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A Discourse on
Paticcasamuppada, or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination
Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
Clinging Leads To Becoming
Upadana leads to bhava (becoming). There are two kinds of bhava, viz., kammabhava and upapattibhava.
Kammabhava means the kamma that leads to rebirth. The Buddha describes it as the punnabhi, apunnabhi and anenjabhi sankharas that lead to lower sensual world or the higher material and immaterial worlds. He also identifies kammabhava with all kammas that give rise to new existence.
Of the three sankharas, punnabhi sankhara comprises the eight wholesome volitions (cetana) in sensual sphere and five wholesome volitions in the material (rupa) sphere. Apunnabhi sankhara is the group of twelve unwholesome volitions. Anenjabhi sankhara means the four wholesome volitions in immaterial sphere. Also leading to rebirth are the kammas that arise together with the wholesome volitions in sensual sphere, viz., having no covetous thoughts or designs about another's possessions, having no design against another person's life and holding right views. These kammas are implicit in punnabhi sankhara. In short, kammabhava is the good or bad volition that leads to rebirth.
Upapattibhava is of nine kinds. (1) kammabhava means the nama-rupas of living beings in the sensual world. In other words, kammabhava refers to existences in the hell and the worlds of devas, mankind, animals and petas. (2) rupabhava - the khandhas of brahmas with rupas. (3) arupabhava - namakhandhas of brahmas with no rupas. (4) sannibhava - nama-rupas of beings with gross perceptions, that is beings in 29 abodes other than asanni nevasanni abodes. (5) asanaribhava - nama-rupa of asanni-brahmas. (6) Nevasanninasanni - namakhandhas of higher brahmas. (7) ekavokarabhava - the bhava with only rupakkhandha. (8) catuvokarabhava - the bhava with four namakhandhas. (9) pancavokarabhava - of bhava with five nama-rupakkhandhas.
In short, upapattibhava means the nama-rupas of the new existence that results from kamma. It comprises the vinnana, nama-rupa, salayatana, phassa and vedana.
The bhava that arises from upadana is basically kammabhava, the other upapattibhava being merely its by-product.
From contact with six pleasant or unpleasant sense-objects there arise six pleasant or unpleasant feelings.
Feelings lead to craving and craving develops into clinging; clinging to sensual objects may become excessive to the point of craving for union with one's family in a future life or attainment of Nibbana hand in hand with one's beloved. The excessive degree of a man's upadana is evident in the story of the merchant Mendaka.
Story Of Mendaka
Mendaka was a rich merchant in a previous life. In the face of a famine, his stock of provisions gradually ran out and at last he had to send away his attendants and was left with his wife, a son, his daughter-in-law and a slave. His wife had cooked rice that was barely enough for their consumption, and they were about to eat it when a paccekabuddha appeared to receive food.
At the sight of the paccekabuddha, the merchant thought of his bad kamma, that is, lack of dana in a previous life that had now brought about his starvation. He then offered his share of rice to the paccekabuddha and prayed for abundant supply of food and reunion with the members of his household in his future lives. His wife too donated her share of rice and expressed a similar wish in her prayer. The son and his wife followed suit and prayed in the same vein, that is, for unlimited supply of food and money as well as reunion with the same wife, husband, parents and slaves.
The prayers of the merchant and his family clearly point to the powerful influence of upadana in the sensual sphere and most people today are no less subject to the same kind of attachment. But more appalling is the upadana of the slave Punna. After offering his share of rice, he prayed for abundance of food and rebirth as the slave of the same family! It never occurred to him to pray for rebirth as a king or a merchant; his attachment to his masters and mistresses was so strong that he wanted only to be their slave hereafter.
Once there was a village headman who stood well with Government officials. Those were the days when under British rule most of the high ranking officials were Englishmen. The headman took much delight in paying respect to them. He said that he enjoyed saying, Phaya, "Yes, my Lord," when he was called by an officer. His attachment was essentially the same as that of Punna.
The paccekabuddha blessed them and departed. By means of his psychic power they saw him fly back to the Himalayas and share the food with five hundred other fellow buddhas.
On that very day, the merchant and his family found their acts of dana bearing fruit wonderfully. They found the rice pot full of rice. They ate to their hearts' content, but the pot was always full of rice. They found their granaries, too, overflowing with grains.
Their prayers were fulfilled in the lifetime of the Buddha-Gotama for they became members of the same household in Baddiya, a city of the Magadha country. The news of the fulfilment of their prayers was so unusual and amazing that the king made an inquiry through a minister and found that it was indeed true. This story is mentioned in Vinaya pitaka.
Upadana And Kammabhava
When the sensual desire for an object develops into an intense craving, a person becomes desperate and tries to secure it by fair means or foul. Thefts, robberies, frauds, murders and so forth that are rampant nowadays stem from upadana. Some crimes are rooted in sensual upadana while others arise from one of the three kinds of illusion based on upadana. People commit crimes not only because of their unwholesome desire but also because of their blind attachment to wives, husbands, etc.
The following is a story illustrative of the evil kammabhava resulting from sensual upadana.
Long ago, there was a poor man in Benares. He had only a suit of thick clothes. He washed it to wear during the Tazaungdine festival, but his wife disliked the white clothes and craved for a garment of pink colour. All his efforts to reason with her being in vain, the man at last sneaked into the royal garden at night to steal the flower that was to be used for dyeing his wife's garment. He fell into the hands of the guards and was ordered by the king to be impaled. He suffered terribly with the crows pecking at his eyes. Yet he murmured that his physical pain was nothing when compared to the mental suffering that overwhelmed him when he thought of the non-fulfilment of his wife's desire and his inability to enjoy the festival together with her. So crying over his ill-luck, he died and landed in hell.
