Bhava: Seed of Consciousness

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    • #38025

      I hope I am not asking too many questions. In my effort to fully understand the intricate workings of gandhabba, vinnana, etc., I found it necessary to return to the concept of bhava in order to fully grasp the meaning of becoming. Although, it appears, the Buddha never actually defined the meaning of bhava, the modern-day meaning is gleaned from the application of bhava in the various sutta. In researching bhava I came across the following piece written by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

      The Paradox of Becoming

      In this publication, Thanissaro makes several references to the seed of consciousness. I am (at present) at a loss for WHAT this seed of consciousness is. I am trying to ascertain whether he is referring to gandhabba, kamma beeja or something else. Since most translators use the word consciousness in relation to vinnana, I have learned from your posts that this translation is not entirely correct. I suspect that he is referring to kamma beeja, but I am not entirely sure of that because of his reference to this seed of consciousness in relation to it leading to ones rebirth. Therefore, Thanissaro’s use of seed of consciousness is confusing to me. I am hoping that you can enlighten me as to the probable meaning based on the quote below.

      Contacted, one feels. Contacted, one intends. Contacted, one perceives. These phenomena are both wavering & fluctuating—inconstant, changeable, of a nature to become otherwise. [Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, and intellect.]” — SN 35:93 (emphasis added)

      This alternating pattern between consciousness and intention can be explained in two ways. First, the general complexity of the causal principle underlying dependent co-arising—with present causes interacting with past causes to shape the present moment—opens the door to many feedback-loops of
      just this sort.

      Consciousness and feeling, for example, alternate in just this way, as do consciousness and perception. Second, the specific interaction of consciousness and intention here helps to explain the nested quality of becoming, in which one state of becoming can start within another one, which is nested in yet another one, much like a set of nested boxes or Russian dolls. For example, the seed of consciousness that led to one’s birth on this physical plane of becoming is what has made possible one’s experience of this world through the
      six senses.

      My post reading & reference:
      Bhava and Punabbhava – Kammic Energy Giving Rise to Renewed Existence

      Bhava – Kammic Energy That Can Power an Existence

      Thank you for your help and dedication.

    • #38031

      I will respond to the questions later on. But I quickly scanned the attached document by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

      On p. 131 of the pdf, it translates the terms in the “reverse order Paticca Samuppada” from SN 12:2. To quote: “Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance
      comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the
      cessation of consciousness..”

      We know that the Buddha’s mind became free of avijja (“the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance” per the above quote) on the night of Enlightenment.
      – So, did the Buddha become unconscious at that point?
      – No wonder he starts the essay with, “The topic of becoming, although it features one major paradox, contains other paradoxes as well..” in the Preface (p. 5)
      – “Bhava” (in his translation “becoming”) is not a paradox if one understands Paticca Samuppada.

      It is not just him. The following is the translation of SN 12.2 at Sutta Central
      Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 12.2)
      – There the translation is: “When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases.”

      My question is: Why do people take these translations seriously?
      – If they cannot explain what is stated by, “Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho; saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho” they obviously cannot explain many other concepts including “bhava”.

    • #38033

      Thank you. I look forward to your additional comments. With regard to; Why do people take these translations seriously?: I suspect, like me, with limited knowledge of Pali, we take it on good faith that well known persons such as Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, and others, know what they are talking about. Also, because there are very few good/reliable/correct resources available. For myself, I admittedly always remain skeptical with Pali renderings until I am satisfied the rendering is a good one based on multiple sources, like Pure Dhamma. But, as you say, many sources appear to duplicate the same errors or the same avijjas for lack of correct knowledge of the linguistics of the language.

      Incidentally, I had the opportunity to register for obtaining a degree in Pali studies with a university is Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, living as I do, I could not afford the tuition of $500. Therefore, I must do it the hard way…one word at a time. LOL…a long journey indeed. Also, I am compiling a database for myself of Pali words, comparing various renderings. The comparisons, at times, not always, provide a milieu or flavor of the subject context. The effort alone is like research that, in a cumulative way, gives rise to understanding.

    • #38036

      Dipobhasadhamma vayamati

    • #38037

      Before I answer the questions on bhava, I want to make sure that you understand what those translators do not understand, i.e., that there are kamma vinnana (that the Buddha stopped from arising at the Buddhahood), and vipaka vinnana (which the experienced until his passing away or Parinibbana.
      – I am not sure whether you have read the relevant posts on that.

