Gandhabba, Rebirth: Time

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    • #38284

      Einstein stated that the quality of an answer to a question was dependent on the question itself. So, I have been trying to formulate the right question regarding gandhabba. I read somewhere within this forum, that gandhabba is smaller than an atom, which leads me to wonder about the implications of the “musical” connection with the word gandhabba in the Sutta. Perhaps a gandhabba could be likened to a single tone or wave, which causes an effect. Each musical tone has specific and different properties. Transference of the gandhabba to a womb takes place with lightning speed, which is something I also read in this Forum. Also, I will assume based on what I have read here that the gandhabba exists as long as kamma bhava remains (I may not be wording this quite right).

      I am wondering if, for example, if gandhabba is a faster than light object (noting theory of relativity), and it appears that time is neither linear nor non-linear, is it possible that a gandhabba or kamma is not subject to time/motion as is the physical Universe?

      Question: If gandhabba and kamma are not constrained by the physical laws of time & motion, is it possible that rebirth can take place in other so-called (mental construct) time periods? Since the gandhabba is somewhat location-based, resulting in location rebirth, might this mean that rebirth cannot take place in another time because of constraints due to one’s gati, gandhabba and kamma?

      While this post/question may reveal my ignorance about these subjects (hooray!), the answer could be quite valuable.

    • #38288

      Post script: This question results from reflecting on the Buddha Dhamma, and all of the elements of rebirth; 31 realms, kamma loka, and a bunch of other things. For some reason my mind wandered into the contemplation of time and how my concept of time is so limited. Then I began thinking about time and motion. I contemplated whether or not a gandhabba is ever completely annihilated. All of this contemplation lead me to wonder about the nature of time in relation to rebirth and gandhabba.

    • #38292

      Those are good questions. But it is time to look at those issues from a different point of view.

      1. The difficulty in understanding the gandhabba concept lies with the mindset (mostly in the Western world) that is anchored on materialism. Starting with ancient Greeks, it was assumed that everything in this world can be explained with matter (objects that have weight and take up space).

      2. However, within the past 100 years or so, after the scientists started probing the matter in detail, they have got into the “quantum regime” where the boundary between matter and energy disappeared. Now we know that matter can be converted to energy (atomic bomb) and that “invisible energy” can move matter. An example of the latter is the ability of scientists to drive robotic vehicles on the Moon from a laboratory on Earth.

      3. So, why is it difficult to conceive that the gandhabba can move the physical body? If scientists can move a vehicle on the Moon from here (using pure energy as the intermediary), why can’t the gandhabba (which is essentially an “energy body” with very little matter) move the physical body from within the physical body?

      4. The other question about the “instantaneous” movement of a gandhabba to a womb or the birth of a Deva in a Deva realm to take place instantaneously with the dying of a human on the Earth.
      – There is a verified phenomenon of “quantum entanglement” in physics. In 1997 Nicholas Gisin did the first experiment with entangled photons, in which they were sent seven miles apart via optical fibers. If one of those photons was forced to change its spin (an intrinsic property) that INSTANEOUSLY changed the spin of the other photon. See, “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected

      5. The rebirth process works in a similar same way. But the explanation is a bit deeper because it takes place in the vinnana dhatu.
      – When the gandhabba of a human dies (at the end of human bhava) a Deva in a Deva realm is born instantaneously. Those are just two events on the same “lifestream”. The potential to cause a Deva life in that Deva realm may have been there for a long time (as that human did moral deeds and built up enough kammic energy in the vinnana dhatu). That is also the “kamma bhava” which turned to “uppatti bhava” at the moment of death of that human.
      – For further details on vinnana dhatu, see, “Search Results for: vinnana dhatu nama loka

      It requires time and effort to understand these deep concepts. But it is fully worth the effort.

      • #38296

        Thank you. Such an elegant answer. Discounting any reference to material existence, from the Greeks or modern physicists, can I suppose that the time issue, i.e. if time is not linear as we imagine, does gandhabba operate anywhere in time, being only subject to locality? Also, is there ever an event where a gandhabba is completely annihilated, such as in a parinibbana of a Buddha?

    • #38299

      “Also, is there ever an event where a gandhabba is completely annihilated, such as in a parinibbana of a Buddha?”

      Yes, at parinibbana of a buddha or arahant, the gandhabba is no more.

      Lal often gives the analogy that the gandhabba is like a heater coil. Inside the body of an arahant it is fine (like the coil immersed in water); outside the arahant’s body it cannot “bear” it (like the coil burns outside of water).

      In this old forum, you can see Lal’s answer that is related to your question:

      “So, when the physical body of the Arahant dies, the gandhabba comes out and perished.”

      Gandhabba’s death

      Also, you may find the following insightful: we cannot talk about a gandhabba of an arahant who is in nirodha samapatti either.

      Nirodha samapatti is like parinibbana, except that the physical body is still alive.

      See #13744, (5) of this forum:

      Difference between “Arahant phala samapatti” and “Nirodha samapatti” ?

    • #38309

      1. Dipo’s question: “Also, is there ever an event where a gandhabba is completely annihilated, such as in a parinibbana of a Buddha?”
      – It depends on what you mean by “a gandhabba”.
      – A specific gandhabba (say, corresponding to a human) dies at the end of that “human bhava”. If that lifestream grasps an “animal bhava” next, then an “animal gandhabba” will be born simultaneously with the dying of the “human gandhabba”.
      – The possibility of arising of any gandhabba or “grasping of any type of bhava” stops for an Arahant.

      2. The “heater coil” analogy given by Lang applies ONLY in specific situations for a human gandhabba.
      – A human gandhabba will have a relatively long lifetime (into thousands of years) compared to the lifetimes of “physical human bodies”. A “physical human body” will die anywhere from the baby stage to about 120 years. Thus that human gandhabba will be reborn with different “physical human bodies” MANY TIMES within the lifetime of that gandhabba.
      – Exceptions to the above rule apply when a human does an “anantarika/anantariya kamma”. Those are strong kamma that will bring vipaka immediately. However, as long as a gandhabba is INSIDE a “physical human body” that anantariya kamma cannot bring that vipaka. But as soon as that human body dies and the gandhabba comes out of the dead body, that kamma vipaka will perish that gandhabba.
      – Now, that can be good or bad depending on the type of the anantariya kamma.
      – “Good” ananriya kamma are magga phala and jhana. For example, if that human became a Sakadagami, Anagami, or an Arahant, they cannot be reborn in the human realm. Thus that human gandhabba will perish and a Deva or a Suddhavasa Brahma will be born in the first two cases. In the case of an Arahant, there will be no new gandhabba, Deva, Brahma, or any birth. If that human had cultivated (anariya) jhana, they will be reborn a Brahma.
      – “Bad” anantariya kamma includes the killing of a parent or an Arahant. In such a case, the “human gandhabba” will perish when it comes out of the dead physical body and rebirth will occur in an apaya.
      P.S. In the cases of anantariya kamma (good or bad), the coil has been “heated” with that anantariya kamma. But as long the coil (gandhabba) is inside the “body of water (immersed in water)” that body of water will also heat up and be able to keep the coil intact. But as soon as the coil comes out of the water, it cannot “bear” that heat and will burn. This is a CRITICAL point to understand. Please ask again if not clear.

      P.P.S. The following video shows such a heater coil. If that heated coil is taken out of the water bucket, it will burn and will no longer be useful.

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