Abhidhamma Seventh Lecture


The Abhidhamma

by Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche
Edited by Cecilie Kwiat

Introduction to the Abhidhamma
August – September 1977
7th of 16 Lectures

Sensing, from the Abhidhamma view, involves pulsations, fluctuations, happenings. Looking at someone from that perspective, you would see that a living body is in constant movement; not at rest or static but contained energies circling through phases of expansion and contraction. This was partially referred to by the Buddha when he said: “When I used to enter an assembly, I always became, before I seated myself, in colour like unto the colour of my audience, and in voice like unto their voice…” When he came to be with you, he entered and became one with you.

That statement suggests aligning the pulsation sequences of your being with others. It is pointing to the understanding that there are other ways of using your senses than the few of which you are now aware; ways of sensing that bring into consciousness the dancing patterns of existence. Those patterns exist without interference from the reality you think of as your existence.

Smell is an intrusion into space, an emanation of perfume. The entire of the universe could be sensed by smelling, so that inevitably gives rise to an organ to perceive smells. Smell hollows space, just like the penis/vagina relationship. The whole universe is intercoursing, and when there is intercourse you can expect a baby. From citta and cetasika intercoursing, the baby rupa comes into being. Citta involved with rupa, and cetasika is the mind ground.

You have no choice but to use sexual energy, but you don’t have to work with linear images. Emanations, streaming energies, will inevitably mould space and produce an organ. The universe is constantly building ears. I’m not talking about your ears, but about sound receptors arising in response to the continuous flow of vibration.

Imagine the universe as a cube with each face acting as a different organ. When Avalokitesvara, the Mighty Lord, looked down and beheld but five heaps, the Abhidhamma view of that event might be that he beheld but a five-sided cube forming and emptying constantly; changing and shaping.

One could say that ear and sound are one; shaped by one another. You don’t hear musical notes. Your ears register a range of vibration, but that note is not an ultimate. It would be heard differently by a dog. There is no universal note, but there is a sound paramattha. It is conventional truth to say “I heard such and such a sound”, but that is conditional on the hearer. All of us are differently pitched by our receptors.

This is what the Dhamma-Sangani is discussing, so it is a matter of probing relative view until one becomes absolute realization. No two notes are the same. There is no universal note, no steady frequency. Every occurrence is dependent on the environment. The speed of light is not a constant, although it is travelling within a predictably narrow range. The variation within that range may be hardly discernable, but it exists. There is nothing constant in the universe. There are differences in perception from being to being, so we have accepted a fictional agreement for purposes of communication.

The teaching of Paticca-Samuppada has to do with the inseparable nature of creation. Ears determine sound. The mind is always in the process of developing, amending, and extending organs. There will never be an ideal ear. There will continue to be shapings. Look at the shape of the human ear. It is very similar to the form of writing called Deva Nagari. Look at all shapes and try to see them in a new way.

The Dhamma-Sangani is basically on about karma and divisions of karma into wholesome, unwholesome, and kiriya or neutral actions. I’m not quite satisfied with that translation of kiriya. The word has some associations with ‘kriya’, which you have perhaps heard in connection with kriya yoga; energy yoga. Here it refers to a middle position, a pure field of energy which doesn’t particularly produce a shaping. It’s just an on-going non-designated energy.

If you can understand that the shape and nature of water has grown the fish, you will see that the energy that created the fish is karma. So kriya is action, but – in a way – a neutral doing; a pure activity.

Many words that go back to the root ‘ka’ involve action. For example, in English we have ‘I go’, and ‘I am going’. One is the simple present and the second is the continual present. The first case is a more habitual way of speaking for most people: “I go to school.” But the real process, the tense that reflects what is occurring, would be “I am going to school”. ‘Kiriya’ is involved with the root words ‘kilia’ and ‘kira’, which are both a continuous story. ‘Iti’ is that continuous story in direct speech.

