January 25, 2020; revised January 26, 2020; November 28, 2022
Introduction – Origin of Life
1. In the first post in this series, I pointed out that there is no traceable “beginning” to the life of any existing living being. See “Origin of Life – There is No Traceable Origin.”
- However, CAUSES for any living being’s FUTURE LIVES are created by that living being. In the future, if suitable CONDITIONS appear for a specific type of rebirth, that WILL lead to rebirth in a corresponding realm.
- It is critical to understand how one’s mindset and thoughts (in particular abhisaṅkhāra) can lead to different types of rebirths. That is the basis of Buddha Dhamma and is explained in Paṭicca Samuppāda (PS.)
- In simple terms, “bad thoughts/mindset” lead to “bad births,” and “good thoughts/mindset” lead to “good births.” The problem is that most are “bad births,” and those infrequent “good births” do not last long.
- The Buddha said, “One who sees Paṭicca Samuppāda sees the Dhamma. One who sees the Dhamma sees Paṭicca Samuppāda”. See, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda”
2. In the first several posts in “Origin of Life,” we discussed the background material necessary to understand how a complex physical body of a human starts with a single cell, a zygote.
- However, the most critical part of a human is not the physical body but the mental body. That “mental body” goes by different names, manōmaya kāya and gandhabba being the most common.
- That “mental body” arises due to strong kamma bija (i.e., due to a strong past kamma,) which comes to the mind as a paṭisandhi viññāṇa at the beginning of a new existence (bhava.)
- Then that “mental body” or the gandhabba will last through an existence, for example, as a human. There will be many rebirths with different physical bodies during that human existence (bhava,) i.e., for that human gandhabba. See “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
- Average humans focus only on keeping the physical body in good condition. It is much more beneficial to improve the “mental body.” That way, one will be able to stop ALL FUTURE SUFFERING.
Critical Role of Paṭicca Samuppāda
3. The seed (kamma bīja) for a future existence (bhava) is the paṭisandhi viññāṇa cultivated via “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa” in PS. I briefly discussed/explained that with nine recent posts on Paṭicca Samuppāda (PS.) The last of those posts, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – From Mind to Matter” came to that conclusion.
- In many previous posts, we have discussed that paṭisandhi viññāṇa, gandhabba, kamma bīja, and dhammā are very similar terms. See “Dhammā, Kamma, Saṅkhāra, Mind – Critical Connections.”
- When grasping a new human existence, that paṭisandhi viññāṇa becomes a human gandhabba with the complete blueprint of that human. See “Dhammā, Kamma, Saṅkhāra, Mind – Critical Connections.”
- Then we discussed the 1990 movie “ghost” to provide a visualization of a human gandhabba. A gandhabba has only a trace matter. An average human cannot see a gandhabba. However, it has the complete “blueprint” for a human. See “Ghost 1990 Movie – Good Depiction of Gandhabba Concept.”
- That gandhabba then gives rise to a fully-grown human, as explained in the two posts, “Buddhist Explanations of Conception, Abortion, and Contraception” and “Cloning and Gandhabba.”
4. There is a lot of information summarized above using different terms. In the following, I will try to organize that systematically and describe the “bigger picture” within the 31 realms of existence.
The General Process of Grasping an Existence (Bhava)
5. In broad terms, there are three main existences (bhava), but they branch out to thirty-one. Existence in the kāma bhava (i.e., 11 realms in kāma lōka), rūpa bhava (16 realms in rūpāvacara Brahma lōka), and arūpa bhava (4 realms in arūpāvacara Brahma lōka.) The 11 realms in kāma lōka are the 4 realms in the apāya, one human, and six Dēva realms.)
- Thus, there are 31 existences (bhava) in this world. Any living being belongs to one of those. Each such existence has a finite lifetime. Some are fixed, and others are variable. Dēva and Brahama realms have fixed lifetimes. Lower realms starting with the human realm have variable lifetimes. See “31 Realms of Existence.”
