Revised May 26, 2021
1. Many people believe that paṭisandhi or the linking to a new life happens in a womb (in human and animal realms). But that is not correct. Paṭisandhi citta as experienced in the next very citta after the cuti citta of the old life in the last citta vithi of the dying person.
- The new life form (gandhabba) emerges from the dead body right after the last citta vithi (However, if the next life is an opapātika one, the lifeform arises fully-formed). This is also called the gandhabba state. Here we will discuss the case where the new life is either human or animal, and thus a gandhabba is formed; see, “Manomaya Kaya (Gandhabba) and the Physical Body” and “Ghost in the Machine – Synonym for the Manomaya Kaya?“.
2. Paṭisandhi (“paṭi” is to “bind” and “sandhi” is a “joint” in Pāli or Sinhala.) Thus paṭisandhi means joining a new life at the end of the old) happens in a thought-moment in the body of the dying person; if the next life is human or animal, then the gandhabba for that life comes out of that body at the end of that last citta vithi. Of course the gandhabba has a very fine body, and it can be seen only by a person with abhiññā powers. Let us discuss this step carefully.
- This analysis is highly technical and suitable only for those familiar with citta vithi processes in Abhidhamma. However, the conclusions are informative, so you may want to go through them. Citta vithi and cetasika are discussed in several posts in Citta and Cetasika.
3. The last citta vithi of the old life with 17 citta run in the standard way: atita bhavaṅga, bhavaṅga calana, bhavaṅga upaccheda, pañcadvārāvajjana, cakkhu viññāṇa, sampaṭiccana, santirana, votthapana, and then javana sequence (7 javana citta) starts. After the fifth javana citta, there are two more javana citta left. The sixth is the cuti citta, and the seventh and last javana is the paṭisandhi citta.
- In the last citta vithi, a previous kamma vipāka provides an arammana (thought object) associated with that kamma vipāka through one of the five sense doors: it is normally a visual or a sound associated with the new existence (bhava). Even though the person’s physical faculties may be weak, the person will see or hear very clearly whatever the nimitta presented by the kamma vipāka. Then at the votthapana citta, the mind decides to act on that arammana based on the person’s gati. The person has no control of it. It is called, “kammaja purejāta; cittaja paccejāta,” i.e., kamma vipāka comes first, and then accordingly the javana citta flow grasping that new bhava:
“kammā vipāka vajjanti, vipako kamma sambhavo
Tasma punabbhovo hoti, evan loko pavattati”
“kamma vipāka presents a new existence; the ignorant being grasps that existence.
Thus the cycle of rebirths repeats, and that is how the world exists.”
4. First, there is the vipāka. An ignorant person gets involved in it and makes new kamma; that is kamma sambhava. That process of “vipako kamma sambhavo” is initiated at the votthapana citta. The votthapana citta decides how to proceed with the arammana (object) that came from the kamma vipāka, and the being normally gets attached to that object via greed/hate and grasps a new existence in the javana citta that follow. Thus “vipāko kamma sambhavo” starts with the first javana citta. With each subsequent javana strengthens via āsevana paccayā from the previous javana. Thus, after 5 javana-citta, kammic-energy is optimized, The sixth one is called cuti citta, and the next citta grasps the new bhava.
- Cuti citta happens in the last citta vithi just after the actual cuti (death) because it is paccejāta to kammaja cuti event. The seventh javana always is responsible for the next life.
- Now, this linking to the next life happens at the 7th javana citta or the paṭisandhi citta, which is again paccejāta to the actual kammaja paṭisandhi that starts at the pañcadvāravajjana citta in this last citta vithi.
5. Now, let us take a look at the last citta vithi of the old life in detail. This citta vithi was started by the last bit of kammic energy from the old life, and it will run its course of 17 citta before it comes to an end. It is like throwing a stone. The person throwing the stone would have released all the energy by the time the stone leaves his hand. But the stone will be traveling until all that energy is spent. In the same way, even though the kammic energy for the old life has ended, the last citta vithi will run its course of 17 citta, including the last two bhavaṅga citta after the 7 javana citta.
- Cuti or death is not a citta; it is the end of the kammic energy of the old life. Cuti happens just when initiating the last citta vithi, and the cuti citta is in the last citta vithi. Paṭisandhi is not a citta either. It is also a kammaja act.
- Here the old bhavaṅga has ended too, but there are two bhavaṅga citta left in the last citta vithi. The new vatthu rupa cannot be formed until this last citta vithi runs its course. That is because as soon as one is formed, it will start its citta vithi, and no two vithi can be there at the same time.
6. In that last citta vithi, by the time atita bhavaṅga, bhavaṅga calana, and comes to bhavaṅga upaccheda, the kammic vipāka from the old life are finished. Now what comes to the pañcadvāra is the kamma nimitta, asanna kamma, or a gati nimitta; it is the vipāka citta that powers the new life: “kamma vipāka vajjanti”. The sampaṭiccana and santirana cittā “accept” the kamma vipāka. Then “vipāko kamma sambhavo” happens at the votthapana citta, i.e., a decision is made on whether to initiate an action, i.e., new kamma. That decision depends on the level of avijjā (arising due to one’s gati and āsavā, as well as the ārammaṇa in question).
- This “vipāka kamma sambhavo” starts with the first javana citta and builds up gradually up to the fifth javana citta. Now the sixth javana, cuti citta, had been determined from the beginning of the citta vithi. The new kamma bīja starts working at the seventh javana in the new bhava.
7. When this last citta vithi ends, the old hadaya vatthu is dead too; it had exhausted all its kammic power. The next citta vithi starts with a new hadaya vatthu of the new life powered by a new kamma bīja. The new hadaya vatthu is formed by the new kamma seed that was grasped at the 7th javana (the paṭisandhi citta), and immediately the first citta vithi for the new life starts. The gandhabba is formed and comes out of the dead body.
- If a human died and the next life is an animal, the gandhabba with the corresponding animal figure comes out fully formed (of course, it is very fine); It is the blueprint for the new physical body.
- This gandhabba now has to wait for a suitable womb. It is not that gandhabba decides which womb is good; rather, when a womb that matches the gati of the gandhabba becomes available, gandhabba will be pulled into it by the kammic energy.
- When a sperm fertilizes an egg in a womb, a single cell called zygote results. But there is no life there until the gandhabba enters the womb and is incorporated with that zygote. Now the zygote becomes an embryo, then a fetus, and once out of the womb grows to a full-size human or an animal according to that blueprint.
- Science has been unable to explain how all the complex body parts of a human or animal develop, starting from a single cell. This is how it happens. The blueprint for all the complex body parts is in the gandhabba, not in that single cell; see, “What does Buddha Dhamma (Buddhism) say about Birth Control?“.