(Given at Zen Center, San Francisco)


Lecture #2

Spell-checked 11/14/01

Two Kinds of Truth


The subject of today's study is two kinds of truth. Every teaching or every religion is concerned with truth. People say there is only one truth. People call it or interpret it in different ways. I don't know if that is really true. Logically there should only be one truth. I think truth varies according to different people, or different religions, or different teachers. When we ask a Christian about truth, we will get one answer. If you get a Buddhist, you will get another answer.


Abhidhamma is also concerned with truth. In Abhidhamma or in the teachings of the Buddha ‘truth’ means reality or something that is true or something that is real either on the conventional level or the ultimate level. Anything which is true is called truth. Truth need not be lofty or truth need not be good according to Buddhism.


When we say there is attachment, attachment is there. We experience attachment or we experience greed in our minds. Both attachment and greed is called a truth in Buddhism. Also mindfulness is a truth. We practice meditation and we practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a thing we call truth because it is; it is not otherwise. So in the Buddha's teachings ‘truth’ just means something that is true. It may be true on the conventional level or on the ultimate level. Both that which is true on the conventional level and that which is true on the ultimate level are called truth in Buddha's teachings. Wisdom is also truth. Everything we see, or we find, or we experience is truth.


You may have heard of, or, known of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. In Buddhism there is not one truth but four kinds of truth. Here in Abhidhamma we will come to the Four Noble Truths [2] later in the lectures.


Here we are concerned with two kinds of truth in Buddhism. Buddhism accepts or recognizes truth on the conventional level and on the ultimate level. There are two kinds of truth–conventional truth and ultimate truth.


Conventional truth is that which conforms to the convention of the world, the usage of the people. That means when words were created for the first time, maybe people got together and agreed to call a certain thing a table for example. Here I gave ‘car’ as an example. It is by the agreement of the people that a certain thing is called a desk, a table or a car. That is accepted by all people. When you say ‘table', ‘desk’ or ‘car', people understand you. That is what we call conventional truth according to the usage of the people.


When I ask you, “What did you come in?” you will say, “I came in a car.” If you say that you came in a car, you are telling the truth because you really came-in a car unless you live close to this place and walked up here.


So the word ‘car’ or even the thing denoted by the word ‘car’ is what we call conventional truth. It is true on the conventional level.


Conventional truth is called Sammuti Sacca in PÈÄi. ‘Sammuti’ means convention or agreement of the people. ‘Sacca’ means truth. It is sometimes called apparent truth because it appears as truth, but in the ultimate analysis it is not.


Conventional truth is also called PaÒÒatti in PÈÄi. There should be tildas above the N's. It is spelled P-A-©-©-A-T-T-I. They are pronounced like Ò in the Spanish word ‘SeÒor’. PaÒÒatti is concept. Conventional truth is called PaÒÒatti or concept.


PaÒÒatti is of two kinds–NÈma PaÒÒatti and Attha PaÒÒatti. The [3] word ‘PaÒÒatti’ has two meanings, active meaning and passive meaning. There is causal meaning inherent in the word. In the active sense ‘PaÒÒatti’ means that which makes known, that which makes things known. In the passive sense ‘PaÒÒatti’ is that which is made known.


We give names to things. We call a certain thing a ‘car', a ‘house', a ‘table', a ‘desk'. Also living beings are called a ‘man', a ‘woman’ and so on. These names that we give to objects are called NÈma PaÒÒatti or Name-concept. It is just names given to the objects by which we refer to the things. They are called Name-concept or NÈma PaÒÒatti. They are called Name-concept because the names make things known. When I say ‘car', you know what it is. When I say ‘desk', you know what it is. The words make things known to people, make things known to those whom we are speaking with. The names given to the objects are called NÈma PaÒÒatti or Name-concept. This is one kind of conventional truth.


The other conventional truth is called Attha PaÒÒatti or Thing-concept. I call it Thing-concept. It is something that is made known by the names. It is the objects conveyed by the concepts or the real thing. For example a car–the name ‘car’ is NÈma PaÒÒatti and the thing which is the car is Attha PaÒÒatti or Thing-concept. When I say ‘man, the name or the noun ‘man’ is Name-concept and the real person who is the man is Thing-concept. We can have this pair of PaÒÒatti for almost everything.


Even with regard to ultimate things there can be Name-concept. When we say ‘consciousness', the name ‘consciousness’ is NÈma PaÒÒatti. But consciousness or the real thing denoted by the name ‘consciousness, is ultimate truth. We don't call that concept. That is truth.