- However, when a living being grasps a new existence in ANY realm, the duration of that existence WILL BE fixed. For the human and lower realms, that lifetime depends on the kammic energy that “feeds” that particular existence. For example, one human may have that human existence for 10,000 years, and another may have only 900 years.
Each Bhava Starts With a Mind-Made Body (Manōmaya Kāya)
6. Any living being (other than an Arahant) will grasp (or latch onto) a new existence when the current existence runs out of its lifetime. At that moment, kammic energy for the next existence creates a NEW “mind-made body” or a manōmaya kāya.
- That transition from one existence (bhava) to another happens with a uppatti PS process. Specifically, that occurs with the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step in that uppatti PS cycle.
- But it is a patisandhi viññāṇa” created via the “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa” step in PS that is responsible for that new existence (bhava.)
- In other words, the kammic energy embedded in that patisandhi viññāṇa is the energy that creates the manōmaya kāya of the new existence (bhava.) Thus, manōmaya kāya has only a tiny bit of energy created by the mind.
- That manōmaya kāya does not die until the end of that bhava. Living beings in each realm will have a manōmaya kāya.
- Details are in the nine posts on PS, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – Not ‘Self’ or ‘No-Self’“
Brahma Realms Only Have Manōmaya Kāya
7. A manōmaya kāya has a hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) and UP TO five pasāda rūpa (that enable experiencing the external world.) The hadaya vatthu is different for different realms and also has INDIVIDUAL characteristics. Thus even two humans will have different hadaya vatthu embedding their personal characteristics. The following is a summary of different realms.
- The four highest Brahma realms (arūpāvacara Brahma realms) have ONLY the hadaya vatthu. Those Brahmā can only think.
- Brahmā in the 16 rūpāvacara Brahma realms have hadaya vatthu and TWO pasāda rūpa: cakkhu and sōta pasāda rūpa. They can see and hear with just those pasāda rūpa. They do not have physical bodies and thus do not have eyes and ears like us. Their “seeing” does not require light, and they “see’ things far away. In the same way, they can hear sounds that are far away. But they need to “direct their attention” to a particular location to see or hear.
- All those Brahmā in the 20 Brahma realms have only manōmaya kāya.
Living Beings in Kāma Lōka Realms Have Denser Bodies In Addition to Manōmaya Kāya
8. Things become complex when we get to the 11 realms in the kāma lōka.
- Devās in the six Dēva realms have manōmaya kāya with hadaya vatthu and five pasāda rūpa. They also have “physical bodies” like ours but at a much finer level. Those “subtle bodies” are also created by kammic energy; thus, Devās are born with their “full bodies.” That means they do not grow or get old but just die at the end of their lifetimes. There is only one “jāti” within a Brahma or Dēva bhava. We cannot see either Brahmā or Devā.
- Human “structure” is the same as that of the Devā, but human physical bodies are much denser. Furthermore, human “structure” has many common features with the animal realm. The other three lower realms in the kāma lōka are more complex, and we will not discuss them here.
- Let us briefly discuss the features of the human and animal realms. I will address only the human realm, but most of those features are the same for the animal realm.
There are Multiple Jāti Within a Human Bhava
9. A human also has a manōmaya kāya with a hadaya vatthu and five pasāda rūpa. But a human can exist in TWO forms.
- ONE: Much of the time in the human bhava, it stays with JUST the manōmaya kāya. That state is normally referred to as the gandhabba state. A gandhabba is like a Brahma in the following aspect. A gandhabba can see and hear without the aid of physical eyes and physical ears. Even though it has five pasāda rūpa, it cannot touch, taste, or smell since there is no dense physical body.
- TWO: A human will have a “dense physical body” only after that gandhabba (manōmaya kāya) gets into a womb and creates a physical human body.
