Word of the Buddha
We are on page 42, the two extremes (Annihilation and Eternity Belief) and the Middle Doctrine. “Truly, if one holds in that the vital principle (jÊva; ‘Soul’) is identical with this body, in that case a holy life is not possible; and if one holds the view that the vital principle is something quite different from the body, in that case also a holy life is not possible. Both these two extremes the Perfect One has avoided and he has shown the Middle Doctrine.”
So today we come to Dependent Origination. But first there are two extremes here. One is the annihilationist view and the other is eternity view or belief. So the first one - “if one holds the view, that the vital principle is identical with this body” - the body and what is called ‘jÊva’ in PÈÄi (life or as it is translated here life principle or vital principle) are identical. That means life does not go on after death because body and life are the same. So when the body disintegrates at death, then also the life ceases to be and there is no more life to come. That is why the view that the vital principle is identical with the body is just the annihilationist view. According to this view there is only one life, no future life. At the end of life everything disappears and that is all there is to it.
“In that case a holy life is not possible.” ‘Holy life’ really means Path (Magga), the life of Path. The life of Path is cut the round of rebirths. When one gets to the stage of Path, then one cuts the round of rebirth. When a person reaches the first stage, then he can cut the round of rebirths after seven lives and so on. If vital principle and body are the same or identical, and so with the disappearance of the body the life principle also disappears. Then there is no point in trying to cut the round of rebirths. That is why it is said that a holy life is not possible in that case. There is nothing to do. Life will become extinct or life will be cut off at death. And so you don’t have to do anything to cut the round of rebirths. So in that case the holy life is not possible.
“If one holds the view that the vital principle is something quite different from the body” - that means vital principle is one thing and the body is another. That means after the death of the body, life goes on. Life principle or soul goes on to the next and then to the next and so on. This is the eternity view. The soul or self is eternal and the body is not eternal. The body dies at death. After death the soul goes on to other lives.
“In that case also a holy life is not possible.” That is because if you take things to be permanent, then there can be no trying to cut this off. There is no striving to cut this off because this person believes things are permanent. So saÑsÈra or the round of rebirth is also permanent for him. If it is permanent, there is no point in cutting it off or there is no cutting off of this permanent thing. “In that case too a holy life is not possible.” These are the two extremes the Buddha avoided.
Then he showed us the Middle Way or the Middle Doctrine. Buddha did not believe in the view that everything dies at the moment of death and then there is nothing more. Nor did he believe in the other view that there is something everlasting or eternal and that eternal thing goes on and on discarding body after body. So Buddha did not take either of these two views, but he has shown us the Middle Doctrine which is the Dependent Origination (PaÔicca SamuppÈda).
Today we will study Dependent Origination, not too much in detail, but a little in detail. The first thing we must understand is the word itself, ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’. At first reading ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ simply means ‘Dependent Origination’. ‘PaÔicca’ means ‘having depended upon’. ‘SamuppÈda’ means ‘arising together’. So we get ‘arising together having depended upon’.
The Commentaries have different ways of explaining these words. The Visuddhi Magga as well as its Commentary, the Sub-commentary, gives us other meanings. Sometimes if you are very familiar with the language, then you can give different kinds of explanations for one and the same word. I think that makes us a little confused. Sometimes we are not sure which one to take as correct.
The word ‘paÔicca’ is explained to mean ‘something worthy of penetration’ or ‘something worthy to be penetrated, to be known’. So ‘paÔicca’ means ‘something fit to be known’ or ‘something worthy to be known’. ‘SamuppÈda’ means ‘that which arises together and which arises rightly’. Now in the word ‘samuppÈda’, you will find ‘sam’. That ‘sam’ is interpreted to have two meanings. One meaning is together. ‘Together’ means with other states, not this only, but with other states. The other meaning is correctly or rightly. That means with conditions and not without conditions. In this case ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ means a group of states which arise together and rightly, which is worthy to be penetrated or which is worthy to be known. This is one meaning. According to this meaning, ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ means the conditioned states or the results, not the causes.
The second meaning given in the Visuddhi Magga is: the group of states which depending upon the convergence of conditions arise together. You will find different words in The Path of Purification. The word ‘paÔicca’ is explained to mean ‘having depended upon’. Then ‘samuppÈda’ means ‘that which arises together’. ‘which arises together’ means ‘which arises together on some condition’. You know there are many conditions for something to arise. There is PaÔicca SamuppÈda. Also in Buddha’s teachings there is no saying that there is only one cause and one result. So there is multiplicity of causes and multiplicity of results. That is what Buddha taught or what the teachers understand in Buddhism. A group of states which depending upon the convergence of conditions arise together. According to this meaning also ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ means the conditioned states, states that are conditioned.
