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Abhidhamma Series, no 21. The Four Planes of Consciousness (part 1).

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  • Nina van Gorkom
    Dear friends, The Four Planes of Consciousness (part 1). There are many ways of classifying citta and one way is the classification by way of plane of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2010
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      Dear friends,

      The Four Planes of Consciousness (part 1).

      There are many ways of classifying citta and one way is the
      classification by way of plane of consciousness, in Pali: bhuumi.
      There are four planes of consciousness:
      the sensuous plane of consciousness, kaama-bhuumi,
      the plane of ruupa-jhaana, ruupa-bhuumi,
      the plane of aruupa-jhaana, aruupa-bhuumi,
      the plane of supramundane citta, lokuttara-bhuumi.

      As we have seen, plane of consciousness is different from plane of
      existence which is the place where one is born. What plane of
      consciousness a citta belongs to depends on the object it experiences.

      The sensuous plane of consciousness (kaamaavacara cittas) are the
      cittas that experience sense objects, such as seeing, hearing,
      smelling, tasting, the experience of tangible object through the
      bodysense and the experience of these objects through the mind-door.
      On account of pleasant and unpleasant objects experienced through the
      senses, kusala cittas (wholesome cittas) and akusala cittas
      (unwholesome cittas) arise. We usually cling to all the sense objects.
      Those who see the disadvantage of sense impressions and the
      defilements bound up with them cultivate samatha (tranquil
      meditation) and may attain absorption (jhaana). The jhaanacitta is
      another plane of citta, it is higher than the sensuous plane of
      citta. Jhaanacittas do not experience sense objects, they experience
      with absorption a meditation subject through the mind-door.
      For the development of samatha, tranquil meditation, it is
      essential to have a keen understanding of the characteristic of calm
      and of the way to develop calm with a suitable meditation subject.
      True calm has to be wholesome, it is freedom from defilements.
      Right understanding. pa~n~naa, that knows precisely when the citta is
      kusala citta and when akusala citta is indispensable. When the
      objective of citta is not daana, siila or mental development,
      bhaavanaa, the citta is usually akusala, but we may not notice this.
      Indifferent feeling seems to be very calm, but actually, indifferent
      feeling arises with kusala citta as well as with akusala citta rooted
      in attachment or rooted in ignorance. One may be attached to silence,
      and without right understanding one may erroneously believe that
      there is kusala citta with calm.
      The Visuddhimagga (Chapters IV-XII) describes forty meditation
      subjects which can condition calm such as disks (kasinas),
      recollection of the excellent qualities of the Triple gem,
      mindfulness of death, loving-kindness or mindfulness of breathing. A
      meditation subject does not necessarily bring about calm. Only when
      there is right understanding of calm and the way to develop it, calm
      can grow.
      Through samatha the ``hindrances'' (niivara.na), which are akusala
      cetasikas, are temporarily suppressed. The hindrances arise time and
      again in daily life. They are sensuous desire (kaamacchandha), ill-
      will (vyaapaada), torpor and languor (thiina and middha),
      restlessness and worry (uddhacca and kukkucca) and doubt (vicikicchaa).
      Someone who wants to develop samatha so as to be able to attain
      jhaana, has to develop five jhaana-factors which can inhibit the
      hindrances, and these are the following cetasikas:
      applied thinking (vitakka)
      sustained thinking (vicaara)
      rapture (piiti)
      happy feeling (sukha)
      concentration (samaadhi)

      Jhaana is developed in stages, with each succeeding stage being more
      refined than the preceding one. For the first stage of ruupa-jhaana
      it is still necessary that all five jhaana-factors arise with the
      jhaanacitta, but at each higher stage, when one has become more
      advanced, jhaana-factors are successively abandoned. Jhaanacittas do
      not produce vipaaka in the same lifespan: their result is rebirth in
      higher planes of existence. The result of ruupaavacara kusala cittas
      is rebirth in ruupa-brahma planes.
      Those who have attained the highest stage of ruupa-jhaana and see the
      disadvantages of ruupa-jhaana which is still dependent on
      materiality, might want to cultivate aruupa-jhaana or ``immaterial
      jhaana''. The meditation subjects of aruupa-jhaana are not connected
      with materiality. There are four stages of aruupa-jhaana and each one
      of these is more subtle and more peaceful than the preceding one.
      These stages are: the ``Sphere of Boundless
      Space'' (aakaasaana~ncaayatana), the ``Sphere of Boundless
      Consciousness'' (vi~n~naa.na~ncaayatana), the ``Sphere of
      Nothingness'' (aaki~nca~n~naayatana), and the ``Sphere of Neither
      Perception Nor Non-Perception'' (n'eva-sa~n~aa-n´┐Żaasa~n~naayatana).
      Even when one has attained the highest stage of aruupa-jhaana,
      defilements cannot be eradicated. They can only be eradicated by
      lokuttara magga-citta.

      ************
      Nina.








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