Ajahn punnadhammo on ajahn Mun

Ven Punnadhammo said in his latest video that Ajahn Mun said that citta was outside of the aggragates. Is this true? If so is it correct?

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You meant “citta”?

Anyway, maybe you want to have a look at criticisms of Advaita Vendanta:

I’ve also heard another Thai Ajahn say the citta is different from the consciousness aggregate.

At face value, this doesn’t make sense to me. I would relax if they would say that this citta is impermanent, suffering and non-self. I guess I’ll have to ask about this next time I get the chance :person_shrugging:

Thai Ajahns often use language in eccentric and highly individual ways. They use Pali to talk about their experiences, not to resolve doctrinal or philosophical disputes. So to understand what they’re saying it’s crucial to enter in to the world of how they practice, how they live, and how they speak about such things.


The meaning and use of the word “Citta” by the Thai forest teachers is much misunderstood. I would be the first to admit that their use can be inconsistent, which does not help matters. However, the underlying reality that gives rise to Dhamma descriptions where the word Citta is used remains totally consistent.

To understand what Ajahn Mun was referring to, you have to understand that the Citta has two aspects. The first aspect is the impure Citta. The one driven by ignorance and defilement. The four mental Khandha are expressions of this Citta, however, these expressions are not the real or true Citta. Just as smiles and frowns are expressions of the face but not the face itself. That said, sometimes the Thai teachers do refer to the functioning of Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana as the Citta. This can be confusing but it is done for convenience rather than anything more profound.

The second aspect is the pure Citta. A Citta that is cleansed of ignorance and defilement. This Citta is beyond Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana. It is beyond impermanence and suffering but NOT Anatta. It cannot be controlled and no entity owns it. It has no individual markers. Thus it complies with the saying that: All conditioned phenomena are both impermanent and suffering, and all phenomena (conditioned and unconditioned) are Anatta.

This is what the Lord Buddha referred to when he said:

Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. He turns his CITTA away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element.

If this Citta was the same as form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, how could it be turned away from these states to face Nibbana? Ajahn Thate explains this experience beautifully but I won’t go into that here.

Any suggestion that references to the Citta in this pure state are somehow emblematic of an eternalistic view would be completely false. The pure Citta is governed by Anatta (Ajahn Thate covers this in the section on Anatta in his Autobiograohy.).

  1. In SN 4.23, the Buddha talked about “unestablished consciousness” (Appatiṭṭhitena), he didn’t talk about “citta” or “pure citta”, can you explain this? Are these two terms synonyms or different?

Is “pure citta” deathless? Are you saying “pure citta” is the same (or synonym) as Nibbana? Or besides Nibbana, there is another “thing” that is also deathless?

So when the Buddha “turns his citta”, he does not control his citta? Can you explain more about “control”?

My understanding so far, “citta” or “pure citta” are not beyond the five aggregates, impermanent, suffering, anatta.

I have read Ajahn Thate’s “The Flavour of Dhamma”. His meditation experience is real to me and I am convinced of his meditation experience. He mentioned “citta”, “mind”, “heart” but those terms are still within the characteristics of impermanent, suffering, anatta.

I don’t see in the English version of that book that he says anything as you said about “beyond five aggregates” or “beyond impermanence and suffering” or “cannot be controlled” (except in the sense of anatta).

@ORsEnTURVi What great questions.

You could say that the pure Citta is the light that shines on nothing.

The English word “consciousness” is itself a cause for confusion. Vinnana is translated as consciousness and so when, in English, we use (or translate from Thai) the word consciousness or knowing, there is, understandably, a notion that Vinnana is being referred to but this is not always the case. The pure “knowing nature” of the Citta is not Vinnana - although Vinnana is an expression of an impure Citta. Vinnana is of only two categories, rebirth consciousness and sensory consciousness. The pure Citta is beyond both of these, as is implied in the quote from the Middle Length Saying.

The pure Citta is synonymous with Nibbana Dhatu or Dhamma Dhatu. Ajahn Thate used the expression Nibbana Dhatu and Ajahn Maha Boowa uses the term Dhamma Dhatu - the pure, knowing nature of the Citta.

We must remember that before parinibbana the Buddha and all the Arahants still exist in this world. They still have Khandha but they are not attached to them. So the mental Khandha still function but without defilement. The Buddha can still experience the conventional world and make decisions etc but this function ceases when parinibbana occurs. The pure Citta is beyond time and space and no entity can tell it what and what not to do. (I use the word “it” with reservations because there is no “it” at this stage but how else can this be described in the conventional world? The use of language has severe limitations and this is part of the reason for misunderstandings. With regard to these matters, one cannot rely on words to find the answers. One has to rely on seeing things for oneself, in the present.)

