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A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada, or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination
Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw



Relation between Manodvara And Vinnana, Etc.

Manovinnana that thinks, conceives and cognizes has its origin in the mind and mind-objects. The mind which forms its basis is the bhavanga-citta that we have from the moment of conception. It occurs ceaselessly according to kamma. It is the basis for perception and cognition. When we sleep or when the mind is otherwise occupied, our mental life is all bhavanga-citta. It becomes active in the face of mind-objects and there arise intention and cognition. So we can think and know only on the basis of bhavanga. True, this citta is always present in the absence of intention and cognition but bhavanga can lead to mental events only when it is strong.

At times we cannot think because we are drowsy or our thinking may be futile, in spite of our effort, and this is due to weakness of bhavanga. Thus, bhavanga by itself serves little purpose. It becomes active only when it is in contact with a new sense-object. Hence, it is called bhavangacalana, active bhavanga or bhavanga-paccheda, bhavanga with its stream cut off. This last bhavanga gives rise to intention and cognition. According to the commentaries, avajjana (advertence of the mind towards the object) is also to be considered the basis for mental activity. Avajjana forms the first stage in the consciousness-process. It arises as the inquiring state of mind in regard to the object. If it is alert and sharp, it is mindful of all the essential facts and objects.

The good writer considers the important facts for his book and the good speaker chooses appropriate words for his speech, thereby making their writings and speeches perfect. Further, this avajjana leads to good or bad kammic consciousness accordingly as it is bent on good or bad objectives. It is open to introspection and cognition since we can know actually that intention and awareness arise from avajjana. So the words: "mananja - mind as the basis" should be understood as reference also to avajjana.

Equally vital to mental activity is the mind-object. The object always arises when we reflect. In the absence of mind-objects mental activity is impossible. Thus, sometimes we wish to think but have to give up thinking because we cannot recall the essential facts or objects.

Hence, mental activity depends on the conjunction of the mind (bhavanga), inquiring mind (avajjana) and the mind-objects.

According to the commentaries, the heart forms the physical basis of all mental events. But today Western doctors have removed the diseased heart of a patient and replaced it with a good substitute. The experiment was not a complete success but the press reports say that the transplanted heart functioned for a few days. This news may raise doubts about the role of the heart in the mental life of mankind.

This question admits of two explanations. Although the heart is removed, its potency may not become extinct and bhavanga-citta may still linger in its place just like the tail of a house-lizard that moves after it has been cut off. Moreover, the bhavanga-citta may become active again when the transplant gets a new lease of life from the blood of the body, just as the new tissue or new eye ball that is engrafted has new sensitivity. Or, we can dispose of the question on the basis of Abhidhamma pitaka, for Patthana, one of the Abhidhamma books, describes the physical basis of manovinnana (mind) simply as "that physical organ which conditions the mind as its basis." It does not specifically mention any organ or part of the body. Thus, according to this canonical book, we may assume that a certain part of the body is the seat of the mind, perhaps it is a certain part of the heart or the head. Those who do not wish to locate the mind in the heart may regard the head as its physical basis.

Here, we must mention the analogy of the spider and the evolution of mind as set forth in the commentary on Abhidhamma pitaka. The spider builds a web which is a kind of net for catching flies. It can do so instinctively in a matter of days after its birth whereas by contrast even a year-old child can do nothing for himself. The spider waits in the center of its web, eats up any creature that gets entangled there and returns to its abode. In the same way, the bhavanga or mano-vinnana has the heart as its abode and like the threads of the spider's web connecting its abode and its surroundings, the blood pumped by the heart flows through the blood-vessels and spreads all over the body. So the visual image in the eye stirs the bhavanga-citta in the heart and turns it into eye-consciousness and so on through its process (vithi). It (bhavanga) then turns back to its original seat. The same may be said of sound, smell, etc., with their respective sense-organs.

It is now clear that bhavanga, together with its original activity, that is, thinking and knowing, forms the mainspring of our mental life. When there is a visual object, the eye-consciousness arises with the eye as its basis and then the manovinnana reflects on it. The same is true of the ear-consciousness, etc., with the ear, the nose and the tongue as their bases. As for the body-consciousness, its sphere is extensive as it depends on the size of the body.

When the sense-objects are not apparent, the mano-vinnana or the mind that comprises thinking and knowing holds sway over the mental life. Sometimes we are so much absorbed in thought that we remain unmindful of all sense-objects. Preoccupation with an important matter may even make us sleepless. We are then dominated by thoughts that arise ceaselessly one after another on the basis of mental activity as conditioned by bhavanga, avajjana and mind-objects. To the yogi who notes every thought as it arises, these thoughts will appear to arise and vanish separately in fragments.

Every mental event depends on the conjunction of mind, mind-object and cognition. This is followed by contact with mental images. These images, which may be real or unreal, existent or non-existent, are present in imagination whenever we think or intend to do something. This is familiar to those who have read, for example, the jataka stories. Reading these stories give rise to mental images of cities and kings that are coloured by Burmese beliefs and traditions. They are far from historical truth for since the stories have their origin in India, people and places described in the jatakas must have conformed to the Indian culture and way of life.

Modern novels evoke images of towns, villages, men, women, criminals and so forth. The reader knows that all these are purely fictitious and imaginary and yet while he is reading, they appear as real and, hence, the delight, sorrow and other emotions that a good story arouses in him. All this is due to contact with mental images.

As the Buddha says in Brahmajala sutta, "these teachings and beliefs stem from vivid imagination that makes them clear and real." In short, vivid imagination is necessary when we speak, write, hold a belief or think or just let the mind wander freely.

Imagination leads to feeling. Pleasant images cause pleasant feeling as do, for example, images related to our past affluence or the prospect of becoming affluent in future. On the other hand, unpleasant images make us unhappy. To think of the past suffering is to revive unpleasant memories and equally unpleasant is the anticipation of the troubles and arisings that might beset us in future. The cause of such unpleasantness may be purely imaginary as in the case of the people who grieved over the reported death of a relative only to learn later that he was still alive.

The image that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant will give rise to neutral (upekkha) feeling. We are then neither happy nor unhappy. Indeed we have the impression of having no feeling at all, but this indicates simply the subtle nature of upekkhavedana which, according to the commentaries., is to be known by the analogy of the tracks of the deer.

When a deer runs across a large rock, the track is lost since the animal leaves no footprints on it, but if the footprints are to be found on both sides of the rock, we conclude that the deer has run across the rock. Likewise, the yogi is well aware of the pleasant or unpleasant feelings. When he has upekkhavedana he does not notice it and is mindful only of seeing, hearing and so forth. But after that, he has again pleasant or unpleasant feeling and so he concludes that he has had neutral (upekkha) feeling while being mindful of ordinary mental events.

So the Buddha says: "Conditioned by the mind and mind-object manovinnana arises; the conjunction of mind, mind-object and manovinnana leads to sense-contact and, because of sense-contact, there is feeling."

This is purely a process of cause-and-effect relationship that has nothing to do with a being, ego, creator or any happening by chance. By the Pali word "dhamma", the teaching refers to the five sense-objects as well as the imagined objects. The five sense-objects again become the focus of mental activity. So manovinnana involves all the six sense-objects, that is, what one has seen, heard, etc., and what one has not seen, not heard, etc. Every sense-object leads to sense-contact which in turn gives rise to feeling.