[4] There are two kinds of conventional truth or PaÒÒatti–NÈma PaÒÒatti (Name-concept) and Attha PaÒÒatti (Thing-concept). We use words every day and we denote things by these words. The things denoted by the words are called Thing-concept and the names themselves are Name-concept. There are many kinds of Name-concepts and many kinds of Thing-concepts in the world. They all belong to conventional truth.


The conventional truth especially NÈma PaÒÒatti is said to belong to no time. We cannot say that the concept is present, past or future. This is because it has no existence of its own actually. When we give a name to a person, the name seems to be created. The name seems to come into being for the first time. Actually we do not know when the name comes into being because the name may have been in the world long ago. Then we pick up the name and give it to a person. This name will go on and on even after the person dies. So long as the people remember the name, this name will be in peoples’ minds or used by people. Sometimes people will forget the name. The name seems to disappear from the world. Later, some centuries later or some world cycles later, a person may be reborn and pick up that name and use that name. So the name seems to come into being again. The NÈma PaÒÒatti or PaÒÒatti (concept) is said to be timeless. We cannot say that it is present, or that it is past, or that it is future.


You know Buddha was a Bodhisatta for many, many millions of lives. When he first took the vows of a Bodhisatta or when he first got the declaration that he would become the Buddha, his name was Sumedha. That name was remembered by people for some time. Then that name disappeared. Maybe for many world cycles it was forgotten. Then he became the Buddha. He became Gotama Buddha and related this [5] story of becoming a Bodhisatta. Then the name ‘Sumedha’ appeared again. Name-concept is said to be timeless in Abhidhamma.


There are different kinds of PaÒÒatti, different kinds of conventional truth treated in the eighth chapter of The Manual of Abhidhamma. The important ones are those related to the- real existent things and to non-existent things.


Here ‘existent’ means that which really exists, that which really has the three moments of Existence–coming into being, staying for some time and disappearing. These three moments are called moments of existence. Those which have this existence, real existence, are called existent things. The PaÒÒatti which do not exist on their own but which may exist in the minds of the people are called non-existent. So some PaÒÒatti are based on the existent things and some are based on non-existent things. ‘Existent things’ means those that belong to ultimate reality like consciousness, mental factors like mindfulness, wisdom and others. Those that are said to be non-existent are like man, woman, table, chair, all these things. They seem to be existing but in reality, in the ultimate sense, they do not exist at all. What exists is just the particles of material properties and also with regard to living beings mind and matter. You can read about these different kinds of concepts in the last section of the eighth chapter of the Abhidhammattha-sa~gaha.


The next is the ultimate truth. It is more important for those of us that are studying Abhidhamma because Abhidhamma deals with ultimate truth. The ultimate truth is that which conforms to reality on the ultimate level. ‘Ultimate truth’ is sometimes called abstract truth. In the manual the word ‘abstract’ is used. It is something like that which is taken from, taken out [6] of the conventional truth or that which is squeezed out of the conventional truth.


For example we say ‘man'. ‘Man’ is conventional truth. In the ultimate analysis there is no one that we can call a man. A man or a woman is just the combination of mind and matter or a combination of five aggregates.


So ultimate truth is that we extract or abstract from the conventional truth. First we say ‘man’ or ‘woman'; then we extract mind and matter from them. We say, “This is not a man. This is not a woman. This is a combination of mind and matter.” Mind and matter it seems are taken out of the conventional truth which is in this example a man and a woman. So ultimate truth is sometimes called abstract truth.


Ultimate truth is called in PÈÄi Paramattha Sacca. The literal meaning of Paramattha Sacca is the good or correct thing which is true. ‘Paramattha’ means good or correct thing.


Why is something called a good thing or a correct thing? There are two reasons for this. One is because it is real as it is. It exists. It is there. It is not otherwise than stated. When we say that there is craving, there really is craving. When we say that there is mindfulness, there really is mindfulness. We can experience mindfulness.


It is not like things at magic shows or mirages. Things that are shown at magic shows are not real. They are made to seem real, but they are not real. The same is true for a mirage. When we see a mirage from a distance we see water. When we get closer to the place, the mirage disappears. There is no water at all.


Things at magic shows, mirages and other things are otherwise than is stated. That means when you see a mirage, you may say, “Oh, [7] there is water there.” But actually there is no water. It is otherwise than is stated.


The ultimate truth is the opposite of that. It really is. It really exists. It really can be experienced.