But in fact, ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ must mean the causes, the conditions, and not the conditioned states, but the states that are conditioning. The Commentary explains that here there is something like a figure of speech. Although literally the word means the results, it is here made to mean the causes. So the word ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ means ignorance, mental formations and so on, the conditions or the causes.
In the Dhammapada it is said that the appearance of a Buddha is happiness. There the appearance of a Buddha is not happiness, but a condition for happiness, a cause of happiness. But the Buddha just said that the appearance of a Buddha is happiness. In the same way here the word ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’ we should understand literally means ‘conditioned states’. The Commentaries or Commentators tell us that we must understand the conditioning states by the word ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’. For the conditioned states there is another word ‘PaÔicca SamuppÈda’. If we mean the teaching or the doctrine by PaÔicca SamuppÈda, we just say Dependent Origination.
What about the translation ‘Dependent Co-Arising’? What do you think about that? In the word ‘samuppÈda’, ‘sam’ can mean ‘together’, so ‘arising together’. So some people translate it as Dependent Co-Arising.
Student: It makes it sound like chemistry or like baking. You add a little flour, a little yeast. It doesn’t seem quite as sequential. It seems more cooperative.
Teacher: I am a little reluctant to use the word ‘co-arising’ because it may mean co-arising of cause and effect both. But what ‘arising together’ means here is not arising alone, whether it is a cause or effect because there is no one cause or one effect arising at a given moment. So ‘co-arising’ may mean both cause and effect or the conditioning state and the conditioned state arising together. In some cases it is correct, but in others it is not. ‘Some cases’ means in some links of the Dependent Origination.
For example, if you look at the chart on page 46, there is #2 kamma formations and #3 consciousness. The link between kamma formations and consciousness is a real cause and effect relationship. ‘Kamma formations’ just means kamma. And ‘consciousness’ means relinking consciousness, the rebirth consciousness. Here kamma formations and consciousness do not arise together. They do not co-arise. But #3 consciousness and #4 mental and physical existence do arise together. There it is co-arising. In other links it is not co-arising. So I think we should stick with Dependent Origination or Dependent Arising rather than Co-Arising although in the word ‘samuppÈda’, ‘sam’ means together.
According to this doctrine everything is relative. Everything has to depend upon some conditions to arise. The following is the formula for the Dependent Origination (PaÔicca SamuppÈda). In Sanskrit you will find PrÈtitya SamutpÈda. It is the same thing.
“On Ignorance (avijjÈ) depend the ‘Kamma Formations’ (sa~khÈra).” This is the first link. So there is ignorance; there are kamma formations. They are related as cause and effect or conditioning and conditioned states. On ignorance depend the kamma formations. ‘Kamma formations’ just means wholesome and unwholesome kamma. Because we have ignorance we do not see things as they really are. We acquire good or bad kamma. Sometimes we acquire good kamma and sometimes bad kamma. The good and bad kamma are here called ‘sa~khÈra’ (kamma formations). Kamma formations are divided into three - meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable. But they just mean kusala and akusala kamma. We will come to that later. On ignorance depend kamma formations.
“On Kamma Formations depends ‘Consciousness’ (viÒÒÈÓa starting with rebirth consciousness in the womb of the mother).” I think ‘in the womb of the mother’ is too narrow. It means only for human beings and some animals and not for devas and BrÈhmas. We should just say ‘starting with rebirth consciousness’. ‘ViÒÒÈÓa’ here means resultant consciousness, not rebirth consciousness only. That is very important. I have struck out ‘rebirth’ in the chart. Right? It is not rebirth consciousness only, but resultant consciousness including rebirth consciousness. That is why it is said in the book, The Word of the Buddha, ‘starting with rebirth consciousness’. The first consciousness that arises in a given life is rebirth consciousness. After that, after a person is born, when he sees something, there is seeing consciousness. When he hears something, there is hearing consciousness. These are all resultant consciousness. All resultant consciousnesses are meant by the word ‘viÒÒÈÓa’ here. It is not rebirth consciousness only. On kamma formations depends consciousness.
“On Consciousness depends the ‘Mental and Physical Existence’ (nÈma and r|pa).” Since it is said that on consciousness nÈma and r|pa depend, nÈma cannot be consciousness here. NÈma cannot be citta here. Here by nÈma we must understand cetasikas or the other three mental aggregates (aggregate of feeling, aggregate of perception, aggregate of mental formations). Physical existence - that is r|pa.
Student: In other word viÒÒÈÓa is a synonym for citta?
Teacher: Yes. But here ‘viÒÒÈÓa’ does not mean all types of citta; it means only the resultant types of cittas. ‘NÈma’ here means the cetasikas and ‘r|pa’ means r|pa.
