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Citta (T. sems; C. xin; J. shim; K. sim) is translated as "mind," "thoughts," etc. It is a general term for the mind or mental processes in Buddhism.

According to Buswell: "Citta is contrasted with the physical body or materiality (rupa), and is synonymous in this context with “name” (nāma), as in the term nāmarūpa. In this sense, citta corresponds to the last four of the five aggregates (skandha), excluding only the first aggregate, of materiality (rupa)..."[1]

Hence, according to Buswell, citta corresponds to the four (mental) aggregates of:

  1. vedana - sensations
  2. saṃjñā - recognition, labels or ideas
  3. saṃskāra - volitional formations (desires, wishes and tendencies)
  4. vijñāna - consciousness

Buswell states:

Citta in this broad sense is synonymous with both mentality (manas) and consciousness (vijñāna): mind is designated as citta because it “builds up” (cinoti) virtuous and nonvirtuous states; as manas, because it calculates and examines; and as vijñāna, because it discriminates among sensory stimuli.[1]

Sanskrit tradition


In the Sanskrit Abhidharma tradition, citta is identified as:

Citta is varied and it piles up

Steven D. Goodman states:

“There are many ways we can talk about citta. Here are two senses. The Indian Buddhist scholar Sthiramati says that chitta can be thought of as quite varied (chitra) in terms of its expression and also, like a feedback loop, its moments of expression are retained and pile up (chinoti). It’s not piling up something that is different from its own nature. This defines what it is; it is “a compiler.” All of the integrational functions (13–18) are compilers. They lock everything in.”[2]

Citta and caitta (mind and mental factors)

Mattia Salvini states:

According to most systems of Abhidharma, every basic citta arises accompanied by a certain number of caittas; the two share the same point of reference (ālambana), and are therefore part of the same basic cognitive instance. For example, when a moment of eye-consciousness arises, it will be accompanied by a certain number of additional mental attitudes, also directed to the very same moment of visible form. What in English we usually call “mind” would probably include both citta and caitta, and it is therefore worth remembering that we restrict its sense to citta only by a conscious, context-bound convention in the translations. Taken together, citta and caitta are included within the broader category of nāma, which thus includes the whole of sentience.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. citta.
  2. Goodman 2020, s.v. Mind (chitta) is varied and it piles up.
  3. Salvini 2015, pp. 29-69.


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