This is from a discussion I had on dhammawheel.
The issue is: In the “Discourse on Elements” (Dhatukatha) book, page XXVII it says commentary to Dhatukatha claims that 10^12 of cittas (a trillion! 1,000,000,000,000) arise per second. The sub-commentary raises the number to 10^15 cittas per second. I don’t dispute the claim. I wonder if the number is meant to be taken literal or not. I do not know.
Maybe this number was meant to be taken literal (the commentator thought that way) but in fact it
cant be taken literal because one cant imagine a trillion of xyz’s. [ see note at end of this post]
The numbers are literal (roughly, obviously). However, this is the understanding of the Buddha and the great arahats like Sariputta- it is not that each moment should or can be known by the run-of-the mill disciple.
Realities - the pancakhandha - are known by way of nimitta (the sign).
English translation of SN 35.80, “Abandoning Ignorance (2)”
As above down to: “But, venerable sir, how should a bhikkhu know, how should he see, for ignorance to be abandoned by him and true knowledge to arise?” “Here, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu has heard, ‘Nothing is worth adhering to.’ When a bhikkhu…
But, venerable sir, how should a bhikkhu know, how should he see, for ignorance to be abandoned by him and true knowledge to arise?”
“Here, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu has heard, ‘Nothing is worth adhering to.’ When a bhikkhu has heard, ‘Nothing is worth adhering to,’ he directly knows everything. Having directly known everything, he fully understands everything. Having fully understood everything, he sees all signs differently (note 43). He sees the eye differently, he sees forms differently … whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition … that too he sees differently.
“When, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu knows and sees thus, ignorance is abandoned by him and true knowledge arises
Bhikkhu Bodhi note 43 Spk: “He sees all
signs differently” (sabbanimittani annato passati): He sees all
the signs of formations (sarikhdranimittani)in a way differ-
ent from that of people who have not fully understood the
adherences. For such people see all signs as self, but one
who has fully understood the adherences sees them as
nonself, not as self. Thus in this sutta the characteristic of
nonself is discussed.
Now about the speed of the rise and fall.
Even during vipassanā ñāna, it is not that each moment is experienced, but the clear difference between nama and rupa is comprehended by wisdom, paññā.
And this paññā is taking the nimitta of the immediately fallen away realities of whichever realities are insighted. The nimiita is what is known and that nimitta is there because of many processes, not just one moment…
Note: of course the Commentary doesn’t use seconds.
They compare with a fingersnap.
(1) Uninstructed (1) p. 595 Samyutta Nikaya Vol 1 (translated by Bodhi)
But that which is called ‘mind’ and ‘mentality’ and consciousness’
arises as one thing and ceases as another by day and by night. Just
as a monkey roaming through a forest grabs hold of one branch, lets
that go and grabs another, then lets that go and grabs still
another, so too that which is called ‘mind’ and ‘mentality’
and ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another by day
and by night. [note 157]
[note 157: Spk: 'By day and by night (rattiyaa ca divasassa ca):
This is a genitive in the locative sense, i.e., during the night and
during the day. Arises as one thing and ceases as another (annadeva
uppajjati, anna.m nirujjhati): The meaning is that (the mind) that
arises and ceases during the day is other than (the mind) that
arises and ceases during the night. The statement should not be
taken to mean that one thing arises and some thing altogether
different, which had not arisen, ceases. “Day and night” is said by
way of continuity, taking a continuity of lesser duration than the
previous one (i.e. the one stated for the body). But one citta is
not able to endure for a whole day or a whole night. Even in the
time of a fingersnap many hundred thousand kotis of cittas arise and
cease (1 koti=10 million)