For common people, these mental events are bound up with the idea of ego, self or atta. Such an idea is an illusion irrelevant to the chain of causation. This is empirically realized by the mindful yogi. He notes every mental event, traces its cause and becomes aware of the bhavanga and avajjana as well as the mind-object. So he knows empirically that every mental event means only the interrelation of cause and effect, leaving no room for ego, creator or chance.

He knows too that mental activity leads to sense-contact which in turn gives rise to feeling. His knowledge is not bookish but empirical. He follows and notes every mental event. If his mind wanders to his home while he is meditating at a retreat, he directs his attention to it and there is the contact between his mind and its object, viz., the image of the house. In the same way, contacts with Shwedagon pagoda or a foreign country occur when he notes and follows the corresponding thoughts that distract his mind. This contact with mind-objects is phassa.

Equally clear to the yogi is the feeling that results from sense-contact. While practising meditation, he feels delighted when he happens to think of something that pleases him; sorry when the thought about a sad event occurs to him; inclined to laugh when he thinks of something ludicrous. So he knows that feeling is merely the outcome of sense-contact. But the insight of the yogi who notes nama-rupa at every moment of their arising is deeper than this knowledge of the origin of feeling. For as he develops concentration and tranquillity (samadhi), he finds that every object of his introspection as well as its subject, that is, consciousness, passes away. So he gains a clear insight into the impermanence of all mental events, viz., thinking, feeling, etc., their unsatisfactoriness and unreliability and their impersonal and insubstantial character. Such insight means the empirical realization and appreciation of the Paticcasamuppada or dependent origination.


In the first part of the discourse we have explained the links in the chain of causation up to the vedana (feeling) which arises from phassa (sense-contact). To sum up what we have said so far.

Avijja is ignorance of the four noble truths. It makes ordinary people blind to the impermanence and insubstantiality of sense-objects. So they think, speak and act in the hope of securing happiness in the present life or hereafter. These deeds in thought, word or bodily actions are either wholesome or unwholesome and they are also called sankharas (kamma-formation).

The sankharas give rise to new existence. The dying person has flashbacks of his kammic deeds and visions of future life that impress him and condition his new consciousness in a new life. In the absence of any special object that concerns the new consciousness, the latter occurs repeatedly with the death-bed impression of his previous life as its object.

This bhavanga-citta becomes active at the moment of seeing, etc. Then, there arises eye-consciousness that is dependent on the eye and visual form. It is part of the state of consciousness, that is, the whole mental life as conditioned by sankhara. What we see, hear, etc., may be pleasant or unpleasant and the corresponding nature of eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc., is due to the ethical character of our past deeds, that is the wholesomeness or unwholesomeness of the kammas in the past existence.

This applies to all of the six types of consciousness that arise from six sense-objects. The last type of consciousness, implicit in mental activity comprising thinking, imagining, willing, etc., is dependent on bhavanga-citta, avajjana-citta (mental advertence), the physical basis and the mental image. This mental activity (manovinnana) involves seven thought-moments (javana) and two other thought-moments (tadarammana). Here tadarammana is the product of good or bad kamma. Javana is not such a product, but in Abhidhamma it is labelled sankhara-based vinnana in that it arises from bhavanga, the product of sankhara.

Together with the arising of vinnana, there also arises other concomitant psycho-physical phenomena (cetasika and rupas). Thus vinnana leads to nama-rupa, but vinnana is followed also by the six ayatana (sense-organs) and six phassa (sense-impressions). Phassa means the conjunction of the mind, the mind-object and the sense-organ. It gives rise to vedana (feeling) which may be pleasant or unpleasant or neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The last kind of feeling which is called upekkhavedana, gives us the impression of the absence of any feeling, but according to Abhidhamma, it is in fact a kind of subtle pleasure that implies only the absence of unbearable pain.

Vedana Leads To Tanha

Because of pleasant or unpleasant feeling, there arises tanha. Tanha means perpetual craving or hunger. It craves for sensual objects that it does not have or it craves for more of the objects that it already has. It knows no satiety or satisfaction. For all the sensual objects to gratify it, its hunger is insatiable.

So a deva said that devas are like petas in that just as the petas are very hungry because of lack of anything to eat or drink in their realm, so also devas are always hungry although they indulge in all kinds of sensual pleasure. This sounds quite plausible. For the life-span of a Tavatimsa deva means millions of years on earth and the life is still longer in other higher deva-worlds such as Yama, Nimmanarati. Yet, in spite of their ceaseless and fabulously lifelong enjoyment of pleasure, the devas are never satisfied because their tanha is insatiable.

The same is true of human beings. Poor people seek sensual pleasure to the best of their ability. Of course, because of their poverty, they can never fulfil all their desires but equally insatiable is the craving of the rich, the high officials and the upper crust of society. This is due to the nature of tanha. The more it is fed, the more hungry it becomes and so it is worse among the rich than among the poor, more oppressive in wealthy countries than in poor countries.

Six Kinds Of Tanha

Tanha is never tired of seeing pleasant objects, man or woman whom it likes. It seeks sweet sounds. It hungers for good scent, good food and good drinks. It craves for tactile sensation and this is surely the worst craving for people who love sensual pleasure. Tanha also means liking for mind-objects that are impervious to the eye, the ear and other physical organs. It is the object that we can know only mentally. According to the scriptures it means the five sensitive (pasada) rupas, the four subtle elements such as apo, etc., the mental elements (cetasikas) concepts of forms, qualities, names, etc.

People crave for good pasada-rupas because they want to see clearly, to hear distinctly, or to have keen sense of touch. They seek apo elements as they wish to keep their mouth, throat and skin moist. They delight in the consciousness of their own sex and the opposite and hence their craving for manhood and womanhood. They want to live long and to move lightly, and this desire shows their hunger for the fine rupas of jivita and kayalahuta, etc. Their desire for happiness, good memory and good intelligence points to their craving for certain mental faculties. Love of one's own physical appearance and that of the opposite sex as well as the desire for praise and fame again shows the hunger for concepts.

For six sense-objects there are six kinds of craving. These six cravings may mean merely the love of sensual pleasure (kamatanha). This love may be combined with the illusion of permanence (bhavatanha), tanha that implies the eternity-belief. Craving is also bound up with the belief in annihilation which makes some people overly attached to sensual pleasure (vibhavatanha). So there are six cravings (corresponding to six sense-objects) for each of the three tanhas (kamatanha, bhavatanha and vibhavatanha) or 18 cravings. Each of these cravings may have internal objects or external objects and this leads to 36 kinds of craving. Since each craving may relate to the present, past or future, there are thus a total of 108 kinds of tanha. But all kinds of craving boil down to three kinds of tanha viz., kama-, bhava- and vibhava-tanhas.

