One "citta" at a time

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One "citta" at a time

Postby acinteyyo » Sun May 09, 2010 9:13 am

Because of the thread Six Sense Base Question I opened this thread. A question was:
Can eye-consciousness arise at the same time as say nose-consciousness or is it one at a time?

and Virgo answered:
According to the Abhidhamma, they arise one at a time.

and then there was:
Virgo wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Virgo,
Virgo wrote:According to the Abhidhamma, they arise one at a time.

According to Abhidhamma, does one consciousness cease before the next begins?
According to Abhidhamma, can there be multiple consciousnesses in parallel, even if manasikara (attention) is focused on just one at a time?
Metta,
Retro. :

Hi Retro. Just one at a time. Each one ceases before the next arises.

(Virgo and Retro I hope you don't mind, that I'm quoting you here)

My question is: What is the meaningn of "citta" according to Abhidhamma? Consciousness?

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Ben » Sun May 09, 2010 10:47 am

Hi acinteyyo
Below is a transcribed section from Bhikkhu Bodhi's A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma
Bhikkhu Bodhi's words below give an excellent explanation of citta in the Abhidhamma and commentarial literature.
If I get time, I'll transcribe and post more.

Consciousness: The first chapter of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha is devoted to an examination of citta, consciousness or mind, the first of the four ultimate realities. Consciousness is taken up for study first because the focus of the Buddhist analysis of reality is experience, and consciousness is the principal element in experience, that which constitutes the knowing or awareness of an object.
The Pali word citta is derived from the verbal root citi, to cognize, to know. The commentators define citta in three ways: as agent, as instrument, and as activity. As the agent, citta is that which cognizes an object (arammanam cinteti ti cittam). As the instrument, citta is that by means of which the accompanying mental factors cognize the object (etana cintenti ti cittam). As an activity, citta is itself nothing other than the process of cognizing the object (cintanamattam cittam).
The third definition, in terms of sheer activity, is regarded as the most adequate of the three: that is, citta is fundamentally an activity or process of cognizing or knowing an object. It is not an agent or instrument possessing actual being in itself apart from the activity of cognizing. The definintions in terms of agent and instrument are proposed to refute the wrong view of those who hold that a permanent self or ego is the agent and instrument of cognition. The Buddhist thinkers point out, by means of these definitions, that it is not a self that performs the act of cognition, but citta or consciousness. This citta is nothing other than the act of cognizing, and that act is necessarily impermanent, marked by rise and fall.
To elucidate the nature of any ultimate reality, the Pali commentators propose four defining devices by means of which it can be delimited. These four devices are: (1) its characteristic (lakkhana), ie the salient quality of the phenomenon; (2) its function (rasa), its performance of a concrete task (kicca) or achievement of a goal (samapatti); (3) its manifestation (paccupatthana), the way it presents itself within experience; and (4) its proximate cause (padatthana), the principal condition upon which it depends.
In the case of citta, its characteristic is the knowing of an object (vijanana). Its function is to be a “forerunner” (pubbangama) of the mental factors in that it presides over them and is always accompanied by them. Its manifestation – the way it appears in the meditator’s experience – is a continuity of processes (sadhana). Its proximate cause is mind-and-matter (namarupa), because consciousness cannot arise alone, in the complete absence of mental factors and material phenomena.
While citta has a single characteristic as the cognizing of an object, a characteristic that remains the same in all its diverse manifestations, the Abhidhamma distinguishes citta into a variety of types. These types, also called cittas, are reckoned as 89 or, by a finer method of differentiation, as 121. (see table 1.1 in CMA). What we ordinarily think of as consciousness is really a series of cittas, momentary acts of consciousness, occurring in such rapid succession that we cannot detect the discrete occasions, which are of diverse types. The Abhidhamma not only distinguishes the types of consciousness, but more importantly, it also exhibits them as ordered into a cosmos, a unified and closely interwoven whole.
 Bhikkhu Bodhi, Compendium of Consciousness, A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma


I hope it is of benefit.
metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 09, 2010 11:06 am

Greetings acinteyyo,

acinteyyo wrote:Retro I hope you don't mind, that I'm quoting you here


Not at problem... so long as I can append a question to the end of yours.

