The Six Propensities

1. Rāga-carita: a propensity to passion and longing.

2. Dosa-carita: a propensity to irritation and aversion.

3. Moha-carita: a propensity to delusion and superstition.

4. Vitakka-carita: a propensity to excessive thought and worry.

5. Saddhā-carita: a propensity to gullibility and snap judgments.

6. Buddhi-carita: a propensity to curiosity and reasoning things through.

These six propensities are associated with different thoughts and preoccupations—and the truth of the matter is that all of these propensities exist full-blown in the heart of every person. The nature of the mind, as long as it’s still deluded, is to range around in these areas. We differ only in that our minds tend to dwell on particular preoccupations for differing amounts of time. In other words, we focus more strongly on some moods and objects than on others. The mind that tends to dwell on a particular preoccupation often or for long periods of time is said to have a propensity in that direction. Observe yourself when you meditate, and you’ll immediately see for yourself. Sometimes the mind gives rise to desire, sometimes it’s quick-tempered, sometimes it can’t think things through, sometimes its worries get out of hand, sometimes it’s gullible and easily taken in, sometimes its curiosity gets all out of bounds. This being the case, all six propensities come down to one single mind—which, however, takes after differing preoccupations.

This is why different meditators gain Awakening at differing speeds. Their basic propensities differ, so that some awaken quickly, some slowly, and others in between. In this connection, the six propensities come down to three.

1. People who tend toward anger or curiosity are said to excel through discernment (paññādhika). Their minds tend to develop insight meditation more than tranquility meditation, and they gain Awakening quickly. If they reach the stream to nibbāna, they attain the level of ekabījin, destined to be reborn only once more.

2. People who tend toward passion or gullibility are said to excel through conviction (saddhādhika). Their minds tend to develop insight meditation and tranquility meditation in equal measure, and they gain Awakening at moderate speed. If they reach the stream to nibbāna, they attain the level of kolaṅkola, destined to be reborn three or four times more.

3. People who tend toward worry and delusion are said to excel through persistence (viriyādhika). Their minds have to develop a great deal of tranquility before they can develop insight meditation. They gain Awakening slowly, but tend to have a lot of special psychic powers and skills. If they reach the stream, they will be reborn seven more times.

People of different propensities gain Awakening at different rates because they differ in the speed with which they can extract their minds from sensuality. Those who awaken quickly have already developed the perfection of renunciation (nekkhamma) to a high degree; those who awaken at a moderate rate have developed it to a moderate degree; and those who awaken slowly, to a lower degree. (Here we are referring to noble disciples on the level of stream entry.) They have practiced in different ways, or at differing levels of persistence.

But actually, no matter how many propensities there are, the mind is one and has only two basic sorts of preoccupation: good and bad. This being the case, we should classify the meditation exercises into two basic sorts as well, so as to help the mind attain concentration. No matter what propensities differing minds may have, they are all suited to two basic themes.