People who are in contact with unpleasant sense-objects long for pleasant objects. Those who suffer pain seek freedom from it. In short, according to the commentary, the suffering person longs for happiness. People seek freedom from pain, poverty and unpleasant objects and feelings. Absence of suffering means happiness (sukha). We seek freedom from preoccupation with unpleasant thoughts, from worry about food, clothing and shelter. But, once a man is well provided with the necessities of life, he tends to develop other cravings. Says the commentary, "The wealthy man wants to increase his wealth." For it is in the nature of tanha to be insatiable. We wish to enjoy the good things of life repeatedly; we wish to increase our possessions. The more we have, the more we want, and the higher the quality of life is, the greater is the desire to enhance it. Tanha never comes to an end for it is fuelled and perpetuated by vedana or feeling.

As regards the tanha associated with upekkha (neutral) feeling, the commentary describes the concomitant feeling as pleasant (sukha) because of its poise and subtlety. In the case of our contact with ordinary sense-objects, neither the pleasant feeling nor unpleasant feeling is apparent; but since this upekkha feeling is fine and subtle, it is tinged with (sukha) pleasantness and hence it makes us crave for more definite pleasure. It leads to discontentment with the ordinary sense-objects and kindles the desire for better food, better clothes, better sense-contact and better living conditions.

In short, pleasant sense-objects create attachment and craving for better objects. Unpleasant objects create the desire to be rid of them. When the sense-objects produce neither pleasant nor unpleasant feelings, we are still discontented with our lot and crave for better things. All these show how vedana gives rise to tanha.

Tanha And Samsara

Simultaneously with the arising of consciousness at the moment of seeing, etc., there arise nama-rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana. For every ordinary person who is not yet free from defilements, vedana (feeling) leads to tanha. Tanha in turn causes upadana (clinging) that makes him do a good or a bad deed (kammabhava). Under certain conditions, kammabhava gives rise to rebirth that makes living beings subject to old age, sickness, death, grief and all other mental and physical sufferings. This is how feelings lead to samsaric dukkha.

Nobody can prevent the arising of nama-rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana as concomitants of vinnana. The Buddha and the Arahats, too, have pleasant, unpleasant or neutral (upekkha) feelings as a result of contact with sense-objects. They feel pain that arises from physical affliction but they do not suffer mentally; nor do they take delight in pleasant sensations. So they are free from craving and attachment. They do not strive for pleasure and happiness and because of their non-kammic way of life, they do away with rebirth, nama-rupa and other causes of suffering. This is the extinction of dukkha for the Arahat who is completely free from defilements.

So it is said, "Due to the complete extinction of tanha that is rooted in pleasant or unpleasant feeling on the Ariyan path, there arises the extinction of upadana (clinging)."

Experience of the pleasant or unpleasant feelings make the non-Arahats crave for the good things of life but it has no effect on the person who has attained Arahatship after passing through the successive stages on the holy path. This may sound incredible to the common people but in fact the most alluring sense-object has no appeal for the Arahat and he takes no interest in his welfare. He is, therefore, wholly free from craving and attachment and this means complete extinction of kammic effort, rebirth and its attendant suffering.

So it is said, "The extinction of upadana leads to the extinction of the cause of rebirth (kammic effort). The extinction of kammic effort leads to extinction of rebirth. Extinction of rebirth leads to extinction of old age, death, grief, etc."

Extinction Of Craving

In short, with the complete extinction of tanha due to Arahatship, there is the complete extinction of all its consequences and this means the extinction of suffering. It does not imply the disappearance of happiness or a living being. It is simply the cessation of the nama-rupa process that is the source of dukkha.

Just as Arahatship means complete extinction of craving, the attainment of anagami stage on the path means extinction of sensuous craving together with rebirth in the sensual world, old age, death, etc. At the sotapatti stage, the yogi is assured of extinction of all craving that may lead to the lower worlds or more than seven existences. So he is free from all suffering of the lower worlds and the suffering for more than seven lifetimes in the sensual world. Thus implicit in the Paticcasamuppada is the lessening of dukkha with the weakening of tanha.

Likewise, the vipassana insight ensures the momentary extinction of tanha. The arising of six sense-objects leads to pleasant or unpleasant feeling and in the absence of vipassana insight, it finally ends in tanha and its attendant suffering.

But as for the yogi who practises constant mindfulness and has developed vipassana insight, he finds only the arising and passing away of all phenomena, their impermanence, suffering and impersonality. He also finds that the pleasant or unpleasant feeling arises and passes away instantly. So he does not delight in the feeling that arises, he does not crave for another feeling; he is free from all craving.

Extinction of craving on the Ariyan holy path differs from extinction by vipassana in that in the former case, the extinction is permanent and it concerns every sense-object whereas in the latter case extinction is neither permanent nor universal. Tanha is extinct only at the moment of contemplation and only in respect of the object contemplated. Hence, it is called "tadanga nibbuti", momentary or partial extinction of defilements.

The yogi who practises meditation is barely aware of seeing, hearing, etc. This state of bare awareness leaves no room for tanha and as a result upadana (clinging), kamma, rebirth, etc., cease to occur. In other words, with the cessation of tanha, the samsaric cycle is partly cut off and this is called tadanga nibbuti.

The Story Of Mahatissa Thera

There is the story of Mahatissa thera in Sri Lanka who overcame tanha through the practice of both samatha and vipassana. One day he left his forest retreat early in the morning and on the way to Anuradha city for his begging round, he met a woman who had left her home after quarrelling with her husband. At the sight of the thera, there arose in her a lustful desire and she laughed aloud seductively. On looking at her the thera noticed her teeth. Since he had been contemplating the skeleton, the whole body of the woman appeared as a heap of bones. He concentrated on this mental image and attained jhana. Then, after contemplating the image of the skeleton in his jhanic state of mind, he attained Arahatship.

The thera continued his journey and on the way met the woman's husband. The man asked him whether he had seen a woman. The thera replied that he did see something but that he did not know whether it was a man or a woman. All that he noticed was a skeleton that passed him on the way.

What he actually saw was the woman's teeth, but his practice of contemplation had turned his impression of her body into the image of a skeleton. Hence, in his mind there was no room for lust or any other defilement arising from his sense-contact with the woman. Then practising vipassana on the basis of his jhanic consciousness, he became free from defilements and attained Arahatship.

This story might raise doubts among non-meditating people as regards the arising of the image of a skeleton at the sight of a person's teeth, but without practice one cannot have any clear idea of what mind training (bhavana) can accomplish. The mere exercise of concentration without any training cannot help to create mental images for these depend on steadfast and prolonged practice of contemplation. Imagination is the power of perception. Repeated contemplation strengthens perception which then helps create any kind of image of oneself or other people. This faculty of mind is possible even for a parrot as is borne out by a story in the commentary on Satipatthana sutta.

Story Of A Parrot

A dancer put up for the night at the residence of bhikkhunis and when she went away, she left an intelligent parrot. The bird was cared for by the novitiates and it was called Buddha-rakkhita. The abbess of the nunnery thought that it would be good if there was something to contemplate for the bird living among the spiritual aspirants. So she taught her to contemplate "atthi: skeleton".

One morning the parrot was swooped up by an eagle. In the wake of the hue and cry raised by the young nuns, the eagle became frightened and dropped the parrot. The Abbess asked it what it contemplated when it was seized by the eagle. The bird replied, "I thought of a skeleton being carried off and I wondered where it would be scattered." The Abbess said "Well done! This contemplation will contribute to your liberation from samsaric existence."