- It is good to contemplate how such a tiny amount of energy in a manōmaya kāya can “build” a human body weighing over a hundred pounds (or many kilograms.)
A Gandhabba for a Human Is Like a Seed for a Tree
10. A good point to start is to think about how a tiny seed grows into a giant oak tree.
- That seed has the blueprint for the whole tree. The seed germinates and pulls food and water from the soil to grow into a large tree. The tree trunk, limbs, and leaves are all made from the food and water extracted from the soil.
- In the same way, the “seed” for a full-grown human is a zygote, which is a single cell. But a zygote by itself cannot grow into a human. A “human mental body” (or a gandhabba) must merge with the zygote to start the process. See “Buddhist Explanations of Conception, Abortion, and Contraception” and “Cloning and Gandhabba.”
- The mental body, or the gandhabba, has the blueprint for a full-grown human. Some features of the physical body come from the parents via the zygote.
11. We saw that the seed takes all the “building material” from the soil to grow into a tree. A “live zygote” grows first by taking food from the mother to become a baby. Once outside the womb, that baby starts eating food and becomes a grown human.
- This is why the physical body is secondary to the mental body (gandhabba.) All mental activities are with the gandhabba. Furthermore, a gandhabba is fully human. It just does not have a dense body to be able to touch, eat, or to smell odors. See “Ghost 1990 Movie – Good Depiction of Gandhabba Concept.”
- The physical body is just a shell. The gandhabba makes all the decisions. The physical body is needed for the gandhabba to experience touches, tastes, and odors. See “Gandhabba Sensing the World – With and Without a Physical Body.”
The Lifetime of a Gandhabba Is the Length of Human Bhava
12. Therefore, within a human bhava, there can be many “human births” (jāti.) See “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
- When a physical body dies, the gandhabba comes out and waits for another womb. However, that gandhabba state in between two human lives is not an antarābhava because it is within the SAME human bhava. See “Antarābhava and Gandhabba.”
- A human jāti lasts around a hundred years, but a human bhava may last thousands of years.
- Those different human births (jāti) within a human bhava will have similar characteristics. The physical appearance will change since those of the parents will influence the physical body of a baby via the zygote. But those successive lives usually have similar gati and also tend to have close geographic locations of birth.
- A good example is Dhammruwan, who is now a Sri Lankan, but was born in India at the time of Buddhaghosa 1500 years ago; see “Boy Who Remembered Pāli Suttas for 1500 Years.” More rebirth accounts at “Evidence for Rebirth.”
How Does a Gandhabba (or a Brahma)See and Hear Without Eyes and Ears?
13. In the movie “ghost,” we saw that a gandhabba could see not only other gandhabbā (which is the plural for gandhabba) but also humans and anything else in the world. See “Ghost 1990 Movie – Good Depiction of Gandhabba Concept.” How is that possible without having physical eyes and ears?
- Our understanding of nature is extremely limited. Before modern science made some technical breakthroughs within the past hundred years, we would not have believed that it would be possible to “see” an event happening thousands of miles away in real time. Yet, we do that with televisions now and don’t think twice about it.
- These days we can record such visuals with micro-sensors that are so small that they are hard to see. Details at “Gandhabba Sensing the World – With and Without a Physical Body.”
14. When a human gandhabba is born (at a cuti-paṭisandhi moment of grasping a new bhava), the following amazingly miniature “sensors” are made by kammic energy.
- They are hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) and five pasāda rūpa (cakkhu, sōta, ghāna, jivhā, kāya.) Of course, the ghāna, jivhā, and kāya pasāda rūpa REQUIRE signals from a physical body (of odors, tastes, and touches) to function.
- The cakkhu and sōta pasāda rūpa can detect visuals and sounds without the aid of eyes and ears. The cakkhu pasāda rūpa is the smallest entity that can “see.” Sōta pasāda rūpa is the smallest entity that can hear.
- As we discuss now, evidence for the existence of gandhabba (manōmaya kāya) has accumulated over recent years.