The pure Citta is beyond the five aggregates as exemplified in the quote above. It is also beyond impermanence and suffering but not Anatta. As Ajahn Thate says,

If one should have doubts so as to ask the question, “The
Enlightenment of Lord Buddha and all the Ariya Sāvaka was in a
single Citta moment and at one place (namely the Citta), so how
could the Citta be capable of dispersing to go (to) knowing, seeing
and discarding all the Kilesa, which are of innumerable sorts?”. It
is sufficient to answer that the words, “Enlightened in a single
moment and at one place” do not refer to the Citta that is
to cessation of both SAÑÑĀ and VEDANĀ). That Citta is still not
completely cleansed but becomes one by the power of JHĀNA.
The Citta that becomes one and gives rise to enlightenment is a
Citta which has already been well-trained, so that it is able to
search for and see the place where all Kilesa arise and pass away.
At the same time this Citta will see the way to discard – and will
discard – these Kilesa! It has the Ti-lakkhana as its tool and the
Four Ariya Sacca (Noble Truths) as its standard. In sort, this
means that the Citta works to perfection in the Four Ariya Sacca,
then it comes together, being enlightened in a single Citta

I hope that this clarifies the excellent points that you raised.

This formula usually appears without the last part. So I did some searching:

The formula appears in 7 suttas. And only in 2 of which have the last sentence tagged on. These are AN9.36 and MN64.

Let’s start MN64. The Chinese parallel doesn’t have the formula in connection with the aggregates in the sutta.

Then AN9.36. This seems like a compilation without any parallels. It is partially compiled based on MN64, so it makes sense for it to have the same section as MN64, since it took it from there.

What is interesting is that MN64 does have the refrain “turn their mind away from those things”, but the connection with the aggregates is not made in the parallel and might not belong there originally.

So it seems that the bringing in of the aggregates in this passage is a further elaboration.

Thank you, Bhante, for making this crucial point. Words are often used in very different contexts, to try to map the Pali word ‘citta’ as used by some Thai Ajahns onto various sutta passages generally results in perplexity and even frustration, in my experience.


Thank you @Danny

Your analysis proves my point, language is an inadequate medium when expressing the finer points of Dhamma. However, it is the only medium we have so I guess we will always have interpretations, misunderstandings and differences of opinion.

Fortunately, the Dhamma that underpins the language does not change. These Dhamma are, therefore, best understood and validated through direct, personal practise rather than the study of words. And practise is what Ajahn Mun did. After all, when we start picking and choosing what text we think is valid while rejecting text we don’t like, we throw into question the whole body of text.


Is this a typo? Did you mean instead “NOT atta” or just “anatta”?

@ORsEnTURVi The pure Citta is beyond impermanence and suffering BUT it is NOT beyond Anatta. This is the context of the statement, “NOT Anatta”. In other words, Anatta still applies.

  • sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā — all saṅkhāras (conditioned things) are impermanent
  • sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā — all saṅkhāras are unsatisfactory, imperfect, unstable
  • sabbe dhammā anattā — all dharmas (conditioned or unconditioned things) have no unchanging self or soul.

This is what Acharn Thate had to say,

Anything fashioned by conditions, whether physical or mental, is called a sankhara. All sankharas are unsteady and inconstant (anicca) because they are continually moving and changing about. All sankharas are incapable of maintaining a lasting oneness: This is why they are said to be stressful (dukkha). No sankharas lie under anyone’s control. They keep changing continually, and no one can prevent them from doing so, which is why they are said to be not-self (anatta). All things, whether mental or physical, if they have these characteristics by nature, are said to be not-self. Even the quality of deathlessness - which is a quality or phenomenon free from fashioning conditions, and which is the only thing in a state of lasting oneness - is also said to be not-self, because it lies above and beyond everything else. No one can think it or pull it under his or her control. Only those of right view, whose conduct lies within the factors of the path, can enter in to see this natural quality and remove their attachments to all things - including their attachment to the agent which goes about knowing those things. In the end, there is no agent attaining or getting anything. However natural phenomena behave, that is how they simply keep on behaving at all times.
When meditators practice correctly and have the discernment to see that quality (of deathlessness) as it really is, the result is that they can withdraw their attachments from all things - including their attachment to the discernment which enters in to see the quality as it really is.
The practice of all things good and noble is to reach this very point.

Sorry for any confusion.

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I don’t understand what you meant with the word “beyond” here.

What do you meant by the word “beyond”? Why didn’t you simply say “It is NOT impermanence and NOT suffering”? What are the differences between those 2 sentences?

If you really meant to use the word “beyond” to be different than “not”. Can you maybe give an example to illustrate?

The Arahant has residual Khandha, which are governed by the laws of the conventional world, impermanence and suffering (albeit that there is no attachment to sickness, old age and death). I used the word “beyond” to illustrate that the pure Citta is not subject to the same laws that govern the Khandha. I could have used “not” impermanence and “not” suffering.

So, I take this and your previous post as your confirmation that: 1) The so-called “pure citta” is permanent, is not suffering but is still anatta. 2) The so-called “pure citta” is not the consciousness and is not among the five aggregates.

Please let me know if I understand you wrongly.

