Jāti (births) depend on gati (habits/character.) Therefore, it is critical to cultivate “good gati.”
Revised August 9, 2021; February 15, 2023
1. A unique knowledge that the Buddha gained during the Enlightenment was the āsavakkhaya ñāṇa. This is the key to stopping the suffering FROM ARISING via getting rid of the deep-seated cravings (āsava) that we all have. Āsavakkhaya ñāṇa (“āsava” + “khaya,” where “khaya” is the opposite of “san“; see, “What is “San”?) is the knowledge on how to remove those cravings (āsava).
2. Throughout the site, I keep emphasizing the importance of understanding (not memorizing) the meanings of the key Pāli words like gati, anusaya, āsava, bhava, jāti, saṃsāra, and dukkha; they are intimately inter-connected in many ways, including Paṭicca Samuppāda. The way to stop future suffering (dukkha) from arising and reaching Nibbāna is to break the perpetual cycle that leads to a new jāti (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 jāti on one side and āsava, anusaya, and gati on the other side are intimate and need to be understood well; see “Saṃsāric Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Āsava),” before reading the rest of this post.
3. This understanding is needed even if one is not seriously thinking about Nibbāna. In general, the real key to suffering is embedded in these intricate relationships.
- Bhava and jāti also happen during this very life; jāti could mean the birth of a new desire; see “Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda” and “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
- It may be confusing 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 understand the underlying connections, it will clarify everything, like a fog being lifted.
- I have set up links to open them in new windows so that you can go back and forth between posts quickly 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 pavattaṁ, pavatta nimittaṁ
nimitta paṭisandhi, paṭisandhi gati.”
- “Uppada” means arising. When āsava (cravings) arise due to the triggering of anusaya (hidden temptations), we need to stop that temptation and break the cycle at “pavattaṁ” (which means keeping it or going 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 paṭisandhi (linking the next rebirth) takes place via a nimitta; this is what is meant by “nimitta paṭisandhi” above. At the dying moment, what comes to the mind is likely to be something that one often does, which could become the link to the next life.
- A drug addict, if lucky to be born human again, will be attracted to a mother who is a drug addict.
- For a person with a 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 apāya (hell), which is the “matching place.”
6. The worst thing is that the old habits continue and even strengthen in this new life; this is why “paṭisandhi gati” is meant above. Suppose a drug addict 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 life, he could be tempted to use drugs because of his sansaric habit.
- This is the danger in the rebirth process or saṃsāra; one keeps going down the slippery slope unless one changes one’s habits with effort. And reversing that trend can be done only in human life.
- Sentient beings in most realms do not act willfully but according to their sansaric habits. We can see only the animal realm. Animals do things mechanically (almost like robots, but not entirely only because they have FEELINGS). Only the beings in higher realms have genuine free will, which is optimum for humans.
- You can see that many animals have unique characteristics: such characteristics and habits are associated with that particular existence (bhava). For example, some birds have been building the same type of nests from beginningless time through countless world cycles; but they cannot make it any better. Migrating birds know exactly where to fly. Newborn 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 develop “new ideas.” We keep building new things, discovering new things, and making progress.
- We must remember that we can also purify our minds and become free of this unending and suffering-laden rebirth process. If we ever get birth in one of the lower realms, we will be stuck there for a long time.
- The way to purify our minds is to get rid of bad habits. Excessive greed (this includes 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 being permanently free of the apāyā is to get rid of those bad character qualities (gati) 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 not to get a birth in the asura realm by not getting “free rides,” and making our living honestly (“a”+”süra” means “not able” or those who depend on others).
- An animal’s birth results from gati that have all three roots of greed, hate, and ignorance. The animal realm is called “thirisan” in Pāli or Sinhala: “thiri” is three, and “san” is greed, hate, and ignorance. Thus animal birth is caused by gati 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 mettā, karunā, mudutā, 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” we carry from previous lives. Thus the only way to avoid the four lower realms (apāyā) with CERTAINTY is to attain the Sotāpanna stage of Nibbāna. And we can do this by comprehending anicca, dukkha, and anatta, the true nature of this world.
- When one truly comprehends anicca, dukkha, and anatta, one’s mind automatically rejects actions bound to maintain and cultivate bad gati and encourages actions that will cultivate good gati. 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 apāyā; see, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotāpanna Avoids Apayagami Citta.”
10. Finally, another exciting video from the animal world 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 for eternity. It is a “characteristic” that is naturally associated with the “ant bhava.” Each ant “knows” what to do, 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 it.
- More details on the importance of gati in the rebirth process are discussed in “Patisandhi Citta – How the Next Life is Determined According to Gati.”