Seeing and Hearing With the “Mental Body” (Gandhabba)
15. People who had Near-Death Experiences (NDE) say they could see and hear even though their physical bodies (and the brains) were “clinically dead.” They say they were watching doctors operating on their bodies from the ceiling. Their “mental bodies” (gandhabbā) had come out of the physical body. The book “Consciousness Beyond Life” by physician Pim van Lommel (2010) gives detailed accounts of case studies of NDE experienced by people undergoing heart operations. Here is a youtube video on the subject:
- Some people can have Out-of-Body Experiences at will; see “Manōmaya Kāya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE).” They can remove their gandhabba kāya from the physical body at will. Then they do not need eyes and ears to see and hear.
- Even though some people say they can teach others how to do that, I don’t think that is possible. That ability is due to a puñña iddhi due to past good kamma.
16. It is critical to realize that there are phenomena that cannot be explained with our ordinary sensory experiences. Only a Buddha can discover these “hidden” facts about a wider world with 31 realms.
- However, the Buddha said that average humans could not fully comprehend the characteristics of living beings in various realms. It is good to know the basic facts, but it does not serve any purpose to try to rationalize them with our limited sensory faculties.
- Yet any average human can figure out that these explanations are self-consistent and help clarify many of our experiences. That confidence will grow as one starts following the Path (i.e., not only living a moral life but also learning the true nature of this world.) The mind becomes purified and can ‘see” at deeper levels.
Why Do We Have Physical Bodies?
17. We need physical bodies to touch (and for sex), taste foods, and smell odors. But a physical body comes with a price. We must endure all kinds of diseases, including cancer, body aches, the decay of body parts, etc. Brahmā and Dēvā do not experience those, but of course, death is inevitable to all.
- Furthermore, it is a burden to “carry around” this heavy body. As I have mentioned before, even breathing requires an effort (but only asthma patients feel that.) It is a relief to come out of the physical body, as described by those who have had NDE or OBE experiences.
- However, if one is forced to stay with the gandhabba body for a long time, one will start “missing” the ability to touch, taste, and smell. That is why all human gandhabbā desperately wish to be able to get into a womb to get a human birth.
- The point is that a gandhabba with an unimaginably small “body” can experience everything better except the ability to touch, taste, and smell.
Why Are There So Many Different Terms for Kammic Energy?
18. Even though viññāṇa, kamma bīja, dhammā, and gandhabba are related, those terms are used in different contexts. Here is one way to remember how these different terms appear in different situations.
- First, energy for future vipāka (including future rebirths) is created via “(abhi)saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa.”
- Such tiny amounts of energy stay in the “nāma lōka” (out there) as kamma bīja (kamma seeds.) See “Our Two Worlds: Material and Immaterial.”
- When the conditions are right, a strong kamma bīja can give rise to a new existence (bhava) when those kammic energies come back to the mind as dhammā.
- Such a new existence is grasped as paṭisandhi viññāṇa. That paṭisandhi viññāṇa gives rise to a manōmaya kāya, which has a unique name of gandhabba for human and animal realms.
- Manōmaya kāya means “a body made by the mind.” That is how we create our own future lives!
- If you do not fully understand the above, you can read the previous posts in this series or ask questions. It may take a little while to comprehend all relationships fully.
19. We have now finished the first phase of Buddha Dhamma, dealing with the origin of life. A Creator does not create life. It does not arise arbitrarily either. We discussed those two extreme views earlier in the “Origin of Life” series.
- Those concepts discussed above could be new to many and thus may take some time to understand or get used to. But I assure you that there is complete self-consistency of what I have described and also consistency with the Tipiṭaka. I suggest printing out this series of posts and having them ready for quick reference. If there are any questions, please comment on the forum or email: [email protected]
- In future posts, we will discuss several significant implications that can be reached with this “correct worldview” of the Buddha.