We sometimes seem to use words like bricks; non-producing and usually a resultant of previous habituation – a statement of continuity simply because one has done it before – whereas ‘kiriya’ is an ongoing statement of activity. That may or may not help you now, but perhaps a bit further on down the line you will find it useful to know.

Actions or states of mind are divided into three categories: wholesome, unwholesome and neutral – or those which are non-productive of the new. That is basically the subject matter covered in the first part of the Dhamma-Sangani, however it may be elaborated. This book is concerned with how many wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral states there are and how they are linked. The whole point, as I have said before, is for you to abhi-dhamma – to realize higher truths – so therefore everything is reviewed karmically as to whether or not it progresses you. Something that unfolds you is wholesome, and something that neither advances nor retards you is neutral. Akusala kamma is that which breaks or arrests unfoldment, and at the same time retards you. Kiriya kamma doesn’t retard or advance you.

Akusala retards you from establishing ‘abhi’, non-ego. The minute you stop the akusala action, you progress. The minute you break repetitive patterns, you progress. When a being has awakened, they reach the stage where “done is that which had to be done…” There is no more work to do. There is work, but it is Buddha kamma, which implies a pure mind with no work to do; just working. This is a state of being, rather than a state of becoming. The difference is that at the moment you have to go to work, you have things to do – karma. You have all the flowers in the future. A flower works until it flowers, and then one can suppose that in fact it doesn’t have to struggle to make a quantum leap. At that point you don’t have to work it up.

Karma indicates struggle, action, and work. The Buddha further defined it by saying: “O bhikkhus, I say to you that cetana is kamma.” ‘Cetana’ means intention, motivation. Motivation is karma. When there is nothing further to do, when the being is fulfilled, he has no motivation. So long as there are needs and greeds there will be specialization; grasping at this and that – which is motivation. These movements of consciousness are discriminatory, but Buddha-consciousness at work has completed motivation: it is not separate from all things, all times, and all happenings. To be at one with becoming is Being.

At the moment, you have many needs – some of which you don’t even see. You are caught between be and come. But when you can say that you have done that which has to be done, there is no more being subject to becoming; no more “go here, go there”. The state of pure being does not have any special options whatsoever, because all options are special.

“Done is that which had to be done. For this, there is no more being subject to becoming.” This is the statement of the Arahant, of the being who dwells in a pure state. The work is finished. Where once there was a human being, born to complete certain work, that work is done. Some of the conditions met encouraged this work and some hindered it. Sometimes the seed received too much sun, caused too rapid growth or burned it, and sometimes it didn’t receive enough. Sometimes it received water and sometimes not. Poor thing. The Dharma is impersonal. There is simply work that has to be done. There are simply laws that must be fulfilled. One could say that there is only one law: to manifest The Law. Jesus also said that he came to fulfill the law. Working to fulfill the law leads to the flowering of the being.

You know, don’t you, that you can’t have flowering without some sort of stem? Eventually an experience will arise that will transcend words, but there are stages of growth before this occurs. These stages must be fulfilled in greater or lesser detail. But once they are fulfilled, as the Bible states, the wages at the end of the day are the same for all workers. The same tasks must be accomplished to some degree by all workers; conditions have to be met. You are following a teaching which has ‘must’ as a condition and there’s no way around that. Maybe there are ways to utilize skill in means to meet the requirements, but the laws do have to be fulfilled however long it may take.

This could be called ‘Maggamaggadassanayana’; knowledge of the path leading to the Path. In other words, what is happening here and now. There are so many aspects of the Dhamma-Sangani to discuss. It is, in fact, a way of experiencing vipassana, direct seeing. The Abhidhamma is the path of vipassana, of direct seeing into the nature of things. The ‘passati’ part of ‘vipassana’ indicates passing into the nature of direct realization; in-seeing, direct seeing. The implication is not only introspection; it is out, around, up and down direct seeing. With seeing. The method of the Abhidhamma is designed to produce this effect. It is not meant to detract from conventional truth; it is meant to induce depth seeing.