The second reason for its being a good or a correct thing is that it can be seen by oneself. It can be realized by oneself. It can be experienced by oneself. We can experience craving., We can experience anger. We can experience mindfulness, wisdom and so on. These can be experienced by us by ourselves. They are called ultimate truth.


It may also imply that until you really experience them, until you have an experiential knowledge of them, they will not become Paramattha for you. It may be ultimate truth in the books, but until you experience yourself, especially through meditation, it may not be ultimate truth for you.


So ultimate truth is that which can be seen by oneself, which can be experienced by oneself. It is an object of direct knowledge.


It is not like things known from hearsay. Things known from hearsay may be true or may not be true. We never know. Ultimate truth is not like things known from hearsay. Ultimate truth is the real thing which we experience and which we know for ourselves. So there can be no doubt about it. That is called ultimate truth.


There are two kinds of truth–conventional truth and ultimate truth that are recognized in Buddhism. Abhidhamma deals with the ultimate truth and very little with conventional truth. Among the seven books of Abhidhamma there is one called Designation of Human Types. Although this book is included in the Abhidhamma PiÔaka, it looks like a Sutta discourse. There different types of individuals are mentioned. There are eight types of individuals, or nine types [8] of individuals, ten types of individuals. There are groups from one through ten. In that book the terms used are also conventional terms, not Abhidhamma terms. With the exception of that book Abhidhamma deals with the real ultimate truths such as the five aggregates, the twelve bases, the eighteen elements, or in brief consciousness, mental factors and so on. You will not find any words denoting a person or a man, or a woman, but you will find words denoting aggregates, or bases, or elements and so on. Abhidhamma PiÔaka deals with the ultimate truth.


It is very different from Sutta PiÔaka. It is not easy to understand without first getting the fundamental knowledge of it. That is why Abhidhamma books are difficult to understand. You need a fundamental knowledge of Abhidhamma in order to read books on Abhidhamma. They are not like the manual. This book can be read by any person. I hope that you will not find it too difficult. The real Abhidhamma books like the Dhammasa~gaÓÊ or Vibha~ga may seem like a foreign language.


Student: This chart seems like that too.

SayÈdaw: No. It will become very clear. I didn't put any explanations on the chart because I want it to be something like a mystery. People look at it and say, “What is this?” It is better this way so that you become acquainted with it very quickly. When there are names written on it, people don't try to memorize it or know it thoroughly. If the names are written on it, you can see it anytime. You don't try to memorize it. You don't try to get it in your head. So it is better this way. You can say, “This is the first Akusala Citta; this is the first KÈmÈvacara Sobhana Citta.11 and so on. We will come to this later, maybe not today.


There are two kinds of truth - conventional truth and ultimate truth. Ultimate truth is treated in the Abhidhamma PiÔaka.


[9] Even in the outside world there is something comparable to the conventional truth and the ultimate truth especially with scientists. Water is called water by us, by ordinary people. However scientists when they are doing laboratory work will call water H2O. When we say ‘water', we are saying on the conventional level. When we say H2O, we are saying on the ultimate level. In the same way when we say ,man’ or ‘woman', we are using the conventional terms. When we say ‘five aggregates', ‘NÈma-R|pa’, ‘mind and matter', we are using ultimate terms.


According to Abhidhamma there are four kinds of ultimate truth. The first one is Citta, C-I-T-T-A. It is translated as consciousness.


Please do not be afraid of PÈÄi words. Remember as many as. you can. The more that you remember, the better you will understand. When you are studying something of a technical nature, you cannot avoid technical terms altogether. Sometimes it is better to keep the original word than to use the translation because most translations are not really accurate. Since we cannot find a better word, we have to be satisfied with the word we are using.- ‘Consciousness’ is an example of that.


          What   is consciousness? What is Citta? Let us use the PÈÄi word. What is Citta? Citta is defined as that which knows the object. The  literal definition of the word ‘Citta’ is something which knows the object. ‘Knows the object’ really means that which is aware of the object.       So Citta is the awareness of the object. ‘Awareness’ here means just the pure awareness, not like awareness we are familiar with when we meditate.


When giving instructions for meditation, teachers say, Be aware of your breath; be aware of your activities.” That awareness is not pure awareness, but is awareness plus mindfulness. Here pure awareness [10] is meant, pure awareness of the object. When you sit here, you will be looking forward, but you are aware of something at your side. it is something like that. So Citta is awareness of the object, pure awareness.


It is compared to clear water. There is no color, nothing. It is pure awareness of the object. That is Citta in Abhidhamma.