    • #38040

      I have downloaded your entire website in the compiled book form and am about half way through reading it. I add PDF pages wherever I must do additional research, and interject notes. At times my study of your posts is slow going because there is no way that I can ascertain how it is that you concluded the meaning of certain Pali words when other sources contain a completely different rendering**. While you provide the most excellent explanation of certain Pali words, there is no indication of how or why you arrived at a certain meaning. For persons such as myself who seek a deeper understanding, but have limited knowledge of Pali, I must try and determine that how & why on my own. Your entire site (in the book format) contains a massive amount of information, so it will take me time. Now, with regard to my understanding of various types of vinnana: I have read the following many times:

      Viññāṇa – What It Really Means

      My caveat is that I appreciate that merely reading something, ingesting the words, does not guarantee understanding. Therefore, I repeat a reading of something like Viññāṇa – What It Really Means several times; making note of words or concepts I do not fully grasp. When I want to fully grasp a concept/meaning, I contemplate on the subject I have read silently, which is probably similar to Vipassana contemplation. I find that when contemplating, I discover my own cultural biases and am able to put such aside. Buddha Dhamma to me is a discovery process, like the way Newton discovered gravity. I do not think or believe that the Buddha Dhamma has much intellectual (academic) value by itself (outside of its obvious ethics and philosophy). However, the true intrinsic value and purpose of the Buddha Dhamma is truly only known through individual discovery of personal applicability…a realization. If that makes any sense.

      ** “Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”

    • #38048

      I have been contemplating about certain dhamma concepts these last few days and it does have some connection to what Dipobhasadhamma mentioned here.

      Dipohasadhamma mentioned “I am (at present) at a loss for WHAT this seed of consciousness is”.

      I would like to share a comment for scrutiny. From what I have understood and in one of the simplest way I can describe what “seed of consciousness is” or “what” we are on the most fundamental level (to make a long story short) is that it’s “packets of energy” (karmic energy) with avija and tanha. From this packets of energy with avija and tanha, it give rise to our world. While that I’m typing this, I believe I can also call this “packets of energy” with avija and tanha the hadaya vatthu or a satta or kamma bija and probably some other names.

    • #38051

      1. I understand your frustration. It is not your fault that most of the current interpretations are way off.
      – I also see that most translators are in your position as well. They learned these incorrect translations from their teachers.
      – It would be good if those translators get to see my posts on objections to their translations in “Elephants in the Room.”
      – I welcome them to make rebuttals if they think my interpretations (based on what I learned from Waharaka Thero) are incorrect. We can have discussions at the forum here or anywhere else.

      2. Now, let us get back to your questions.
      – As I remember, you have been focused on the concept of gandhabba. That could be a wrong starting point.

      3. It may be a good idea to understand the key terms in Paticca Samuppada first: sankhara, vinnana, nama rupa, etc.
      – See, “Understanding the Terms in Paṭicca Samuppāda“.
      – The “Search” box at the top right is a good resource too.

      4. If you like to continue with the above questions on “bhava”, you should at least read the posts under “Viññāṇa – Two Critical Meanings“.
      – that is one sub-section in the link in #3 above.
      – Please let me know once you understand how “kamma vinnana” arise due to “(abhi)sankhara.” That is the “sankhara paccaya vinnana” step in Paticca Samuppada. If you have questions about that, let us discuss them first. We need to start from the first principles.

      P.S. I just saw your latest comment where you wrote:
      “Dipohasadhamma mentioned “I am (at present) at a loss for WHAT this seed of consciousness is”.

      We have many “kamma bija” (seeds) in “kamma bhava” that can give rise to rebirths in a variety of existences (“uppatti bhava”). Such “kamma bija” are created by “kamma vinnana.”
      – Of course, only the strongest seed is grasped (upadana).
      – That is why it is critical to understand Paticca Samuppada.

    • #38061

      Thank you for that explanation. Spurious translations casts a shadow of doubt as to the correctness of any commentary. Other than being an expert, such as yourself, there truly is no way that the average person has any way to insure the reliability of the Buddha Dhamma one reads. One might consider that reading any Buddha Dhamma, even if incorrect, is better than no Buddha Dhamma. But, being confident OF the Buddha Dhamma, should not be reliant on WHO writes the commentary. Bad translations then renders useless the value of a particular Buddha Dhamma.

      While during his time, the Buddha did not have texts and commentaries, he relied on his own life experience; his own powers of observation and his own initiative to achieve what no other human being had achieved in this sasana. In some respects, I wonder whether or not all of the “stuff,” that exists today; the commentaries, the opinions, and the translations are not in themselves a crutch to which we become dependent on, rather than simply following the Buddha’s example.