“On the Mental and Physical Existence depend the ‘Six Sense Organs’ (saÄÈyatana).” When there is nÈma and r|pa, there are these six sense organs. We have the physical body. When we have the physical body, we have the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body with which we experience touch. And then there is the mind. These six are called ‘the six sense organs’. The PÈÄi word is saÄÈyatana. ‘SaÄ’ means ‘six’. ‘Œyatana’ means ‘base’. Translating Èyatana as base is not so good, but it is literal. Six sense organs is, I think, good.
“On the Six Sense Organs depends ‘Sensorial Impression’ (phassa).” ‘Sensorial impression’ means contact, contact of nÈma and object. When you see something, the visible object and the eye sensitivity, when these two come together, that is when the visible object comes into the avenue of the eye, and so there is the visible object and there is the eye. When the visible object comes into the avenue of eye sensitivity, there is seeing consciousness. When these three arise, there is also sensorial impression (phassa). Phassa or contact is not just the coming together of these three (visible object, the eye and consciousness). Because of the coming together of these three there arises phassa (contact). It is like when you strike a match, the fire is produced. It is not just coming together. Because of their coming together something arises. That is called ‘phassa’. Phassa is one of the mental states, mental factors. In our list phassa is the first. Contact is the first of the 52 mental factors.
“On Sensorial Impression depends ‘Feeling’ (vedanÈ).” When there is phassa, there is feeling (vedanÈ). ‘Feeling’ here means feeling in the mind.
Student: I thought feeling and perceptions were part of nÈma.
Teacher: Phassa is also nÈma.
Student: I’m confused. It seems that feeling is the seventh factor in the sequence and yet in #4 you said nÈma included feeling and perception.
Teacher: Yes. Their relationship there is arising together and supporting each other.
Student: So nÈma, saÄÈyatana, phassa, and feeling, all co-arise simultaneously or dependently.
Teacher: Yes. Simultaneously. Then they support each other. “On Feeling depends ‘Craving’ (taÓhÈ).” When there is feeling, there can be craving. Whether the feeling is pleasant or unpleasant, there is always craving if we do not watch. When there is a good feeling, we are attached to it. When there is a painful feeling, we long for a good feeling, a pleasurable feeling. So there is always craving when there is feeling.
“On Craving depends ‘Clinging’ (upÈdÈna).” Craving and clinging are actually two phases of the same state, that is attachment. Craving is a weaker form of attachment. Clinging is a stronger form of attachment. At the stage of craving you may be able to let go, but when you reach the stage of clinging, you cannot let go. This the difference. It is a difference in intensity, difference in degree. Actually they mean the same thing. Among the 52 cetasikas it is lobha.
Student: Is there a connection between uppÈdÈ and upÈdÈna?
Teacher: No. Both words do come from the same root. ‘UppÈda’ means ‘depending upon’. ‘UpÈdÈna’ means ‘firmly grasping’, ‘firmly taking hold’. ‘Upa’ here means ‘firmly’. ‘ŒdÈna’ means ‘taking hold’. So we get ‘firmly taking hold’. There ‘upÈda’ means just ‘depending upon’. So ‘upÈdÈr|pa’ means ‘material properties depending upon the four primary elements’. They are called ‘upÈdÈr|pa’. Here we have upÈdÈna - those states which grasp or which cling to things strongly. On craving depends clinging. Craving and clinging are compared to a snake taking a frog. Once the frog is in the mouth of the snake, it cannot go out again and the snake will not let it go.
“On Clinging depends the ‘Process of Becoming’ (bhava).” The process of becoming or bhava we must understand that it has two varieties. One is kamma-bhava. You will see the word ‘kamma-bhava’ later. Bhava is divided into kamma-bhava and upapatti-bhava. There are two kinds of bhava here that we must understand. ‘Kamma-bhava’ just means ‘kamma’. It is the same as sa~khÈra, the second link, the kamma formations. ‘Upapatti-bhava’ means the next one, jÈti. ‘Upapatti-bhava’ means just ‘rebirth’. Here ‘bhava’ can mean both ‘kamma-bhava’ and ‘upapatti-bhava’ because when there is clinging, there is kamma. And as a result of kamma, there is rebirth. Both good and bad kamma, and rebirth can be said to be the result of clinging. In this link from clinging to bhava we can take both kinds of bhava.
But in the next link - “On the Process of Becoming depends ‘Rebirth’ (jÈti)” - we take only kamma-bhava because rebirth is simply upapatti-bhava. So rebirth cannot be the condition for rebirth itself. So in this link ‘bhava’ means ‘kamma-bhava’. In the former link ‘bhava’ means both ‘kamma-bhava’ and ‘upapatti-bhava’ or both kamma and rebirth. But here ‘bhava’ means just ‘kamma’.
