1. One of the special knowledges that the Buddha gained at the Enlightenment was the asavakkhaya nana. This is the key to stop the suffering FROM ARISING via getting rid of the deep-seated cravings (asava) that we all have. Asavakkhaya nana (“asava” + “khaya“, where “khaya” is the opposite of “san“; see, “What is “San”?) is the knowledge on how to remove those cravings (asava).
2. Throughout the site, I keep emphasizing the importance of understanding (not memorizing) the meanings of the key Pali words like gathi, anusaya, asava, bhava, jati, sansara, and dukkha; they are intimately inter-connected in many ways including paticca samuppada. The way to stop future suffering (dukkha) from arising and reach Nibbana is to break the perpetual cycle that lead to a new jati (birth) at each death.
- Our problems do not go away at death (committing suicide is a bad idea); they merely get started in a new phase with a new body, which could be worse than what we have now; see, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
- The connections among bhava and jati on one side and asava, anusaya, and gathi on the other side are intimate, and need to be understood well; see, “Sansaric Habits, Character (Gathi), and Cravings (Asava)“, before reading the rest of this post.
3. And this understanding is needed even if one is not seriously thinking about Nibbana. The whole key to suffering in general is embedded in these intricate relationships.
- Bhava and jati also happen during this very life; jati could mean birth of a new desire; see, “Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda” and “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein“.
- It may be a bit confusing at first for a new person to this site, but have patience and read the inter-connected posts; I have links everywhere to pertinent posts/material. Once you get an idea of the underlying connections, it will clarify everything, like a fog being lifted.
- I have set up links to open in new windows, so that you can go back forth between posts easily and try to “fill-in-the-gaps”.
4. A perpetual cycle that is ever-present in the sansaric cycle of rebirths is described in the following verse:
“uppado pavattan, pavatta nimittan
nimitta patisandhi, patisandhi gathi”
- “Uppada” means arising. When anusaya (temptations) arise due to asava (cravings), we need to stop that temptation and break the cycle at “pavattan” (which means keeping it or go with it).
- If we go along with the temptation (“pavatta”), then it becomes a nimitta (literally a “sign”). A nimitta is a characteristic that is associated with that particular act. For example, for an alcoholic a picture of an alcohol bottle or a bar (or where one normally drinks), or even seeing a friend with whom one drinks often, can be a nimitta; when any of such a “symbol” comes to the mind, it reminds of the drinking act and gets one in the “mood”.
5. Most times, the patisandhi (linking of the next rebirth) takes place via a nimitta; this is what is meant by “nimitta patisandhi” above. At the dying moment, what comes to the mind is likely to be something that one does often, and that could become the link to the next life.
- A drug addict, if he/she is lucky to be born human again, will be attracted to a mother who is a drug addict.
- For a person with lot of hate, what comes to the mind at the dying moment could be a picture of an arch enemy; then the kammic power shows him a gun or a knife and he will be likely to attack the person with that weapon (in a dream-like state); the next moment he will be in an apaya (hell), which is the “matching place”.
6. The worse thing is that the old habits continue and even strengthened in this new life; this is what is meant by “patisandhi gathi” above. Suppose that drug addict who was born to an addicted mother is adopted by another family and raised in a drug-free environment. Still, if that child becomes exposed to drugs later in his life, he could be tempted to use drugs because of his sansaric habit.
- This is the danger in the rebirth process or sansara; one keeps going down the slippery slope unless one changes one’s habits with effort. And reversing that trend can be done only in a human life.
- Sentient beings in most realms do not act willfully but according to their sansaric habits. We can see only the animal realm and clear that they do things mechanically (almost like robots, but not quite only because they have FEELINGS). Only the beings in higher realms have genuine free-will and it is optimum for the humans.
- You can see that many animals have unique characteristics: such characteristics and habits are associated with that particular existence (bhava). For example, some types of birds have been building the same type of nests from beginningless time through countless world cycles; but they are unable to make it any better. Migrating birds know exactly where to fly. New born turtles head to the sea right after the eggs are hatched; see the video:
7. However, humans can change their destiny. They have free will and the ability to come up with “new ideas”. We keep building new things, discovering new things, and making progress.
- We need to keep in mind that we can also purify our minds and become free of this unending and suffering-laden rebirth process. If we ever get a birth in one of the lower realms, we will be stuck there for a long time to come.
- The way to purify our minds is to get rid of bad habits. Excessive greed (this include addictions to anything including food, money, property, alcohol, drugs, etc) and anger are the first two things one needs to work on.
- This does not mean one has to give away one’s wealth; just don’t be too attached to them. One has “earned” that wealth from previous good deeds, so one does not need to feel bad about it. But those things last only about 100 years, and who knows what we will inherit in the next life.
8. And the key to be permanently free of the apayas is to get rid of those bad character qualities (gathi) that can give us birth in those four realms.
- We can avoid the niraya (hell) by getting rid of hate; we can stay away from peta (hungry ghost) worlds by getting rid of greed, we can make sure to not get a birth in the asura realm by not getting “free rides”, and making our own living honestly (“a”+”süra” means “not able” or those who depend on others).
- An animal birth results from gathi that have all three roots of greed, hate, and ignorance; animal realm is called “thirisan” in Pali or Sinhala: “thiri” is three and “san” is greed, hate, and ignorance, thus an animal birth is caused by gathi that have all three immoral roots.
- In the same way, we can make it possible to be born a deva by being generous to others; we can make it possible to become a brahma by cultivating metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha; and we can optimize chances for a human birth by cultivating wisdom as well.
9. But no matter how well we live this life, we do not know what kind of “kammic baggage” that we carry from previous lives. Thus the only way to avoid the four lower realms (apayas) with CERTAINTY is to attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana. And we can do this by comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta, the true nature of this world.
- When one truly comprehends anicca, dukkha, anatta, one’s mind automatically rejects actions that are bound to maintain and cultivate bad gathi, and will encourage actions that will cultivate good gathi. If this is done to the level of getting rid of the four greedy citta with wrong vision and the citta with vicikicca, then one becomes PERMANENTLY free of the apayas; see, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotapanna Avoids Apayagami Citta“.
10. Finally, here is another interesting video from the animal world which shows how ants build sophisticated cities. But unlike humans, the ability to do that does not come from ingenious minds; ants have been doing the same from eternity. It is a “characteristic” that is naturally associated with the “ant bhava“. Each ant “knows” what to do, just like the baby turtles who race to the sea just after being hatched. It is the same with how birds know where to fly in their long migrations.
- There is so much that the Buddha explained to the world, but the world is still unaware of.
- More details on the importance of gathi in the rebirth process are discussed in , “Patisandhi Citta – How the Next Life is Determined According to Gathi“.