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List of Five

By: Karel Hladky

It would seem that this post didn't quite make it, here it goes again:

After reading the recent discussions, I dug up some old notes. Perhaps someone might
find it useful.

. the mind is also capable of functioning to a greater degree of inner strength and purpose,
so that it is less at the mercy of its surroundings.

This mode of functioning is, in abhidhamma, also described in terms of a group of five.

Directing the mind to the object (vitakka)
Examining the object (vicara)
Energisation (piti)
Harmonising (sukha)
Unifying of the mind (ekaggata)
Like many abhidhamma lists, the different factors can be understood in one way as
forming stages of a process:

Vitakka - the initial movement of the mind to a new object
Vicara - the mind, now firm in its direction, can examine the object in more detail
Piti - continued contact with the object draws together energies which were previously
Sukha - the energisation settles down and pervades the mind in a harmonious type of
Ekaggata - the mind, now in harmony, can be unified and stilled at a point of focus
The factors can also be understood in terms of the five elements. Vitakka is the way in
which the mind is extended to objects (earth). Vicara is the cohesion between the mind
and the object (water). Piti energises the mind, raising its 'temperature' (fire). Sukha is the
harmonious vibration of the mind (air), while ekaggata, in limiting the mind to a
particular focus, creates a new field in which it can act (space).

These intensifying factors are not described as skilful of themselves. They may be aspects
of the functioning of the mind in both skilful and unskilful states. Perhaps because it is
their nature to intensify experience, it is possible that they may become out of balance
and misused, thus forming the basis for those aspects of malfunctioning of the mind
called the five hindrances.

These can therefore be seen as the result of 'too much' of the five intensifying factors,
which is brought out by placing the two groups side by side:
Dulness and drowsiness Vitakka
Wavering of the mind Vicara
Dislike Piti
Restlessness and anxiety Sukha
Motivation based on attachment Ekaggata

Thus dulness and drowsiness are opposed by and dispelled by the application and
extension of the mind in vitakka which gives it a skilful purpose. But if there is too much
vitakka, the mind has a strong impulse to action without being able to do anything,
causing bewilderement and fear or 'wavering'. Wavering is thus opposed by harnessing
the mind to the object. However too much vitakka and vicara force the mind to do
something that it does not really want to do. Dislike of the whole process, the next
hindrance, is the inevitable result.

Dislike is opposed by piti, which creates an enthusiastic interest in the object, but if there
is too much energy, the mind does not know what to do with it. The energy vibrates in an
unskilful way and the mind becomes restless and anxious. These states are opposed by
sukha, which harmonises the energy. If the mind then finds this harmony too enjoyable,
this action becomes transmuted into action based on attachment. This is characterised by
anything from over-exuberance to a subtle form of excitement, which is remedied by
stilling the mind at a point and focussing its energies.

The drawback of this process is that it may overreach itself, focussing the mind down too
much, so that it becomes dull and drowsy once more.

So there!