      These spurious translations give the Kalama Sutta confers more cogent reasons for heading the Buddha’s counsel:

      When you know for yourselves that, These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness then you should enter and remain in them.

      But, at the same time the onus is placed on the teacher/translator to provide correct translations, otherwise the student may be led to believe incorrectly, perhaps acting on those beliefs, and ultimately steering another human being toward avijja rather than away from it. As you state in:

      Elephant in the Room

      I hope I have provided enough information to contemplate why the opinions of “scholars” are likely to be wrong due to reasons beyond their control. Again, I admire and appreciate what Rhys Davids, Burnouf, Muller, and others did those days, and it was not their intention to distort Buddha Dhamma. It is not the fault of current scholars either.

      To emphasize, one needs to learn Buddha Dhamma from a true disciple of the Buddha who has attained at least the Sotapanna stage. Academic credentials mean NOTHING as far as teaching Buddha Dhamma is concerned. With all due respect to those European scholars, they DID NOT understand the key message of the Buddha. That message is that the rebirth process is filled with suffering, and the goal of a true Buddhist is to stop the rebirth process and attain Nibbāna.

      My own thinking is to be careful not to become too dependent on the various commentaries and teachings of famous monks, nuns or academics. The foundation of the Buddha Dhamma is already within that person who wishes to shed the cloak of avijja, first coming to understand their own individual experience. It may sound cheeky or pithy to say, but find a tree, find the breath, and contemplate what is already within you.

      Basic Framework of the Buddha Dhamma

      P.S. So then, can I assume that what you are saying is that Thanissaro Bhikku’s use of the phrase seeds of consciousness are actually kamma bija? If so, then I surmise that his interpretation or analogy therefore, is not a good one. He should have just said kmammic seeds, which would make more sense.

    • #38064

      I am saying that it is unproductive to try to analyze what Thanissaro Bhikkhu is trying to explain because he does not seem to have an understanding of Paticca Samuppada. Didn’t he start the essay with, “The topic of becoming, although it features one major paradox, contains other paradoxes as well..” in the Preface (p. 5)
      What paradoxes are there?
      – Why do you keep going back to that, if he says it is a paradox?

      We know that future births arise due to one’s own actions based on (abhi)sankhara generation via avijja.
      – That process is Paticca Samuppada (PS).

      How far have you progressed in understanding the first steps of PS?
      – No need to rush through. But it is critically important to understand PS. You should be asking questions on sankhara, vinnana, etc. if not clear.

    • #38065

      With regard to Thanissaro’s paper: I have left off reading it because I cannot have faith that it is correct. If just one aspect is incorrect then how can I have any confidence that other aspects are correct? With regard to Paticca Samupadda: I already had a fair understanding that PS is the foundation of how we accumulate kamma bija/energy; that it is the reason for bhava, and that it is the primary way of understanding conditions, causes and effects. PS has very broad implications for the entire Buddha Dhamma. I think that understanding PS allows one to identify kammic conditions (kamma bija) that exist in one’s kammic profile, which leads to an understanding of the possible conditions that could energize causes in the present life. I think that it is ignorance (avijja) that PS explains how it is that kammic energy fuels future rebirth. In this light, I think that PS is the PRIMARY teaching that explains how suffering arises.

      Understanding PS, I believe, is the key to stop accumulating or adding (san) negative kammic energy to, what I call, one’s kammic profile. Clear understanding of PS allows one to see one’s gati and how one’s own gati is attached to, and in some instances, is dependent on, negative kamma bija.

      I would explain it to someone this way:

      Let’s say that alcoholism or addictions seems to be prevalent in a family. Aside from genetic predispositions, children of substance addicts live with certain social and cultural traditions within the family. Due to ignorance, a child may grow up to abuse alcohol themselves. However, a person who is aware of the proclivity to abuse alcohol, avoidance of alcohol altogether will break the chain of dependency. The same may hold true for children in abusive homes. Since a child is born to parents with matching or similar gati, then the chance of being predisposed to such things is likely to be high. Understanding PS causes a person to be more knowledgeable that feeding such proclivities (gati), creates a cycle of increasing (san) negative kammic energy, compounding the propensity to suffer greater in future lifetimes.

      In this modern age, I can see where the behavior or succumbing to consensus without investigating the truth of a matter, is a prevalent example of PS. Doing so compounds one’s ignorance. I think that consensus plays a big role in the dissemination of false ideas and concepts about the Buddha Dhamma.

      Is the chart below correct?

      Dependent Origination

    • #38067

      of course, the “red side” is correct.
      – I don’t think the “green side” explains the reverse of the “red side”.
      – Do you understand it? If so, describe briefly.

