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Hetu Paccaya – Condition of Inner Establishments

Hetu Paccaya, often translated as root condition, is too describe the condition of an inner establishment of mental or material phenomena.

There is a twofold classification of roots or inner establishments. The first one is along the line of capabilities. The second one is along the line of wholesome and unwholesome.

The first root, is the mind’s establishment in the matter of the body, and thus the mind’s capacity to look after the body (perhaps one might call it the instinct of self preservation).

The second root, being the mind’s attuning to emotions, it is a certain capacity of the mind to express its contents through emotions and not only through physical actions.

The third root is the mind’s capacity to think constructively along some definite line, independent from sensations or emotions.

In each of such case, apart from the condition of the mind, certain parts of the organism (e.g. the brain or sympathetic nervous system), will also either be established in their proper functioning or not. Which is why it was said, that the condition describes establishment of both mental and material phenomena.


In each case, the inner establishment may be a skilful or ‘good’ one, or an unskillful or ‘bad’ one. Thus, if the first root is established properly, it is seen as a healthy capacity to look after the body, but if it is a ‘wrong’ establishment, it will show forth some aberration, such as overindulgence in food, excessive fear or some such imbalanced condition.

Equally so in regard to the second root. In a ‘good’ or desirable condition, it is the mind’s capacity to express its contents in such a manner, as to bring about a better adaptation to the environment and beings of similar kind. But in a ‘bad’ or undesirable condition, it will show forth as conditions as over emotionality or cruelty, etc.

A ‘good’ establishment in regards to the third root, will show forth as a capacity think along definite lines, to be able to think about past, present and future and to work out intelligent strategies for the problems of life. But if the establishment becomes aberrant, it will lead to excessive worrying, planning out any small detail of life, or thinking along unhealthy (for example morbid) lines.

These three conditions are elaborated on in the Abhidhamma as the various ways consciousness may arise…That is, prompted or unprompted (which relates to the first root), with or without wholesome or unwholesome emotions and with or without understanding.


Classifying the roots (or establishments) along purely ethical lines of wholesome and unwholesome, we find, that, if mind-states of a certain type (wholesome or unwholesome) are repeatedly indulged in or cultivated (that is, they arise with a certain regularity), they become roots. Through that, they acquire a more permanent condition. In modern days, we would call them then either virtues, if wholesome (non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion) or vices, if unwholesome (greed, hatred and delusion). In each case, the establishment is an establishment of consciousness on a certain path of training or on a certain path of habit.

A person whose mind is generally more often rooted in wholesome states (of non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion or self-sufficiency, good-will and wisdom or intelligence), is what is commonly thought of as a good character or virtuous person.

A virtuous person is one, which even in the face of tempting objects will not give in to greed or in the face of unjust treatment will not seek revenge.

A person whose mind is generally rooted in unwholesome states (like greed, hatred and delusion) is what one would usually designate a ‘bad character’ or iniquitous person. Such person, in whom the unwholesome roots are established, may seek to acquire things unrighteously, even when they are not in proximity to him or he may hurt other beings, experiencing a certain sense of pleasure therein.

Along the line of mental processing, in the three rooted person, who is a definitely virtuous person, after receiving through the senses either a very attractive object or a very repulsive object, if it is only a short instance of conscious processing, wherein the process lapses immediately into the latent mind again, there will still (in spite of the attractiveness or repulsiveness) only manifest wholesome mind-states in the following vibrating mind. And if the process runs further and the person would investigate, classify and think about the object, he would think about it in a definitely intelligent manner and equally untinged by greed or hatred.

For a definitely vicious person (in whom the three roots of greed, hatred and delusion are established), a short mental process of just receiving an impression, if the impression would be an agreeable one, would be followed by a vibrating resultant mind, that is responding with greed and delusion. If the impression is a disagreeable one, it would be followed by aversion. In the case of long mental processes including kamma producing thought, the thought processes itself, equally will be tinged by greed for, or aversion towards the object.

The roots are supported by birth but are not entirely dependent on it. Thus a persons actions (mental, verbal or physical) will strengthen or weaken particular roots throughout life or may generate new seeds from which will sprout wholesome or unwholesome roots (virtues or vices) in the future.


Footnote:For further clarification regarding this condition, see the blog on Conscience and Intuition.

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