Speed of citta and meditation/observation

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Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:08 am

Over here viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2021&p=27336#p27333 Macavity wrote:
Macavity wrote:This would be possible according to the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, which treats mindfulness as an ethically variable mental factor, but not according to Theravada Abhidhamma (nor in reality) where sati is invariably a beautiful mental factor and hindrances invariably hinder its arising.

Having spent some time with various secondary sources such as Abhidhamma studies By Nyanaponika Thera and A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma By Anuruddha (Ed Bhikkhu Bodhi), I understand this principle that a hindrance and sati can't arise in the same citta. However, according to Abhidhamma, citta rise and fall extremely fast, so couldn't the hindrance and sati be alternating so fast that there is the illusion of them being contemporaneous?

I often wonder how much we can (or need to) consider individual citta in terms of our experience. Clearly one can be happy or sad for a lot longer than the rise and fall of one citta (seconds, hours, days...!). It seems to me that in normal life the Abdhidhamma description is analogous to the quantum theory of light. I'm sitting in a room with fluorescent lighting and I know that what I'm seeing as white is the reflection of individual red, green, and blue photons from the sheets of paper scattered around my office. Continuing the analogy, I know that a red photon and a green photon can not all be detected (at one particular spot on my retina) at the same time. But the flood of photons. But I see white. I can't see that the light is composed of individual photons of different colours without special equipment.

Now, I can see the utility of the Abhidhamma description to understand some aspects of the mind, but I'm worried that sometimes the effect of the "quantum nature" of the citta is exaggerated. For example, we talk about dependent origination: contact, feeling, craving, ... Is the sequence supposed to be subsequent citta, or long sequences of citta?

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Jechbi » Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:45 am

I'm curious about this, too. Mike, can you give an example of a meditation instruction that calls upon the meditator to isolate a single citta and examine it all by itself in its abhidhammic sense? At the risk of departing from abhidhamma forum guidelines, I agree with you that such an instruction would probably be unrealistic and unproductive. But I can't back that up with anything authoritative.
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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Macavity » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:52 am

mikenz66 wrote:Having spent some time with various secondary sources such as Abhidhamma studies By Nyanaponika Thera and A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma By Anuruddha (Ed Bhikkhu Bodhi), I understand this principle that a hindrance and sati can't arise in the same citta. However, according to Abhidhamma, citta rise and fall extremely fast, so couldn't the hindrance and sati be alternating so fast that there is the illusion of them being contemporaneous?


In this scenario, where akusala and kusala mind-door processes oscillate, the illusion you describe could happen (or more accurately, it would happen and must happen) whenever the sati arises with the four types of sense-sphere beautiful consciousness that are dissociated from understanding (ñāṇa-vippayutta kāmāvacara sobhaṇa-citta). In this case the sati would not be the sati of satipaṭṭhāna (which is always accompanied by understanding), but just the ordinary sati that is present with every kusala citta. Note that the speed of arising and passing of cittas does not in itself produce the illusion; rather, it's due to the non-conascence of paññā with sati.
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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:57 am

Thank you Macavity!
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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Jechbi » Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:28 pm

HI Macavity,
Macavity wrote:In this scenario, where akusala and kusala mind-door processes oscillate, the illusion you describe could happen (or more accurately, it would happen and must happen) whenever the sati arises with the four types of sense-sphere beautiful consciousness that are dissociated from understanding (ñāṇa-vippayutta kāmāvacara sobhaṇa-citta). In this case the sati would not be the sati of satipaṭṭhāna (which is always accompanied by understanding), but just the ordinary sati that is present with every kusala citta. Note that the speed of arising and passing of cittas does not in itself produce the illusion; rather, it's due to the non-conascence of paññā with sati.

That makes sense, but I don't know if it answers the question embodied in this part of the OP:
mikenz66 wrote:I often wonder how much we can (or need to) consider individual citta in terms of our experience.

At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?
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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:57 am

Jechbi wrote:At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?

Yes, that's what I was trying to ask, but I used too many words... :thinking:

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby cooran » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:03 am

Hello all,

These are questions for the specialist Abhidhamma pracitioner and it would be better to check out what has already been discussed by those very well-versed in the Abhidhamma.
I would really really advise you to go to the Files Section -> Useful Posts, on Dhammastudy group and look at "C" Cittas and then at Process of Cittas "P". The speed of the rising and falling of a citta is almost incomprehensible.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:32 am

Were the speed of the rising and falling of a citta not so incomprehensively fast the lack of actual continuity in citta would be clear mundanely presumably.
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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:53 am

Chris wrote:These are questions for the specialist Abhidhamma pracitioner and it would be better to check out what has already been discussed by those very well-versed in the Abhidhamma.

But Chris, Khun Sujin's followers have an aversion to the word "practice"... :stirthepot:

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby cooran » Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:37 am

Hello Mike,

Abhidhammikas come in all shades and varieties. Every moment of life is fit for practice. Many do formal meditation. Many maintain an awareness of the present moment. Study is seen as important, as is Sila.

The home page of Dhamma Study Group states that it is:
A Theravada Buddhist discussion forum for anyone interested in understanding the Buddha's teachings as found in all three baskets of the Tipitaka, the original record of the Buddha's word in the Theravada tradition, and as further elucidated in the ancient commentaries of that tradition.
The discussions include matters of both theory and practice, with the aim of developing precise understanding of dhammas (the 'realities' of the present moment).


