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Citta (Pali) is one of three overlapping terms used in the nikayas to refer to the mind, the others being manas and viññāṇa. Each is sometimes used in the generic and non-technical sense of "mind" in general, and the three are sometimes used in sequence to refer to one's mental processes as a whole.[1] Their primary uses are, however, distinct.[2]

"Citta" primarily represents one's mindset, or state of mind.[3][4] Citta is the term used in to refer to the quality of mental processes as a whole.[5] Citta is neither an entity nor a process; this likely accounts for its not being classified as a khanda, nor mentioned in the paticcasamuppada formula.[6]

The complex causal nexus of volitions (or intentions) which one experiences continuously conditions one's thoughts, speech, and actions. One's state of mind at any given time reflects that complex; thus, the causal origin of actions, speech, and thoughts is sometimes associated with the state of mind (citta), in a manner of speaking. This does not mean that it is that causal nexus; it is better understood as an abstract reflection.[7] One's mind-set can be out of tune with one's desires or aspirations. In that it reflects the volitions, the citta is said to go off with a will of its own if not properly controlled.[8] It may lead a person astray or, if properly controlled, directed, and integrated, ennoble one. One may "make citta turn according to" his wishes most effectively by developing skill in meditative concentration which brings mental calm and clarity.[9] An individual undergoes many different states of mind; M.II.27 asks: "Which citta? for citta is manifold, various, and diverse."[10] Generally speaking, a person will operate with a collection of changing mindsets, and some will occur regularly. While these mindsets determine the personality, they are not in control of themselves, but fluctuate and alternate. There is thus the need for the meditative integration of personality to provide a greater, more wholesome consistency.[11]

Regarding volitions, there is a similarity between vinnana and citta; they are both associated with the qualitative condition of a human being. Vinnana provides awareness and continuity by which one knows one's moral condition, and citta is an abstraction representing that condition.[12] Citta is therefore closely related to volitions; this connection is also etymological, as citta comes from the same verbal root in Pali as the active terms meaning "to will."[13] Citta also reflects one's cognitive condition/progress.[14]

Citta as a mindset can become "contracted" (i.e., unworkable), "distracted", "grown great", "composed", or the opposite of such qualities (M.I.59). It can be dominated by a certain emotion, so as to be "terrified", "astonished", or "tranquil." It can be "taken hold of" by pleasant or unpleasant impressions (M.I.423). A host of negative emotionally charged states can pertain to it, or it may be free of such states, so it is vital to develop or purify it: "For a long time this citta has been defiled by attachment, hatred, and delusion. By defilement of citta, beings are defiled; by purity of citta, beings are purified" (S.III.152).[15]

In the Anguttara Nikaya, it is stated; "The citta is luminous, but it is defiled by defilements from outside." This does not suggest an "original purity"; as one's state of mind is an abstraction, there is an abstract sense in which one's citta could be thought of in principle as pure. Just as a pool of water might be thought in principle to have a calm surface which displays ripples and muddiness, so one's state of mind might be thought to in principle be luminous (as in jhana) but to display all mental activity.[16]

Attaining a purified citta corresponds to the attaining of liberating insight. This indicates that a liberated one's state of mind reflects no ignorance or defilements. As these represent bondage, their absence is described in terms of freedom.[17]

Notes

  1. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, pages 105-106.
  2. Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000b). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. (Part IV is "The Book of the Six Sense Bases (Salayatanavagga)".) Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1., pp. 769-70, n. 154.
  3. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, pages 106.
  4. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 111.
  5. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, pages 110-111.
  6. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 111.
  7. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 112.
  8. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, pages 112-113.
  9. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 113.
  10. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 114.
  11. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 114.
  12. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 112.
  13. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 112.
  14. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, pages 112-113.
  15. Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 112.
  16. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 113.
  17. Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, page 113.

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