Today, there may be many people who do evil due to the pressure of those whom they love. All these evil deeds comprise kammas stemming from upadana and leading to the lower worlds. So Visuddhimagga says: "Under the influence of sensual upadana, people do evil in deeds, words and thought because of their craving for sensual objects in the present life and their desire to preserve the objects in their possession. Such evil deeds usually lead to the lower worlds."
Right And Wrong Good Kamma
Some good deeds are right but some are wrong. The so-called good deeds that some people do are harmful and as such they are evil kammas. For example, some people believe that it is a good deed to put an end to the suffering of some animals by cutting short their span of life. Every living being is afraid to die or suffer pain and it is certainly wrong to cause pain and death to animals.
Some people also consider it a good deed to bring about the speedy death of a person who is suffering from an incurable, painful disease. But the patient does not want to die although he wants to be free from pain. Even if he expresses the desire to die, it is wrong from the Buddhist point of view to cause the death of a living being and if one directly or indirectly causes the premature death of a parent by "mercy killing", it is a grave kammic offence that leads to hell.
"Craving for the sensual pleasures of the human and deva-worlds, and misled by false teachings, etc., some people do misdeeds such as killing for the attainment of their object. But as a result of their evil kamma, they land in the lower worlds after death."
According to the commentary, misconceptions of those people arise from false teachers, lack of good kamma in the past and the failure to guard oneself. Reliance on evil teachers leads to evil kamma, much evil kamma in the previous life makes it easy to acquire evil views and evil habits, and lack of self-vigilance makes one an easy prey to temptation.
True religion is called saddhamma "the religion of the good man". Those who follow the true religion hear good teachings, avoid evil deeds, evil words and evil thoughts, hold right views about the future life, kamma and its fruits, etc., cultivate good thoughts and practise dana, sila and bhavana for their welfare.
The practice of alms-giving, morality and mental development is true and good dhamma because it is harmless and acceptable to everybody. Nobody will blame a man who avoids killing, stealing, abusing and other misdeeds. The good deeds which we do for our welfare here and now or hereafter are wholesome kammas that stem from upadana in the sensual sphere. These kammas lead to rebirth in the human or deva worlds. So the Visuddhimagga says: "Those who hear the true teaching believe in kamma and the efficacy of good deeds as passport to better life in the sensual worlds of rich men, aristocrats or divine beings. So they do good deeds under the influence of kamupadana and are reborn in the human and deva worlds."
Kamma and Rebirth
As it is said, "Bhava paccaya jati," rebirth occurs in the human and deva worlds or in the lower worlds because of good or evil kamma-process. So rebirth stems from kammas which result from clinging (upadana) and craving that is rooted in the contact between the six sense-objects and the corresponding sense-organs (ayatana).
In other words, there arise vinnana, nama-rupa, salayatana, phassa and vedana in the present life as the avijja sankhara, etc., in a previous existence and now on top of that, tanha and upadana give rise to new kamma, thereby providing the ground for new rebirth. The situation is like that of a man who has committed a crime while he is in prison for a previous conviction, or that of a man who has incurred new debt before he has fully settled his old debt.
Such new kammas accumulate by the thousands in a single lifetime. Under certain conditions one of these kammas becomes a death-bed vision and leads to rebirth while other kammas will create rebirth at other times in the life-cycle. If there are residual kammas from the previous lives that possess great force, they take precedence over present kamma, appear as death-bed visions and create rebirth in the lower or higher worlds. The post-mortem destiny of the person in such cases is determined by the nature of kamma.
Four Kinds Of Kamma
Kamma is of four kinds, according to the way in which it bears fruit. (1) //garukamma// - weighty kamma, (2) //bahula or acinnaka kamma// - habitual kamma, (3) //asanna kamma// - death proximate kamma and (4) //katatta// kamma - stored-up kamma.
//Garukamma// is killing parents or an Arahat or causing injury to a Buddha or causing a schism in the Sangha. As for the good //garukammas//, there are the good kammas of the material and non-material worlds. The //garukammas// head off the fruition of other kammas and lead to rebirth, rupa and arupa jhanas among them leading to rupa and arupa rebirth.
The evil garukammas lead direct to hell after death; hence, the term //pancanantriyakammas// - the five great evil kammas leading invariably to hell. The man who kills his father or mother unknowingly or knowingly can never attain jhana or the path and fruition (maggaphala) in the present life; he is bound to land in hell after his death. He cannot attain jhana or the path nor can any good kamma save him from hell. This is evident in the story of Ajatasattu.
Story Of Ajatasattu
Ajatasattu was the son of Bimbisara, the king of Magadha state, a devoted follower of the Buddha. Prior to the birth of the prince, the queen had the desire to drink the blood from the right arm of the king. When the king learnt this, he had the blood taken out and fulfilled her desire. The soothsayers then predicted that the child in the queen's womb would become the king's enemy. Hence the name Ajatasattu - the potential enemy of the father while still in the mother's womb.
The queen tried to abort the child but as the king's kamma and the child's kamma would have it otherwise, she did not succeed in her attempt. The king had her pregnancy well protected and the child was born. When he came of age, he was appointed heir-apparent.