A thing that is repeatedly contemplated will become fixed in the long run. Since even a parrot can imagine a skeleton, there is no reason why a human being cannot do likewise. The parrot imagined itself as well as others to be skeletons. Because of this contemplation, it had no fear, anger or worry when it was taken away by the eagle.

So Satipatthana bhavana is extolled as a practice that helps to overcome grief and anxiety and to bring about the extinction of mental and physical suffering. But there may be many people who are not as wise as the parrot in the story since they never take interest in the dhamma and contemplate it. The yogi should resolve to surpass the parrot in the practice of vipassana.

If Mahatissa thera had failed to regard the laughing woman as a skeleton, he might have become lustful and fallen a victim to temptation in the solitude of the forest. Even if he had no sexual desire at that time, any impression of the woman would have laid him open to temptation at other times. But thanks to his contemplation of the skeleton in the practice of vipassana, he overcame defilements and achieved final liberation from samsaric existence. Here, the extinction of tanha through vipassana practice is called tadanga nibbuti, partial extinction, while extinction through arahatship is called "total extinction".

Contemplation And Extinction

So with the total extinction of tanha that results from vedana, there is the extinction of upadana which means the extinction of all the consequences of craving. Contemplation of anicca, dukkha and anatta ensures the partial extinction of tanha, upadana, kamma, rebirth, etc. The object of vipassana practice is to put an end to defilements and samsaric suffering. So it is a matter of paramount importance that deserves the attention of everyone who seeks total liberation. Without this practice, pleasant or unpleasant feeling at every moment of seeing, etc., is bound to lead to craving, kamma and rebirth.

The consciousness involved in every moment of seeing is due to avijja and sankhara in the previous existence. Seeing occurs together with vinnana, nama-rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana. The scriptures treat each of these dhammas separately in terms of their causal relations, but in fact they do not arise separately one after another. If vinnana arises from sankhara, it arises together with its respective nama-rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana. All of these dhammas are the results of the past kamma sankhara. They are termed vipaka-vatta which means round or cycle of resultants. The round of defilements viz., ignorance, craving and clinging produce round of kamma viz., kamma and sankhara which leads to round of resultants viz., consciousness, nama-rupa, sense-organs, contact, feeling which again give rise to the round of defilements.

The arising of these five resultants at the moment of seeing means to most people simply just seeing. In fact, seeing is the product of vinnana, nama-rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana as are other psycho-physical events such as hearing, smelling and so forth.

Seeing involves consciousness together with mental advertence (manasikara), volition (cetana), etc., plus the eye-organ which comprises the nama-rupa. It also involves four ayatanas viz., eye sensitivity, visual object, eye consciousness and mental advertence (dhammayatana). Contact with the visual object is phassa and the pleasantness or unpleasantness that the object causes is vedana. Hence all the five resultants are bound up with every moment of seeing. The same may be said of other phenomena that arise from hearing, smelling and so forth.

Cutting Off At The Foundation

These five psycho-physical resultants or phenomena occur ceaselessly one after another and comprise what we call man, deva or living being. These are conventional terms that refer in fact to the collection of the five nama-rupa elements. There is no solid, monolithic and permanent being. The only reality is the arising and passing away of nama-rupa and for the mindful yogi, this insight means the extinction of craving, clinging, kamma, rebirth, suffering - a chain of consequences that might result from feeling in the case of common people.

This is the way to the cessation of the wheel of life (Paticcasamuppada) through the elimination of its key link viz., tanha as conditioned by feeling. In order to prevent tanha from arising as the result of vedana, at every moment of seeing the yogi should focus on every phenomenon that arises from six senses. Here, the most obvious of these sense contacts is the tactile sensation that concerns gross primary elements (Mahabhuta) and it is necessary for the beginner to start contemplation with it.

This way is in accord with the Buddha's teaching in Satipatthana sutta, "Gacchanto va gacchamiti pajanati: (the yogi) knows that he is walking when he walks." How does he know it? He knows it as he notes mentally "walking, walking". He practises mindfulness, too, when he stands, lies, bends his arms, or does anything else. When there is no bodily action or movement to be noted, he should direct his attention to the abdominal rising and falling. He should also note any thought, or mental activity and any feeling that may arise in him. In short, he must be mindful of all the psycho-physical phenomena that arise from the six senses. As concentration develops, such mindfulness leads to insight into anicca, dukkha and anatta, an insight that leaves no room for craving. With the extinction of craving, there is also an end to clinging, and rebirth with all its attendant suffering. This is the way to the cessation of samsaric existence or life-cycle through the elimination of its root cause, namely, craving.

Today, science and technology have created machines which we cannot run or stop running without a knowledge of their modus operandi. Those who know the secret can operate them by manipulating their key plugs. In the same way, the keynote of the life-cycle as described by the doctrine of Paticcasamuppada is that tanha is caused by vedana, but this is true only if vedana is coupled with two kinds of latent tendencies (anusaya) viz., Santananusaya and arammananusaya. The Arahats are free from these tendencies and so, although they have feelings, their craving is extinct. This extinction of craving leaves no room for new kamma, neutralizes old kamma, and there is no more rebirth after their parinibbana.

But ordinary people have potential defilements which means not the existence of evil desires lying latent somewhere but only the possibility of their arising under certain circumstances. Hence, the Pali term santananusaya kilesa for this tendency. This potential kilesa may become greed, hatred, ignorance and other evils in the case of those who fail to contemplate the nama-rupas and so become subject to the illusions of permanency, happiness and ego-entity. This kilesa which may arise from sense-objects in the absence of vipassana insight is called arammananusaya kilesa.

Kilesa And Unmindfulness

Greed and anger that arise in connection with what one has seen or heard are the manifestations of the second kind of latent tendency. The impressions that we retain are those of permanent, lovely or repulsive beings or things. So recall of those images gives rise to attachment (lobha), anger (dosa) or illusion of permanency (moha).

Lobha is another synonym for tanha. It is due to pleasant feeling but it may also arise when unpleasant feeling makes us crave for pleasant sensations. Ignorance, too, leads to complacency, attachment and craving. Thus lobha, dosa and moha give rise to feeling which in turn causes craving with its attendant sufferings of samsaric existence. It is only the practice in bare awareness of seeing, hearing, etc., that rules out the possibility of craving and nostalgia for the pleasant sensations from the senses. Without this practice, craving dominates us and leads to suffering in afterlife as well as here and now.

In the Mora jataka, the bodhisatta who was then a peacock used to utter a gatha when he arose in the morning and when he went to sleep in the evening. So for 700 years he escaped the trap set by a hunter. Then the hunter employed a peahen as a decoy and enticed by her, the peacock forgot to recite the gatha and fell into the trap. In Benares, there was a harpist called Guttila. He made love to a girl but he was ridiculed and rejected. So at night he sang a very sweet song and played his harp in front of the girl's house. Fascinated by the music, the girl rushed out blindly, stumbled and fell to her death. In the Mora jataka it was the female voice, and here it was the male voice that brought about suffering and death.

