May 22, 2022
Bhava and jāti within a lifetime discussed with an example of how a “thief is born.”
Paṭicca Samuppāda During a Lifetime
1. As the Buddha advised Ven. Ananda, in the “Mahānidāna Sutta (DN 15),” it is necessary to understand how one can be “born” in very different “births” during a lifetime. The Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda explains that process.
- The same principle operates in the Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda, which explains future births in various realms.
- We are at the last post in this subsection on the “Paṭicca Samuppāda During a Lifetime.” After reading this post, you can review the previous posts to “fill in” any gaps. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions at the discussion forum.
- With the help of the material we discussed, let us discuss a couple of examples of “births within a lifetime.”
An Easy Way to Understand Paṭicca Samuppāda
2. There are many ways to analyze and understand Paṭicca Samuppāda. In the current section, I have discussed it a bit deeper. That analysis will help get rid of sakkāya diṭṭhi.
- But we can get the basic ideas behind Paṭicca Samuppāda by looking at the easy-to-understand relationships between causes and effects.
- The critical point is that we tend to engage in “mind-pleasing activities” without thinking about their consequences. Let us take an example.
No One Is Born a Thief – Birth Within a lIfetime
3. Let us consider a hypothetical situation. A man (say, person X) is in prison for stealing.
- X was NOT born a thief by birth. At birth, he was like any other human baby.
- If we ask X to explain how he became a thief, the explanation could be the following.
“I now understand what happened to me. I was born into a good family, but I started associating with bad friends at school. Their influence led me to participate in immoral activities for fun. We started drinking, and then we got into drugs. When we ran out of money, we started stealing.
My parents worked, and it was too late by the time they found out and started advising me. But then, it was too late. I enjoyed the time with my friends, and we got deeper into drugs and stealing to pay for the drugs. Eventually, I got fed up with my parents’ ” interference ” and moved out of their house. I quit school and joined a gang. We resorted to selling drugs and stealing to make a living. Eventually, several of us were caught in a robbery and sent to prison.
I would not be a thief if I did not come under the influence of those bad friends. I could have been “saved” if my parents had intervened earlier.”
Connection to Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda
4. That is indeed a sad story. But it is also apparent that the person has now realized the basic principles of Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- When X started enjoying the “bad activities” with his friends, he never thought about the dire consequences of such actions. They were “fun activities.” He was probably too young to realize that such “fun activities” would have harmful consequences.
- His parents were too busy to notice him “going down the wrong path;” if they had realized what was happening to X early enough, they could have advised him about the bad consequences of drinking, taking drugs, and stealing.
- He was “born a thief” because his mindset changed to that of a thief, i.e., he engaged in activities matching the mindset of a thief. That led to cultivating “thief bhava” from his early school days.
- We can figure out the Pali terms in Paṭicca Samuppāda that contributed to X becoming a thief.
Understand the Pali Terms – Not Memorize
5. X went down the wrong path because he started liking the activities of his evil friends and was constantly thinking about such activities. That is the critical “upādāna” step, where such activities become priorities. Instead, he would engage in such activities rather than spend time at home or playing with other kids.
- He got attached to such activities (taṇhā) because he enjoyed such activities. Drinking and using drugs provided “good sensations” (vedanā.) X got attached to such vedanā: “vedanā paccayā taṇhā.” But that vedanā was a “mind-made vedanā.”
- Those are “mend-made vedanā” or “samphassa-jā-vedanā.”
Phassa and Samphassa
6. Now, we have traced back to the critical step. How did X start liking alcohol?
- We can understand the difference between “phassa” and “samphassa.” A natural sensory contact is “phassa.” That is the contact between the sensory input and the corresponding sensory faculty. In our example, contact (phassa) is alcohol touching the tongue.
- Most people don’t like that vedanā (taste of alcohol.) It is a bitter taste, especially for strong alcohol. So, our teenager was probably not attracted to that taste, and he may have even refused to drink at first. But he probably drank under “peer pressure” and got drunk. With more drinking, one gets used to the taste and likes the feeling of “being drunk.” Furthermore, the drunken mindset in a party atmosphere gets teenagers into the “party mood.”
8. With time, X’s mind generates not the natural “vedanā” but the mind-made “samphassa-jā-vedanā.”
- Thus, the “phassa paccayā vedanā” step in PS is only a brief version. The expanded version is “samphassa paccayā samphassa-jā-vedanā.”
- Thus, it was the “jivhāyatana” (jivhā āyatana) that mainly contributed to the “salāyatana paccayā samphassa” step leading to the “samphassa paccayā samphassa-jā-vedanā.” In other words, the taste of alcohol generated a “mind-made vedanā” of happiness, especially in a party atmosphere.