Then the young prince fell into the clutches of the evil-minded Devadatta who misused his psychic power for his selfish ends. Turning himself into a boy with a snake coiled around his waist, he appeared before Ajatasattu and then showed himself as a bhikkhu. The prince was deeply impressed, and no wonder for people are very much interested in miracles and they have blind faith in anyone who can perform them. The prince held Devadatta in high esteem and became his devoted follower.
Then Devadatta made another move for the success of his evil design. He told the prince that since people did not live long, he (the prince) should kill his father and become king while still in the prime of his life; and that he (Devadatta) on his part would kill the Buddha. The prince failed in his attempt on the life of the king but when the latter learnt of his desire, he handed over his kingship to his son.
The transfer of power nonetheless came short of Devadatta's scheme. On his advice, Ajatasattu imprisoned his father and starved him. The queen was the only person who was permitted to visit the prison and see the king. She secretly brought food for the king by various means and at last she was forbidden to visit the prison. From that day, the king got nothing to eat but still he managed to keep himself in good physical condition by pacing on the floor. Then by the king's order, the barbers caused such injury to the feet of his father as to make it impossible for him to walk. According to the commentary, he was thus injured because in a previous life he walked with footwear on the platform of a pagoda and trod with unwashed feet on a mat meant for the bhikkhus.
King Bimbisara died probably at the age of 67. His son Ajatasattu was not evil-minded at heart. His good nature was evident in his devotion to the Buddha after he had wronged his father, his adoration and enshrinement of the Buddha relics and whole-hearted support which he gave to the First Council. It was his association with the evil teacher that led him astray to the point of patricide. His life affords us a lesson that we should specially bear in mind.
On the very day of his father's death, his wife gave birth to a son. On hearing the news, he became excited and overwhelmed with great affection for his child. This reminded him of his father and he ordered the release of the imprisoned king, but it was too late. When later on he learnt from his mother how much he was loved and cared for by his father in his childhood, he was seized with remorse. His life became wretched and miserable. He could not sleep at night, haunted by the visions of hell and smitten by conscience for his crime against his father, a devout lay disciple of the Buddha at that.
So led by the physician Jivaka, he went to see the Buddha. At that time the Lord was surrounded by over a thousand bhikkhus. But as they were in a contemplative mood, all was quiet with none speaking or making any movement of their hands or feet. Being deeply impressed, the king said, "May my son Udayabaddha be blessed with the kind of serenity which these bhikkhus possess!" Perhaps he feared lest his son should come to know how he seized power and try to follow in his father's footsteps. But later his fear did become a reality for down to his great grandson, the sons ascended the throne after killing their fathers.
King Ajatasattu asked the Buddha about the immediate benefits of the life in the holy order. The Lord enlarged on the benefits accruing from the holy life - the lay follower's reverence for the bhikkhu, moral purity, the first jhana and other higher states of consciousness in the mundane sphere, psychic powers, extinction of defilements and the attainments of the holy path.
After hearing the sermon, Ajatasattu formally declared himself a disciple of the Buddha. He would have attained the first stage on the path but for his patricide. Nevertheless, from that time he had peace of mind and after his death, he was spared the terrors of Avici hell that would have been in store for him had he not met the Buddha.
Habitual And Death-Bed Kammas
The other three weighty kammas, viz., killing an Arahat, causing injury to the Buddha and wilfully causing a schism in the Sangha are also bound to drag the offender to hell.
The other type of kamma that bears fruit is habitual kamma, called //bahula or acinna kamma//. Failure to lead a good moral life may become habitual if no step is taken to remove it, and it will have evil kammic effect in a future life. So laymen should live up to the five precepts and in case of any breach verbally affirm the will to guard one's moral life more vigilantly. Moral purity is equally vital to the life of a bhikkhu. Failure to make amends for any deliberate or unintentional violation of a vinaya rule will create habitual kamma and so the bhikkhu should seek to regain moral purity through confession and reaffirmation of his will to preserve it.
Alms-giving, reverence for parents and teachers, contemplation of the Buddha, practice of meditation and so forth, which one does daily are also habitual kammas that tend to bear immediate fruits.
In the absence of habitual kamma, what we do at the last moment of our life (//asanna kamma//: death-bed kamma) produces kammic results. In one Abhidhamma book, it is described as being more potent than habitual kamma but perhaps this is true only in exceptional cases. As the commentaries say, the habitual kammas probably take precedence and bear fruits.
Nevertheless, in the light of stories in ancient Buddhist literature we can certainly rely on death-bed kamma. A dying man who had killed people for over 50 years attained the deva-world after offering food to Sariputta and hearing his discourse. This story finds an echo in the experience of a. Sinhalese fisherman who landed in the deva world after his encounter with a thera just before his death.
As productive as the positive death-bed kamma is its negative counterpart. A Sinhalese layman who practised meditation for many years was disappointed as he had never seen even the light. He then concluded that the Buddha's teaching was not the way to liberation and because of this false view he landed in the peta world after his death.
Failure to encounter the light, etc., in the practice of meditation may be due to wrong method, wrong effort or lack of basic potential (parami). In the time of the Buddha, a monk called Sunakkhatta attained divine eye but not the divine-ear because he did not have the potential for it and, besides, there was his bad kamma as a hindrance.
So the yogi need not be disheartened if his practice does not produce the desired effect. By and large, practice along the right path leads to unusual experiences.