No one can deny that what we hear is impermanent. Everything that we hear vanishes instantly, yet we enjoy songs and music because of their apparent continuity. If we note every sound, "hearing, hearing" mentally, our realization of their impermanence makes it impossible for our pleasant feelings to become cravings. This means non-arising of upadana and all its resultant suffering.

Smell is seldom experienced by the yogi. He must, of course, note it and see that it does not give rise to craving.

Mindfulness is especially important in eating. The unmindful person delights in eating good food. He is fond of such pleasure; he craves for it in future and hereafter. This craving for good food and drinks is powerful. It may lead to an existence that makes a person subsist on bad food. Thus, according to the Balapandita sutta, those who do misdeeds for the pleasure of good food are reborn as animals that eat grass, leaves or human excreta.

Eating bad food also tends to create the desire for good food. Therefore, it is necessary for the yogi to note everything, every movement of his hand and mouth and every sensation when he is eating. Through this practice of mindfulness he becomes aware of the vanishing of his actions, sensations and feeling. In this way he gains an insight into impermanence of everything, an insight that leads to the extinction of craving and its attendant suffering.

Thoughts And Tactile Impressions

Tactile impression is always present all over the physical body. Thinking, too, is also present all the time except when the yogi goes to sleep. So thoughts and tactile impressions form the objects of vipassana practice for most of the time. The yogi contemplates the tactile impressions when he has nothing else to engage his attention.

He notes his thoughts even though they happen to be unpleasant and undesirable. The beginner in meditation is often subject to such distractions, but they usually disappear as he gains practice and develops concentration. Thoughts about the Dhamma occur to some yogis from time to time and these should be noted. Introspection of these thoughts also ensures insight into impermanence and the extinction of suffering.

Here, some may wonder what this description of vipassana practice has to do with the discourse on Paticcasamuppada. The doctrine points out the chain of consequences as conditioned by their respective causes and our object is to show the way to the end of samsaric suffering that finally results from the interplay of their causes and consequences. So we have to describe the practice wherever it is relevant. Thus, when it is said that "avijja leads to sankhara and sankhara to rebirth", we have to show the way to remove avijja. So also in connection with vinnana, etc., that finally bring about dukkha, it is necessary to stress the need for removing the link between vedana and tanha, that is the main cause of dukkha.

Three Kinds Of Craving (Tanha)

If feeling (vedana) that arises from contact with sense-objects is not rightly contemplated, it leads to one of the three kinds of craving viz., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence.

The first kind of craving (kamatanha) is focused on sensual objects and it is most prevalent among the living beings of the sensual world.

The craving for existence (bhavatanha) is bound up with the eternity-belief (sassata-ditthi). It presupposes the permanence of a living being and the indestructibility of the ego despite the dissolution of the physical body. The belief is not deep-rooted among the Buddhists, but non-Buddhists hold it so firmly that it is a major impediment to their spiritual liberation. Their craving for existence is evident in their illusion of permanent self and their love of sensual pleasure.

The craving for non-existence (vibhavatanha) is born of the annihilation belief (uccheda-ditthi). The belief is not found among Buddhists and no one is a true Buddhist if he or she holds the belief. The craving for non-existence means the desire for the automatic cessation of the life-stream after death as well as the love of pleasure rooted in the materialistic view of life.

Each of these three cravings stems from the failure to realize anicca, dukkha and anatta through the introspection of feelings. So in order to forestall craving and its consequences, namely, rebirth and suffering, the yogi should contemplate every phenomenon, and try to see everything as it really is.

Tanha Causes Upadana

From craving there arises clinging (upadana). The Pali term upadana is a compound of //upa// - intense, extreme, and //adana// - grasp, take, and so it means to grasp firmly, or intense, obsessive craving. Clinging is of four kinds: (1) clinging to sensuous objects, (2) clinging to false views, (3) clinging to irrelevant, non-Ariyan practices as the way to salvation, and (4) clinging to atta or ego-belief.

(1) Clinging to sensual objects:

Sensual objects excite the desire of all living beings who are not free from the craving for sensual pleasure. These objects are five in number viz., visual form, sound, odour, taste and contact.

Visual form is the object that is pleasant and attractive to the eye. It may possess natural beauty or it may appear to be beautiful in the eyes of the viewer. Pleasant visual form, whether real or apparent, is to be found in men, women and consumer goods. It is the physical appearance of females that attracts the males and vice-versa. The things that both men and women desire are clothes, jewellery, cars, etc. It is not merely the form or colour that excites desire. Man and woman are drawn towards each other not only by the complexion but by the whole body of the opposite sex, and the same may be said of consumer goods that make people greedy. Form or colour only serves to introduce or identify the object of desire just as the cry of an animal helps the hunter to track and find it out.

Sound as the object of sensual pleasure is represented by the voices of men and women, songs or music. Some sounds and voices are really sweet while some only appear to be sweet in our ears. Again, it is not the mere sound that attracts us for when we delight in hearing a sound or a voice, the whole thing or the being that produces it forms the focus of our attachment.

Odour as the source of sensual pleasure comprises all kinds of scents: scent of flavours, powder, fragrant essence. Men and women apply these odoriferous substances to their bodies and delight in these scents, and it is not the scents alone but the whole physical body giving out the scent that attracts people.

The sensual pleasure that we have by eating or drinking is rooted in food and drinks. The good or pleasant taste may be real or apparent. For pigs, dogs and other animals, garbage, refuse and filth may be a source of sensual pleasure. Some people are very fond of bitter or spicy food. Some like intoxicants. Their pleasure is more apparent than real since normal ordinary people do not share their tastes. The pleasure of eating is not confined to food; it centres also on the preparation of food and the man or woman who prepares it. This is evident in the pleasure of a man who enjoys eating the food prepared by his wife although her culinary skill may not impress other people.

Another source of sensual pleasure is the body or tactile impression. Soft and smooth beds, comfortable clothing, something warm in cold season and something cold in hot season, the body of the opposite sex - all these form the objects of contact that create not only the craving for the tactile impression but also the craving for the whole body of the living or non-living object. The tactile impression only serves to pave the way for attachment to the whole body.

Bases Of Sensual Pleasure

Then there are living and non-living objects that form the sources of sensual pleasure. There are gold, silver, jewellery, rice, cattle, poultry, vehicles, houses, land, attendants. Men work daily to secure these sources of pleasure. They seek these things to have good food, good clothes and good houses, to see movies and so forth.

Sensual desire (tanha) usually leads to intense craving for sensual objects (kamapadana). When a man starts smoking, he delights in his new habit but as the habit grows upon him he becomes addicted to it. Thus, we become excessively fond of certain objects and we feel restless and discomfited if we do not get them. In this way tanha develops into upadana (clinging, grasping or infatuation).

Upadana cannot come into being without tanha. The music and songs of foreigners do not appeal to Burmese ears and so there is no craze for them among the people. Burmese people do not eat dogs. Dog's flesh is abhorrent to them and so there can be no upadana in regard to it.

(2) Ditthupadana (Bigotry)

Another kind of upadana is ditthupadana which means clinging to false views. It covers all the false views, exclusive of those in the categories of the third and fourth upadana. So every false belief is to be regarded as upadana. Here we will describe at length ten false views that have a firm grip on the people.

