kinds of piti. We read in the Visuddhimagga :
... But it is of five kinds as minor happiness, momentary happiness, showering happiness, uplifting happiness, and pervading (rapturous) happiness.
Herein, minor happiness is only able to raise the hairs on the body. (Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 11). If the function of patisandhi is performed by an ahetuka vipakacitta (santirana-citta accompanied by upekkha which can be kusala vipaka or akusala vipaka), piti does not accompany the citta. Momentary happiness is like flashes of lightning at different moments. Showering happiness breaks over the body again and again like waves an the sea shore.
Uplifting happiness can be powerful enough to levitate the body and make it spring into the air...
But when pervading (rapturous happiness) arises, the whole body is completely pervaded, like a filled bladder, like a rock cavern invaded by a huge inundation (lV, 98).
Piti is able to condition bodily phenomena. The "uplifting happiness" which is the fourth kind of piti can even levitate the body. One example given by the Visuddhimagga and the Atthasalini is the case of a young woman whose parents did not allow her to go to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma. She looked at the shrine which was lit by moonlight, saw people worshipping and circumambulating the shrine and heard the chanting. Then "uplifting happiness" made her jump into the air and arrive at the monastery before her parents.
In the case of kamavacara cittas; piti always arises together with somanassa. In the case of the jhana-cittas, this is "not always so. Piti is one of the jhana-factors which are developed in samatha in order to inhibit the hindrances. Piti inhibits the hindrance which is ill-will (vyapada). When there is delight in a meditation subject there is no ill-will or boredom. As we just read, there are five kinds of piti with different intensities. The fifth kind of piti the "pervading happiness", which has the greatest intensity, is the "root of absorption" and "comes by growth into association with absorption" (Vis. IV, 99).
At the first stage of rupa-jhana all five jhana-factors arise with the jhanacitta. At each of the higher stages of jhana the jhanacitta becomes more refined and more tranquil, and the jhana-factors are successively abandoned. At the second stage (of the five-fold system) vitakka is abandoned and at the third stage vicara. At that stage there are three jhana-factors remaining: piti, happy feeling (sukha) and concentration (samadhi). At the fourth stage piti has been abandoned but happy feeling still arises. In the case of the kamavacara cittas, piti arises whenever there is pleasant feeling, but this is not so in the case of the jhana-citta of the fourth stage of jhana. The jhanacitta without piti is more tranquil, more refined. The kind of piti which has been abandoned at this stage is the "pervading happiness" which is of the highest intensity. The person who has experienced this kind of piti and is able to forego it is worthy of praise as stated by the Atthasalini (I, Pan v, Chapters 111, 175).
At the highest stage of rupa-jhana (the fourth of the four-fold system and the fifth of the five-fold system) the jhana-factor of sukha has been abandoned and piti does not arise either at this stage. As regards arupavacara cittas, they are of the same type as the rupavacara cittas of the highest stage of rupa-jhana, and thus they are not accompanied by piti. As regards lokuttara cittas, they are not always accompanied by piti, this depends on different conditions (1 See Atthasalini II, Part VIIl, Chapter 1, 228, and Vis. xxi, 112. For details on cittas accompanied by piti, See Appendix 5.).
There are many different kinds of piti as it accompanies different types of citta. The piti which accompanies lobha-mula-citta is entirely different from the piti which accompanies kusala citta. The piti which accompanies jhanacitta is again very different. As we have seen, the "pervading happiness", the fifth kind of piti which is of the highest degree, is the "root of absorption". Piti which is an enlightenment factor and which develops through mindfulness of nama and rupa is different again from all other kinds. We read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Salayatana-vagga, Part II, Kindred Sayings about Feeling, Chapter III, 29, Purified and free from carnal taint) about "zest", piti, that is carnal, piti that is not carnal and piti that is still less carnal:
And what, monks, is the zest that is carnal?
There are five sensual elements, monks. What five? Objects
cognizable by the eye, objects desirable, pleasant, delightful and dear,
passion-fraught, inciting to lust... There are objects cognizable by the
ear... the nose... the tongue... There are things cognizable by the
body, tangibles, desirable, pleasant... These, monks, are the true
Sensual elements. Whatsoever zest, monks, arises owing to these five,
that is called "zest that is carnal".
We then lead about the " zest that is not carnal", which is piti accompanying the jhanacitta. At the moment of jhanacitta carnal zest is temporarily subdued, one is not infatuated with the five "sensual elements". We read about the "zest that is still less carnal than the other kinds:
...And what monks, is the zest that is still less carnal than the other?
That zest which arises in a monk who has destroyed the asavas (1 Asavas or "cankers" are a group into which defilements are classified.). who can look upon his heart as released from lust- that zest, monks. is called "the zest that is still less carnal than the other"
The same is said about pleasure, indifference and " release", which can be carnal, not carnal and still less carnal. The term "still less carnal" refers to the arahat who has eradicated all forms of attachment so that it never arises again. This sutta reminds us again to be aware of the realities appearing through the different doorways, one at a time. We are usually so absorbed in people and things that we forget that they are not realities, only concepts. It is not a person which is experienced through the eyes, but only a kind of rupa which is visible object and does not last. We are infatuated with the objects we experience and we do not realize when there is "piti which is carnal". Piti which is carnal can arise on account of all the objects we experience through the six doors. The sutta illustrates how different piti is when it arises with different types of citta. Piti is conditioned by the accompanying dhammas and, in its tun, it conditions the accompanying dhammas. Piti is sankhara dhamma, not self. We may find it difficult to know when enthusiasm is wholesome and when it is unwholesome, but through mindfulness of it when it appears its characteristic can be known more precisely.
i When we give a gift to someone and there is somanassa (pleasant feeling), is there piti as well?
ii What is the function of piti which arises with kusala citta?
iii When we are helping someone with pleasant feeling and enthusiasm, is there kusala piti all the time?
iv How can we know the difference between kusala piti and akusala piti?
v Does piti arise with each kusala citta?
vi with how many types of lobha-mula-citta does piti arise?
vii Which types of vipakacitta are accompanied by piti?
Viii Does piti always arise together with pleasant feeling, no matter of what plane of consciousness the citta is which piti accompanies?
ix Piti can be an enlightenment factor. How can we cultivate the enlightenment factor of piti?
x Which factors can condition kusala citta with piti and somanassa?
xi Can recollections on the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha be helpful even to those who are not ariyans and can therefore not really understand the meaning of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha? In what way can they be helpful?