With tranquillity and purity of mind, the material object of contemplation and the contemplating consciousness become clearly distinct as do their causal relation and their ceaseless, rapid arising and dissolution. At that time, the yogi sees the light but even if he does not see it clearly he experiences joy, ecstasy, etc., for joy, ecstasy, tranquillity, equanimity, etc., form the links of enlightenment (//bojjhanga//) that are so vital to the development of vipassana insight. Reflection on namarupa by itself does not lead to these higher states of consciousness.
In the absence of habitual or death-bed kamma, there is kattata kamma which means the kamma that one has done once in a lifetime.
Birth And Suffering
The role of kamma in the chain of causation is underscored in the teaching sankhara paccaya vinnanani - "From sankhara there arises rebirth consciousness", which we have already explained in detail. The dying person is attached to the signs and visions relating to his kamma and so on his death there follow kamma-based rupas together with rebirth-consciousness conditioned by his death-bed attachment.
Contact with the sense-objects gives rise to feeling which in turn produces desire. It does not matter whether the feeling is pleasant or unpleasant. Pleasant feeling creates attachment to pleasant objects while unpleasant feeling makes us crave for pleasant objects. When the desire becomes strong and develops into frantic craving (upadana), it results in activity or effort for its fulfilment. People do good or bad deeds which they hope will help to satisfy their needs and desires. It is this kammabhava rooted in craving that gives rise to rebirth. Rebirth is bound up with suffering regardless of the world in which it takes place.
There is no need to dwell on the sufferings in the animal and other lower worlds. Among human beings, too, suffering is an inescapable fact of life. A man's suffering begins while he is in the mother's womb. He has to work hard for his living, he is harassed by bullies and tyrants. Even if he escapes from the dukkha inherent in the struggle for survival, he will finally have to face old age, sickness and death. From the time of his conception, man is headed towards these inevitable evils of life. He is approaching them at every moment. He may live an apparently care-free, happy life but his namarupas are forever in the process of ageing and disintegration.
There is an Indian story which stresses the inevitability of old age, sickness and death. A man being afraid of old age rose into the air with the elixir of life in his mouth and hid in the sky. Another man hid under the sea to escape sickness and still another hid in a cave in Himalayas to avoid death. When their sons searched for them they found that the first man had become old with all the ugly signs of decrepitude, the second man was sick unto death and the third man was dead.
Everyone is subject to old age, sickness and death. Once a man is reborn, there is nothing that will protect him from these evils of existence. Hence, the Buddha's saying in the Dhammapada that there is no place in the sky, on land or in the sea, where one can escape death.
Grief And Lamentation
Death and the other two evils of life are inevitable so long as rebirth takes place within the framework of disintegrating nama-rupa. Rebirth leads also to grief, anxiety, lamentations and anguish.
We grieve when a member of the family dies. The grief is overwhelming when we lose someone, e.g. parents or a husband on whom we have to depend or someone, e.g. a son or a daughter whom we love dearly. Another cause for grief is the loss of material possessions through evil-minded officials, robbers, thieves, destructive fires, floods, cyclones, and hated heirs. Grief is also caused by the affliction of disease and decline of health. Some sick persons are so much depressed that their mental states become a hindrance to their recovery. In the case of morally scrupulous monks and laymen, any damage to moral life gives rise to anxiety. Thus, the rishi Isisinga suffered terrible anguish when his moral integrity was undermined by the seduction of a goddess. Anxiety and repentance also torment those who realize their mistakes after having rejected the right view in favour of a wrong one under the guidance of a false teacher.
Besides, there are many other misfortunes in life, e.g. accidents, viz., victimization by robbers, etc., hardship in earning one's living and, securing the necessities of life and so forth that occasion grief, anguish and lamentation.
There is no need to dwell on the physical sufferings in hell and the animal and peta-worlds. Because of his consciousness, man also suffers anguish whenever he is in contact with unpleasant sense-objects. As he has thus to suffer mentally into the bargain, it is for him something like adding insult to injury. This does not apply to the Arahat or the noble one at the anagami stage, for being free from irritation (dosa) he remains unperturbed in the face of physical suffering and so does the mindful yogi who is free from ego-illusion that tends to add to the sense of self-pity. Hence, the importance of the Buddha's teaching that we should be aware of unpleasant feeling when we suffer from it.
People are unhappy when they think of the frustrations and misfortunes that beset them in the past or at present or that may beset them in future. They feel bitter and upset when they find themselves in distress and burdened with misfortunes.
All these sufferings are rooted in rebirth. Life is all suffering without the ego and without anything good even if there were such ego to enjoy it.
According to the doctrine of Paticcasamuppada, the only thing that links one existence with another is the cause-and-effect relationship. From craving, kammic effort, etc., based on ignorance in one existence, there arise five effects, viz., consciousness, body and mind, sense-organs, contact, and feeling. These effects begin with rebirth and end in death with old age, anxiety and other sufferings in between them.
This teaching of the Buddha will not appeal to common people who harbour illusions of happiness and ego-entity. But impersonality and suffering are the unmistakable facts of existence and life in the deva-world is no exception. Some earth-bound devas have to struggle hard for survival and are more miserable than human beings. They are called //vinipatika// devas and they comprise ghosts, devils, etc., that belong to lower order of devas. Some devas in heavens are not happy because they do not have good abodes and enough attendants. Even Sakka, the king of devas, admitted to the elderly thera Mahakassapa that he was not very much luminous as his attainment of deva-world was due to the good kamma which he did long before the proclamation of Buddha-dhamma and that he had to hide himself when he saw the devas who outshone him as they had done good kamma in the time of the Buddha.
