Unwholesome Mental Factors 14


  • Delusion

Delusion (moha): Moha is a synonym for avijja, ignorance. Its characteristic is mental blindness or unknowing (aññ±oa). Its function is non-penetration, or concealment of the real nature of the object. It is manifested as the absence of right understanding or as mental darkness. Its proximate cause is unwise attention (ayoniso manasikara). It should be seen as the root of all that is unwholesome.

  • Shamelessness & Fearlessness

Shamelessness (ahirika) and fearlessness of wrongdoing (anottappa): The characteristic of shamelessness is the absence of dis- gust at bodily and verbal misconduct; the characteristic of fearlessness of wrongdoing (or moral recklessness) is absence of dread on account of such misconduct. Both have the function of doing evil things. They are manifest as not shrinking away from evil. Their proximate cause is the lack of respect for self and lack of respect for others, respectively.

  • Restlessness

Restlessness (uddhacca): Restlessness (or agitation) has the characteristic of disquietude, like water whipped up by the wind. Its func- tion is to make the mind unsteady, as wind makes a banner ripple. It is manifested as turmoil. Its proximate cause is unwise attention to mental disquiet.

  • Greed

Greed (lobha): Greed, the first unwholesome root, covers all degrees of selfish desire, longing, attachment, and clinging. Its characteristicis grasping an object. Its function is sticking, as meat sticks to a hot pan. It is manifested as not giving up. Its proximate cause is seeing enjoyment in things that lead to bondage.

  • Misbelief

Wrong view (ditthi): Ditthi here means seeing wrongly. Its characteristic is unwise (unjustified) interpretation of things. Its function is to preassume. It is manifested as a wrong interpretation or belief. Its proximate cause is unwillingness to see the noble ones (ariya), and so on.

  • Conceit

Conceit (mana): Conceit has the characteristic of haughtiness. Its function is self-exaltation. It is manifested as vainglory.14 Its proximate cause is greed dissociated from views.15 It should be regarded as madness.

  • Hatred

Hatred (dosa): Dosa, the second unwholesome root, comprises all kinds and degrees of aversion, ill will, anger, irritation, annoyance, and animosity. Its characteristic is ferocity. Its function is to spread, or to burn up its own support, i.e. the mind and body in which it arises. It is manifestated as persecuting, and its proximate cause is a ground for annoyance.

  • Jealousy

Envy (issa): Envy has the characteristic of being jealous of other’s success. Its function is to be dissatisfied with others’ success. It is manifested as aversion towards that. Its proximate cause is others’ success.

  • Avarice

Avarice (macchariya): The characteristic of avarice (or stinginess) is concealing one’s own success when it has been or can be obtained. Its function is not to bear sharing these with others. It is manifest as shrinking away (from sharing) and as meanness or sour feeling. Its proximate cause is one’s own success.

  • Regret

Worry or Regret (kukkucca): Kukkucca is worry or remorse after having done wrong. Its characteristic is subsequent regret. Its function is to sorrow over what has and what has not been done. It is manifested as remorse. Its proximate cause is what has and what has not been done (i.e. wrongs of commission and omission).

  • Sloth

Sloth (thina): Sloth is sluggishness or dullness of mind. Its characteristic is lack of driving power. Its function is to dispel energy. It is manifested as the sinking of the mind. Its proximate cause is unwise attention to boredom, drowsiness, etc.

  • Torpor

Torpor (middha): Torpor is the morbid state of the mental factors. Its characteristic is unwieldiness. Its function is to smother. It is manifested as drooping, or as nodding and sleepiness. Its proximate cause is the same as that of sloth.

Sloth and torpor always occur in conjunction, and are opposed to energy (viriya). Sloth is identified as sickness of consciousness (citta- gelañña), torpor as sickness of the mental factors (k±yagelañña). As a pair they constitute one of the five hindrances, which is overcome by initial application (vitakka).

  • Doubt

Doubt (vicikiccha): Doubt here signifies spiritual doubt, from a Buddhist perspective the inability to place confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and the training. Its characteristic is doubt- ing. Its function is to waver. It is manifested as indecisiveness and as taking various sides. Its proximate cause is unwise attention.


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