The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Fifty-one Mental Formations

Mental Formations

Currently in class we’ve been studying the Four Establishment of Mindfulness as taught by Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta. We’ve come to the third establishment, which is observing “the mind in the mind”. In our readings and discussion we’ve run across reference to the 51 mental formations. This list of 51 is from the  Abhidharma teaching in the Pali Canon. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about these often when referring to manifestations of the mind or “mental formations”, but he seldom lists them. Jokingly he tells how as a novice he was made to memorize them, but in teaching he doesn’t go into detail about them.

However,  western students seem drawn to know what the list of 51 is. I guess we’re always looking for 12 steps or 7 effective habits to help us itemize and plan the changes in our lives. So as requested by many student of the Yoga Path and all other curious oblates here is the list of 51 mental formations.  It would be worthwhile to hear what insights come of reading and absorbing this list. Please comment.

5 Universals
contact
attention
feeling
perception
volition

5 Particulars
intention
determination
mindfulness
concentration
insight

11 Wholesome
faith
inner shame
shame before others
absence of craving
absence of hatred
absence of ignorance
diligence, energy
tranquility, ease
vigilance, energy
equanimity
non-harming

6 Primary Unwholesome
craving, covetousness
hatred
ignorance/confusion
Arrogance
doubt, suspicion
wrong view

20 Secondary Unwholesome
10 Minor Secondary Unwholesome
anger
resentment, enmity
concealment
maliciousness
jealousy
selfishness, parsimony
deceitful, fraud
guile
desire to harm
pride

2 Middle Secondary unwholesome
lack of inner shame
lack of shame before others

8 Greater Secondary Unwholesome
restlessness
drowsiness
lack of faith, unbelief
laziness
negligence
forgetfulness
distraction
lack of discernment

4 Indeterminate
regret, repentance
sleepiness
initial thought
sustained thought

10 Wholesome
(added by Thich Nhat Hanh)
non-fear
absence of anxiety
stability, solidity
loving kindness
compassion
joy
humility
happiness
feverlessness
freedom/sovereignty

3 Unwholesome
(added by Thich Nhat Hanh)
fear
anxiety
despair

Filed under: Education

One Response

  1. Betty says:

    Loved your commentary on the meditating zombie. Cathy said you were moving to the Pacific site. Sounds exciting. I got a smartphone so now sitting in the vet’s office is easier.

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