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1) How are cetasikas expressed? Could they be expressed as how the mind is orientated, thus influencing how, when, and what cittas arise?

2) Do cetasikas therefore play any indirect role in the patticasamuppada process (dependent origination, did I spell the Pali right), say, for example, by governing what vēdana arises in response to contact?

  • I think I understand the second question, "Where do cetasikas fit into the doctrine of the 12 nidanas?" So the first question, "How are they expressed?", means something like "What is their effect, consequence, manifestation?". – ChrisW Aug 5 '16 at 21:32
  • Before getting to those questions, it's important to know exactly what the term cetasika mean. See Ven. Bodhi's excellent "Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma"'s Chapter 2 at:store.pariyatti.org/… – santa100 Aug 6 '16 at 17:32
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I have personally never studied 'cetasikas' but have studied Paticcasamuppada in detail.

Paticcasamuppada explains the 12 conditions (paccaya) rather than causes (hetu) that condition the origination or generation of psychological suffering (sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief & despair).

Therefore, it is important to distinguish between 'generic vedana' arising at contact (such as vedana experienced by a fully enlightened arahant that has attained Nibbana) and 'ignorant vedana' arising in paticcasamuppada, which occurs due to ignorance.

Since 'contact' is a 'cetasika' (per Wikipedia), all vedana is a response to the citasika of contact.

However, in paticcasamuppada, every one of the 12 conditions (and their sub-constituents, which total at least 54) arise due to the cetasika of ignorance/wrong-view/delusion, as described in the quote below:

To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by feeling that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication of 'self' is born of that. And that fabrication is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. That craving... That feeling... That contact... That ignorance is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen.

Parileyyaka Sutta

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Just because you have specifically asked as to what “Cetasika” means I will give a brief introduction. But I have no interest in giving the sources for it, as to where I took it from. It is because I do not want to see any of my Dhamma friends to go into this level of detail. Life is fleeting. It doesn't last as long as we would like. We have precious little time to practice this Dhamma. We cannot even make sense of the simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka, so why would one want to go into such?. The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of discourses delivered by the Buddha Himself on various occasions. In it the mental factors are beautifully explained, and one need NOT go any further.

“Cetasika” is found in the Abhidhamma. In my opinion it is there for the “I think therefore I am” type – the so called deep thinkers, who are too smart for their own good. Anyway this is what “Cetasika” means:

There are 52 cetasikas (mental factors), which, arising together in various combination, giving rise to what we call the Mind. Of these fifty-two, Vedana and Sanna are treated as two distinct groups. The remaining fifty are collectively called Sankhara. Unlike the Conventional Teachings of the Suttas, the later day intellectualization of the Dhamma came up with Abhidhamma or Paramattha Desana (An Ultimate Doctrine). This Abhidhamma Pitaka is composed of the following works:-- Dhamma-Sangani (Enumeration of Phenomena); Vibhanga (The Book of the Treatises); Katha Vatthu (Point of Controversy); Puggala Pannatti (Description of Individuals); Dhatu Katha (Discussion with reference to Elements); Yamaka (The Book of Pairs); Patthana (The Book of Relations).

Four ultimate things (Paramattha) are explained in order in the Abhidhamma. They are Citta, (Consciousness), Cetasika (Mental concomitants), Rupa (Matter) and Nibbana. The “being” is microscopically analysed and its component parts are minutely described in it.

A citta is a single act of consciousness - "a state of mind." Each citta consists of many components. Consciousness - the basic experiencing of the object is taken seperately. Together with consciousness every citta contains cetasikas or mental factors.

The cetasikas is said to color the citta and give it its distinctive character. By reference to cetasikas, citta is broken down to: a mind that is lustful, a mind without lust, a mind with or without aversion, a mind with delusion or without delusion, a cramped or scattered mind, a developed or undeveloped mind, a surpassable or unsurpassable mind, a concentrated or unconcentrated mind, the freed or unfreed mind. Mind is not identified with as "I" or "mine," not taken as a self or as something belonging to a self. it may be in a pure state or a defiled state, a lofty state or a low state. Likewise this analytical doctrine, this analysis goes on and on and on minutely describing everything. If that is what you want you can start reading the Abhidhamma. Good luck to you!

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In my experience with studying the Theravadin Abhidhamma, if found that the 52 cetasikas did not make much sense until I studied the citta-vithi (thought process). Then it made more sense how or why one citta (moment of consciousness) is different from another in terms of the cetasikas.

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In Dhammasangini for different cittas the possible lists of chetasikas are given. These lists contain much more than 52 chetasikas. The 52 chetasikas have been obtained by removing chetasikas of similar meaning and including chetasikas from other sources. (like Anupada sutta) Some chetasikas as seen above give a 'color' to chittas (kusala, akusala). Some are doing a definite action (phassa, sanna, chetana etc)

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Cetasikas can be put into 3 main division: feeling, perception and fabrications. It is the mental proliferation and volitional activities which create the fabrications. This might be the key elements in trying to piece together how it related to Dependent Origination.

The meeting of the three is contact.

With contact as condition, there is feeling.

What one feels, one perceives.

What one perceives, one thinks about.

What one thinks about, one mentally proliferates.

Madhu,piṇḍika Sutta

Craving and clinging closely related to I and Mine conceiving (thinking about and mentally proliferating) as there is a subject who want or do not wants. [Tanhā Jālinī Sutta] Me and mine conceiving is through "thinking about" (from above list). [Sevitabbâsevitabba Sutta] So thinking about and mentally proliferation is related to craving and clinging also.

with the six sense-bases as condition, there is contact;

with contact as condition, there is feeling;

with feeling as condition, there is craving;

with craving as condition, there is clinging;

(Paṭicca,samuppada) Vibhanga Sutta


There other interesting relationships also. Here again thinking follows perception.

dependent on the diversity of elements, there arises the diversity of perceptions

dependent on the diversity of perceptions, there arises the diversity of thoughts

dependent on the diversity of thoughts, there arises the diversity of desires

dependent on the diversity of desires, there arises the diversity of passions

dependent on the diversity of passions, there arises the diversity of searching?

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1) Cétasika can be expressed in general as Vedanä, Sangna, Sankhara.

  1. Vedana - Experience

  2. Sangna - Recognition

  3. Sankhara - Constructing Formations (pancha upädänakkhanda)

Cétasika is considered an ultimatum in meaning. The other three ultimatum are Citta, Rupa and Nibbana. Cétasika are broken down in detail in Abhidhamma.

2) Cétasika is very detailed and occur in each conscious moment. Hence their contribution to Paticcha Samuppada is involved in many stages. Avijja, for example is backed by cétasika. Sankhara is backed by cétasika. Vinñana is essentially Citta and Citta don't arise without accompanying cétasika. Nama Rupa is essentially pancha upädänakkhanda, which in turn is Rupa, Vedana, Sagna, Sankhara, Vinñana.

It all gets messy if, one tries to mix them up without fully understanding them individually (understanding pancha upädänakkhanda, understanding paticca samuppada). Once you understand them well, it's important to refer to Abhidhamma before trying to correlate them.

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