Cetasika (Mental Factors)

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Cetasika (Mental Factors)

Revised January 24, 2020; May 15, 2020; June 8, 2020; August 23, 2022

Cetasika (mental factors; pronounced “chethasikā”) appear concomitantly with citta (thoughts; pronounced “chiththā”), and they cease together with citta. They define the character (good or bad or neutral) of the citta.

The way to “Lead a Moral Life,” or to “Seek Good Rebirths,” or to “Seek Nibbāna,” is to get rid of the bad (non-beautiful) cetasika and cultivate good (beautiful) cetasika. This is done by changing one’s habits via learning Dhamma and practicing it: see, “Habits and Goals,” “Sansāric Habits and āsavas,” and “The Way to Nibbāna – Removal of Āsavā,” in that order.

1. Seven cetasika are in every citta. These are called universals (sabba citta sādhāraṇa):

Phassa (contact); vedanā (feeling); saññā (perception); cetanā (volition); ekaggatā (One-pointedness) can become Sammā Samādhi; jīvitindriya (life faculty) manasikāra (memory).

2. Since they are universals, the above cetasika appears in both kusala and akusala citta. All are important mental factors:

Saññā and vedanā are in pañcakkhandha.

Cetanā determines kamma; it is the cetasika that “puts together a citta” by automatically incorporating other relevant cetasika according to one’s “gati.”

Ekaggatā is the salient factor in samādhi.

Consciousness cannot arise without phassa. Note that samphassa differs from phassa; see, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa.”

Jīvitindriya maintains life.

Manasikāra can be either yoniso manasikāra (important in attaining the Sotāpanna stage), and ayoniso manasikāra can lead to the accumulation of akusala kamma.

3. There are six cetasika that CAN appear in both types of cittā: kusala and akusala. However, they are found in only particular types of cittā. They are called particulars or pakiṇṇaka: [pakiṇṇaka :(adj.) [pa+kiṇṇa (pp. of kirati)+ka] scattered about; fig. miscellaneous, particular, opp. to sādhāraṇa. ]

Vitakka (focused application) can become Sammā Saṅkappa; vicāra (sustained application); adhimokkha (dominate). Adhimokkha is the cetasika that makes another cetasika to dominate a given citta; for example, to get uddhacca, vicikicchā, or paṭigha to strengthen.

Viriya (effort) can become Sammā Vāyāma ; pīti (joy); chanda (desire, not greed).

These are important cetasika and play key roles in morality/immorality since they can appear in both kusala and akusala citta. For example, when one’s mind is covered with deep ignorance (moha), one may enjoy immoral deeds (pīti), makes a liking for them (chanda), and strive more (viriya) to do such acts.

4. Just like universals, these particulars can appear in either type of cittā, kusala or akusala. Vitakka, vicāra, and pīti are jhāna factors as well.

Viriya and chanda are two factors in the four bases of mental power; see, “The Four Bases of Mental Power (Cattāro Iddhipāda).”

Adhimokka is important in decision making by making another cetasika dominant. All these factors can go in an immoral direction too.

5. There are 14 asobhana cetasika (non-beautiful mental factors) that appear only in akusala citta. Out of these, four universals appear in ALL akusala citta:

Moha (delusion); Ahirika (shamelessness); Anottapa (fearlessness in the wrong); uddhacca (restlessness or agitation).

Both shamelessness and fearlessness of wrong encourage doing immoral acts. Restlessness causes unwise decision making.

The other ten are “occasionals” that appear in only particular types of akusala citta:

Lobha (greed); diṭṭhi (wrong view); māna (conceit); dosa (hatred); issā (envy); macchariya (extreme greed, also pretending one does not have wealth); kukkucca (worry, also feeling low); thīna (sloth, sluggishness); middha (torpor); vicikicchā (doubt arising from temptations).

Lobha and dosa are two of the three immoral roots. Sloth and torpor normally rise together and are opposite of viriya; they are listed as one factor in Five Hindrances; see, “Key to Calming the Mind.”

6. Twenty-five sobhana cetasika (beautiful mental factors) appear only in kusala citta. Out of those, 19 of them appear in every kusala citta and thus are called beautiful universals:

Saddhā (faith); sati (moral mindfulness) can become Sammā Sati; hiri (shame of wrong); ottappa (fear of wrong); alobha (absence of greed); adosa (absence of hate/anger, of which mettā or “loving-kindness” is a part); tatramajjhattatā (neutrality of mind, of which upekkhā is a part); kāyapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness); kāyalahutā (lightness of mental body); cittalahutā (lightness of consciousness); kāyamudutā (malleability of the mental body); cittamudutā (malleability of consciousness); kāyakammaññatā (wieldliness of mental body); cittakammaññatā (wieldliness of consciousness); kāyapāguññatā (proficiency of mental body); cittapāguññatā (proficiency of consciousness); kāyujjukatā (rectitude of mental body); cittujjukatā (rectitude of consciousness).

The other six are occasionals that appear in only particular types of kusala citta:

There are three abstinences: Sammā Vācā (right speech); Sammā Kammanta (right action); Sammā Ājīva (right livelihood).

Two Illimitables (limit-less): karuṇā (compassion); muditā (appreciative joy; joy at other’s moral success).

Paññā or paññindriya (wisdom or wisdom faculty). Sammā Diṭṭhi leads to paññā.

7. Mental factors in the Noble Eightfold Path are highlighted in green.

8. Immoral roots are highlighted in red. Moral roots are highlighted in purple.

9. As a rule, sobhana and asobhana cetasika CANNOT appear together in a given citta.