Āhrīkya (P. ahirika; T. ngo tsha med pa; C. wucan) is translated as "lack of shame," "lack of conscience," "lack of self-respect," etc. It is a mental factor which is given distinct definitions in the Pali and Sanskrit Abhidharma traditions. In the Pali tradition, ahirika (Pali) is defined as the absence of disgust at physical or verbal misconduct. In the Sankrit tradition, āhrīkya (Skt.) is defined as not restraining from wrongdoing due to one's own conscious.
Āhrīkya is identified as:
- One of the fourteen unwholesome mental factors within the Pali tradition
- One of the twenty secondary unwholesome factors within the Abhidharma-samuccaya of the Sanskrit tradition
- One of the two major omnipresent unwholesome factors within the Abhidharma-kosa of the Sanskrit tradition
- Herein, it has no conscientious scruples, thus it is consciencelessness (ahirika). It is unashamed, thus it is shamelessness (anottappa). Of these, ahirika has the characteristic of absence of disgust at bodily misconduct, etc., or it has the characteristic of immodesty. Anottappa has the characteristic of absence of dread on their account, or it has the characteristic of absence of anxiety about them...
Nina van Gorkom explains:
- The two cetasikas shamelessness and recklessness seem to be very close in meaning, but they have different characteristics. Shamelessness does not shrink from evil because it is not ashamed of it and does not abhor it. The “Paramattha Mañjūsā” compares it to a domestic pig which does not abhor filth. Defilements (kilesa) are like filth, they are unclean, impure. Shamelessness does not abhor defilements, be it attachment, aversion, ignorance, avarice, jealousy, conceit or any other kind of unwholesomeness.
- As to recklessness, it does not abhor, draw back from evil because it does not see the danger of akusala and it does not fear its consequences such as an unhappy rebirth. The “Paramattha Mañjūsā” compares recklessness to a moth which is attracted to the fire, although this is dangerous for it. Are we enslaved by pleasant experiences? We may even commit evil through body, speech or mind on account of them. Then recklessness does not fear the danger of akusala, it does not care about the consequences of akusala.
Bhikkhu Bodhi states:
- Shamelessness (ahirika) and fearlessness of wrongdoing (anottappa): The characteristic of shamelessness is the absence of disgust at bodily and verbal misconduct; the characteristic of fearlessness of wrongdoing (or moral recklessness) is absence of dread on account of such misconduct. Both have the function of doing evil things. They are manifest as not shrinking shrinking away from evil. Their proximate cause is the lack of respect for self and lack of respect for others, respectively.
The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:
- What is shamelessness (ahrīkya)? It is not restraining oneself by taking one's perversions as one's norm. It is an emotional event associated with passion-lust (raga), aversion-hatred (dvesha), and bewilderment-erring (moha). It aids all basic and proximate emotions.
The Khenjuk states:
- Tib. ངོ་ཚ་མེད་པ་ནི་བདག་རྒྱུ་མཚན་དུ་བྱས་ཏེ་སྡིག་པ་ལ་མི་འཛེམ་པ་དུག་གསུམ་གྱི་ཆར་གཏོགས་པ་ཉོན་མོངས་དང་ཉེ་ཉོན་གྱི་གྲོགས་བྱེད་པའོ།
- Lack of shame means not shunning harmful actions on account of oneself. It belongs to the categories of the three poisons and assists the destructive emotions and subsidiary destructive emotions. (Rigpa Translations)
- Lack of conscience means not shunning evil deeds on account of oneself. It belongs to the category of the three poisons and assists the disturbing emotions and subsidiary disturbing emotions. (Erik Pema Kunsang)
- No moral self-dignity (ngo-tsha med-pa, no sense of honor) is a part of any of the three poisonous emotions. It is the lack of any sense to refrain from destructive behavior because of caring how our actions reflect on ourselves. According to Vasubandhu, this subsidiary awareness means having no sense of values. It is a lack of respect for positive qualities or persons possessing them.
- Lack of self-respect (Steven Goodman)
- Shamelessness (Padmakara, David Karma Choepel, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Herber Guenther)
- Lack of conscience (Gyurme Dorje, Erik Pema Kunsang)
- Lack of sense of shame (Tony Duff)
- Lack of shame (Rigpa wiki)
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Shamelessness (ahirika) and fearlessness of wrongdoing (anottappa).
- Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. Shamelessness (ngo-tsha med-pa).
- Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Lack of consciousneess.
- van Gorkom 1999, Cetasikas, Ignorance, Shamelessness, Recklessness and Restlessness
- Lack of shame
- StudyBuddhism, Primary Minds and the 51 Mental Factors
- Berzin, Alexander (ed.), Primary Minds and the 51 Mental Factors, StudyBuddhism
- Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed. (2000), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti Publishing
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University
- Mipham Rinpoche (2004), Gateway to Knowledge, vol. I, translated by Kunsang, Erik Pema, Rangjung Yeshe Publications
- van Gorkom, Nina (1999), Cetasikas, Zolog
- Yeshe Gyeltsen (1975), Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan's "The Necklace of Clear Understanding", translated by Guenther, Herbert V.; Kawamura, Leslie S., Dharma Publishing
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