Student: You said the former link, but you mean the subsequent link.
Teacher: JÈti is the same as rebirth. So jÈti is upapatti-bhava, the same thing.
Student: So bhava in #10 is both kamma-bhava and upapatti-bhava.
Teacher: With regard to the relation between #9 and #10, #10 is both kamma-bhava and upapatti-bhava. With regard to the relation between #10 and #11, #10 is only kamma-bhava. That is the difference. Between #9 and #10, #10 can be both kamma-bhava and upapatti-bhava. Between #10 and #11, #10 is only kamma-bhava because birth (jÈti) itself is upapatti-bhava.
“On the Process of Becoming (here: kamma-bhava, or kamma process) depends ‘Rebirth’ (jÈti). On Rebirth depend ‘Decay and Death’ (jarÈ-maraÓa), sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair.” Here decay and death are put into one compound. Then sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are described as another compound. There are two compound words here - decay and death, and then sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Decay and death are the inevitable results of rebirth. When there is rebirth, there is always decay and death. But there may not be sorrow, lamentation and so on although there is rebirth. That is because in the Brahma worlds there can be no lamentation, no pain and so on. Sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are the results of rebirth, but not the inevitable results of rebirth. That is why they are separated actually. On rebirth depend decay and death, and sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. In PÈÄi it is said jÈti-paccayÈ jarÈ-maraÓam, one compound, and then soka-parideva-dukkha-domanass’upÈyÈsÈ sambhavanti, another compound. They are separated. That is to show that decay and death are the inevitable results of rebirth, but sorrow, lamentation, and others may or may not arise as a result of rebirth. “This is called ‘The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering’.” This is the Doctrine of Dependent Origination. If you want to understand more, a little more fully, please read The Buddhist Dictionary under the word ‘PaÔicca-SamuppÈda’. It is explained there is some detail. If you want to understand in more detail, go to the Visuddhi Magga. It is very difficult. I think you should at least read The Buddhist Dictionary.
Student: Why does it say physical existence depends on consciousness? I can understand how mental existence depends on consciousness, but how does physical existence depend on consciousness? How does a physical thing depend on consciousness?
Teacher: In order to understand this you have to understand the 24 modes of relationship (paÔÔhÈna). When mind and matter arise together, then they are related by way of non-association. That is why it is important to study Dependent Origination with reference to paÔÔhÈna conditions. If we do not study with reference to paÔÔhÈna conditions, we cannot understand Dependent Origination fully. Sometimes they arise together and one is called a ‘condition’ and the other is called ‘conditioned’. That is because although they arise together, one is dependent upon the other or they are interdependent. Here mind is dependent upon matter, and matter is dependent on mind. That is why we have to understand with reference to paÔÔhÈna. In The Buddhist Dictionary the 24 conditions are also explained in the article on PaÔicca-SamuppÈda. If you have the book, I must ask you to read that article.
Student: Bhante, what is the technical definition of r|pa?
Teacher: R|pa is that which changes actually. In Venerable ©ÈÓamoli’s book it says that r|pa is that which is oppressed or something, but actually even in the Suttas the Buddha said: “Ruppati r|paÑ.” ‘Ruppati’ means ‘changes’. So something that changes is called ‘r|pa’. Here ‘change’ means more evident change. Mind also changes at every moment, but the change of material things we can see.
Student: A rock is r|pa?
Student: But that has no nÈma.
Student: So is that r|pa of the rock included in Dependent Origination?
Teacher: No. Dependent Origination is for living beings only. “This is called ‘The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering.”
“No god, no BrÈhma, can be called
The maker of this wheel of life:
Empty phenomena roll on,
Dependent on conditions all.”
This is from the Visuddhi Magga. Dependent Origination shows that things arise conditioned by some other things. And so our life or everything in this life is not created by, not made by a god, or a BrÈhma, or whatever. Empty phenomena arise and disappear dependent upon conditions. You know if you accept the cause-effect relationship of things, then you know that there can be no beginning. There can be no first cause because that also must have been caused by something else. So it goes on and on ad infinitum.
“A disciple, however, in whom Ignorance (avijjÈ) has disappeared and wisdom arisen, such a disciple heaps up neither meritorious, nor demeritorious, nor imperturbable Kamma Formations.” ‘Meritorious kamma formations’ means kusala (kÈmÈvacara kusala and r|pÈvacara kusala). ‘Demeritorious kamma formations’ means akusala. ‘Imperturbable kamma formations’ means ar|pÈvacara kusala. So kamma formations are here divided into three - meritorious (kÈmÈvacara and r|pÈvacara kusala), demeritorious (akusala), and imperturbable (ar|pÈvacara kusala).