Thus, Sakka was not always happy and so were his female attendants who told Mahakassapa that they were wretched and miserable since they counted for little among the high-ranking queen-goddesses. Some devas become unhappy on the approach of death that is heralded by the withering of their bedecked flowers, the sweating from their armpits and other signs of senility. Some devas die suddenly while indulging in celestial pleasure just like a man whose life is cut off by stroke. Death may be a matter of seconds like the extinction of the flame of a candle. This is borne out by the story of Subrahma deva.
Story Of Subrahma Deva
Subrahma deva was having a good time when his attendants, the goddesses who were singing and plucking flowers on the tree died suddenly and landed in hell. Subrahma deva saw them suffering in hell and at the same time he foresaw that he too would die in a few days and share the fate of his attendants. Being much frightened, he came to the Buddha and asked the Lord to show him the place where he could live without fear. The Lord then says that he sees no way to salvation for every living being other than the practice of //bojjhanga// dhamma (links of enlightenment such as mindfulness), the //dhutanga// (ascetic practices) and //sammappadhana// (right exertion), that serve to put an end to defilements, the control of senses (indriyasamvarasile), the control that helps to keep off the defilements and Nibbana which means renunciation of everything.
On hearing this, the deva and his attendants attained the first stage on the holy path. What we should note here is the sudden death of the goddesses. The fate of those who thus die suddenly while engaged in the pursuit of pleasure is indeed terrible for they are likely to land in hell as a result of unwholesome kammic impulses. If there is any sign that heralds the approach of death, it creates fear and adds to their suffering.
Suffering that stems from attachment to pleasure is not confined to the sensual sphere. For it is the lot, too, of the Brahmas in their immaterial or formless (arupa) world. In the Brahma world there is no pleasure of sex or any other sensual pleasure. The Brahmas only see, hear or think and the objects of their seeing, etc., have no sexual overtones. But as Visuddhimagga says, some people develop a craving for the sensual pleasures of the Brahma world because they believe either through hearsay or speculation that such pleasures are superior to those of the human and deva-worlds. It is no other than their sensual craving that leads to the attainment of rupajhana, arupajhana, samapatti and finally lands them in the rupa or arupa brahma worlds.
It is not surprising that some people think or speak of the sensual pleasure in the Brahma world. Those who are well aware of the true teachings of the Buddha will reject the idea but it probably appeals to ignorant people. The Indian religious books portray Brahma with his wife and some regard even Nibbana as a heavenly abode with celestial mansions where we can dwell with our families and attendants.
Kamaupadana Means All Kinds Of Excessive Craving
Kamaupadana here means not only the excessive craving for sensual pleasure. It means also the developed forms of craving for the material and immaterial (rupa and arupa) worlds. Hence, according to Visuddhimagga, the yogi can do away with this inordinate craving only at the last stage of the holy path and it is this craving that lies at the root of every effort to attain rupa or arupa jhana. For ordinary people such jhana means rupa or arupa kammic effort based on sensual craving and this leads to rebirth in rupa or arupa world of Brahmas. From the time of rebirth there arises the ceaseless ageing (jara) of nama-rupa or either of the two phenomena of life. The senility of the Brahma is not apparent like that of a human being but still it leads to decay, and when his course is run, he cannot avoid death.
Being free from hatred, the life of a Brahma is not subject to grief, worry, anxiety and so forth; and the lack of physical sensitivity makes him free from physical suffering. He cannot, however, escape birth, old age and death that are inherent in every kind of existence.
So escape from old age and death presupposes the effort to rule out the possibility of rebirth. In order to avoid rebirth, we must seek to avoid wholesome or unwholesome kamma and negation of kammic existence calls for negation of attachment and craving. For this purpose, the mental process must end in feeling and stop short of developing the desire for anything. This denial of desire through the contemplations, anicca, dukkha and anatta of everything arising from the senses is the only way to avoid craving, rebirth and other links in the causal sequence that leads to old age and death. This means the temporary extinction of suffering which the yogi can overcome once and forever when he develops vipassana insight on the holy path.
Attachment To Belief As The Cause Of Rebirth
Ditthupadana means the attachment to the view which rejects future life and kamma. Hence, ucchedaditthi which insists on annihilation after death is a kind of ditthupadana. A person who holds such a belief will have no need to do good or avoid evil. He will do nothing for other-worldly welfare and seek to enjoy life as much as possible by fair means or foul. As he has no moral scruples, most of his acts are unwholesome kammas that create death-bed visions and lead him to the lower worlds. This is evident in the story of Nandaka peta.
Nandaka was a general in the time of king Pingala who ruled Surattha country that lay north of the present province of Bombay in West India. He clung to false views e.g. that it was useless to give alms and so forth. After his death he became a peta on a banyan tree, but when his daughter offered food to a monk and shared her merit with him, he had an unlimited supply of celestial drinks and food. He then realized the truth of the kammic law and repented of his adherence of false views in his previous life. One day, he led king Pingala to his abode and entertained the king and his followers to a celestial feast. The king was much surprised and in response to his inquiry, the peta gave an account of his rebirth in the lower worlds as a kammic result of his false views, immorality and vehement opposition to alms-giving; and the sudden change of his fortune following his sharing of merit acquired by his daughter. He also described the suffering that he would have to undergo after his death, the terrible suffering in hell that he was to share with those who held wrong views and vilified the holy men during their earthly existence.
