Reply To: Video illustrating the concept of Niraya (Hell)


No need to drop this discussion. We are discussing the fundamentals that we need to learn. I am willing to continue as long as it takes.

1. Gati (pronounced “gathi”) that we need to get rid of are one’s “habits” (in particular, bad habits) and one’s (bad) character qualities. 

  • If one has “apayagami gati” it is likely that one will be reborn in an apaya.  The tendency to engage in apunna (akusala) kamma increases with “apayagami gati.
  • Then there are “good gati” that lead to rebirth in the “good realms” at or above the human realm. The tendency to engage in punna kamma increases with “good gati.
  • Average humans (puthujjana) who have not understood Buddha Dhamma can be induced to both punna and apunna kamma, i.e., they sometimes have “apayagami gati” and have “good gati” other times (depending the circumstances.)

2. It is impossible to get rid of “apayagami gati” or to maintain “good gati” under certain circumstances (e.g., under temptations) with sheer willpower. One must “see” (with wisdom or with the understanding of the Four Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana) the dangers of “apayagami gati.” With that understanding, one can also “see” that even having “good gati” under most situations is not enough to stop “apayagami gati” under tempting situations.

  • When one “sees the above without any doubt,” one automatically loses “apayagami gati.” There is no need to worry about committing any apayagami deeds.  Furthermore, it will block any previously acquired kammic energies bringing rebirth in an apaya. That happens with the removal of sakkaya ditthi. 
  • Simultaneously, one can see that even the cultivation of “good gati” is not enough to end the samsaric suffering. But a Sotapanna still has the perception (sanna) that sensory pleasures are worthwhile pursuing.
  • Thus, a Sotapanna‘s next task is to get rid of that distorted perception (viparita sanna) by further contemplating the anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature (Tilakkhana).

3. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the Four Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana.

Now, we can take a look at the questions raised by Christian. 

4. The main question was: How do we understand how a gandhabba instantly transforms into a different realm? Why doesn’t it happen when gandhabba is in a dense physical body? The answer below should also explain the other comments by Christian:

  • For example, the girl in the video committed the crime and nothing happened until she died. She may have been thinking about committing it for a while. So, she had the “bad mindset” for may be even days. She may have been alive for many minutes, even after the baby died. 
  • The reason is the following: The dense physical body “protects” the gandhabba from being subjected to that transformation. Until the physical body dies, the gandhabba is safe even after committing an ānantarika kamma, like killing a parent. That same mechanism keeps an Arahant alive until the death of the physical body; once the physical body of the Arahant dies, the gandhabba comes out and instantly dies. Thus, even if that Arahant had many years of kammic energy left in the “human bhava,” the gandhabba cannot survive.
  • An analogy is as follows: Think about a heater coil immersed in water. Even if the coil is heated until the water boils, it will not burn. However, if the coil is taken out of the water, it will burn. The fine/subtle body of the gandhabba cannot survive a “transformational event” like the emergence of an “apayagami gati” or “bhava ending attainment of Arahanthood.”


5. Therefore, the observed phenomenon does not involve anything else, like the brain in a physical body slowing down the response to a sensory event or anything else. The main point can also be stated as follows: 

  • In Paticca Samuppada, bhava changes instantly according to the “upadana paccaya bhava” step. 
  • However, as long as the physical body is alive, it does not allow the gandhabba to undergo the transformation to the “new bhava.” The physical body may undergo some change that may last for a while (“temporary bhavanga” as explained in “Bhava and Bhavaṅga – Simply Explained!“), but the gandhabba is safe. 
  • For example, consider person X killing a parent. The mindset of X at that moment (“temporary bhavanga“) is that of an animal or a “hell being.” X’s physical body may undergo some change, especially the anger showing up in the face. But that mindset will calm down, and after a while, it will get back to the “temporary bhavanga” state. Now, if someone else killed X moments after X killed the parent, X’s gandhabba will come out of the dead body and be “burned,” and the rebirth in an apaya will take place.
  • Now, consider the girl in the video. If that girl survived the crude abortion attempt, she would have lived a normal human life and also would have remained in the human bhava. The punishment for that kamma would have appeared at the end of her human bhava.
  • It is good to contemplate the above-discussed situations to make sure to understand the issues involved.

Please feel free to ask questions if the above is not clear. 

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