“The term sa~khÈra has been rendered here by ‘kamma formations’ because, in the context of the Dependent Origination, it refers to kammically wholesome and unwholesome volition (cetanÈ), or volitional activity, in short, kamma.”
“The threefold division of it, given in the preceding passage, comprises kammic activity in all spheres of existence, or planes of consciousness. The ‘meritorious kamma formations’ extend also to the Fine Material Sphere (r|pÈvacara), while the ‘imperturbable kamma formations’ (aneÒjÈbhisa~khÈra) refer only to the Immaterial Sphere (ar|pÈvacara).” This is the Doctrine of Arising.
Now comes the Doctrine of Disappearing. “Thus, through the entire fading away and extinction of this ‘Ignorance, the ‘Kamma Formations’ are extinguished. Through the extinction of Kamma Formations, ‘Consciousness’ (rebirth) is exhausted. Through the extinction of Consciousness, the ‘Mental and Physical Existence’ is extinguished” and so on. This is called ‘the reverse Order of Dependent Origination’. When there is ignorance, there are kamma formations. When there are kamma formations, there is consciousness. When there is no ignorance, there are no kamma formations. When there are no kamma formations, there is no consciousness.
The Doctrine of Dependent Origination in brief is stated: “When there is this, there is that. When there is not this, there is not that.”
This is called ‘The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering’. Dependent Origination includes the extinction also. Therefore it is said in this book that Dependent Origination has to do with the Second Noble Truth and the Third Noble Truth. We will come to that later.
“Truly, because beings, obstructed by ignorance (avijjÈ) and ensnared by craving (taÓhÈ) seek ever fresh delight now here, now there, therefore fresh rebirth continually comes to be.” So beings have not yet eradicated ignorance and craving. When there is ignorance and craving - “seeking ever fresh delight, now here, now there” - we are attached to this and we are attached to that. “Fresh rebirth continually comes to be.”
“And the action (kamma) that is done out of greed, hatred and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha), that springs from them, has its source and origin in them: this action ripens wherever one is reborn, and wherever this action ripens, there one experiences the fruits of this action, be it in this life, or the next life, or in any other (not ‘some’) future life.” ‘In some future life’ is not accurate. It should be ‘in any other future live’. That means in any future life excluding the next life. There are three spheres of giving results by kamma - this life, the next life, and the following lives. So it may be in this life, or in the next life, or in other lives.
“However, through the fading away of ignorance, through the arising of wisdom, through the extinction of craving, no future rebirth takes place again.” When there is no craving, there can be no grasping or clinging. When there is no clinging, there is no kamma-bhava. When there is no kamma-bhava, there is no rebirth or upapatti-bhava. With the extinction of craving, rebirth does not come to be.
“For the actions which are not done out of greed, hatred and delusion, which have not sprung from them, which have not their source and origin in them: such actions, through the absence of greed, hatred and delusion, are abandoned, rooted out, like a palm-tree torn out of the soil, destroyed, and not able to spring up again.” So when there are no greed, hatred and delusion, there can be no kamma. When there is no kamma, there can be no results of kamma. “Such actions, through the absence of greed, hatred and delusion are abandoned, rooted out” and so on. These actions just become functional for the Arahants and Buddhas. Arahants and Buddhas are those who have abandoned greed, hatred and delusion all together. Whatever they do, whatever arises in their minds doing something good, does not amount to becoming kamma.
Student: Former kamma still exists?
Teacher: Former kamma can still give results to them.
Student: So they can be reborn.
Teacher: No. No. They will not be reborn. ‘Results’ here means results to be experienced in this life. Let us say that a person becomes an Arahant. Until he dies he is liable to the consequences of his past kamma.
Student: but it says here that the consequences can be experience in other lives not only the next one.
Teacher: If a person is going to be reborn again, he will suffer the consequences of his past kamma. Since he is not going to be reborn again - I always give the example of a criminal going out of the state. When you cross the border into another state, the police from this state cannot do anything to you. It is something like that.
That is what happened with AngulimÈla. He
killed many people, but he became an
Arahant. So he suffered a little after becoming an Arahant, but he did not suffer the great bad results. One day after becoming a monk, his head was wounded because somebody threw a stone and it hit him. The Buddha said to him that the consequences of his kamma were beginning to give results in this life.
Student: Some teachers have said that PaÔicca SamuppÈda can be interpreted not only over the span of three lifetimes but may be seen in a microscopic manner in this life, observing consciousness in meditation or everyday life.
Teacher: In this one life?