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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Macavity » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:08 pm

Jechbi wrote:At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?


Hi Jechbi,

I think there are actually two questions here:-

First, at which stage of insight development might individual momentary cittas be discerned by the wisdom faculty?

Second, at which stage will they necessarily be discerned.

I'll try to address these questions tomorrow.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Macavity » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:23 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Chris wrote:But Chris, Khun Sujin's followers have an aversion to the word "practice"... :stirthepot:


Hi Mike,

With all due respect, I don't think you have been reading them carefully enough. Khun Sujin, Nina van Gorkom, and company don't have any problem with the word "practice" (paṭipatti). Their problem is with the words "formal meditation", the identification of this with "practice", and the claim that there is such a thing as a "method" by which satipaṭṭhāna and vipassanā can be developed.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:47 pm

Macavity wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Chris wrote:But Chris, Khun Sujin's followers have an aversion to the word "practice"... :stirthepot:

With all due respect, I don't think you have been reading them carefully enough. Khun Sujin, Nina van Gorkom, and company don't have any problem with the word "practice" (paṭipatti). Their problem is with the words "formal meditation", the identification of this with "practice", and the claim that there is such a thing as a "method" by which satipaṭṭhāna and vipassanā can be developed.

Yes, that's what I meant.

Their position is interesting, and useful to keep in mind and I've learned a lot from such sources. Of course, as they say quite clearly, they disagree with many other Theravada teachers.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Macavity » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:30 pm

Macavity wrote:I think there are actually two questions here:-

First, at which stage of insight development might individual momentary cittas be discerned by the wisdom faculty?


The paññindriya of a samathayānika may discern them at the stage of purification of view (diṭṭhi-visuddhi) when developing insight after emergence from jhāna. But this won't happen at such an early stage in the case of a dry insight worker.

Second, at which stage will they necessarily be discerned.


At the stage of purification by knowledge and vision of the way (paṭipadā-ñāṇadassana-visuddhi). This corresponds to knowledge of rise and fall (udayabbayañāṇa) in the 16-ñāṇa formulation.


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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:17 pm

Thanks Macavity, that's very helpful to orient some continued study...

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Jechbi » Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:46 am

Thanks, Macavity. I believe your answer to this question as it originally was phrased ...
Jechbi wrote:At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?

... is that the question is incorrectly conceived. Any way, the answers that you provided to the questions as you phrased them are helpful.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Macavity » Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:41 am

Jechbi wrote:Thanks, Macavity. I believe your answer to this question as it originally was phrased ...
Jechbi wrote:At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?

... is that the question is incorrectly conceived.


Hi Jechbi,

Actually I was just reading between the lines and replying according to what I guessed you really meant by your question. :smile: But since you mention it, yes, the literal phrasing of the question did strike me as problematic, for when we speak of "contemplating the concept of an individual citta" then we are really talking about understanding (pañña) at the pariyatti / sutamaya level, not the sati of satipatthana.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Virgo » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:49 pm

Jechbi wrote:At what stage amid the sati of satipatthana (if any) would you say one considers or contemplates the concept of an individual citta?


Sati can not penetrate the characteristic of a citta. Panna is the mental factor that can discern the anatta, anicca, or dukkha aspect of an arising dhamma as it arises. Sati sometimes arises with panna, and sometimes without. It in itself is not particularly important. Sati does play an important role though in satipatthana because it arises alongside panna whenever panna arises. This means that whenever there is panna, there will also be sati, though it is not necessarily always the case vice versa.

At any particular time panna can discern the not-self, impermanent, or unsatisfactory nature of an arising dhamma. One doesn't have to be at a special stage. It can happen right after one hears a short talk on dhamma, as happened with Bahiya in the Suttas. What is necessary is that panna is developed enough to penetrate through hearing and reflection on the dhamma. This way, in a sense, we can say that the conditions are then set such that the citta is "primed" in such a way that panna is keen enough to recognize the nature of a dhamma as it arises. This way, moments of insight or satipatthana can occur in ones life (while one is bending, stretching, adjusting, etc.). No position or anything else is necessary. All that is needed is that panna be developed enough through hearing and reflection that the conditions are set that it automatically penetrates the not-self aspect of dhammas.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby Virgo » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:07 am

mikenz66 wrote:For example, we talk about dependent origination: contact, feeling, craving, ... Is the sequence supposed to be subsequent citta, or long sequences of citta?

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Hi Mike,

Every citta is dependently arisen.

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Re: Speed of citta and meditation/observation

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:12 am

Hi Kevin,
Virgo wrote:Hi Mike,
Every citta is dependently arisen.

Yes, but that doesn't really address my question, which is to do with how many citta of contact, feeling, and craving there are in the sequence (one of each citta or billions of each citta or something in between).
mikenz66 wrote:Now, I can see the utility of the Abhidhamma description to understand some aspects of the mind, but I'm worried that sometimes the effect of the "quantum nature" of the citta is exaggerated. For example, we talk about dependent origination: contact, feeling, craving, ... Is the sequence supposed to be subsequent citta, or long sequences of citta?

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