This Citta is never without an object. We have to emphasize this because in the ancient times there were people who thought that consciousness or Citta could be without an object. According to the teachings of Abhidhamma Citta cannot be without an object. It depends on the object to arise. Citta must always have an object.


We cannot say “Just let your mind be alone without any object.” Sometimes people say, “Keep your mind blank.” We think that we can keep our minds blank, but mind or consciousness cannot be without an object. Sometimes that object may be an obscure object, not a vivid object. Sometimes the mind takes an obscure object, but most of the time it takes a vivid object. We need an object for the Citta to arise. Citta always needs an object. That is one thing.


Citta is always with us. We are never without Citta as long as we are alive. In fact this Citta arises and disappears, then another Citta arises and disappears. This arising and disappearing of Citta goes on and on and on. It goes on not only to the end of this life but also into future lives. It goes on until we become Arahants or Buddhas and reach final liberation. Citta is always with us. we are never without a Citta.


What about when we are asleep? Sometimes we sleep very well. We have a dreamless sleep. According to Abhidhamma even when you are fast asleep, there is Citta. There is consciousness, Citta does not leave you even when you are fast asleep. When a person is asleep [11] or sometimes when he has an accident, he is said to be ‘unconscious'. Even at such times one's mind is not said to be blank. There is Citta and that Citta has some kind of obscure object. It is not an object like a visible object or an audible object, but it is another kind of object that is not evident. Still that is an object. So even when we are asleep, even when we are unconscious, there is Citta going on in our minds. That Citta has an object which is not a vivid object. Citta is always with us.


Therefore the word ‘consciousness is not a satisfactory translation for the word ‘Citta'. When we say ‘consciousness', we imply knowing something. We do not call a person ‘conscious’ when he is asleep or when he has fainted. But according to Abhidhamma there is Citta with him at these times. Consciousness is the nearest translation to the word ‘Citta'. So we use the word ‘consciousness’ as the translation of Citta. When we use consciousness in the context of Abhidhamma we must understand that it means Citta. It means awareness of the object and that awareness is with us all the time. Citta cannot be without an object at any given time.


Now let us look at the synonyms of Citta. In PÈÄi, even in the Abhidhamma books, many explanations are given in synonyms. Actually explanations given in the Abhidhamma are something like a list of synonyms. These synonyms are used in different contexts. And so Citta has some synonyms. These synonyms are used in Abhidhamma texts as well as in some Suttas. So we need to understand some synonyms so that when we come across these words we understand that they are nothing but Citta.


The word most frequently used as a synonym for Citta is ViÒÒaÓa, V-I-©-©-Œ-ª-A. The two ©©'s that are close together must have tildas. ViÒÒÈÓa is a synonym for Citta. They are interchangeable. In one [12] place the word ‘VÒÒÈÓa’ will be used and in another place the word ‘Citta’ will be used. Whenever we find the words ‘Citta’ or ‘ViÒÒÈÓa’, we are to understand that they mean the same thing.


Another synonym for Citta is Mana or Mano, M-A-N-A or M-A-N-O. Mano, Mana, ViÒÒÈÓa and Citta are synonyms and they mean the same thing - awareness of the object or consciousness.


There is a word in PÈÄi which is NÈma, N-Œ-M-A. NÈma is not really synonymous with Citta although Citta is NÈma. We say NÈma-R|pa (mind and matter). NÈma is translated as mind and R|pa is translated as matter. NÈma is not exactly synonymous with Citta. NÈma has a wider connotation, a wider application than the word ‘Citta’. Later we will come to Cetasikas (mental factors). Cetasikas are also NÈma. When we say ‘NÈma’, we mean Citta and Cetasikas, two things. What we call ‘mind’ is composed of two things - Citta and Cetasikas. Mind is composed of Citta and Cetasikas. The combination of Citta and Cetasikas is what we call ‘NÈma’. The word ‘NÈma’ is not exactly synonymous with Citta although Citta is a part of NÈma. NÈma, Citta and ViÒÒÈÓa are all translated as consciousness because we have no other English word.


Citta is said to be of 89 or 121 types. In the Abhidhamma PiÔaka 89 or 121 types of Citta are recognized. There are 89 or 121 types of Cittas. The details will be given in the next two talks or you may look at the chart and you will see 121 dots there. Each dot represents one Citta. There are said to be 89 or 121 Cittas. Cittas differ by whether they are accompanied by pleasurable feeling or displeasurable feeling, whether they are accompanied by understanding or not, whether they are prompted or not. We will come to that in the next lecture. Citta is said to be of 89 or 121 types. All these Cittas are described and explained in the first book of Abhidhamma.