The moral of the story is that attachment to wrong views (e.g. that an act has no kammic result, etc.) leads to unwholesome acts and rebirth in the lower worlds.
The commentary also says that clinging to uccheda (annihilation) belief leads to deva or Brahma worlds if annihilation is supposed to follow demise on those higher planes of existence, but devas and Brahmas apparently do not believe in their annihilation after death. By and large, the belief in annihilation makes people prone to misdeeds.
Kammic deeds may also be motivated by eternity belief (sassataditthi). The belief creates the illusion of personal identity, the illusion which makes a man believe that it is his permanent self that will have to bear the consequences of his good or bad deeds in a future life. So he devotes himself to what he regards as good deeds. Some of his deeds may be bad in fact, but in any case his deeds, whether good or bad, that arise from eternity belief lead to rebirth and suffering.
Still, another mainspring of kammic deed is superstitious belief. There are many superstitions, for example, that seeing a man of low class brings about misfortune, that the beehive or a guana in a house is a sure omen of poverty. Under the influence of such beliefs, a person may do evil, such as treating an outcaste cruelly or killing the bees. This is borne out by the Cittasambhuta jataka.
In the jataka the bodhisatta was a man of low chandala class called Citta. Ananda was then his cousin named Sambhuta. They made their living by dancing with bamboos. One day, the daughter of a merchant and the daughter of a high-caste brahmin who were very superstitious went for a picnic with their attendants. At the sight of the two dancers, they considered it an ill omen and returned home. Their irate followers then beat the two men for denying them the pleasure of the picnic.
The two dancers then went to Taxila and disguised as brahmins, they devoted themselves to learning. Citta became a student leader by virtue of his intelligence. One day, their teacher sent them to a place where they were required to recite the brahmanical parittas. There having got his mouth burnt by drinking hot milk unmindfully, Sambhuta uttered, "Khalu, Khalu" in his dialect and Citta was so absent-minded as to say, "niggala, niggala" ("spit out, spit out"); these slips of the tongue led to their undoing for their high caste brahmin students found out their secret. They were beaten and expelled from school.
On the advice of their teacher they became rishis (forest ascetics or hermits). After their death they passed on to the animal world, first as two deers and as two eagles in their next existence. Then Citta became the son of the chief Brahmin and remembered his three previous lives. He led the life of a hermit and attained jhana and psychic powers. Sambhuta became a king, he remembered his low caste life as a chandala and spent his time in the pursuit of sensual pleasure.
By means of his psychic power, Citta knew his brother's spiritual immaturity and after waiting for 50 years he came to the king's garden. The king recognized the hermit as his brother in a previous life and was prepared to share royal pleasures with him. But being aware of the kammic effects of good and bad deeds, the bodhisatta had pledged himself to a life of self-restraint, renunciation and detachment. He reminded the king of their close associations in their previous lives, to wit, as low-caste chandalas, as deers and as birds. His object was to point out the erratic course of kammic life and to urge the king to become an ascetic for further spiritual progress. But it was hard for Sambhuta to give up his worldly pleasures. So the bodhisatta returned to the Himalayas. Then the king became disenchanted with his worldly pleasures and went to the Himalayas where he was welcomed by the hermit. There, as a hermit he devoted himself to spiritual exercises and attained jhana and psychic powers.
Superstition And Evil Rebirth
What we wish to emphasize in this story is the evil kammas that arise from superstitions. The role of superstition as the cause of evil deeds is also evident in the story of Koka, the hunter.
In the time of the Buddha, there was a hunter called Koka in a certain village. One day he set out with his dogs to hunt in the forest. On the way he met a monk who was out on his begging round. The hunter considered this encounter an omen that boded no good. As luck would have it, he did not get any animal for food on that day. On his return he again met the monk. Now blind with fury and ill-will, he set his dogs on the monk. The monk had to run and climb up a tree.
He sat on a branch that was not very high. The hunter poked at the feet of the monk with the sharp end of an arrow. The latter had to lift his feet one after the other and at last his robe got loose and slipped down. It fell upon the hunter and seeing him thus wrapped up in the robe, the dogs mistook him for the monk and attacked him. Thus, he was killed by his own dogs. Then realizing that they had killed their master, the dogs ran away.
The monk got down from the tree and reported the matter to the Buddha. Thereupon, the Lord says, "The foolish man wrongs a person who has never wronged another. He wrongs a person who is free from defilements, but his evil deed boomerangs on him just like the particle of dust that returns to us when we throw it against the wind."
Here, the hunter's terrible death, his rebirth in the lower worlds and suffering arise from an evil deed that in turn is rooted in his superstition. Some people get alarmed when an astrologer says that the position of planets bodes no good for them. So they offer flowers and candles to the Buddha image, give dana to the monks, hear the sermons and practise meditation. Some have the parittas recited by monks to stave off the impending evil that they associate with their unpleasant dreams. Their good deeds lead to good rebirth, but like the other rebirths that stem from evil deeds, it too is fraught with suffering.
Some ignorant people do evil to keep off the misfortunes that might befall them. The jatakas mention the animal sacrifice of some kings that involves the killing of four goats, four horses, four men and so forth as propitiatory offerings to gods. On one occasion, this kind of rite was planned by king Kosala in the time of the Buddha.