Student: Yes. But this is not in the classical Commentaries?
Teacher: No. It would be very difficult to explain the relationship between #2 (sa~khÈra) and #3 (viÒÒÈÓa) and then #10 (kamma-bhava) and #11 (upapatti-bhava) if we take only this life. Here in this country too, there are people who say there is no support in the Suttas to say that PaÔicca SamuppÈda comprises three lives. They take it to mean one life, in this life only. If we take it that way, these links would be very difficult to explain kamma formations and consciousness and then bhava process and rebirth.
So according to these people everything has to be explained with reference to this life only. ‘Rebirth’ does not mean being reborn in another life, but at every moment there is the arising of mind and matter. They may call this rebirth.
Student: I think that is in fact what they are explaining.
Teacher: “In this respect one may rightly say of me: that I teach annihilation, that I propound my doctrine for the purpose of annihilation, and that I herein train my disciples; for certainly I do teach annihilation - the annihilation, namely, of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as of the manifold evil and unwholesome things.” Sometimes the Buddha met people of other faiths and they accused the Buddha of being an annihilationist. So the Buddha explained: “Yes, I am an annihilationist because I teach the annihilation of greed, hatred and delusion.”
“The PaÔicca SamuppÈda, literally the Dependent Origination, is the doctrine of the conditionality of all physical and mental phenomena, a doctrine which, together with that of Impersonality (anatta), forms the indispensable condition for the real understanding and realization of the Buddha’s teaching. It shows that the various physical and mental life-processes, conventionally called personality, man, animal, etc., are not a mere play of blind chance, but the outcome of causes and conditions. Above all, the PaÔicca SamuppÈda explains how the arising of rebirth and suffering is dependent upon conditions; and, in its second part, it shows how, through the removal of these conditions, all suffering must disappear. Hence, the PaÔicca SamuppÈda serves to elucidate the Second and Third Noble Truths, by explaining them from their very foundations upwards, and giving them a fixed philosophical form.”
So there is PaÔicca SamuppÈda in the normal order and in the reverse order. The normal order explains the Second Noble Truth and the reverse order explains the Third Noble Truth.
Let us look at the chart. “The following diagram shows at a glance how the twelve links of the formula extend over three consecutive existences - past, present and future. Ignorance and kamma formations belong to the past existence. #3 through #10 belong to the present existence. #11 and #12 belong to the future existence. That does not mean that we do not have ignorance and kamma formations. But if we take ignorance and kamma formations in this life, the consciousness and others will be in the next life and then rebirth (jÈti) will be in another next life. So any way we look at it, there are three consecutive existences.
Kamma formations cause consciousness. ‘Consciousness’ is interpreted here as resultant consciousness, not all types of consciousness. Mental and physical existence is nÈma and r|pa. #5 is the six sense organs. #6 is sense impressions or phassa. #7 is feeling. Then there is #8 craving (taÓhÈ), #9 clinging (upÈdÈna) and #10 process of existence (bhava). As I said #10 can be either kamma-bhava or upapatti-bhava. In its relation to #11, it is only kamma-bhava. #11 is rebirth (jÈti) and #12 is decay and death (jarÈ-maraÓa).
“The links 1-2, together with 8-10, represent the Kamma Process, containing the five kammic causes of rebirth.” So when we take ignorance and kamma formations, we also take craving, clinging and bhava. So there are five kammic causes of rebirth.
“The links 3-7, together with 11-12, represent the Rebirth Process, containing the five Kamma Results.” They are the results. #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 are results of #1, #2, #8, #9, #10. When we say rebirth (#11), we mean #3, #4, #5, #6, #7. They are the same.
We have five causes in the past. We have five fruits in the present life. We have five causes in the present life. We will have five fruits in the future life. There are all together twenty of them. ‘Twenty’ means when we take #1 and #2, we also take #8, #9 and #10. They are the causes in the past. #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 are the results in the present life. #8, #9, #10, and #1 and #2 are causes in the present. #11, #12 = #3, #4, #5, #6, #7. They are results in the future.
Please look at the chart. This is the wheel of life. So we begin with avijjÈ (ignorance). Next is sa~khÈra. Sa~khÈra is translated as ‘activities’, but we should understand it as kamma formations. Then there is consciousness, mind and matter, and so on.
There are three connections. We should understand these three connections. The first connection is between #2 and #3. The second connection is between #7 and #8. The third connection is between #10 and #11. That is because #1 and #2 belong to the past and #3 - #7 belong to the present results. Then #8, #9, and #10 belong to the present cause and #11 and #12 belong to future results. So there are three connections.