These seven texts were given to the master of vipassana at the time of the Buddha, given to the first being to attain liberation through insight – Sariputra. You might see paintings depicting the Buddha Sakyamuni seated in the lotus posture with two monks standing next to him. On one side holding a bowl is Moggallana, and Sariputra is on the other side. They were the masters of magical powers and of insight respectively. Moggallana was purported to have been born a blue baby, in colour like the Tibetan deity Vajrapani who is the master of the cosmos. Do you doubt that? Why? Anything is possible in this possible universe.

There is a point to stretching your mind, to think a little crazily, get far out – or at least further out! How can you develop an open mind unless you explore possibilities beyond what you usually think of as reality? This stretching of mind, however, does need to be explored with wisdom.

In the sutras the Buddha gave instructions to his followers to help them with this very understanding. He suggested three different meditation practices to be used by different types of students in order to ripen their minds. After having established a reasonable degree of concentration he would have some of his monks work with meditations for developing psychic powers, such as exploring links of cause and effect through recollection of past lives. Some would be instructed to continue developing jhana until they had mastery of formless states, which allows one to experience consciousness without self-reference. And others would be told to move directly into insight practice. These three types of meditation are used to attain the three true knowledges.

One of the meditation exercises given as a preparatory practice for developing psychic powers involves concentration on colour. To begin, you would look at your hand and notice the overall colour of the skin. Then you would pick out tiny spots of blue, for example, and focus your attention on them until you were able to see only the blue colourations of your skin. And the meditation would progress from there. Usually one would do this first with the blue specks, then yellow, red, and finally white. Another way this meditation is used is for development of the mandala of the body. Eventually you might see the fingers of Kalacakra in this way.

When citta and cetasika interact, you have rupa. Different fashionings of mind establish the forerunners of patterns in form or body. The cetasika result from the arising of those states of mind conjoined with the physical organs; from the play between the two. So to achieve mastery over mind states, work with citta, cetasika, and rupa. One could use the analogy of citta as thread, cetasika as weaving, and rupa as the robe. Or, using scientific terms, citta as DNA, cetasika as RNA, and rupa as the protein formed.

You have various suggestions to work with, but let it be direct work; experiential work. Watch how projections arise. Looking at the walls, explore whether you are shaping them. Or does your mind have no affect whatsoever on the environment? Is it possible for the molecules and atoms of your body to meld with the walls so you can just pass through into another room? It is not necessary to believe or disbelieve: just put it to the test. Work with the theory that if you were a master of mantra you would be in control of all shapings of mind. Thus, you could do anything.

Shaping means to bring new creativity into manifestation; new corporeality. Or, to use an older term, shaping is sympathetic magic. The purpose of achieving this ability is to control the flow of shapes and sounds, the comings and goings, for the compassionate work of aiding all beings to attain Abhidhamma; higher understanding. This ability comes as a natural arising of consciousness, so don’t work at it. Just open your mind. Miracles – as with everything in the universe – are spontaneous arisings. The key to understanding this is kiriya; functional consciousness. Or, to put it another way, the key to sympathetic magic is compassion plus what Jung called synchronicity. There will come a time when you will welcome magical power with humility. It arises.

Beings want to be given a ritual for concentration, but one of the first fetters to fall at the attainment of Stream Entry is belief in rule and ritual. Don’t worry about having to do things in a certain order. The Path unfolds you. You can’t possibly repeat the ‘right’ Heart Sutra 100,000 times because there is constant change. Or you can, because the Heart Sutra is always repeating! It is continuously sounding in the work of compassion, the hearing of the heart. All you need do is awaken. Can you awaken by not having made an effort to do a certain number of mantra, or study the lists of the Abhidhamma?

STUDENT: Can one also mind-shape the past?

TEACHER: You might see past lives quite differently after viewing the sequences of how they arise and pass away. You will certainly see them differently after experiencing the awakening. In Mahamudra texts it says that not only the sinner but also the sin is liberated. When you awaken, the past awakens.