Macavity wrote:This would be possible according to the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, which treats mindfulness as an ethically variable mental factor, but not according to Theravada Abhidhamma (nor in reality) where sati is invariably a beautiful mental factor and hindrances invariably hinder its arising.
Having spent some time with various secondary sources such as Abhidhamma studies By Nyanaponika Thera and A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma By Anuruddha (Ed Bhikkhu Bodhi), I understand this principle that a hindrance and sati can't arise in the same citta. However, according to Abhidhamma, citta rise and fall extremely fast, so couldn't the hindrance and sati be alternating so fast that there is the illusion of them being contemporaneous?
I often wonder how much we can (or need to) consider individual citta in terms of our experience. Clearly one can be happy or sad for a lot longer than the rise and fall of one citta (seconds, hours, days...!). It seems to me that in normal life the Abdhidhamma description is analogous to the quantum theory of light. I'm sitting in a room with fluorescent lighting and I know that what I'm seeing as white is the reflection of individual red, green, and blue photons from the sheets of paper scattered around my office. Continuing the analogy, I know that a red photon and a green photon can not all be detected (at one particular spot on my retina) at the same time. But the flood of photons. But I see white. I can't see that the light is composed of individual photons of different colours without special equipment.
Now, I can see the utility of the Abhidhamma description to understand some aspects of the mind, but I'm worried that sometimes the effect of the "quantum nature" of the citta is exaggerated. For example, we talk about dependent origination: contact, feeling, craving, ... Is the sequence supposed to be subsequent citta, or long sequences of citta?