The first view is that alms-giving is not a good kammic act, that it means only a waste of money. This view rejects the sense of values and the fruits of a good act. It has, however, no basis in fact. The act of dana makes the donor joyful. It benefits the recipient physically and mentally and it may even help to save the life of a starving man. The donor is popular and highly esteemed. After his death, he attains the deva-world. It is hard to convince the sceptic of this post-mortem reward, but these other-worldly results of kamma come within the purview of Arahats and other holy men with psychic powers. One of these powers is the ability to see with the divine eye (dibbacakkhu). This psychic power enables one to see donors prospering in deva-worlds or evil-doing non-donors suffering in the lower worlds. Such vision can be had even by some yogis who have not acquired psychic powers but developed much samadhi. Again some may dismiss these visions as figments of imagination but the agreement of these accounts about the other worlds lends weight to their credibility.

The second false view is also a negation of the kammic benefits for alms-giving on a grand scale.

The third false view rejects the kammic benefits of feeding guests, giving gifts on new year day and so forth. This view is essentially the same as the third view. It refers to small acts of dana that were in vogue in ancient India but were dismissed as futile by heretics.

The fourth view denies the kammic result of any morally good or evil act. There is a lot of evidence for the kammic effects of a man's acts in this life, and, as for the other-worldly result of an act, those with psychic power can testify to it. But people who are excessively fond of sensual pleasure like to give free rein to their desires. They frown on moral values and ideas which they regard as a hindrance to their material progress. So they put forward many arguments to justify their rejection of the kammic law. In the final analysis all this is due to their excessive love of sensual pleasure.

The fifth and sixth view deny any respect, honour or support that we owe to our parents for all their loving care in our childhood. It is said that a man and his wife get children through sexual intercourse by accident, that they bring up the children from a sense of responsibility, and so there is no reason why children should be grateful to their parents. So it is not a good deed on the part of a man to look after his parents nor is it an evil to wrong them. It is a terrible view; those who hold it will not be respected by their children.

The seventh view denies the existence of any world other than the human and the animal worlds. It also rejects the belief that an animal may be reborn as a human being.

The eighth view denies rebirth of a human being in deva or animal worlds or in hell. It preaches annihilation of life after death.

The ninth view denies rebirth by //opapatika// or spontaneous generation. In other words, it denies the existence of devas, brahmas, petas, asuras, etc., who appear with their full-fledged bodies without being conceived in the womb. This view is untenable since encounters with good or evil spirits are reported from all over the world; there are mediums and witch-doctors who can invoke spirits; and devas, Brahmas, etc., are sometimes visible to the yogis who practise vipassana.

The last view is that there is no ascetic or Brahman who speaks of this world and the other invisible world and who conforms to his teaching. The view implies that there is no person who can speak independently of this world and the other world on the basis of his actual extraordinary experience, that all their teaching is guesswork and speculation, and so false and evil.

Today this view is echoed by those who scoff at religion. They reject the existence of Buddhas and Arahats who know the world as it really is through their own effort. But the logic underlying this view is self-defeating for by the same kind of reasoning, one can reject the view since those who hold it also do not know anything about this or the other world really.

As for the Buddha-dhamma, it rests on extraordinary insight (Sayain abhinna desita). As such it leads itself to empirical investigation and there is much scientific evidence for it.

The man who preached the Indian brand of agnosticism in the time of the Buddha was Ajita. He attacked all religious teaching without qualification and so it is to be assumed that the arahats and the Buddha, too, were the targets of his denunciation.

Right Views

All these ten wrong views boil down to the denial of the law of kamma for the rejection of kamma means rejection of any benefit accruing from the acts of dana and reference to parents, and other good deeds, as well as the kammic potential for arahatship or Buddhahood. Likewise, the ten right views mentioned below are based on the belief in kamma, or moral retribution.

(1) The first view is that dana is beneficial. One who gives alms is admired at least by the recipients. They will respect him, praise him and help him when he is in trouble. He dies calmly with good death-bed visions and after his death he attains good rebirth in deva-worlds or in human society. His good rebirth may finally lead to the Ariyan path and Nibbana. It was usually with an act of dana that the bodhisatta, and others embarked on their long spiritual journey leading to the goal of Buddhahood, paccekabuddhahood or arahatship.

The kammic effect of alms-giving is also evident in the material prosperity of some people. Some people do the same job such as business, farming, etc., but differ in their accomplishments. Some become prosperous while others make no progress materially. Some meet with success without working hard while others fail to prosper despite their hard work. Other things being equal, this disparity in the fortunes of some persons is no doubt due to dana or lack of dana in a previous life.

(2) and (3) The man who believes in the law of kamma will have no doubt about the kammic potency of giving alms lavishly or the small acts of dana such as feeding the guests, giving presents and so forth.

(4) These three right views are implicit in the law of kamma or moral retribution. That a man fares according to his good or bad deeds is an undeniable fact of life. A man who leads a good life in accordance with the instruction of his parents and teachers is popular, gets help from others and achieves success, and when he grows up he becomes a prosperous gentleman. Similarly, because of good kamma in a previous life a man may be born of a good family and blessed with health, wealth, physical beauty and sincere friends. The bad effect of evil kamma such as ill-health, poverty, ugliness, etc., are equally well-known to everybody.

(5) and (6) The belief in kamma also implies a recognition of our deep gratitude to parents. Parents take care of their children from the time of their conception. The mother is especially careful about her health, her food, and movements for the sake of the child in her womb. If she is a good Buddhist, she keeps sabbath and contemplates the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in the hope of influencing her child spiritually. After the birth of the child, the parents have to attend to his physical needs and educate him, and when he comes of age they have to give him financial support for a start in life. For these reasons, it is our bounden duty to revere and care for our parents; and this is a kammic act that benefits us immensely. At the very least, a man who respects his parents will be respected by his children while a man who wrongs his parents is very likely to be disdained by his children.

Seeing The World Beyond

(7), (8) and (9) The right views about the existence of this world, the invisible world and the living beings such as the devas who come into existence by spontaneous materialization. These right views are also implicit in the belief in the law of kamma for the law of kamma makes it possible for a living being from the animal or deva world to pass on to human world or vice-versa according to his kamma after death. This can be demonstrated to a certain extent but the observer will have to possess psychic powers, vipassana insight or the ability to think rationally.

Through the practice of samathajhana, a yogi can acquire the power of recalling the past lives; he can have the divine-eye (dibbacakkhu) that affords him a glimpse into the physical appearance, etc., of a person who has passed on to a new existence. This psychic power is also accessible to those who practise vipassana.

Those who cannot practise samatha or vipassana will have to depend on their power of reasoning. There are certain persons here and there who can recall their previous lives, people who are credited with jatissaranana in Buddhist literature. They describe their past lives as human beings, animals, spirits or ghosts. To the rational mind, these accounts clearly point to the post-mortem transition from this world to the other world and vice-versa as well as to the instant materialization of certain beings.

