Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Mental factors

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
(Redirected from Mental factor)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
KwanYin sno.jpg
Black-3d40 wd.jpg
0058768 n.jpg

Mental factors; (Sanskrit: Caitasika; Pali: Cetasika; Tibetan Wylie: sems byung), in Buddhism, are identified within the teachings of the Abhidharma (Buddhist psychology).

mental factors (Skt: chaitasika dharma; Tib: sem-lay jung-wa chö)

Literally arising from the mind, a mental factor, as defined by Vasubandhu, is a secondary aspect of the mind that apprehends a particular quality of the object that the principal consciousness is perceiving. There are traditionally 51 mental factors divided into six groups: five omnipresent factors, five object-determining factors, eleven virtuous factors, six root delusions, twenty secondary delusions and four changeable factors.

They are defined as aspects of the mind that apprehend the quality of an object, and that have the ability to color the mind.

Within the Abhidharma, the mental factors are categorized as formations (Sanskrit: Saṅkhāra) concurrent with mind (Sanskrit:Citta).

Alternate translations for mental factors (Sanskrit: Caitasika) include "mental states", "mental events", and "concomitants of consciousness".


Mental factors are aspects of the mind that apprehend the quality of an object and have the ability to color the mind.

Geshe Tashi Tsering explains:

The Tibetan for mental factors, semlay jungwa chö (Skt. chaitasika dharma), means phenomena arising from the mind, suggesting that the mental factors are not primary to the mind but arise within a larger framework.

A Mental factor, again, is defined as the aspect of the mind that apprehends a particular quality of an object.

Because it is characterized by the qualities of activity and non-neutrality, it has the ability to color the mind in dependence on the way it manifests.

Hence, a feeling of desire from seeing what is conceived as a beautiful object affects the other mental factors that are present at that time, and this colors the whole mind.

The relationship between the main mind (Sanskrit: Citta) and the mental factors can be described by the following metaphors:

In this analogy, we typically do not notice the screen because we are so caught up on the images.

Traleg Rinpoche states that the main distinction between the Mind and Mental Factors is that the mind apprehends an object as a whole, whereas mental factors apprehend an object in its particulars.

Lists of mental factors

Within Buddhism, there are many different systems of Abhidharma (commonly referred to as Buddhist psychology), and each system contains its own list of mental factors.

These lists vary from system to system both in the number of mental factors listed, and in the definitions that are given for each Mental factor.

These lists are not considered to be exhaustive; rather they present significant categories and mental factors that are useful to study in order to understand how the mind functions.


Some of the main commentaries on the Abhidharma systems that studied today include:

Theravāda Abhidharma tradition

Within the Theravāda tradition, the Abhidhammattha-sangaha enumerates the fifty-two mental factors listed below:

Seven universal mental factors

Six occasional mental factors


Fourteen unwholesome mental factors

Four mental factors of the hatred-group (dosa)

Other unwholesome mental factors

Twenty-five beautiful mental factors

Nineteen universal beautiful mental factors (sobhanasādhāraṇa)

Mahayana Abhidharma tradition

Brain-D 300.jpg

Abhidharma studies in the Mahayana tradition are based on the Sanskrit Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma system.

Within this system, the Abhidharma-samuccaya identifies fifty-one mental factors:

Five universal mental factors

The five universal mental factors (sarvatraga) are:

  1. Sparśa - contact, contacting awareness, sense impression, touch
  2. vedanā - feeling, sensation
  3. saṃjñā - perception
  4. cetanā - volition
  5. Manasikara - attention

These five mental factors are referred to as universal or omnipresent because they operate in the wake of every mind situation. If any one of these factors is missing, then the experience of the object is incomplete.

For example:

Five object-determining mental factors

The five object-determining mental factors (viṣayaniyata) are:

  1. chanda - desire (to act), intention, interest
  2. Adhimoksha - decision, interest, firm conviction
  3. smṛti - Mindfulness
  4. prajñā - Wisdom
  5. Samādhi - concentration

The five factors are referred to as object-determining is because these factors each grasp the specification of the object.

When they are steady, there is certainty concerning each object.

Eleven virtuous mental factors

The eleven virtuous mental factors; (kuśala) are:

  1. sraddhā - faith
  2. hrī - self-respect, conscientiousness, sense of shame
  3. Apatrāpya - decorum, regard for consequence
  4. Alobha - non-attachment
  5. Adveṣa - non-aggression, equanimity, lack of hatred
  6. Amoha - non-bewilderment
  7. Vīrya - diligence, effort
  8. Praśrabdhi - pliancy
  9. Apramāda - conscientiousness
  10. upekṣa - equanimity
  11. ahiṃsā - nonharmfulness

Six root unwholesome factors

The six root unwholesome factors (mūlakleśa) are:

  1. raga - attachment
  2. Pratigha - anger
  3. avidya - ignorance
  4. māna - pride, conceit
  5. Vicikitsa - doubt
  6. dṛiṣṭi - wrong view
Ima gffg.jpg

Twenty secondary unwholesome factors

The twenty secondary unwholesome factors (upakleśa) are:

  1. krodha - rage, fury
  2. Upanāha - resentment
  3. Mrakśa - concealment, slyness-concealment
  4. Pradāśa - spitefulness
  5. Irshya - envy, jealousy
  6. mātsarya - stinginess, avarice, miserliness
  7. māyā - pretense, deceit
  8. śāṭhya - hypocrisy, dishonesty
  9. mada - self-infatuation, mental inflation, self-satisfaction
  10. vihiṃsā - malice, hostility, cruelty, intention to harm
  11. āhrīkya - lack of shame, lack of conscience, shamelessness
  12. Anapatrāpya - lack of propriety, disregard, shamelessness
  13. Styāna - lethargy, gloominess
  14. Auddhatya - excitement, ebullience
  15. āśraddhya - lack of faith, lack of trust
  16. Kausīdya - Laziness, slothfulness
  17. Pramāda - heedlessness, carelessness, unconcern
  18. muṣitasmṛtitā - forgetfulness
  19. Asaṃprajanya - non-alertness, inattentiveness
  20. Vikṣepa - distraction, desultoriness

Four changeable mental factors

The four changeable mental factors (aniyata) are:

  1. Kaukṛitya - regret, worry,
  2. Middha - sleep, drowsiness
  3. Vitarka - conception, selectiveness, examination
  4. Vicāra - discernment, discursiveness, analysis

Alternate translations

Alternate translations for the term mental factors (Sanskrit: Caitasika) include:


Wikipedia:Mental factors