What is the proximate cause for the cessation of a citta?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Ben » Sun May 09, 2010 11:56 am

continued from my last post...
To do so employs several overlapping principles of classification. The first of these, introduced in the present section of the Sangaha, is the plane (bhumi) of consciousness. These are the four planes of consciousness. Three are mundane: the sense sphere, the fine material sphere, and the immaterial sphere; the fourth plane is the supramundane. The word avacara, “sphere”, which qualifies the first three planes, means “that which moves about in, or frequents, a particular locality.” The locality frequented is the plane of existence. However, though the three spheres of consciousness have a particularly close connection with the corresponding planes of existence, they are not identical. The spheres of consciousness are categories for classifying types of cittas, the planes of consciousness are realms or worlds into which beings are reborn and in which they pass their lives.
A definite relation nevertheless exists between the spheres of consciousness and the planes of existence: a particular sphere of consciousness comprises those types of consciousness which are typical of the corresponding plane of existence and which frequent that plane by tending to arise most often there. Consciousness of a particular sphere is not tied to the corresponding plane, but may also arise in other planes of existence as well; for instance, fine material and immaterial sphere cittas can arise in the sensual plane, and sense sphere cittas can arise in the fine material and immaterial planes. But still a connection is found, in that a sphere of consciousness is typical for the plane that shares its name. Moreover, the kammically active cittas of any particular sphere, the cittas that generate kamma, tend to produce rebirth into the corresponding plane of existence, and if they succeed in gaining the opportunity to generate rebirth, they will do so only in that plane, not in any other plane. Hence, the tie between the spheres of consciousness and the corresponding planes of existence is extremely close.

 Bhikkhu Bodhi, Compendium of Consciousness, A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby acinteyyo » Sun May 09, 2010 12:53 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings acinteyyo,
acinteyyo wrote:Retro I hope you don't mind, that I'm quoting you here

Not at problem... so long as I can append a question to the end of yours.

Certainly yes!
retrofuturist wrote:What is the proximate cause for the cessation of a citta?

Usually when the cause for its arising ceases it ceases, too. Don't know what Abhidhamma and commentarial literature have to say about it.

@ Ben:
Thank you very much for the transcription.
It seems to me that citta according to Abhidhamma and commentarial literature is equal to what is conventionally meant by "consciousness" (in contrast to viññāna), but also includes viññāna.

Why can there only be one citta at a time? Why does one citta have to cease before the next one can arise?

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Ben » Sun May 09, 2010 1:22 pm

Hi acinteyyo
acinteyyo wrote:Why can there only be one citta at a time? Why does one citta have to cease before the next one can arise?

I'll attempt to answer yours and Retro's questions tomorrow from CMA, if I get time. Right now, I'm just too tired.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Sun May 09, 2010 6:48 pm

Since Ben is busy - i will improvise some comedic relief while we wait...

This stuff is soooo fascinating - i am in no way a scholar but have a little basic understanding - i am "flying by the seat of my pants" here - so please correct me. (My basic knowledge came from "The Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma" - Ed. Bodhi and "Unravelling the Mysteries of Mind & Body through Abhidhamma" - Sayalay Susila)

Great questions - Why one citta at a time? What is the proximate cause for the cessation of a citta?

We are discussing merely the awareness of an object - not comprehension by knowledge or wisdom - that is macro level - at the micro level of citta - a photon of light enters the eye - a molecule of aroma enters the nose, etc. While it may seem as if more than one photon can enter at a time, or one molecule of odor - whatever - when it gets funneled into the pipeline for processing it is 'one at a time'.

Hmmm... perhaps this is a cop-out - but "one at a time" because this is the subhava or 'intrinsic nature' of this ultimate reality, our consciousness. Every citta has an object and it cannot accomodate more than one object. This does not explain 'why' - but just like a movie appears as continuous motion on the movie screen - the intrinsic nature is a rigid moment framed and separate from the next. 2500 plus years ago the monks were not only 'seeing' each frame - but actually walking around and looking at the borders of each frame.

Many, many, many every second. Amazing. Quantum by defintion.

