Abhidhamma Series, no 21. The Four Planes of Consciousness (part 1).
- 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
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)
happy feeling (sukha)
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�aasa~n~naayatana).
Even when one has attained the highest stage of aruupa-jhaana,
defilements cannot be eradicated. They can only be eradicated by
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