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Abhidhamma in Practice

Abhidhamma in Practice

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Practical Abhidhamma by Mendis. Wheel Publication No. 322
Practical Abhidhamma by Mendis. Wheel Publication No. 322

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Published by: Buddhist Publication Society on Apr 24, 2012
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04/29/2013

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There are seven mental factors which are called universals because they are common to every
state of consciousness. Two are feeling and perception mentioned above. The order in which the
other five are given has no sequential significance as they all co-exist in any state of
consciousness. They are:

1)

Contact (phassa), the coming together of the sense organ, object, and appropriate
consciousness.

2)

Concentration (ekaggatā), the mental focus on one object to the exclusion of all other
objects.

3)

Attention (manasikāra), the mind’s spontaneous turning to the object which binds the
associated mental factors to it.

4)

Psychic life (jīvitindriya), the vital force supporting and maintaining the other mental
factors.

5)

Volition (cetanā), the act of willing. From a psychological standpoint, volition
determines the activities of the associated states; from an ethical standpoint it
determines its inevitable consequences. Volition leads to action by body, speech and
mind and thus becomes the principal factor behind kamma. Therefore the Buddha
said: “Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi”—“Volition, O monks, is kamma, I
declare.” Thus wholesome or unwholesome acts, willfully done, are followed at some
time by their appropriate consequences. But if one unintentionally steps on an insect
and kills it, such an act has no moral or kammic significance as volition is absent. The
Buddha’s position here contrasts with that of his contemporary, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta,
the founder of Jainism. Nātaputta taught that even involuntary actions constitute
kamma, thus release from saṃsāra (the round of rebirths) can be achieved only by
abstaining from all activities.

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