Theravada Buddhism

Citta – Teachings of Ajahn Paññavaddho

Food For The Heart: Theravada Wisdom TeachingsDecember 12, 2015

The term citta is usually translated as “mind,” but this is quite misleading. What we generally refer to as the mind is different from citta. The mind incorporates the mental faculties of feeling, memory, thought and consciousness, and is usually considered to be that which thinks and remembers. Those mental faculties are inherently unstable: they all constantly arise, remain momentarily and die away. The citta, on the other hand, does not arise and does not die away. It exists entirely without reference to time and space.
The citta is the active one. It creates the five aggregates of body
and mind; it creates vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra and viññāṇa. It creates everything. You mustn’t think of the five aggregates as being five different rooms that the citta enters one after another. It’s not like that. The citta creates a moment of viññāṇa, which then dies away. Then it creates vedanā, and that dies away. Then it goes to saññā, and that dies away. Then saṅkhāra, then viññāṇa again. It performs the duties of feeling, memory, thought and consciousness. They’re all the jurisdiction of the citta, the whole lot. It performs multiple tasks.
Body and mind are comparable to a computer: the body is the
hardware and the mind is the software. The person using them is the citta. The computer must be there for the person to use it, just as body and mind are needed for the citta to function in the world. A person can use a computer with good or bad intentions. Either way, the computer simply follows commands. The intentions are found in the person, not in the computer.
Similarly, the kilesas are not found in the body or in the mind; the kilesas are located in the citta. When a person dies, the mental aggregates die along with the body and disappear. But the citta—the knowing essence of mind—does not die. That means that after death the kilesas remain with the citta. They don’t disappear—and neither do the results of kamma created by the kilesas nor the tendency for them to arise in the future. Because the kilesas and their consequences are still there, a new birth will take place. Kamma is then reactivated in conjunction with the next body and mind.
The citta, on the other hand, is the exception to the rule. Existing separately from the five khandhas, the citta is comparable to the unfathomable vastness of space. Just as space is the medium without which nothing could come into being, the citta is the stable conscious continuum without which nothing in the realm of the five aggregates or the six sense bases could come into being. The citta is the unchanging reality in which everything in the world arises and then ceases. Because the citta does not change, it does not exist—but it is real. Being awareness itself, it is that all-encompassing presence in which arising and passing are known.
Ajahn Paññavaddho

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