The king had taken a fancy to a married woman and so one day he sent her husband on an errand to a distant place. Should he fail to accomplish the task entrusted to him and return to the capital on the same day, he was to be punished. The man carried out the king's order and returned before sunset, but the city gate was closed and so being unable to enter the city, he spent the night at Jetavana monastery.
Overwhelmed with lust and evil desire, the king could hardly sleep in his palace. He heard the voices of the four men who were suffering in hell for having committed adultery in their previous lives. It was perhaps by virtue of the Buddha's will and psychic power that the king heard these voices from hell. The king was frightened and in the morning, he sought the advice of the Brahmin counsellor. The Brahmin said that the voices portended imminent misfortune and that in order to stave it off, the king should sacrifice elephants, horses, etc., each kind of animals numbering a hundred.
The king made preparations for the animal sacrifice. How cruel is human nature that dictates the sacrifice of thousands of lives to save one's own life. Among the potential victims there were human beings, and hearing their cries, queen Mallika approached the king and asked him to seek the advice of the Buddha.
The Buddha assured the king that the voices had nothing to do with him. They were the voices of four young men who, having seduced married women in the time of Kassapa Buddha, were now suffering in Lohakumbhi hell. They were now repentent and belatedly trying to express their desire to do good after their release from hell. The king was very much frightened and vowed never to lust for another man's wife. He told the Buddha how the previous night had seemed very long because he could not sleep. The man who had fetched what the king wanted said too that he had travelled one yojana the previous day. Thereupon, the Buddha uttered the verse: "To one who cannot sleep, the night seems long; to the weary traveller, a yojana is a long distance. Similarly, for the foolish man who does not know the true dhamma, the life-cycle is long."
After hearing this gatha, many people attained sotapanna and other stages on the holy path. The king ordered the release of all living beings that were to be sacrificed. But for the Buddha's words, he would have done unwholesome kammas, and this story shows how superstitious beliefs lead to evil deeds.
Fanaticism Or Religious Upadana
Good or evil kammas are also born of religious attachments. By and large, people believe that theirs is the only true religion, that all other religions are false. So they try to spread their religion, convert other people by force or otherwise persecute the non-believers. All these evils had their origin in religious upadana or fanaticism.
Again kammic deeds may stem from attachment to ideology or views on worldly matters. Some people seek to impose their creed on other people by every means in their power; they propagate it in various ways and they discredit or slander or undermine the unity of those who do not agree with them. All these efforts and activities form the kammabhava due to upadana.
In short, all obsessions with practices, and beliefs other than the ego-belief mean excessive attachment to views that leads to kammic deeds.
Silabbatupadana - Attachment To Wrong Practices
Some people believe that they can attain salvation through certain practices that have nothing to do with the Four Noble Truths. Such a belief is called silabbatupadana. It is silabbatupadana, too, to worship animals, to adopt the animal way of life, to perform certain rites and ceremonies in the hope of attaining salvation.
According to Visuddhimagga, some people rely on these practices as the way to salvation and do kammic deeds that lead to rebirth in the human world, the deva world and the material (rupa) and immaterial (arupa) worlds.
The Visuddhimagga refers only to kammas leading to the human and other higher worlds. It makes no mention of the kammas leading to the lower worlds. It does not follow, however, that silabbatupadana does not give rise to bad kammas. The commentary does not mention the evil kamma arising from silabbatupadana only because it is too obvious to need allusion. It is said in the Kukkuravatika and other suttas that a man is reborn as an ox or a dog if he lives to the letter like those animals in deed, word or thought or he is reborn in hell or animal world if he accepts the false belief but does not practise it fully. Needless to say, the killing of animals as a sacrifice to gods that arises from this upadana leads to the lower worlds, and so do other misdeeds resulting from the upadana that is bound up with certain forms of worship, rites and ceremonies.
In short, every belief in the efficacy of a practice as an antidote to evil is silabbatupadana. According to the commentaries on Visuddhimagga it is silabbatupadana even to rely entirely on conventional morality and mundane jhana as the way to liberation. The arupa jhanas attained by Alara and Udaka originated in this upadana and so do the deeds of many people that are based on faith in God. All these upadanas leads to rebirth and suffering.
Attavadupadana - Attachment To Ego-Belief
The last upadana (attavadupadana) is attachment to ego-belief. It is the strong conviction about the ego entity, the firm belief that the ego exists permanently, that it is the agent of every deed, speech and thought.
Few people are free from this upadana. The average man believes that it is "I" who sees, hears, moves, etc. This illusion of ego-entity is the mainspring of self-love and concern about the welfare of one's self. The universality and omnipotence of self-love are underscored in Queen Mallika's reply to king Kosala.
Mallika was originally the daughter of a flower vendor. One day she met the Buddha on the way and offered her food. After eating the food, the Lord told Ananda that the girl would become the queen of king Kosala. On that very day, king Kosala who was defeated in the battle, fled on horseback. Utterly exhausted and forlorn, the king rested in the flower-garden where he was tenderly attended on by Mallika. Being much pleased, the king took her to the palace and made her his chief queen. The Buddha's prophecy came true because of her recent good kamma and her good deed in the past existence.
