…Firstly, you must not try to understand the nature of the citta from the viewpoint of the khandhas. The citta is the essential and ‘real’ one, the one that does not die and, existing beyond saṁsāra, it cannot be understood from the viewpoint of saṁsāra. Therefore, we cannot say that it ‘is’ or that it ‘is not.’ Nor can we say where it is, or at what time it exists, because all such categories belong to saṁsāra. Nor can we say that the citta goes from life to life, because that is a saṁsāric viewpoint which sees ‘life’ as being of ultimate importance. In fact, the citta, which has no goings or comings, is the truly important one – not this life or that life.
Unfortunately, the citta is permeated with the fundamental delusion of avijjā…
The greatest delusion of the citta is the deluded view that a ‘self’ or a ‘soul’ exists within the five khandhas. The khandhas are actually quite unnecessary to the citta. But because the citta does not know its true nature, it grasps the five khandhas tightly because it is unable to comprehend what its existence would mean without them. Without the five khandhas to cling to, the citta fears that it will vanish into annihilation.
But in truth, the khandhas are a great burden on the citta, because it is by means of the five khandhas that we constantly make the kamma that keeps us wandering aimlessly through saṁsāra. To the Arahants who are free from delusion, however, the five khandhas can be very useful tools for teaching others and helping the world find freedom from suffering. Without the animating principle of the citta, the five khandhas cannot operate – they simply break apart and die.
…The experiences that can arise in the citta are incredible. They are all saṅkhāras which form together like clouds, then break up and disperse. The reasons for their arising are rooted mainly in the past – but it probably needs a Buddha to understand their full extent.
These reflections by Bhikkhu Paññāvaḍḍho are taken from the book, Dear Jane–Wisdom from the Forest for an English Buddhist, letter dated, “November 1972,” (pdf) pp. 360-363.