Here we wish to mention the way of thinking on the issue of a future life suggested by wise men. Suppose a man accepts the belief in kamma and life after death while another man rejects the belief. The second man will not do good deeds such as dana, sila and he will not avoid doing evil. He will give free rein to his desires. Therefore, he has no virtue that is worthy of respect and admiration by other people. If contrary to his belief, the law of kamma and a future life are real, he is bound to land in the lower worlds immediately after his death and suffer for many lifetimes throughout his samsaric existence.

On the other hand, the man who believes in kamma and after-life will avoid evil, do good and so, even if there is no kamma or a future life, he will be extolled and well-known for his good character. He will rejoice at the contemplation of his good deeds. As a good citizen, he will lead a peaceful life. These are the benefits that will certainly accrue to him from his belief in kamma in the present life. And if life after death is indeed a fact, he is assured of happiness hereafter. So it is reasonable to accept the belief in after-life since it serves our interests now or in future in any event. This is the infallible way of thinking that the Buddha recommends in Apannaka sutta of Majjhima nikaya.

Parami And Kamma

(10) Faith in the Buddha, the Arahats or holy men who can claim transcendent knowledge about this and the other worlds and who possess a noble character that lends credence to their teachings - such faith also presupposes the belief in kamma, for the spiritual attainment of Arahats and the Buddha rests in part on their parami (perfection) which does not differ essentially from kamma. Development of parami is a kind of learning. Just as a child has to learn many things in order to become well-educated, so also a bodhisatta has to seek knowledge and train himself for the attainment of his goal.

Some parents and elders take their children to movies and theatres while others take theirs to pagodas and monasteries. In this way the children acquire good or bad habits and develop a craving for sensual pleasure or a taste for the higher things of life. Good habits and good training may be called a kind of parami. Some children are spontaneously inclined to religious life, some men and women have immense zeal and energy for the practice of vipassana. Such a child's unusual interest in religion or a man's unusual love of spiritual life is born of the parami in a previous life.

Prince Siddhattha became the Buddha through the gradual development and perfection of parami such as dana, sila, nekkhama (renunciation) and so forth over aeons spanning innumerable lifetimes. It was not a matter of easy accomplishment in a single existence. It was this cumulative kammic potential or parami that helped to strengthen his will when he left his family and the luxuries of his royal palace in search of enlightenment. Today, some people speak of their disillusionment with life but it is hard for a man to renounce all his wealth and become a monk, let alone to think of the kind of renunciation that distinguished the bodhisatta.

The bodhisatta cultivated other paramis, too, for the sake of wisdom, at energy fortitude and so forth in way of his previous lives. As a result in his last existence he reflected and realized independently the nature of life, its dependent origination, etc. It was his kammic potential (parami) that finally led to his supreme enlightenment and likewise it was the parami that contributed to the spiritual attainments of Paccekabuddhas and Arahats. Hence, the belief in kamma makes it possible for the spiritual aspirant to become the arahat, Paccekabuddha or the Buddha and one who accepts the belief has no doubt about the transcendent knowledge of the Buddha and other holy men.

In short, ditthupadana is generally synonymous with rejection of the law of kamma. It was not widespread in the time of the Buddha or even about a hundred years ago but now it is gaining ground, thanks to the books that have criticized the doctrine of kamma in the name of scientific knowledge. As the scriptures say, false beliefs are usually rooted in craving and with man's increasing hunger for material goods, scepticism about kamma is likely to become dominant and it is up to good people to guard themselves against it.

Apart from the rejection of kamma, ditthupadana also means strong attachment to all false beliefs e.g. ego-belief, annihilation-belief, etc. The exceptions are the two false beliefs covered by silabbatupadana and attavadupadana.

(3) Silabbatupadana (Clinging To False Practices)

Silabbatupadana is clinging to wrong practices that do not lead to cessation of suffering. It is the view which identifies the habits of cows, dogs and other animals with the way to the end of dukkha. It found expression among some ascetics in the time of the Buddha. Like animals, they lived naked, ate, defecated and went about on all fours, and slept on the ground. They believed that such a way of life served to purge them of all evil kamma and forestall new kammic action, thereby assuring them of an end to suffering and eternal bliss after death.

To a Buddhist, this kind of belief may sound incredible but some people's preferences are very odd and they differ in their views and inclinations. So there came to the Buddha two ascetics, one Punna who lived like an ox and another Seniya who lived like a dog. They asked the Lord about the benefits of their practice. The Lord was reluctant to answer but when pressed for his view, he replied that an ascetic who committed himself wholly to the habits of an ox or a dog would be reborn as an ox or a dog after death; that it was wrong to believe that such practices led to the deva-world; and that one who held a wrong belief was likely to land in hell or in the animal world. Then the Buddha went on to describe (1) the evil practices that bear evil fruits, (2) the good practices that bear good fruits, (3) the evil practices mixed with good practices and (4) the practice of the Ariyan path that leads to the total extinction of good and bad kammas.

On hearing this sermon Punna became the disciple of the Buddha. Seniya joined the order and attained Arahatship through the practice of the Dhamma.

The Story Of Korakhattiya

In the time of the Buddha there was a man named Korakhattiya who lived like a dog. One day the Buddha passed by him, accompanied by a Licchavi bhikkhu, Sunakkhatta by name.

Sunakkhatta saw the ascetic moving on all fours and eating the food on the ground without the help of his hands. The ascetic's way of life gave the monk the impression of a holy man, nay, an Arahat who had few desires. In point of fact, the ascetic's mode of life was a kind of silabbatupadana that would lead him to one of the four lower worlds. It was abhorrent to those who had high ideals and aspirations. It had appeal for Sunakkhatta only because of his low tastes and desires. The Licchavi monk was exceptional in this respect. There were then not as now many people who preferred false views and false practices that did not accord with the Buddha's teaching. This was probably a hangover from wrong attachments in their previous lives.

The Buddha divined Sunakkhatta's thoughts and said, "So you regard that ascetic as an Arahat! I wonder why you do not feel ashamed of being called the disciple of the Buddha." The monk then accused the Lord of envying the ascetic's Arahatship. This is of course the kind of retort that is to be expected from an ignorant man when someone speaks the truth about his false teacher. The Buddha explained that his object was to remove the monk's illusions that would do him no good. Then he went on to predict that after seven days the ascetic would die of indigestion and land in the lowest Asura world; that his body would be dumped in a certain cemetery; that if the monk went there and asked about his present abode, the dead body would reveal it.

The Buddha made this prophecy in order to restore Sunakkhatta's faith in him. Through the practice of samatha Sunakkhatta had attained jhana and divine eye. With his divine eye he had seen the gods and goddesses and as he wished to hear their voices he asked the Buddha about the way to the attainment of divine ear. But the Lord declined to fulfil his desire because his bad kamma stood in the way and he would blame the Lord for the non-attainment of divine ear. Nevertheless, he lost his faith in the Lord because he thought that it was envy that motivated the Lord to refuse his request. So the Buddha predicted the ascetic's fate to impress Sunakkhatta and salvage his faith.

Sunakkhatta informed the ascetic of the Lord's prediction and warned him against overeating. The ascetic fasted for six days but on the seventh day he could not resist the temptation any longer. He wolfed down the food provided by a lay follower and died of indigestion that very night.

