I was thinking about tilakhana and cittanupassana. and this question occuerd to me. that there is no mention in tipitaka about nicca/anicca nature of citta. So something is very obvious that I am missing. and hence this question.

  • 1
    Citta is neither nicca nor anicca in the finality of everything. But beforehand, when one thinks they're being a jolly good Buddhist, learning all the terms, flexing their academic prowess, the notion of nicca & anicca define each other for the purpose of insight. Eventually, those insights become nonsense and cancel each other out.
    – user17652
    Apr 22 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


With all due consideration, the right answer, according to the Teaching of the Enlightened One, is twofold:

  1. Firstly, keeping the terms untranslated as they appear in the question, the epilogue for the chapter dealing with Cittanupassana from the (Maha) Satipatthana Sutta states, amongst other things:

"samudayavayadhammanupassi va cittasmim viharati", thus describing the definition of anicca; or, if a translation is permitted, "he understands that the state of mind has the nature of appearing-and-dissapearing", thus describing the definition of impermanence

  1. Secondly, with regard to anicca as one of the three marks of existence, namely "sabbe sankhara anicca", or "all conditioned things are impermanent", anicca is equated to all that is conditioned, including the state of mind, or citta.

What can be said to be Nicca, or permanent, is only The Unconditioned, "Asankhata", which while being manifested by the Enlightened One in a conditioned realm can be acknowledged as a completely liberated state of mind, or "vimuttam cittam".

As an addendum, after the passing away of a completely enlightened being, the "Parinibbana" in the case of the "Buddha", there is only The Unconditioned, so there are no more conditions, there is no more more mind thus no more state of mind.


P.S. The state of mind citta, progressing through the different stages, from a mind affected by lust saragam cittam to the highest stage of a mind that is liberated (from fetters, defilements and suffering) vimuttam cittam does not change the nature of the medium through which either un-attainment or the attainment of perfect freedom is manifested.

Just as when the Enlightened One spoke, he clearly spoke only the perfect truth, which is eternal nicca. It does not mean that the mouth of the Buddha was eternal, but only a means by which perfect truth, though unconditoned, was manifested in a conditioned realm.

Any human can manifest through either the body or the mind, either hindrances or qualities pertaining to enlightenment, which has an eternal and timeless nature. Still, manifesting qualities does not make either the body or the mind eternal or timeless. All it can do is point to and encourage towards attaining the unconditioned.

So in the last words of the truly worthy one, vaya-dhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha, evanescence is the nature of created things; earnestly strive for the one true achievement

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    Welcome to Buddhism Stack Exchange. Thank you for writing this excellent answer.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 24 at 1:50
  • If you say (in abhidhamma style) citta as state of mind. then I wonder what it means by ceto-vimutti. what it means by pabhassaram cittam. There must be something which is beyond just the state of mind. Isnt it? Or do you means ceto vimutti is freedom from citta?
    – enRaiser
    Apr 24 at 10:29
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    @enRaiser Regarding pabhassaram cittam, please read "Is luminous mind unconditioned and not impermanent?"
    – ruben2020
    Apr 24 at 11:57
  • sadhu sadhu sadhu
    – enRaiser
    Apr 24 at 12:03
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    This answer seems to say vimuttam cittam is permanent yet also says it ends with a Buddha passes away. Apr 25 at 20:20

This body made up of the four primary elements is seen to last for a year, or for two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or a hundred years, or even longer.

Dissatāyaṁ, bhikkhave, cātumahābhūtiko kāyo ekampi vassaṁ tiṭṭhamāno dvepi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno tīṇipi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno cattāripi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno pañcapi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno dasapi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno vīsatipi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno tiṁsampi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno cattārīsampi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno paññāsampi vassāni tiṭṭhamāno vassasatampi tiṭṭhamāno, bhiyyopi tiṭṭhamāno.

But that which is called ‘mind’ or ‘intellect’ or ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another all day and all night.

Yañca kho etaṁ, bhikkhave, vuccati cittaṁ itipi, mano itipi, viññāṇaṁ itipi, taṁ rattiyā ca divasassa ca aññadeva uppajjati aññaṁ nirujjhati.

SN 12.61


As I see it, the term 'citta' means something like 'attitude' or 'mental posture': the idea that the mind/body organizes itself for specific contexts. If we see someone (say) puff out their chest, raise their fists to fight, or turn and run, these are all physical postures that reflect an internal mental posture. One has adopted a mental posture of pride, of combat, or of flight, and that mental posture organizes the physical posture.

In that sense, citta precedes or is foundational to both self and no-self. It's merely the word for the general idea of having mental postures. It's a bit like the word 'sky', in the sense that 'sky' doesn't tell us whether it's bright or dark, warm or cold, rainy or dry. Sky is just sky, and all these conditions come out of it; citta is just citta, and all our mental conditions are formed in it. Then the question becomes whether our mental postures are organized or disorganized, harmonious or dissonant, attached or released.

If it helps clarify things, think of meditation as a mental posture — a citta — that we adopt to help reorganize and rehabilitate the jumble of discordant cities that our minds are prone to.

  • Where does nicca and anicca fit in all of that?
    – user17652
    Apr 23 at 11:35
  • @Max: apologies, I thought that was clear. My bad... Nicca refers to fixed attitudes or mental postures (oddly similar to the Freudian notion of cathexis. A lot of mental activity involves invoking, defending, and switching among these mental postures. Anicca is the state where we loosen these mental postures so that they no longer dominate our minds (they are no longer 'fixed'). It too is a kind of mental posture, but not a fixed one (except in those practitioners who fall into the 'emptiness as form' trap). Apr 23 at 14:13
  • Sorry - your reply was too intellectual - but thanks for trying! ;-)
    – user17652
    Apr 23 at 17:10
  • @Max: No worries. 😊 Apr 23 at 17:58

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