Among these three connections it is the second connection that we can break. The other connections we cannot do anything about them. When there are sa~khÈras, there will be viÒÒÈÓa (consciousness). We cannot stop that. If there are sa~khÈras, there will be viÒÒÈÓa. We cannot do anything about that. But for the connection between #7 and #8 we can do something. If we can apply mindfulness so that we do not get craving (taÓhÈ), then the wheel of PaÔicca SamuppÈda is broken here. It is the only place where we can break the wheel of PaÔicca SamuppÈda. When you practice meditation and pay attention with mindfulness, then you are breaking this wheel of existence. It is the only place where we may tamper with the wheel of existence. It is to break this that we have to be applying mindfulness to whatever object we come into contact with. There will always be vedanÈ (feeling). It may be pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling, or neutral feeling, but there will always be vedanÈ. We cannot avoid feeling. But we can stop or we can do something so that we do not have craving depending upon feeling. Let us say we have pleasant feeling, but we will not have craving for this feeling if we apply mindfulness. If we do not apply mindfulness, if we forget to apply mindfulness, then we will surely have craving for the feeling. So the second connection is the only place where we can break the wheel of existence. It is to break this wheel of existence at this place that when we meditate, we apply mindfulness. When we apply mindfulness and see things as they are, there is no chance for craving to arise.
Student: Bhante, avijjÈ is the same as moha?
Student: And upÈdÈna and taÓhÈ are the same as lobha?
Teacher: Wait a minute. UpÈdÈna is not lobha only. DiÔÔhi is also upÈdÈna. DiÔÔhi is wrong view.
Student: Dosa does not show up.
Teacher: Dosa is not mentioned by name here, right. Yes.
Student: When you talked about the groups of five on the other chart, they add up nicely. Why are there seven in the last group?
Teacher: #11 and #12 are the same as #3 - #7. They are not to be added. There should be an = sign. #11 and #12 = #3 - #7. That is because birth, decay and death are nothing but viÒÒÈÓa, nÈma-r|pa, saÄÈyatana, phassa and vedanÈ.
Student: So these are truly co-arising.
Teacher: No. The same thing is given two names. They are equivalent. Birth, decay and death equal consciousness and so on. #3 - #7 are the result of past kamma, actually #2. Our present life is #3, #4, #5, #6, #7. That is our life as a result.
When we take ignorance (#1), we also take what? #8 and #9. There is a line going here on the second chart. So from #1 you go to #8 and #9. That is because they belong to the same vatta, the round of passion (kilesa vatta). The line for #2 goes to #10. So when we take ignorance (avijjÈ), we also take craving (taÓhÈ) and attachment (upÈdÈna). When we take sa~khÈra (#2), we also take bhava (#10). When we say that #1 and #2 are causes in the past, we are virtually saying that #1, #2, #8, #9, #10 are causes in the past. When we say that #8, #9, #10 are causes in the present, we virtually mean that #8, #9, #10, #1, #2 are causes in the present. They belong to the same round or same vatta. Ignorance belongs to kilesa vatta and sa~khÈra belongs to kamma vatta. There are kilesa vatta, kamma vatta, and vipÈka vatta (or consequences). When we take #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, we mean also #11 and #12. They belong to the vipÈka vatta or to consequences. That is why although there are only twelve links, we get twenty causes and results - five causes in the past, five results in the present, five causes in the present, and five results in the future.
Student: When does rebirth take place and when does death take place?
Teacher: How should I say? It may be going round. At the beginning of this life is rebirth, that is at the moment of conception. According to Buddhist Abhidhamma, life begins at conception. Even though it is a fetus, only one week old or two weeks old, we take it as a living being.
Student: So the PaÔicca SamuppÈda deals with only those things that have mind.
Teacher: It is to be understood with regard to living beings and not outside things. Death takes place at the end of one’s life. Death is easier to understand. ‘Rebirth’ means not birth at the moment of delivery from the mother, but birth at the moment of conception.
Student: Is there a classical definition of when the moment of death is? The stopping of the heart, the stopping of the breath -
Teacher: Yes. Let me see. Life principle, heat of the body and mind. When these three disappear, a person is said to be dead. There is Èyu which is the same as jÊvita. There is usmÈ. That is heat in the body. When a person dies, he becomes cold. So heat in the body is one constituent of life. And then there is viÒÒÈÓa. There are Èyu, usmÈ and viÒÒÈÓa. When these three desert the body, then people are said to be dead.
Student: What is the life principle?
Teacher: It is a material property as well as a mental factor which keeps the material and mental factors alive. It is called ‘life principle’. According to Abhidhamma this life principle can be found in living beings only and not in plants or trees. That is why according to Abhidhamma plants and trees are not living beings.
Student: Is that the only cetasika that is simultaneously a mental and physical phenomenon?