His fellow ascetics dragged his dead body to dump it in any place other than the cemetery specified in the Buddha's prediction. They got to a cemetery but found it to be the very place they wished to avoid for it had the kind of grass predicted by the Buddha. They tried to drag the body away but the creeper-rope snapped and all their efforts to remove it were in vain. So they had to abandon the corpse there.

Sunakkhatta heard the news but still he hoped to prove the falsity of the latter part of the Lord's prediction. He went to the cemetery and rapping the dead man asked about his abode. The corpse arose and after saying that he was in Kalakamjika asura abode fell back on the ground. Kalakamjika is the lowest asura abode. Asura is a kind of peta with a monstrous body and a mouth which is so small that it cannot drink and eat well.

According to the commentary, it was the Buddha's psychic power that made the dead body possessed by the asura peta. Given the ability of some sorcerers to raise the dead, there is no need to have any doubt about the resurrection of the dead ascetic through the psychic power (iddhi) of the Buddha.

Sunakkhatta came back crestfallen and had to admit that the Lord's prophecy had come wholly true. Even so, he did not have complete faith in the Buddha. Later on he left the holy order and disparaged the Lord.

Other Silabbata Practices

Besides the mode of life of cows and dogs there are other practices that can be described as silabbata. Some people emulate the elephants, horses, and so forth. In other words, they worship animals. The commentary refers to king-worshippers which may mean in Burma people who worship various nats. Nat-worship among Burmese people is not motivated by the desire for liberation from samsara (life cycle). It stems from the hope for material benefits here and now and as such it does not fall within the scope of silabbatupadana, but it is upadana over the belief that leads some people to make animal sacrifice in their worship of the nats.

There are also fire-worship, naga-worship, moon-worship, sun-worship, spirit-worship and so forth. If the object in any kind of worship is to have happiness or spiritual liberation after death, it is silabbatupadana. In short, all practices divorced from the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are labelled silabbata and attachment to them as the way to salvation is silabbatupadana.

The yogi who has attained at least the sotapanna stage through the contemplation of nama-rupa is well aware of the right path to Nibbana and so he has freed himself from the belief in silabbata. He knows empirically that the way to the end of suffering is only through the introspection of nama-rupa and the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.

For example, if you know from experience how to go from this meditation centre to Shwedagon pagoda, you will not be misled by anyone who points out the wrong way. Likewise, the yogi at the sotapanna stage knows the right way to Nibbana and so he has no illusion about the beliefs and practices such as belief in God, nat worship or asceticism that pass for the way to salvation.

Those who do not know the right path are not free from such illusion. They may have acquired it from their ignorant parents, teachers or friends; or because of their poor basic knowledge, they might have been misguided by books that advocate false beliefs and practices. The ordinary man (puthujjana) is ignorant of the right path to Nibbana and so he will have to reckon with many teachers and practices through his samsaric existence. If he falls for a false teacher or a false practice, he is in for a lot of suffering. Thus the practice of austerities will only cause hardships and pain and the performance of animal sacrifice will certainly lead to the lower worlds.

It is also upadana over silabbata to believe that rupajhana or arupajhana means complete salvation. In short, even the moral perfection or jhanic attainment in the mundane sphere, though commendable, may lead to silabbatupadana if it is divorced from the holy path of vipassana and regarded as the total liberation. Udaka sutta of Samyutta nikaya refers to the rishi Udaka, who having attained the arupa world through his arupajhana declared that he had uprooted the cause of dukkha and made an end of it. This was also the illusion of another rishi called Alara. This illusion or upadana led to their good kamma which in turn led to their rebirth in the arupa worlds.

So in his discourse to Baka brahma, the Buddha says: "I see the dangers of birth, old age, death, etc., inherent in the three worlds of sensuality, rupa and arupa. I see those who seek Nibbana still bound to existence. So I do not approve of any kind of existence. I have repudiated all attachment to existence."

Like the two rishis, those who do not know the Buddha's teaching never attain their goal. Although they seek permanent happiness, they follow the wrong path of silabbata and remain entangled in the samsaric existence of dukkha. So we can hardly over-emphasize the importance of right effort on the right path as pointed out by the Buddha.

(4) Attavadupadana (Clinging To Belief In Soul)

Attavadupadana is a compound of attavada and upadana. Attavada means belief in soul entity and attavadupadana is attachment to the view that every person is a living soul.

Attachment to the ego-belief is of two kinds, viz., ordinary attachment and deep-rooted attachment. Ordinary attachment that prevails among ignorant Buddhists is not harmful to progress on the holy path. The belief is not deeply entrenched because Buddhists accept the Buddha's teaching which denies the permanent soul and recognizes nama-rupa as the only reality behind a living being. Intelligent Buddhists are still less vulnerable to the belief. For they know that seeing, hearing, etc., involve only the sense-organs (eye, ear, etc.), the corresponding sense-objects (visual form, sound, etc.) and the corresponding states of consciousness.

But most people are not wholly free from the ego-belief. Even the yogi who practises vipassana may at times fall for it and it is likely to attract every man who has not attained the holy path.

In fact those who taught ego-belief described the ego as the owner of the five khandhas, as an independent entity, possessing free-will and self-determination. It was this view of atta (soul) that the Buddha questioned in his dialogue with the wandering ascetic Saccaka. Said the Buddha, "You say that this physical body is your atta. Then can you always keep it well, free from anything unpleasant?" Saccaka had to answer in the negative. Further questioning by the Lord elicited from him the reply that he had in fact no control over any of the five khandhas.

So the ancient Buddhist teachers translate "rupam anatta" as "the physical body is subject to no control", etc. In fact it is the denial of the "samiatta" or the false view of atta as a controlling entity. Every ordinary person holds this view and believes in free-will. He can overcome it completely only through vipassana contemplation.

The attavada teachers also say that atta exists permanently in the physical body. In other words, it means the personal identity that is said to persist through the whole existence.

Again, they say that atta is the subject of all actions, thus identifying it with sankharakkhandha. It is the illusion that creates the belief: "It is I that see, hear, etc."

They also say that atta is the living entity that feels; that it is atta that is happy or unhappy. In other words, they describe atta or soul in terms of vedana or feeling.

Thus, although the Atmanists (attavadi) insist that atta has nothing to do with the five khandhas, they credit it with ownership of the body, etc., permanent residence in the body, subjectivity and feeling: and, hence, in effect they identify it with the five khandhas. The ego-illusion is rooted in the khandhas and a man can free himself completely from it only when he becomes aware of the real nature of khandhas through contemplation.

Of the four upadana, the first upadana (clinging to sensuality) is the developed form of craving (tanha). The other three upadanas differ only as regards their objects; basically they all relate to beliefs, viz., belief in ego, belief in the efficacy of practices other than those of the Eightfold Path, and any false belief other than those in the category of the other two upadana. All false beliefs arise in connection with craving. Men cling to a belief because they like it. Thus there is no doubt that all the four upadanas stem from craving and hence the Buddha's teaching: "From tanha there arises upadana."

In point of fact, craving is the cause and clinging is the effect. Craving for sensual pleasure, ego-belief, or practices irrelevant to the holy path or other false beliefs is the cause, and this craving develops into clinging to sensuality, ego-belief, etc., and thus becomes effects.


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