[13] In the Manual of Abhidhamma, the book that we are using as a reference book, the first chapter deals with the 121 types of Cittas.


The second ultimate truth is Cetasikas. We have one more synonym for Citta. That word is Ceta, C-E-T-A. Ceta also means Citta. ‘Cetasika’ means those which are yoked in Citta or those which are yoked on Citta. It really means those which are associated with Citta, which arise together with Citta depending on Citta for their arising.


Craving is a Cetasika. Anger is a Cetasika. Pride is a Cetasika. Mindfulness is a Cetasika. Wisdom or understanding is a Cetasika. There are many Cetasikas. They are states of mind. They accompany different types of Citta. When a Citta comes into combination with a certain number of Cetasikas and those Cetasikas are of good quality, of good nature, that Citta is called a good Citta or a beautiful Citta. When a Citta is accompanied by or is associated with unwholesome or bad Cetasikas, then it is called a bad Citta or an unwholesome Citta.


Cetasikas are like color put in water. Water has no color. So water is like Citta. We put some color in the water. Then we say, “There is red water in the glass.” or “There is blue water in the glass.” It is something like that. So Cetasikas are compared to color put into water. They color the Cittas. That is why Cittas came to be 89 or 121 because they are accompanied by different mental factors or Cetasikas.


Cetasikas are called mental factors or mental concomitants. They are different states of mind. They always accompany Citta. Without Citta they cannot arise.


In order for anything to be a Cetasika it must possess four characteristics. 1. It must arise together with Citta. Cetasika must arise together at the same moment with Citta. When the Citta arises, [14] the Cetasika must also arise. 2. Cetasikas must perish together with Citta. It must disappear with Citta. They have the same life-span. That life-span is only three sub-moments. A Cetasika must perish or disappear together with or at the same time as Citta. 3. A Cetasika must have an identical object with Citta. Because Citta and Cetasika arise together they cannot take different objects. Citta cannot take one object and Cetasika another object. That cannot be Citta and Cetasika must have the same object. They must take the same object. Cetasika must take the object that is taken by Citta. Cetasika must have an identical object with Citta. 4. Cetasika must have a common base with Citta. ‘Base’ means sensitivities in the sense-organs like sensitivity in the eye, sensitivity in the ear and so on and without which we cannot have seeing consciousness, hearing consciousness and so on. They are called base, in PÈÄi Vatthu. A Cetasika must have the same base as the Citta or in other words Cetasikas must depend upon the base which is the base of Citta. In fact Citta and Cetasika must have the same base.


For example when we see something, we have seeing consciousness. Together with seeing consciousness some Cetasikas arise. These Cetasikas together with the seeing consciousness arise together, perish together, must have the same object and must have the same base. Here it is the sensitivity of the eye. These are the four characteristics of Cetasika. Anything that is to be called a Cetasika must possess these four characteristics.


There are 52 Cetasikas recognized in Abhidhamma. We will study Cetasikas in lecture #5. They are treated in the second chapter of the manual. Citta and Cetasika arise together. When they arise together, when they are existent together we call this mind. What we call ‘mind’ is just Citta and Cetasikas together.


[15] It is very difficult for us ordinary people to really see or to really know all these different types of Cittas and Cetasikas. It is difficult to know that this is Citta and this is Cetasika, and this is another Cetasika. It's very difficult. However during VipassanÈ meditation we may be able to experience some of these Cetasikas.


In the MilindapaÒhÈ, The Questions of King Milinda, (It is a dialogue between a king and a Buddhist monk.) the Venerable NÈgasena (That is the name of the Buddhist monk.) said that the Buddha did a very difficult thing. That is that he defined ‘This is Citta, this is feeling, this is contact, this is perception’ among the things that arise together and take the same object. It is maybe more difficult than someone picking up the water from the ocean and then tasting it, and telling ‘This is water from one river, this is water from another river.’ So it is easier for a man to be able to differentiate waters from different rivers in the ocean than to be able to differentiate Cittas and Cetasikas and so on. It was a very difficult thing that he did when he taught Abhidhamma.


As we learned earlier ultimate truths are those which can be realized by ourselves, which can be experienced by ourselves. They really are discernable especially when we pay attention to them, especially when we meditate and watch our thoughts.


