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Abhidhamma Series, no 23. Latent Tendencies.

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  • Nina van Gorkom
    Dear friends, Latent Tendencies. Defilements, akusala cetasikas, are of different levels, they may be subtle or more coarse. Defilements that are
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 24, 2010
      Dear friends,

      Latent Tendencies.

      Defilements, akusala cetasikas, are of different levels, they may be
      subtle or more coarse.
      Defilements that are transgressions (v�tikkama kilesa), are coarse
      defilements of the degree of unwholesome courses of action through
      body or speech.
      Defilements one is possessed by and that arise with akusala citta
      (pariyu.t.thaana kilesa) are medium defilements that disturb the citta.
      Latent tendencies (anusaya kilesa) are subtle defilements that lie
      dormant in the citta and do not arise but condition the arising of
      akusala citta.
      The latent tendencies are enumerated in the Tipi.taka and the
      Commentaries, where it is stated that the Buddha, the Fully
      Enlightened One, understood these by his perfect knowledge of beings�
      biases and underlying tendencies (aasayaanusaya ~naa.na).

      Since each citta that arises and falls away is immediately succeeded
      by the next citta, unwholesome and wholesome behaviour and
      inclinations are accumulated from moment to moment and from life to
      The latent tendencies which are unwholesome inclinations that are
      accumulated are the following: sense-desire (kaama-raaga), aversion
      (pa.tigha), conceit (maana), wrong view (di.t.thi), doubt
      (vicikicchaa), desire for becoming (continued existence, bhavaraaga),
      and ignorance (avijjaa).
      It is essential to have more understanding of the latent tendencies
      and their power. They are called subtle defilements because they do
      not arise with the akusala citta, but they are powerful. Since they
      have not been eradicated they can strongly condition and influence
      our behaviour. They lie dormant in the citta like microbes infesting
      the body. So long as they have not been eradicated we are like sick
      people, because they can condition the arising of akusala citta when
      there are the appropriate conditions.They can condition the arising
      of akusala citta even to the degree of transgression of siila at any
      time, and thus, more defilements are accumulated again and added to
      the latent tendencies. The teaching of the latent tendencies helps us
      to see why the defilements in our life are so tenacious, arising
      again and again, and why their arising is unforeseeable and

      When we study the enumeration of the latent tendencies, we should
      remember that these latent tendencies are not abstract notions. The
      latent tendency of sense-desire or sensuous clinging conditions
      akusala citta with attachment to any kind of pleasant object. We may
      have expectations as to kind words or praise from other people. This
      is selfish desire that has been deeply accumulated and is very
      powerful. The latent tendency of aversion conditions akusala citta
      with aversion, but we should know that this has many shades. It is
      not only a matter of hate or anger, but it also arises when we are
      upset or depressed because we do not receive the pleasant object we
      were hoping for. The latent tendency of conceit conditions the
      arising of akusala citta with clinging to the importance of self. It
      can arise on account of any object experienced through the six
      doorways, and it often motivates our speech and actions. All latent
      tendencies condition the arising of akusala citta, but because of
      accumulated ignorance we do not notice their arising, we are deluded
      time and again.

      The latent tendencies are subsequently eradicated by the lokuttara
      magga-citta of each of the four stages of enlightenment. Wrong view
      and doubt are eradicated at the first stage, the stage of the
      sotaapanna. At the second stage sense-desire and aversion are not yet
      eradicated but they are diminished. They are completely eradicated at
      the third stage, the stage of the anaagaami. Conceit, desire for
      becoming and ignorance are eradicated at the stage of the arahat.
      Thus we see that the eradication of the latent tendencies takes a
      long time. It can only be achieved by the development of
      understanding of all dhammas appearing in daily life.

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