Chapter 4 - Misconceptions (In Asoka’s Footsteps by Nina Van Gorkom)
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We have a distorted view of reality: what is impermanent we take for permanent, what is dukkha we take for happiness, what is non-self we take for self, what is foul we take for beautiful. Without the Buddha’s teachings we would never know that we have a distorted view of reality, that we deviate from the truth.
We read in “The Path of Discrimination” (Patisambhidamagga, First
Division, VIII, Treatise on Perversions) :
Bhikkhus, there are these four perversions of perception (sanna), perversions of cognizance (citta), perversions of view (ditthi). What four? Bhikkhus, seeing what is impermanent as permanent is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing the painful (dukkha) as pleasant is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing what is not self as self is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing the foul as beautiful is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. These, bhikkhus, are the four perversions of perception, perversions of cognizance, perversions of view.
Four of the eight akusala cittas rooted in lobha, attachment, are accompanied by ditthi. When there is ditthi one clings with wrong view to the self, to what one believes is permanent, to what one takes for beauty and for happiness.
Citta is the “leader” in cognizing an object, and the accompanying cetasikas also experience that object, but they have each their own function. Citta and the accompanying cetasikas condition one another. When citta is accompanied by ditthi, the citta and the other cetasikas, sanna included, are conditioned by ditthi: all of them are perverted by wrong view.
Sanna (Sanna is usually translated as perception. Sanna which accompanies kusala citta is completely different from sanna which accompanies akusala citta. Also in the case of akusala citta without ditthi, sanna which is perverted remembers wrongly, in a distorted way, and citta which is perverted cognizes the object in a distorted way.) which accompanies each citta has the function of remembering or recognizing.
The commentary to the “Path of Discrimination”, the
“Saddhammappakasini”, explains that the perversions of sanna, citta and ditthi have different strengths:
“... The perversion of sanna is the weakest in strength of all three. The perversion of citta has more strength than the perversion of sanna. The perversion of ditthi has the greatest strength of all three.”
This reminds us of the danger of wrong view.
We have learnt through the teachings that all dhammas are anatta, but we forget that realities are beyond control, that they do not belong to us. Even when we develop vipassana we can be lured by the wrong view of self : we believe that “we” can cause the arising of sati.
At the first stage of insight nama is clearly distinguished from rupa. We cannot forego this stage, because so long as we are confused about the difference between nama and rupa, higher stages of insight cannot be reached, the impermanence of realities cannot be realized and the concept of self cannot be eradicated.
We read in the “Dispeller of Delusion”, the commentary to the “Book of Analysis”, to the second Book of the Abhidhamma (Ch 7, Classification of the Foundations of Mindfulness) about reasons why the Buddha taught the four Applications of Mindfulness, namely of the body, of feeling, of citta and of dhammas. One of the reasons is as follows:
Or alternatively, it is in order to abandon the perversions (vipallasa) of the beautiful, the pleasant, the permanent and self. For the body is foul, and herein beings are perverted (into regarding it as beautiful) by the perversion of the beautiful. The first foundation of mindfulness is stated in order to abandon that perversion by showing them the foulness therein. And as regards feeling and so on, taken as “pleasant, permanent, self” feeling is dukkha, citta is impermanent and dhammas are non-self. And beings are perverted as to these (Namely citta and dhamma.) by the perversions of the pleasant, the permanent and self. The remaining three (Applications of Mindfulness) are stated in order to abandon those perversions by seeing dukkha etc. (dukkha, impermanence and non-self.) therein. Thus, they should alternatively be understood to be stated as four, no less, no more, in order to abandon the perversions of the beautiful, the pleasant, the permanent and self.