The third of the ultimate truths is R|pa. This is matter. R|pa is defined as that which changes when it comes into adverse conditions such as cold, heat, thirst, hunger, bite of insects and so on. When it is hot, we have one kind of matter and when it is cold, we have another kind of matter. When we are hungry, we have another kind of matter. When we are thirsty, there is another kind o f matter. What changes when coming into contact with these adverse conditions is [16] called R|pa in PÈÄi. It is conveniently translated as matter in English.


Here ‘change’ means the obvious and discernable change. Mind changes much more quickly than matter. Your mind can come and go millions of times in a second. but your body is still there. Mind changes much more quickly than matter. However it is not so obvious as the change of matter. Here ‘change’ means obvious or discernable change. Therefore only matter is called R|pa and not Citta and Cetasikas. Cittas and Cetasikas also change but they are not called R|pa. Only that which has discernable change is called R|pa. R|pa is that which changes or is that which is oppressed by heat, cold and so on.


R|pa is that which exists in everything. It exists in living beings and outside things as well. We have a physical body. That is R|pa. We are a combination of R|pa and NÈma. We have consciousness or mind and the physical body which is matter together. A table has no consciousness. It has only matter. A jug has only matter. Outside things have only matter while living beings have both mind and matter. Matter exists both in living beings and outside things.


Matter has no ability to cognize. So matter does not know. A table does not know. A jug does not know. A book does not know although it can make us know. R|pa is that which cannot cognize, is that which does not know, is that which is not aware of anything.


There are 28 kinds of matter or material properties recognized in Abhidhamma. There are 28 material properties taught in the first book of Abhidhamma and in other books. They are comparable to the elements in chemistry. These 28 material properties are the building blocks of human beings and also of the inanimate or outside things. So they are comparable to the elements in chemistry. In chemistry [17] there are about a 100 elements and everything is made up of some of these elements. Similarly everything animate or inanimate is made. up of some of the 28 kinds of material properties. They are called R|pa because they have change when they come into contact with conditions like heat, cold, hunger and so on.


R|pa or matter is treated in detail in the sixth chapter of the manual. We will be dealing with matter in the seventh lecture.


The last ultimate truth is NibbÈna, the summum bonum of Buddhism. Is that English?


Student: It's not PÈÄi.

SayÈdaw: It sounds like PÈÄi. It is the highest goal of Buddhism. I think it is Latin.

Student: It means the highest goal, the highest good.

SayÈdaw: NibbÈna is very difficult to talk about. NibbÈna is defined as that which gets out of the range of craving. NibbÈna is composed of ‘ni’ and ‘bÈna’ or ‘vÈna’. Let us say ‘vÈna’. Here ‘vÈna’ means craving. ‘Ni’  means no. ‘No craving’ really means out of craving, out of attachment. Attachment or craving cannot take NibbÈna as object. It is outside the range of the objects of craving. That is why it is called NibbÈna. That is one meaning of the word ‘NibbÈna’. You may have not heard of this meaning.


There is another meaning. What is that? Blowing out, something like that. Extinction. Burn out. That is another meaning.


Sometimes PÈÄi words can be explained in different ways. A word is cut into a root and a suffix and then it can be explained in many ways.


NibbÈna, however it may be defined, is the extinction of desire, ill will, delusion and so on. It is the extinction of mental defilements. Mental defilements are those like desire, attachment, ill will, pride, [18] envy and so on. Extinction of these mental defilements is called NibbÈna.


Although we call it the extinction of desire, or ill will, or delusion, or mental defilements, we should not take it to be negative. Many people think NibbÈna is negative because NibbÈna is almost exclusively described in negative terms. It is like health or peace. What is health?


Student: Absence of illness.

SayÈdaw: That's right. Health is not negative. It is a positive condition. Peace is also this way. What is peace? Absence of war. In the same way what is NibbÈna? It is the absence of desire, ill will, delusion, absence of mental defilements. Also it is explained as the absence of suffering or liberation and freedom from suffering. NibbÈna has two aspects actually - extinction of mental defilements and also liberation from suffering or freedom from suffering. It has these two aspects. We will elaborate on it later in lecture #12.


NibbÈna is unconditioned. Everything in the world according to Buddhism is conditioned. It is conditioned by some other thing or some other things. Citta is conditioned. Cetasikas are conditioned. R|pa is conditioned. All these things are conditioned. They depend upon some other thing for their arising. NibbÈna is unconditioned. NibbÈna is not caused by anything. NibbÈna is just a state. I don't even know whether I can call it a ‘state’ because a ‘state’ may imply existence. ‘Existence’ may imply arising, staying for some time and disappearing. NibbÈna is, but it does not exist. It is very difficult to understand. That is why it cannot be described in everyday terms.