But Mallika was not as good looking as other lesser queens. Moreover, as a woman born of a poor family, she felt ill at ease among the courtiers. So in order to cheer her the king one day asked her whom she loved most. The answer which he expected was "Your Majesty, I love you most." He would then tell her that he too, loved her more than anyone else and this demonstration of his love would, so he thought, increase their intimacy and make her more at home in the palace.
Nevertheless, as an intelligent woman who had the courage of conviction, Mallika replied frankly that there was no one whom she loved more than herself. She asked the king whom he loved most. The king had to admit that he too loved himself more than anyone else. He reported this dialogue to the Buddha. Then the Lord said, "There is no one in this world who loves another person more than himself. Everyone loves himself or herself most. So everyone should have sympathy and avoid ill-treating another person."
In this saying of the Buddha, the word "self" or in Pali, atta, does not mean the atta or atman of the ego-belief. It refers only to self in its conventional sense or the self that a man speaks of to distinguish his own person from other living beings. But the ego-belief is also a source of self-love. The more powerful the belief is, the greater is the love of oneself.
We do not love anyone more than our own selves. One loves one's wife or husband or child only as a helpmate, an attendant or a support. Marital or parental love is no more real than love of precious jewellery. So if a person says that his love of someone is greater than his love of himself, his words must be taken with a large grain of salt. In cases of life-and-death crisis, even a mother will not care for her child.
Once a woman travelling with a caravan across the desert was left behind with her child as she was asleep when the caravan departed. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the sands became hotter and she had to place her basket and then her clothes under her feet. Still the heat became more unbearable till at last she was forced to put down her child under her body. Hence, the saying that even a mother will sacrifice her child for self-preservation.
Because of this self-love based on ego-belief, man seeks his welfare or the welfare of his family by fair means or foul. He does not hesitate to do evil that serves his interests. But the belief in a permanent self also leads to good kammas. Some people are motivated by the belief and so they practise sila, dana, jhana, etc., for their welfare in afterlife. As a result they land in deva and Brahma worlds, but there they have to face again old age, death, and other evils of existence.
In short, every effort to seek one's welfare in the present life or hereafter is rooted in ego-belief. Such kammic effort differs from that arising from kamupadana only in that its mainspring is obsession with personal identity whereas in the case of the latter the driving-force is craving for sensual pleasure. Nevertheless, for those who are strongly attached to ego-belief, egoism is closely bound up with sensual desire.
As for the Ariyas who are wholly free from ego-belief, they are motivated only by kamupadana when they do good. Thus, the dana, sila and bhavana of Anathapindika, Visakha, Mahanama and others on the holy path may stem from their desire for better life in the human and deva-worlds or for the attainment of higher stages on the path.
Story Of Ugga
The anagami Ariyas do good presumably because of their desire for the bliss in material and immaterial spheres and arahatship. It is, of course, arahatship that can help remove sensual craving. The desire for arahatship as the motivation for doing good in the case of anagami yogi is evident in the story of Ugga.
Ugga was a householder in Vesali city. The Buddha spoke of the eight wonderful attributes possessed by Ugga. In response to the inquiry by a monk about the Lord's reference to his attributes, Ugga said that he knew nothing about it but that he had eight distinctive qualities which were as follows.
l. When he saw the Buddha for the first time, he concluded decisively that Gotama was the real, all-Enlightened Buddha.
2. He attained anagami insight into the Four Noble Truths when he heard the Buddha's discourse. He observed the five precepts that included abstinence from sexual intercourse.
3. He had four young wives. He told them about his sexual abstinence and permitted them to return to their parents' homes or to marry the men of their own choice. At the request of his eldest wife, he willingly performed the wedding ceremony before giving her away to the man she loved.
4. He had resolved to spend all his wealth on giving alms to holy men of high moral character.
5. He approached the bhikkhus respectfully.
6. He heard the bhikkhus' sermon respectfully. He preached if the bhikkhus did not give a sermon.
7. The devas came to him and said, "The doctrine of the Buddha is very good." He replied that the Dhamma was a good doctrine whether or not they said so about it. He did not feel conceited for his dialogue with the devas.
8. He found himself free from the first five attachments that lead to the lower, sensual worlds.
One day Ugga, the householder who possessed these eight qualities and had attained the anagami stage on the path, offered food and robes which he liked very much to the Buddha. The Lord commented on the nature of alms-giving as follows:
"One who offers anything that pleases him or that he prizes highly gets something which he adores. One who offers to the Ariyan Noble who is of high moral character is doing an act of dana that it is hard for ordinary people to do and therefore he gets what he wants very much."
Some years later, Ugga died and passed on to the Suddhavasa brahma-world. Before long he came and paid respect to the Buddha. He said that he had attained Arahatship that was indeed the object of his aspiration when he offered his much beloved food to the Lord in his previous existence. The Buddha again commented on the nature of kammic benefits of alms-giving - how the giver got what he prized most if he offered his much-prized object, how he attained a rare object if he offered rare things, how he attained to a much extolled stage if he offered much-extolled objects.
The moral of this story is that one may even attain Arahatship, the summum bonum of the holy life as the kammic result of giving away one's much prized and precious objects. Ugga's alms-giving was motivated by the desire for Arahatship and it is this desire, or kamupadana that formed his driving force. Some people may object to making the term kamupadana synonymous with the desire for Arahatship and label it rather kusalachanda (wholesome desire) but then they will have to explain what kind of upadana it is that gives rise to good acts of Ariya such as dana, sila, etc.
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