Lectures 2 and 3
The Abhidharma = the “higher” teaching
Abhidharma (AB) forms the 3 part of the Pali Canon.
Treats subjects exclusively from an ultimate POV: deals with ultimate realities in detail and consists
of numerous categories and classifications mental functions and phenomena.
The AB is most useful to those who want to understand the Dhamma in depth. It aids insight
into the 3 marks of existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and no-self.
The AB presents a complete understanding of the mind and all of its qualities, processes,
and functions beginning with sensation and perception all the way to nirvana.
Not essential for the practice.
Primary Minds and Secondary Mental Factors
Minds divided into 2 categories: primary minds and secondary mental factors.
The 2 are utterly interconnected – they arise, abide and cease simultaneously.
PMs: are passive, neutral and in the background. The PM is hard to know directly, as it is obscured
by MFs. The PM is like the hand, and the MFs are like the fingers. SMFs: aspects of the mind that
condition the basic clarity and awareness of mind. They are active, foreground, content.
There are six primary minds:
➢ 5 sensory primary minds [perceptual] and
➢ 1 mental primary mind [conceptual]
At any one moment, only one primary mind can be operating, even though it may feel like several
primary minds are occurring simultaneously (e.g., eating with a friend).
- Each sense can only apprehend one aspect of the object (e.g., eye can only see; etc)
- Conceptual (or mental) consciousness interprets the sense consciousness: tends to choose
and filter our experience thanks to the MFs. (i.e., they do not perceive sensations directly -
concepts, memories, emotions, perceptions)
These 6 consciousnesses work together, arising and subsiding, continuously creating our ‘world’
We are unaware of the ‘raw image’ in the perceptual consciousnesses, due to the influence of
mental consciousness (e.g., memories, emotions) which affect the total perceptual field
Subsequent moments of mental consciousness cannot perceive the initial visual consciousness free
of the mental images and secondary mental factors influencing it
Only the 1 moment of the 5 sensory consciousnesses is “true”.
Secondary mental factors (SMFs)
SMFs apprehend a particular quality of an object. Because SMF are biased & active, they can ‘color’
the mind – so we can perceive them. (Ie. We perceive thoughts about things rather than the things
In the Sutras the SMF are the 2 link in DO. Abhidharma lists 51 SMF in 6 categories. 1. Five always present MFs
Without these MFs, the main mind wouldn’t be able to recognize its object.
Experiences pleasant, unpleasant or neutral Feelings quickly attributed to an ‘I’; tend to be
automatic- a human deep-seated tendency
1. Feeling One of the 5 skandhas (anusaya) to respond this way- guides action
One of the 12 links of DO
Apprehends the distinguishing sign of an object To distinguish an object from other objects;
mind meeting object.
Perception One of the 5 skandhas Originates from us, indicating it is subjective
and not inherent in the object being discerned
Moves the main mind to an object To create action: intention itself is mental
3. Intention/ action; basis of karma
Intentions lead to action/speech
Perceives its object as pleasant, unpleasant or Gives rise to feelings associated with the 6
neutral senses; gives us contact with the world
4. Contact Based on these feelings we act in very
One of the 12 links of DO predictable ways
Focuses the mind – filters info - on a particular Serves as a basis for mindfulness and
concentration; allows you to focus in on one
5. Attention object to the exclusion of other objects
2. Five Object-Ascertaining MFs
These tendencies each focus on a particular aspect of the mind’s experience
Focuses on a desired object
1. ASPIRATION, We are usually preoccupied with 2 main to meet pos. objects (eg friends);
POSITIVE INTENTION types of aspirations: not separated from pos. objects (eg possessions);
obtain pos. objects (eg career),
to be happy release neg. objects (eg bad situations, people, etc)
to be free from unhappiness
Makes the PM apprehend its object Appreciate and realize the object.
2. APPRECIATION, firmly and resist distraction Should hold views ‘lightly’ to make room for experience and
Functions to not forget the object To prevent distraction
3. MINDFULNESS realized by the primary mind Anchors our attention in reality rather than fantasy
4. CONCENTRATION, Allows the PM to maintain attention of a To make the mind peaceful
ENGAGEMENT specific object 4 qualities of correct concentration: lucid, clear, strong, and
An intelligent mind makes the PM To eliminate doubts and misunderstandings and ignorance
5. WISDOM, realize its object thoroughly. ▪ 3 marks of phenomena;
INSIGHT Seeing things with minimal distortion, ▪ 4 noble truths;
as they are. ▪ Right View 3. Eleven Virtuous Conditioned Tendencies
Idea that all achievements begin with faith. W/o faith, efforts are scattered, unorganized.
e.g., people will devote their entire life to objects of faith
This CT functions to eliminate non-faith and to induce virtuous aspirations
2) Shame (Dignity or Self-Respect)
Functions to avoid inappropriate actions (demeaning, hurting) towards YOURSELF
affects our relationships with others, make us more attractive to others
Foundation of skillful action, discipline, especially restraint from unskillful bodily, verbal, and
mental actions (when intoxicated we may act in ways that are ‘shameful’)
3) Consideration (Respect for Others/Decency)
Functions to avoid inappropriate actions towards