Once on the Wrong Path, It Is Hard to Change
9. Thus, it became a habit (gati) for X to get drunk and have a good time with his friends. Then one day, someone brought drugs to a party, and they all got hooked on drugs.
- Over time, X cultivated a “kamma viññāṇa” or an “expectation” to enjoy alcohol, drugs, and partying with friends. That kamma viññāṇa slowly got established as X started enjoying those activities more. His mind was constantly looking for opportunities to get together with friends and have a good time. That is the critical “upādāna” step.
- That means it became easier to get to that mindset with an ārammaṇa. All X needed was prompted by a friend. Even the sight of a familiar drug dealer may prompt him to buy some drugs and enjoy them by himself.
- Any bad habit (gati), when cultivated, leads to more bad habits. When X and his friends didn’t have money to buy alcohol/drugs, they resorted to stealing. That is how X was “born a thief.”
Most People Realize the Problem Only After Damage Is Done
10. It was only after getting caught stealing and sent to prison that X realized what had happened to him.
- Even though he was not born a thief when his mother gave birth to him, X is now known as a thief. Everyone knows him as a thief.
- Of course, he had no desire to become a thief. His goal was to “enjoy life” with his friends. But that way of enjoying life involved an immoral way of thinking, immoral speech, and immoral deeds.
- He unknowingly got paticca (“paṭi” + “icca” or “willingly attached”) to things that would inevitably lead to samuppāda (“sama” + “uppāda” or “corresponding births”), i.e., to be “born a thief.”
- In other words, his mind generated apuñña abhisaṅkhāra due to his ignorance (avijjā) of their consequences.
- Such apuñña abhisaṅkhāra arise as to mano, vaci, and kāya abhisaṅkhāra. They are immoral thinking, speech, and actions.
Need to Look at the Root Causes (Lobha, Dosa, Moha)
11. Note that X just focused on the immediate gratification of such activities. He never realized (and thus never thought about) the possible harmful consequences of such actions.
- Stealing was the secondary effect of X starting to drink, use drugs, and generally have a good time with his friends. The initial attraction was for the vedanā experienced with drugs and alcohol. Drinking alcohol led to craving that taste and the accompanying “feel good” mindset.
- X got attached or paticca (“paṭi” + “icca” or “willingly attached”) to things that gave immediate sensory pleasure. We could say that he was “born” in a “joyful state” at that time.
- However, in a deeper sense he got attached to immoral causes with much more drastic and dangerous “births” in the future. Those deeper causes would inevitably lead to samuppāda (“sama” + “uppāda” or “corresponding births”), i.e., to be “born a thief” later in life.
- But it does not end there. Part of that kammic energy can even bring future rebirths, depending on the severity of kamma done with that mindset. For example, if X killed someone during a robbery, that would definitely lead to a “bad rebirth.” That comes under Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.
Review of the Steps
12. Let us review the steps that led to X becoming a Thief.
- It all started with X starting his associating with bad friends. Under their influence, he started drinking due to his ignorance about bad future outcomes. That is “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” or, more precisely, “avijjā paccayā abhisaṅkhāra.”
- With frequent cultivation of abhisaṅkhāra, he developed a desire/future expectation (kamma viññāṇa) to enjoy drinking/partying. That is “(abhi) saṅkhāra paccayā (kamma)viññāṇa.”
- His mind constantly visualized scenes of such get-togethers, alcohol, his favorite friends, etc. Those are the “nāmarupa” that arise in his mind with that kamma viññāṇa: “(kamma)viññāṇa paccayā nāmarupa.”
- When such nāmarupa arises in his mind, he will start using his sensory faculties. For example, he may call a friend to meet for a drink or organize a party. He may look for a drug dealer to get more drugs, etc. That is “nāmarupa paccayā salāyatana.”
- When such encounters occurred, he would fully engage in drinking, taking drugs, etc., and enjoy such experiences (samphassa-jā-vedanā.) That involves “salāyatana paccayā samphassa” and “samphassa paccayā samphassa-jā-vedanā.”
- The more he does those things, the more he will attach to such activities: “samphassa-jā-vedanā paccayā taṇhā.” That will make the “upādāna” stronger: “taṇhā paccayā upādāna.”
- With such a strong attachment to those activities, he would do it again and again with “avijjā paccayā abhisaṅkhāra,” and the whole cycle repeated repeatedly.
13. If he didn’t have money for such activities, he would steal. It probably started by stealing from his parents. As X got into drugs, he and his friends had to start stealing more. Thus they cultivated the gati of thieves and got into “thief bhava” and “thief jāti.”
- That “samphassa-jā-vedanā” can arise even without taking a sip of alcohol but seeing an alcohol bottle or even mentioning an upcoming party.
- One can understand the above steps even if one has not studied the formal Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- However, it is imperative to understand the meanings of those Pali words so we can understand them in other contexts.