I asked in my post above that “Are you saying “pure citta” is the same (or synonym) as Nibbana? Or besides Nibbana, there is another “thing” that is also deathless?”. Below is your answer:

From your answer above, did you mean the “pure-citta” is not the same as Nibbana but it has the same properties (dhatu) as Nibbana (permanent, not suffering, anatta)? That means, are there at least 2 different dhamma that have these characteristics: permanent, not suffering, anatta?

There are two versions of the same Dhamma, Nibbana. The pure Citta of the Arhant is still associated with the 5 Khandha, but it is not attached to them. They are impermanent and will dissolve at death. While the association lasts, you could say that this is version one. At Parinibbana, the association with the Khanda is broken and that is version two.

Nibbana Dhatu and Dhamma Dhatu are synonymous with both versions of Nibbana.

It is important to understand that the Arhant does not “own” the pure Citta. The pure Citta is not his or hers to command. It is not an individual pure Citta. The pure Citta is a Citta cleansed of defilement. It is the opposite of a Citta full of defilement. It is a Citta that no longer originates Sankhara.

When you said “There are two versions of the same Dhamma, Nibbana.”, I think of sutta Iti 44 in which the Buddha referred to two elements of Nibbana: “saupādisesā nibbānadhātu” and “anupādisesā nibbānadhātu.”

However, reading a bit further, you said “Nibbana Dhatu and Dhamma Dhatu are synonymous with both versions of Nibbana.”

Previously, you also said:

So, combining what you said above, it seems to me that you have answered my question in previous post ( “Are you saying “pure citta” is the same (or synonym) as Nibbana? Or besides Nibbana, there is another “thing” that is also deathless?”) as:

“pure citta” and “Nibbana” are the same.

Please let me know if I understand you wrongly.

So, in the end, are you saying that the so-called “pure citta” is just a word that the Ajahns (limited to the Ajahns you mentioned) have preference to say, instead of the word “Nibbana”?

Does that mean, to understand correctly these Ajahns when they talk about “pure citta”, we need to regard every instance of “Nibbana” as “pure citta”, everywhere in the Pali sutta?

The pure Citta is not just taught by Ajahn Thate and Ajahn Maha Boowa. All the followers of Ajahn Mun that I spoke to taught the same thing.

Let me quote from Ajahn Char.

When you contemplate and see impermanence, suffering and not-self, there will no longer be clinging to a self, a being, I or he or she. The mind which sees this will give rise to Nibbida, world-weariness and dispassion. It will see all things as only impermanent, suffering and not-self.
The mind then stops. This mind is Dhamma. Greed, hatred, delusion then diminish and recede little by little until finally there is only mind - just the pure mind.

That pretty much says it all.

This discussion from Ajahn Chah may be helpful:

Question: Just now when you were speaking, it sounded as if there were something aside from the five aggregates. What else is there? You spoke as if there were something. What would you call it? The primal mind? Or what?

Ajahn Chah: You don’t call it anything. Everything ends right there. There’s no more calling it “primal.” That ends right there. “What’s primal” ends.

Question: Would you call it the primal mind?

Ajahn Chah: You can give it that supposition if you want. When there are no suppositions, there’s no way to talk. There are no words to talk. But there’s nothing there, no issues. It’s primal; it’s old. There are no issues at all. But what I’m saying here is just suppositions. “Old,” “new”: These are just affairs of supposition. If there were no suppositions, we wouldn’t understand anything. We’d just sit here silent without understanding one another. So understand that.

Question: What do we do to find this point, the point of the genuine mind?

Ajahn Chah: You keep track of this mind, first. You see that it’s inconstant, not for sure. See that clearly. You see that there’s nothing to take hold of, and so you let go. The mind lets go of itself. It understands itself. It lets go of this mind. At that point, there’s no more need to fabricate it, but there are no more doubts about anything. That’s called… Whatever name you call it, it’s a matter of supposition and formulation. You make suppositions about it for people to learn about it, but that nature is just the way it is. It’s like the ground. What spins around is on top of the ground. But this thing is the ground. What doesn’t arise or disband is the ground. What arises and runs around on top, we call “the mind,” or “perception,” or “fabrication.” To put it in simple terms, there are no forms, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness in the ground. In terms of supposition, form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness arise and disband. But they’re not in this. They disband.

Thanks @mikenz66

These quotes are entirely consistent with the points that I made previously.

Ajahn Maha Boowa also talks about the Khandhas “spinning” in front of the pure mind (or ground in your quote above). Part of the problem here is the use of the word mind. Mind is used to describe the Nama Khandha (a spinning, functioning mind) and it is part of the description of the pure mind but the two are not the same. The “originating” mind is the source of all Dhamma and the Khandha are expressions created by the originating mind. But this “mind” is not pure. However, the true nature of the “mind” is “knowing (not Vinnana)” and not “creating”. Ignorance and defilement cause the “mind” to “create”. When ignorance and defilement are cleansed from the “mind”, all that is left is “knowingness” or Dhamma.

As Ajahn Char says, we use inadequate words to describe the phenomena. We then get hung up on the words. In truth, verification can only be done through practise.