The immediately fallen away citta can be object (present moment)

Every moment once it has passed has absolutely ceased according to the Theravada. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be known. Direct seeing should be distinguished from thinking about past events but it doesn’t mean that direct seeing doesn’t need sanna. Sanna arises with every citta and thus it arises also in cittas associated with panna. It is so complex how it all comes together, just for a moment, to understand.

Abhidhammattha sangaha (Anuruddha) translated as A comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Guide (note by Bodhi) p. 136

“although citta experiences objects, citta in turn can become an object. It should be noted that a citta in its immediacy cannot become an its own object, for the cognizer cannot cognize itself; but a citta in an individual mental continuum can experience earlier cittas in that same continuum as well as the cittas of other beings”


Hi Robert,
this is a particularly powerful topic that you are opening. I have quite a few findings on this matter and would love to hear your thoughts and others’ as well.

In my experience, I can see that mind can know the present moment in a sharper or wider range. For example, as we live in our daily life, we can cognize fairly a lot of objects at the same time, but they are rather superficially known. It is like taking a torch and switching it from a sharper beam to a wide-angle beam. Let me make myself clear - I am describing here my experience. In there I can see the reality in a wider angle but superficial, or I can apply a sharper beam of observation and see the characteristics easier. It is possible for me to be mindful in both ways - wide-angle and sharp-angle.

Another point I have is regarding these “past moments”. As soon as you start talking about past moments, you run into troubles with MN Bhaddekaratta and other such suttas. Some teachers based on these “past moments” assumption suggest that it is not possible to observe present moment.

However, I totally disagree. The Buddha explained we should observe walking when we are walking, sitting when we are sitting, standing when we are standing, lying down when we are lying down. Breathing in when we are breathing in, breathing out when we are breathing out. We observe greed when we have greed (santaṃ vā) and when we do not have it (asantaṃ vā). The Buddha never suggests that we observe a past moment, so that idea seems to me as frivolously non-Theravadin, non-Buddhist, and totally unacceptable.

Now, how would I explain that we observe the present moment? Through the speed of mind. If it is so, that mind arises-passes billions of times per snap of fingers, then there is no need to talk about past moments. The multitude of moments of mind within a short period of time allows us to perceive present moment by present mind, albeith this would be just a vague perception.

Think of a ceiling fan, that has only four blades. These four blades turn round and round very fast and make up a perception of a disk. However, there are blades and air. The observing mind vs. the observed mind would be like the blades vs. the air. They do not happen at the same time but we feel and experience it as if they happened at the same time. They alternate very fast.

This idea of alternating makes it possible for five aggregates to happen at the “same time” or at least to be perceived so, and it allows for mindfulness to be happening at the present moment in accordance with Bhaddekaratta and other suttas.

Let me know your thoughts on this and if there is any Sutta/Commentary/Subcommentary/Non-Canonical scripture that I may like to read. Or if you have any additional questions/concerns regarding my experience. :sun_with_face:

May you be happy and healthy. :sun_with_face:

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I use the analogy of the 3D electronic glasses when watching 3D Imax movies. The screen shows only one eye at a time, and the glasses block the opposite eye so each eye sees only one view.

The mind processes these two images taken by each eye and produces a perceived 3D image that makes you say “wow” (even though we see 3D all the time in regular life). However, the wow image is not what the eyes have seen individually.

Remote Image:

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The training is a continual trying to return to the present. The mind is continually pulled into past moments (or wanders into future imaginings) because of the habit to cling (and a clinging mind is a deluded mind that cannot truly know). It’s only in the present that the fully liberating letting go happens. One notices that there is clinging and in returning to the present there is ‘letting go’. Or is it : in letting go there is returning to the present.

Dear Venerable Sarana,
thank you for your well considered comments. I speak for the all members in saying how much we appreciate your input to the forum.
It will take several posts for me to respond fully - as time permits- but for now I want to say that the key, as I see it, to this apparent dilemma, is indeed related to the speed of the rise and fall. As you write "

*mind arises-passes billions of times per snap of fingers, then there is no need to talk about past moments."

I think this is an important fact to keep in mind while we discuss this tricky point.
We see many examples in the suttas of it being indicated that akusala like dosa or lobha can be directly understood (i.e. with wisdom) . For example from the Satipatthana sutta:

And how, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating consciousness in consciousness?

"Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate

Yet cittas arise in a series and the citta that understands can’t be the one with lobha or dosa.

So it is like you indicated; in a split second millions of processes of cittas have arisen and gone. And during times when lobha arises immediately after there can be other cittas that understand lobha as lobha, as merely an evanescent reality.
We still refer to this as understanding the present moment- even though the lobha has just fallen away.

In this way we can understand the general import of the Bhaddekaratta Sutta:

phenomena in the present
Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṁ,
are clearly seen in every case.
Tattha tattha vipassati;