NibbÈna is something which becomes the object of mind or consciousness at the moment of enlightenment. What enlightenment means according [19] to Buddhism is the direct seeing of NibbÈna. At the moment of enlightenment a certain kind of consciousness or Citta arises in a person and that Citta takes NibbÈna as a direct object. Taking NibbÈna as object that consciousness eradicates mental defilements. NibbÈna is not the result of anything, We may say that the realization of NibbÈna is the result of meditation, but NibbÈna itself is not the result of meditation. It is there all the time. It is like PaÒÒatti, timeless. We cannot say NibbÈna was in the past, or is existing now, or will be in the future. So NibbÈna is not the result of anything. It is not the result of meditation. It is not the result of the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. The realization of NibbÈna is the result of the practice of VipassanÈ meditation.


NibbÈna cannot be adequately described in everyday terms. We have no words to describe it. It is not a thing. It is not a condition. It      is not a state. But it is.


It has the characteristic of peace or peacefulness.    It is the extinction of mental defilements and the extinction of suffering. ‘Extinction of suffering’ really means the extinction of mind and matter, final passing away.


What about the Four Noble Truths? Everybody who has read a little about Buddhism is familiar with the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha taught the-Four Noble Truths. Are they outside of ultimate truth or included in ultimate truth? The Four Noble Truths are included in ultimate truth. They belong to the ultimate truth.


What is the First Noble Truth? It is the truth of suffering. ‘Suffering’ really means the mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa. That is the Noble Truth of suffering actually. Mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa belong to ultimate truth.


[20] It is very strange that supramundane Cittas which are the best of the Cittas are outside of all Four Noble Truths. Supramundane Cittas do not belong to the truth of suffering, or to the origin of suffering, or to the cessation of suffering, or even to the Path leading to the cessation of suffering. That means the Cittas alone. However the Cetasikas accompanying these Cittas belong to the Fourth Noble Truth. We will come to that.


So the First Noble Truth is nothing but mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa. So they are ultimate truth.


The Second Noble Truth is the Noble Truth of the Origin of suffering which is craving. Craving is one of the 52 Cetasikas. In PÈÄi it is TaÓhÈ or Lobha. Since it is a Cetasika or mental factor, it belongs to ultimate truth.


The third Noble Truth, the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is nothing but NibbÈna. NibbÈna is one of the ultimate truths.


The Fourth Noble Truth, the practice leading to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. What is the Noble Eightfold Path? It is the eight factors which are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. These eight factors are actually eight mental factors. When we study the 52 mental factors, we will find them. The Noble Eightfold Path or the Fourth Noble Truth also belongs to ultimate truth.


So all the four Noble Truths belong to ultimate truth, one or the other of the ultimate truths. The First Noble Truth is mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa. The Second Noble Truth is craving which is a Cetasika. The Third Noble Truth is NibbÈna itself. The Fourth Noble Truth is a combination or a group of eight mental factors [21] (Cetasikas), beginning with right understanding or wisdom. So they belong to ultimate truth.


Today we studied two kinds of truth - conventional truth and ultimate truth. We also studied four kinds of ultimate truth that are treated or taught in Abhidhamma. In coming talks or studies we will go into some details concerning these four ultimate truths.


Do you have any questions?


Student: I lost you. Suffering is actually mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa. And then I lost you on the Supramundane Cittas. They are outside of the ultimate truth?

SayÈdaw: No. They are part of the ultimate truth, but outside of the Four Noble Truths. Abhidhamma is very precise and straight. Cittas that arise at the moment of enlightenment are called Path consciousness and Fruition consciousness. When we say ‘Supramundane Citta’, we mean Citta only and not the Cetasikas accompanying it. The supramundane Cittas are outside the reach of craving. Craving cannot take supramundane Cittas as object. So these Cittas are out of the reach of craving. They do not belong to the First Noble Truth because it is concerned with mundane things - mundane Cittas, Cetasikas and R|pa. They are not Second Noble Truth because it is craving. They are not the Third Noble Truth because it is NibbÈna. The supramundane Cittas are not the Fourth Noble Truth because the Fourth Noble Truth is the group of Cetasikas accompanying those Cittas. So these Cittas themselves are outside the Four Noble Truths. The Cetasikas accompanying these Cittas belong to the Fourth Noble Truth.


Student: What is the ground for Citta? From what does Citta arise? It has an object in order to arise. I know that. What is the ground for it to arise?