Teacher: Oh no. Cetasika is mental, not physical. There are two kinds of life principle. There are the cetasika life principle and the r|pa life principle. Among the 28 r|pa life principle is one. Among the 52 cetasikas life principle is one.
Student: But they are not the same.
Teacher: They are not the same although they are given the same name. There is life of mental states and life of physical things.
Student: I still have a hard time grasping that life ends at this moment and rebirth begins at the next moment. How does it happen?
Teacher: According to Abhidhamma immediately after death, there is rebirth. You may be reborn in the deva world millions of miles away. With regard to time there is no gap between death in this life and rebirth in the next life. Now, what is rebirth? ‘Rebirth’ means rebirth consciousness and material properties. If you are going to get a human rebirth, at the very moment of rebirth there is the rebirth consciousness, mental factors and thirty types of material properties. What is called technically ‘rebirth’ is these three - rebirth consciousness, cetasikas going along with it, material properties caused by kamma. Rebirth consciousness itself also is caused by kamma.
We did something in the past. Let us say we did meritorious deeds in the past. As a result of that good kamma (kusala kamma), rebirth arises here. So rebirth actually is not connected with death in the previous life. People want to say that rebirth in next life is conditioned by death in this life. That is not accurate. If it is conditioned, it is conditioned by way of giving place, by way of proximity. That means if death consciousness does not disappear, there can be no rebirth consciousness. In that way it is conditioned. However it is not like what we usually think of as conditioning. It is not that death consciousness causes rebirth consciousness to arise. Rebirth consciousness is the result of kamma in the past. Rebirth consciousness together with its concomitants are caused by kamma. Immediately after the rebirth moment, the material properties begin to multiply. And the rebirth consciousness (citta) is repeated, but we do not call it rebirth consciousness after the first moment although the type of consciousness is the same. We call it ‘bhava~ga’. This is how rebirth here and kamma in the past are related. That kamma may be in the immediate past life or it may be kamma we did ten lives in the past or fifteen lives in the past. Whether it is close to this life or far from this life, the kamma there has the potential to give results. In order for the kamma to give results we need some kind of favorable conditions.
That is why sometimes we can do something with kamma so that our bad kamma does not get chance to give bad results. We are not eradicating or doing away with the results of bad kamma all together. It is something like postponing, making conditions here unfavorable for bad kamma to give results. One does that by being good, by doing meritorious deeds here. When we do meritorious deeds, it is not a good condition for bad kamma to give results because bad kamma must give bad results. We are doing something so that it is not opportune for akusala kamma to give results.
Students: Many comments, some not audible, about difficulty in understanding rebirth.
Teacher: In one of the Suttas the Buddha said that there are three conditions for rebirth to arise. That mean maybe for human beings. The mother must be in her period. There must be sexual activity. A being must die just before that moment. If these three conditions are fulfilled, there is rebirth. So the mother and father coming together is also a condition for the rebirth consciousness to arise.
We explain this life and next life with some analogies. We have to use words lie ‘a person’ and say that he dies here and that he is reborn there. We cannot get away from conventional usage all together. We have to use these words. But in reality there is no person, no being, or whatever. There are mental and physical phenomena, but when we speak we have to say that this person dies here and he is reborn there. Now, a person dies here and is reborn there is to be explained by the formula: Neither he, nor another. The person who is reborn in the next life is not the same person who dies here, but he is not totally new or totally disconnected from the person who dies here. The analogy is that of an echo. You shout into the cave. Then the echo comes back. The echo is not your voice, but without your original voice there can be no echo. The other one is a seal. You make an impression of a seal. What is printed on the paper is not the seal, but without the seal there can be no impression. Another analogy is that of a flame. You light one candle from another candle. The flame in your candle is not the same as the flame in the other candle, but it is not disconnected from the flame of the other candle. These are the analogies used. What is reborn there is not what dies here; also it is not totally disconnected from what dies here. If the person there were totally disconnected, there would be chaos. There would be no Law of Kamma. In Buddhism we do not accept the permanence of things; we accept only the momentary existence of things, but we also do accept the continuity of things.
At the end of PaÔicca SamuppÈda there are four methods against which PaÔicca SamuppÈda is to be understood. The first two methods (They are not in this book, but they are in the Visuddhi Magga.) are the Law of Diversity and the Law of Identity. These two are different, but they are not totally different. There is diversity as well as identity or continuity. This is how we explain different births.
Student: Do you think the reason we have so much difficulty with this is because we do not have a good understanding of what anatta is?
Teacher: That’s right. We always think in terms of ourselves. Even though we take ourselves not to be eternal, we take it ourselves to last for some time. OK.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!