It is like the Mandelbrot series in mathematics - understanding the pattern at the large scale we find the same patterns repeating at each smaller scale. At a macro level we live only one life at a time - at the micro level we live only one moment of consciousness at a time. And just as each lifetime has its own birth, aging and death - so too each moment of consciousness has its birth, aging and death. (The spelling 'ageing' looks better to me - i must have been british in a past life :tongue: )

Which leads to the next question of proximate cause - (i hope you mean primary cause)...
if you think about it, it is simple - in this lifetime - what is the cause of your death? - your birth! Again the same things that apply at the large scale of a life time apply at the tiniest scale of a moment of time - the citta.

If you didn't mean primary - well, you'd have to specify exactly which citta you wish to examine - differing types of citta have differing life spans - as per humans - and different reasons for death - but primarily - birth causes death.

When you look at the orderly diagrams of "this followed by that" at the citta level it looks like the "Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of Dependent Co-arising" where you find the complete cycle of "this leads to that followed by this followed by that... "

So, in summary - for the same reason that we live our many many lives in a sequential 'one at a time' orderliness - we experience each of our many many moments of consciousness in a sequential 'one at a time' orderliness. The proximate cause for the the dissolution of a citta is its arising.

Hopefully you've enjoyed a moment of brevity - such is my tap dance here - but i'll close with some interesting excerpts from page 134-6 of "Unravelling" regarding the controversy of "How separated is realizing the 'path' of stream-entry' to realizing the 'fruit of stream-entry'?":

When one's insight knowledge becomes matured ... one attains Nibbana. At that time, the cognitive process of supramundane stream-entry path (sotipatti magga vithi) runs as follows:

First, ... <skipping a lot> ... then the change-of-lineage (gotrabhu) arises which takes as its object the signlesss, the non-occurence, the cessation, Nibbana, which passes out of the lineage of worldlings (puthujjana) and enters into the lineage of the Noble Ones (Ariya). It gives the sign to the Path to come into being, and ceases.

Without pausing, the Path follows in uninterrupted continuity, piercing and exploding the mass of greed, hatred and delusion, never pierced nor exploded before. Path consciousness arises only once, taking Nibbana as its object. After Path consciousness, without any delay in time, there arise two or three moments of Fruition consciousness, which are its result, taking Nibbana as its object. At this point, one becomes a stream-enterer...

Although change-of-lineage takes Nibbana as object, it does not perform the function of eliminating defilements as does Path consciousness. Path consciousness arises for only one moment then passes away. The same type of Path consciousness never arises again for a second time... Stream-entry path consciousness permanently uproots three fetters:
... sakkaya-ditthi ... silabbataparamasa ... vicikiccha ...


i assume the 'one attains Nibbana' to refer to that first glimpse of 'the deathless' that stream-entry gives. According to this the fruition follows right on the heels of the path - but they are separate if only for a conscious moment...

Metta
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 09, 2010 9:06 pm

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:Hi acinteyyo
acinteyyo wrote:Why can there only be one citta at a time? Why does one citta have to cease before the next one can arise?

I'll attempt to answer yours and Retro's questions tomorrow from CMA, if I get time. Right now, I'm just too tired.

I appreciate your transcribing. However, since the entire CMA is available online here:
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=hxo ... &q&f=false
it might be more efficient for you to just indicate the page number and comment on the bits that you think are most important.

The definition of citta Ben posted starts on Page 27. It is also helpful to read the introduction as Page 18 to understand that there are various types of citta ("conciousness") (described in chapter 1) that arise along with various cetasikas ("mental factors") (described in chapter 2). The rest of the text describes relationships and causality of the various cittas and cetasikas.

Mike
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 09, 2010 10:00 pm

Hello all,

As to why one citta at a time, I think the answer may be similar to saying "why do we see only one field of vision at a time" (we have two eyes).

Maybe the multiple cognitions somehow merge into one field of cognition at a time.


There is a philosophical problem though with conditionality, and one citta at a time. What happens when one enters cessation of perception and feelings? As I understand, All cittas, cetasikas, and bhavaṅga ceases. What makes citta restart after pre-determined time? What makes that bhikkhu come out of cessation when some other Bhikkhu or Buddha himself calls him? When one is unconscious, one can't hear! There is no citta that is aware of passage of time, or of someone's voice! There is no citta that is proximately located or the citta that stores the intention to remain unconscious for such and such a time.