[22] SayÈdaw: We cannot say where Citta comes from or where it is stored,, but when there are conditions for Citta to arise, it just arises. It is like when you put fuel, magnifying glass and sun's rays together, there is fire. We cannot say that the fire is contained in the fuel, in the sun's rays or whatever. When these things come together, there is fire. In the same way when the conditions for it to arise come together, then Citta arises. Buddha said in PÈÄi:


          CakkhuÒ ca paÔicca r|pe ca uppajjati cakkhuviÒÒÈÓaÑ. 

Seeing consciousness arises depending upon the eye (That means the sensitivity in the eye) and the visible object.


The eye and the visible object are the conditions for seeing consciousness to arise. So when these come together, it just arises. When they are not together, it will

not arise. We cannot say there is a real place for Citta although we say the eye sensitivity is the base for seeing consciousness and so on.


Student: Inaudible.

SayÈdaw: That moment is only one very brief moment. That is really a moment of Citta together with accompanying Cetasikas. The moment of enlightenment is very brief. It is so brief that it is almost imperceptible. The experience is so overwhelming that whoever has experienced enlightenment cannot miss it. No other types of consciousness can take NibbÈna as direct object. Only at the moment of enlightenment can consciousness take NibbÈna as object. NibbÈna is very new to it. NibbÈna has never been taken by the consciousness. So it is very overwhelming at the moment of realization of truth or enlightenment. But it lasts for one brief moment.


Student: Then what happens to this Citta?

SayÈdaw: Any Citta after arising disappears. That Path consciousness arises and disappears. Then it is followed by two or three Cittas which we call Fruition consciousness. Citta has a life-span of only [23] one very brief moment. Another Citta of the same kind may arise. This is not so in this context, but in another context. A Citta can only last for a very brief moment. In the books it says in the twinkling of an eye or in the snapping of a finger maybe billions of thought moments can come and go. It is almost unbelievable, but now we have come into the computer age. So there is some similarity to this. It is said that a computer can solve millions of problems in a second. Now the scientists are using the expression ‘nano-second'. It is not one second but a millionth or a billionth of a second. If a computer can solve a million problems in less than a second, then the mind can do it also. In order to solve a problem a computer must go through all the information given to it. It must go through all the stages before it comes to a conclusion. Normally that would take very long. But when you press a key, the answer is already there on the screen. It takes no time at all to solve any problem. That's the way it looks. Actually it must go through all these steps in order to reach a decision or give an answer. In the same way mind works very fast. How fast nobody really knows except the Buddha. The life-span of a Citta is very brief. One Citta arises and it disappears and then another Citta follows, and another Citta follows, and another, another, another until we become Arahants or Buddhas, until we gain final extinction or liberation.


Student: I think that you said ultimate truth ???

SayÈdaw: No. But according to the second reason for being a good thing or a correct thing ultimate truth is that which can be realized by oneself, which can be experienced by oneself. According to that explanation the ultimate truth will become ultimate truth for you only when you experience it. However ultimate truth is always ultimate [24] truth. It will become ultimate truth only for you when you experience it.


For example San Francisco is always here, but until you come here you have not really experienced San Francisco. Until then you have not really known San Francisco. So until you come to the city San Francisco is not real for you.


Student: Two different people sitting together may have a different perception of ultimate truth.

SayÈdaw: That's right. Because different people have different capabilities. So their experience may be different.


Student: Inaudible.

SayÈdaw: A mirage does not exist at all. It looks real when we see it from a distance, but when we reach that place there is no water. A mirage looks like water.


Student: Inaudible.

SayÈdaw: ‘Mirage’ really means water. It does not really exist. It looks like water.


Student: It exists as a mirage, but it is not water. We think it is water, but it is not. Your eye sees that image, but when you say that it is water, that is not right.

SayÈdaw: When we see a mirage, we think that it is water. It looks like water. That is why in PÈÄi it is called MigataÓhikÈ. Literally it means deer-thirst. The deer or cattle see the mirage from a distance and so they follow the mirage. They never reach that place and so they die of thirst.


Student: Inaudible.

SayÈdaw: Mirage is true on the conventional level. I don't know if what you see in a mirage- can actually be seen. I think it can be seen. So the visible data in what we call a mirage is ultimate truth, but [15] the mirage itself is not. If it can be seen, it is visible datum which is one of the 28 material properties. It is not our imagination. We see something there. That visible datum is ultimate truth but the mirage is just appearance.


Thank you.


SÈdhu!          SÈdhu!          SÈdhu!.