the deathless citta

Ajahn Maha Bua observes the essential enduring truth of the sentient being, composed of the indestructible reality of the citta (heart/mind). But as long as there is a ‘self’ the citta is not free. This ‘self’ is the ‘Ultimate Danger’ because of its alluring radiance that causes attachment. The Ultimate Danger disguises itself as the Ultimate Virtue. When the perception of anatta (not-self) is applied, the agitated citta becomes calm and impassive with no interest in either atta (self) or anatta (not-self). The perception of anatta causes the self to be let go of and is totally destroyed, along with the ignorance that causes all beings enthralled by ‘self’ to wander in samsara.

The citta, intrinsically bright, clear, and aware, gets superficially tangled up in samsara but ultimately cannot be destroyed by any samsaric phenomenon. The citta may be caught up in the vortex of conditioned phenomena, but is not subject to destruction, It is ultimately not beholden to these laws of conditioned existence. The citta is bright, radiant, and deathless, and is its own independent reality.

The fundamental problem that besets human beings, is that they have taken untruth as their true self and unknowingly they allow the wiles and deceits of the mental defilements to generate fear and anxiety in their minds. Fear and anxiety are not inherent within the citta; in fact, the citta is ultimately beyond all such things and indeed is beyond time and space. But it needs to be cleansed of its inner defilements (the kilesas) before that truth can be realised. When the cleansing of defilements is complete, the citta remains, experientially abiding in its own firm foundation, yet ultimately indescribable.

Some of the notions found here are reminiscent of the Tathagatagarbha tradition found in Mahayana Buddhism— although the latter posits an original, primordial purity to the mind, whereas Bua sees that purity as needing to be established through mental and moral cultivation. [Re: Ajahn Maha Bua Wikipedia page: “Some basic teachings on the ‘Citta’”]

Excerpts from a talk by Ajahn Maha Bua, London, June 1974

We are here today to train our minds to be calm and cool. The normal state of the mind is such that it has no Middle Way. It continually tends to go to extremes of thinking and imagining and its moods are in confusion. What the heart (citta) is used to and likes to do, leads it away from what it should be doing. We must therefore make use of the Dhamma principles of the Buddha as a means to train the Citta to be calm — and however much or little one does this will not be without result.

Whoever makes use of any method of meditation, as, for example, paying attention to one’s breath (Ānāpānasati) or the repetition (Parikamma) of “Buddho,” “Dhammo,” or “Sangho,” should have mindfulness to control the Citta. The Citta should not be allowed to wander for if it does, one will not get results and the Citta will not get calm. In the Dhamma it says “Natthi santi param sukham,” which means “there is no happiness greater than peace.” The heart (citta) must be peaceful or calm to attain happiness, so we should try to help it to be calm. The Citta which is not calm will tend to be agitated continually and even when it is asleep it dreams of all sorts of things. If one’s Citta thinks a lot it will create fantastic dreams and talking in one’s sleep, for if one’s sleep is not deep, dreaming will occur, whereas a deep sleep is a sleep without dreams. So, one trains to make the Citta calm down, but whether the Citta becomes calm and to what degree will depend on the ability of each person. If the Citta is very calm, there will be a great deal of happiness and this is the first step of the training.

The value of the mind will then be apparent because there is nothing greater than a quiet mind. I would ask you to try to have your minds steadily overcome the difficulties and laziness, which are usually in control. We believe that we cannot overcome them because we have seen their power, but if we think we are able to challenge them, and if we really do fight them, then the time will arrive when we do overcome them. We still hear of victories in regard to such things as sports and such like, but with regard to Kilesas (defilements) we only hear of giving in to them. Perhaps this is because we fall on our faces before the Kilesas and let them walk all over us.

Citta likes to go wherever it pleases and in whatever the Citta does, it is not afraid of doing wrong, nor is it afraid of danger. If mindfulness does not restrain it, it may stray and go for unchecked pleasure seeking, possessed by Kilesas. But if the Citta is trained and controlled by mindfulness, it will slowly become disciplined and the Kilesas can then be eradicated. When it is accompanied by wisdom (Pañña) which investigates and extracts the Kilesas, the Citta will become clearer and brighter and one will discover the Citta is becoming more and more subtle and it has more strength and power. The Citta can become pure through the practice of meditation, but one cannot understand the Citta merely by reading books, for one can only come to know the real Citta by practicing the way. Then one will gradually come to see the true nature of the Citta a little more each time until one sees it clearly and all doubts vanish. Practice is therefore extremely important if one wants to know the Citta, because one can come to know the real Citta absolutely clearly and eliminate all doubts by means of practice. There is no other way in which one can come to know.


People in England study Buddhism from books. They do not know that there is a Citta and Buddhism is not taught here according to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. The result is that people are led to understand that the Citta is mindfulness and wisdom. I therefore think it necessary for Ven. Paññavaddho to have the Venerable Acharn give us some understanding of the Citta.

Ven Paññavaddho to the Venerable Acharn in Thai:

People here in England understand “Citta” to mean thinking and that the Citta is divided into those forms of the Citta which come from seeing, hearing, & touching; in other words, “consciousness” (Viññāṇa).


That aspect of the Citta which arises when something comes into contact with eyes, ears, nose, etc., and which knows and receives that contact is called “consciousness” (Viññana). It arises and ceases together with that contact. As for the Citta which waits and knows these things, it does not cease together with the consciousness when it ceases, it does not cease even though the body ceases, for it will go on and take rebirth in the future. There is no end to it if the “sap of the heart” which is the Kilesas and Ignorance (Avijja) are still in the heart. But when this “sap” has been removed from the heart, there is an end to continual becoming and birth, as happened with the Buddha and his arahant disciples.

Reference: The Dhamma Teachings of Acariya Maha Boowa in London:


3 thoughts on “the deathless citta

  1. The way Wikipedia describes citta, it still sounds like the Mahayana style “Buddha mind” that is an entity of itself, and unconditioned. However LP Maha Bua’s description seems more clear, defining citta as something which be IN an unconditioned state of samadhi, vs something pure in and of itself. I’m not sure if I’m making the distinction clear or not. Regardless, a great passage!

    • The distinction is clear; Wikipedia has it as borderline kataphatic, whereas LP Maha Bua insists development of the citta depends on the practice of meditation. Although it does not cease with consciousness at death, the citta is not at peace until the Kilesas are removed thus, it will take rebirth in the future. So much could be said about this…

  2. Pingback: the deathless citta — dhamma footsteps – Extreme Middle Way

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