With metta,
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 09, 2010 10:32 pm

Hi Alex,
Alex123 wrote:There is a philosophical problem though with conditionality, and one citta at a time. What happens when one enters cessation of perception and feelings? As I understand, All cittas, cetasikas, and bhavaṅga ceases. What makes citta restart after pre-determined time? What makes that bhikkhu come out of cessation when some other Bhikkhu or Buddha himself calls him? When one is unconscious, one can't hear! There is no citta that is aware of passage of time, or of someone's voice! There is no citta that is proximately located or the citta that stores the intention to remain unconscious for such and such a time.

Are you sure that the bhavangha ceases. It does sounds like that from the summary at page 364 of CMA, but it's not too explicit.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=hxo ... on&f=false

I do seem to recall ven Huifeng commenting somewhere (but I can't find it) that bhavanga "solved" this "problem of cessation" in Theravada Abhidhamma (other systems had other "solutions", but that would be off-topic here). However, I can't find an exact quote right now...

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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 09, 2010 10:52 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alex,
Alex123 wrote:There is a philosophical problem though with conditionality, and one citta at a time. What happens when one enters cessation of perception and feelings? As I understand, All cittas, cetasikas, and bhavaṅga ceases. What makes citta restart after pre-determined time? What makes that bhikkhu come out of cessation when some other Bhikkhu or Buddha himself calls him? When one is unconscious, one can't hear! There is no citta that is aware of passage of time, or of someone's voice! There is no citta that is proximately located or the citta that stores the intention to remain unconscious for such and such a time.

Are you sure that the bhavangha ceases. It does sounds like that from the summary at page 364 of CMA, but it's not too explicit.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=hxo ... on&f=false

I do seem to recall ven Huifeng commenting somewhere (but I can't find it) that bhavanga "solved" this "problem of cessation" in Theravada Abhidhamma (other systems had other "solutions", but that would be off-topic here). However, I can't find an exact quote right now...

Mike



Interesting question. On pg 364 and pg 178


Pg 178
It says that stream of consciousness and all concomitants are arrested.. all mental activity has ceased... though body remains alive retaining its cital heat.

Pg 364
Says that stream of consciousness and mental factors is completely cut off temporarily...

Since bhavanga is part of mental stream, does it means that it is temporarily (up to 7 days) cut off as well?

This wouldn't be a problem if either bhavanga still existed, or if there was 2nd consciousness that didn't cease when 6 sense consciousness has ceased temporarily.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Sun May 09, 2010 10:58 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alex,
Alex123 wrote:As I understand, All cittas, cetasikas, and bhavaṅga ceases.

Are you sure that the bhavangha ceases.


If Sayalay Susila is a valid source - bhavangha does not cease. It is what is responsible for our 'unconscious' moments whether they be dreamless sleep or nirodha samapatti. The objects of these "process freed" vithimutta are not "present life". The ability to process citta is so fast that even during what we consider to be consciousness - if nothing knocks on the six doors of perception - we may well have a stream of these life-continuum processes - bhavangha - take up the slack - we are actually unconscious repeatedly for very short periods of time each and every day.

Alex123 wrote: What makes that bhikkhu come out of cessation when some other Bhikkhu or Buddha himself calls him?

I did not know this was possible. The only "alarm" i remember hearing about is the intent of the Arahant before entering nirodha samapatti - just like in the suttas where the Buddha lies down to sleep and intends to wake up - except at parinibbana. For whatever reason - they can intend to stop all conciousness for up to seven or so days. Hmmm... i wonder why the time limitation?

Good stuff!

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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 09, 2010 11:06 pm

Part 2:

If one consciousness has to cease before another consciousness arises, then how does ceased consciousness (that doesn't exist any more) passes on the conditions to the existing consciousness? So it almost appears that none existent thing (since past consciousness doesn't exist NOW) conditions a present consciousness. This would lead to absurdity and contradict the suttas.