      • #38171

        With regard to the image, no, I do not understand the green side, which is why I asked if it was correct. The green side of the image appears to be nothing more than someone’s invention. some of the items listed in the “Unbinding” green section, do not reflect what is meant (in the Buddha Dhamma) by unbinding. For example, why would “pleasure” be listed under unbinding? The chart is actually confusing.

    • #38108

      It will not be possible to understand the concept of bhava until one understands the difference between “kamma vinnana” and “vipaka vinnana.”
      – That is why I say that most translators of Tipitaka DO NOT understand Paticca Samuppada. They just translate “vinnana” as “consciousness”. That leads to a MAJOR contradiction.
      – If there is anyone who has read my post “Distortion of Pāli Keywords in Paṭicca Samuppāda” and does not see the contradiction, please make a comment. It is a CRITICAL point.
      Even a child should be able to see the contradiction. May be I am not expressing it clear enough? If so, I need to re-write that post.

    • #38178

      I figured out why they made that chart.

      1. It seems to be based on the “Upanisa Sutta (SN 12.23).”

      – The English translation there may not make it clear. That is again the root problem with word-by-word translations.
      – The key verse in the sutta is “Kā ca, bhikkhave, saddhāya upanisā?
      ‘Dukkhan’tissa vacanīyaṁ
      .” It is translated there as “I say that faith has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Suffering.’
      – That word-by-word translation is not enough. Faith arises when one understands the root causes of suffering! That happens at the Sotapanna Anugami stage. Then one can start following the Noble Path and attain Nibbana. The subsequent steps are listed in the sutta.
      – I have briefly explained the main idea embedded in the sutta in #4 of “Origin of Life – There is No Traceable Origin.”

      2. The same problem is there with the chart. It does not explain how “conviction” is related to “suffering.”
      In #1 above, saddhā is translated as “faith” and not “conviction.”

      3. Let me know if the explanation is not sufficient.

      Note: Please don’t reply to a specific comment, because that reply gets “hidden” like yours. Just reply below the last comment. You can quote from a specific comment made earlier.

      P.S. I had commented on the sutta in #1 in a earlier discussion. The following is that comment:

      When one really starts comprehending Dhamma (suffering and its root causes), one can start feeling it mentally and bodily. This is described in the Upanisa Sutta (SN 12.23):

      “..With the comprehension of suffering (i.e., the First Noble Truth via Tilakkhana) faith results; with the growth of faith, lightness of mind (pāmojjaṃ) arises; with increasing lightness of mind, joy (piti) arises; with increasing joy, lightness of the body (passaddhi) arises; with increasing passaddhi, bodily sukha arises; with increasing bodily sukha, samādhi arises; with samādhi, yathābhūtañāṇadassana (knowledge and vision of things as they really are) arises; with the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, one loses attachment to worldly things (nibbidā), followed by losing cravings for sense pleasures (viragā), and liberation (vimutti), and to the destruction of all defilements (khayeñāṇaṃ)”.

      That step-by-step process takes one all the way to Arahanthood.

    • #38183

      Dependent Origination
      This image is the creation of Dev Jacobsen.

      Read this article by him: Cultivation of Dependent Origination

      This is his old video series of Paṭicca Samuppāda: Palingenesis: the Art of Becoming [2016] by Dev Jacobsen

      And a new video series of Paṭicca Samuppāda: Dependent Arising (paticca-samuppāda) [2019-2021] by Dev Jacobsen and now called Dhamarsār Thero

      With mettā, Seng Kiat

    • #38184

      I happened to be aware of this “teacher” before. When you listen to him, I am afraid you’ll hear more nonsense than sense. Just my opinion.

    • #38185

      Thanks cubibobi, that is very true as he does not have true understanding of anicca, dukkha and anatta.

      I wanted to highlight where the source of the image comes from and what are his recent works.

      With mettā, Seng Kiat

    • #38190

      Thanks, Seng Kiat and Lang for the comments.

      The main point is that this chart requires explanation since it is not the standard version of the “patiloma Paticca Samuppada” or the “Paticca Samuppada in reverse order.”
      – In particular, there is no saddhā, etc in Paticca Samuppada. Also, the connection between “dukkha” and “saddhā” must be explained. One needs to understand that the root cause of dukkha is attachment to sensory pleasures. That understanding leads to “saddhā“.
      – Therefore, the chart does explain HOW the “patiloma Paticca Samuppada” process takes place. One must understand how dukkha arises to have that “unbreakable faith/conviction” or “saddhā“. That happens at the Sotapanna Anugāmi stage.

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