Cuti-Patisandhi – An Abhidhamma Description

1. Many people believe that patisandhi or the linking to a new life happens in a womb (in human and animal realms). But that is not correct. Patisandhi citta is experienced in the next very citta after the cuti citta of the old life in the last citta vithi of the dying person.

2. Patisandhi (“pati” is bond and “sandhi” is joining in Pali or Sinhala, thus patisandhi 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 abhinna powers. let us discuss this step carefully.

  • I must warn in advance that this analysis is highly technical, and is suitable only for those who are familiar with citta vithi processes in Abhidhamma. However, the conclusions are informative, so you may want to go through it. 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 bhavanga, bhavanga calana, bhavanga upacceda, pancadvara vajjana, cakkhu vinnana, sampaticcana, santirana, vottapana, 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 patisandhi citta.

  • In the last citta vithi, a previous kamma vipaka provides an arammana (thought object) associated with that kamma vipaka 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 very weak, the person will see or hear very clearly whatever the nimitta presented by the kamma vipaka. Then at the vottapana citta, the mind makes a decision to act on that arammana based on the person’s gathi. The person has no control of it. It is called, “kammaja pure jatha; cittaja pacce jatha”, i.e., kamma vipaka comes first, and then accordingly the javana citta flow grasping that new bhava:

“kamma vipaka vajjanti, vipako kamma sambhavo

Tasma punabbhovo hoti, evan loko pavattati

Or,

kamma vipaka 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 vipaka citta; then it induces kamma sambhava. “Vipako kamma sambhavo” is initiated at the vottapana citta. The vottapana citta decides how to proceed with the arammana (object) that came from the kamma vipaka, and the being normally gets attached to that object via greed/hate and grasps a new existence in the javana citta that follow. Thus “vipako kamma sambhavo” starts with the first javana citta. After 5 javana citta kammic energy is optimized, with each subsequent javana strengthening via asevana paccaya from the previous javana. 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 pacce jata 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 patisandhi citta, which is again pacce jatha to the actual kammaja patisandhi that starts at the pancdvaravajjana 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; even though the energy was fully spent by the time the stone was released, the stone will be travelling until its energy is all 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 bhavanga 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 at the moment of initiating the last citta vithi, and the cuti citta is in the last citta vithi. Patisandhi is not a citta either. It is also kammaja act.
  • Here the old bhavanga has ended too; but there are two bhavanga citta left in the last citta vithi. The new vatthu rupa cannot be formed until this last citta vithi is done with, 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 bhavanga, bhavanga calana, and comes to bhavanga upacceda, the kammic vipaka from the old life are finished. Now what comes to the pancadvara is the kamma nimitta, asanna kamma, or a gathi nimitta; it is the vipaka citta that powers the new life: “kamma vipaka vajjanti”. It is received by the sampaticcana, santirana citta and then “vipaka kamma sambhavo” happens at the vottapana citta, i.e., a decision is made on what to do and this decision depends on the level of avijja (in the form of one’s gathi and asavas).

  • This “vipaka 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 beeja 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 in the new life that is powered by a new kamma beeja. The new hadaya vatthu if formed by the new kamma seed that was grasped at the 7th javana (the patisandhi 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 gathi 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 a 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 develops 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?“.
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