Vicikitsā (P. vicikicchā; T. the tshom ཐེ་ཚོམ་; C. yi; J. gi; K. ŭi 疑) is translated as "doubt," "indecision," "indecisive wavering." It is defined as being of two minds about the meaning of the four noble truths; it functions as a basis for not becoming involved with wholesome activities.
Vicikitsa is identified as:
- One of the six root unwholesome mental factors within the Abhidharma-samuccaya of the Sanskrit tradition
- One of the eight indeterminate mental factors within the Abhidharma-kosa of the Sanskrit tradition
- One of the fourteen unwholesome mental factors within the Pali Abhidharma
- One of the five hindrances that impede meditation
- One of the ten fetters in the Theravada tradition
Nina van Gorkom explains:
- The reality of vicikicchā is not the same as what we mean by doubt in conventional language. Vicikicchā is not doubt about someone's name or about the weather. Vicikicchā is doubt about realities, about nāma and rūpa, about cause and result, about the four noble Truths, about the “Dependant Origination”.
The Atthasālinī (II, Part IX, Chapter III, 259) defines vicikicchā as follows:
- ...It has shifting about as characteristic, mental wavering as function, indecision or uncertainty in grasp as manifestation, unsystematic thought (unwise attention) as proximate cause, and it should be regarded as a danger to attainment.
The Khenjuk states:
- Doubt means to be of two minds about the meaning of the [four] truths. Its function is to make one not engage in what is virtuous.
- (Tib. ཐེ་ཚོམ་ནི་བདེན་པའི་དོན་ལ་ཡིད་གཉིས་ཟ་བ་སྟེ། དགེ་བའི་ཕྱོགས་ལ་མི་འཇུག་པའི་ལས་ཅན་ནོ།)
The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:
- What is vicikitsa? It is to be in two minds about the truth, and its function is to serve as a basis for not becoming involved with positive things.
The Necklace of Clear Understanding states:
- Indecision [vicikitsa] is the mental event in which one oscillates between two extremes concerning the four truths and the relationship between one's action and its result. This indecision creates obstacles for everything positive and in particular for the vision of the truth.
- Indecisive wavering (the-tshoms, doubt) is entertaining two minds about what is true – in other words, wavering between accepting or rejecting what is true. What is true refers to such facts as the four noble truths and behavioral cause and effect. Moreover, the wavering may tend more to the side of what is true, more to the side of what is false, or be evenly divided between the two. Indecisive wavering functions as a basis for not engaging with what is constructive.
- [Vicikitsa] is translated as “doubt” or “indecision.” This is the opposite of confidence or trust. If we are not confident, we have doubts. It’s as simple as that. If there’s doubt or indecision, it means there is no confidence. A confident state means a state from which decisive action can occur. If we are not clear about how to proceed, we are indecisive. We have doubts about what is “true.” The truth may be like this or like that; we are not exactly sure. Our mind is not really clear.
- As you may remember, being mentally clear was the term used to talk about confidence. The presence of doubt or indecisiveness functions in such a way that it blocks or prevents us from becoming involved with positive things. It is defined with respect to what is positive. We may have doubts about how to overcome being controlled by upsetting factors, and it may seem that we do not know how to do that. The more we doubt, the more indecisive we are; the more we lack confidence and understanding, the less likely and less capable we are of getting out.
- Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Formations.
- Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. Indecision.
- van Gorkom 1999, Cetasikas, Chapter 20 Sloth (thina), Torpor (middha) and Doubt (vicikiccha)
- Berzin, s.v. Mental factors.
- Goodman 2020, s.v. Doubt.
- Berzin, Alexander (ed.), Primary Minds and the 51 Mental Factors, StudyBuddhism
- Goodman, Steven D. (2020), The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening: An In-Depth Guide to the Abhidharma (Apple Books ed.), Shambhala Publications
- 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
- Mipham Rinpoche (2004), Gateway to Knowledge, vol. I, translated by Kunsang, Erik Pema, Rangjung Yeshe Publications
- van Gorkom, Nina (1999), Cetasikas, Zolog
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