If they did overlap, then we could say that the end of previous consciousness coexisting with begining of new consciousness and carries the conditions forward. But this would require two conscious units to exist at a certain time...
cittas.JPG
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Sun May 09, 2010 11:08 pm

Alex123 wrote:Since bhavanga is part of mental stream, does it means that it is temporarily (up to 7 days) cut off as well?

If one consciousness has to cease before another consciousness arises, then how does ceased consciousness (that doesn't exist any more) passes on the conditions to the existing consciousness?


Again - macro-micro - the same way past life kamma comes due in this life. The object of the bhavanga is a "past life" object - i guess that means when we are not living out our current life we regress back to previous life objects to connect us. What is that hard to grasp "thing" that passes from one life to another? It is that "thing" that allows us to be unconscious to this life and then return to this life. Some kind of 'personal placeholder'?
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 09, 2010 11:16 pm

The hard thing is to explain how one citta passess on conditions (kamma, accumulations, etc) to the next one.

It is easy to understand that some past life object can somehow be passed subconsciously to manifest itself when the conditions are right. But what is the process at micro level between two adjacent cittas? They can't exist simulteneously (past and present cannot exist together according to Ther Abh), they can't meet in one "time & place". The previous citta (the cause) has to disappear for its effect (present citta) to arise. But if cause has to cease for the effect to arise, doesn't this open the door to logical absurdities and acausality? That would contradict the suttas.
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Sun May 09, 2010 11:29 pm

Alex123 wrote:It is easy to understand that some past life object can somehow be passed subconsciously to manifest itself when the conditions are right.

The bhavanga are those exact "easy to understand" processes. They function at three periods of your life - at rebirth - at death - and at moments of unconsciousness.
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Sun May 09, 2010 11:39 pm

A typical eye-door cognitive process:

17 steps

1 past bhavanga
2 vibrating bhavanga (the present life object - a photon - "knocks" on the eye door)
3 arresting bhavanga (the bhavanga stream (unconsciousness) is cut off to give way to the new sense object)
4 5-door adverting consciousness
5 eye consciousness
6 receiving consciousness
7 investigating consciousness
8 javana
9 javana
10 javana
11 javana
12 javana
13 javana
14 javana
15 registering consciousness
16 registering consciousness
17 bhavanga

The wholesome and unwholesome kamma are performed at the javana stage.
The visible object & eye sensitivity perish with the registering consciousness. (Leaving only the memory...)

Simple eh?
Notice steps 1,2, 3 and 17 do not use present life objects - they are not "under our scrutiny" - unless you are well gone!
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 09, 2010 11:49 pm

Thank you for a summary of 17 moments of cognitive process. Yes, I am aware of it. But my question is deeper:
How does information (conditions, accumulations, kamma, etc) go from lets say step 1 to step 2?

Please refer to my picture in which it would make sense if two cittas (such as bhavanga) could overlap. But if one citta (lets say past bhavanga) has to cease before another citta (lets say vibrating bhavanga) arises, with NO OVERLAP, then how do the conditions skip the abyss? How can effect arise without existing cause?
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Mon May 10, 2010 12:28 am

Alex123 wrote:How can effect arise without existing cause?
<Sorry - had to eat dinner>

The cause exists before the result - they do not actually touch - the forces act 'at a distance'. How do they bridge this gap? Darn good question.

We are taught not-self -yet we inherit kamma. Something not-self connects us with our past life. How?

Similarly, past objects of citta or consciousness connects - bridges the gap - between the past moment of consciousness and the current. How? Forward pass - not lateral - not a hand-off either... but the process is described to preserve the continuity of existence using "not-currently-existing" objects. :thinking:

Wish i could be of more help - i'll keep searching...
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Re: One "citta" at a time

Postby Anicca » Mon May 10, 2010 12:46 am

The whole "one at a time" concept requires a paradigm shift to the dance of Shiva - each moment of existence is literally a death and rebirth of existence. There is no continuing soul or atman or anything to bridge the gap - from lifetime to the next lifetime or moment to moment! What can we point to that persists from one life to the next? Well, that same 'nothing' persists from one moment to the next in this life too. Someone correct me, please....
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Location: Edmond, Oklahoma

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