Satara Āhāra for Mental Body or Gandhabba

February 11, 2017

1. As we have discussed in this subsection and elsewhere at the site, we have two bodies: the physical body (karaja kāya) and mental body (gandhabba). Both these bodies need food to survive.

  • The food we eat to sustain the physical body is called kabalinkā āhāra.
  • Our mental body consumes three more types of food: phassa, manō sancētana, and viññāna.
  • The four types of food are called “satara āhāra“. We will see that all four can be food for the mental body (gandhabba).

2. Food is essential for all living beings. If one stops taking kabalinkā āhāra (which includes water) for about seven days or so, one’s physical body will die.

  • However, unless one is an Arahant, one will be reborn somewhere in the 31 realms upon death, because one’s mental body (gandhabba) will not die.
  • We cannot stop suffering by committing suicide, i.e., via the death of the physical body. The mental body needs to die in order to stop the rebirth process.

3. If one can stop giving food to the mental body for seven days, it will die, and one will never be reborn anywhere in the 31 realms, i.e., one will attain Nibbāna; then that Arahant will not be reborn upon death of the physical body. Thus the unimaginable suffering associated with the rebirth process will be over (as I discussed in the beginning of this section on “Living Dhamma“, stopping the rebirth process seems scary and it should not be contemplated when one is starting on the Path).

  • This is why in the Mahā Satipatthāna Sutta, the Buddha said that if one can practice the sutta without making any mistakes, one will attain Nibbāna in seven days.
  • Let us discuss how this is possible.

4. There are two conditions that must be satisfied to generate a new mental body at the cuti-patisandhi moment: (i) There must be a kamma beeja available to grasp, and (ii) one’s mind must willingly grasp that kamma beeja.

  • We all have accumulated numerous kamma beeja, so the first condition is always satisfied for anyone. Therefore, it is the second condition — grasping a new existence (bhava) at the cuti-patisandhi moment that can stop the rebirth process.
  • At the beginning, we need to just focus on not grasping a bhava in the four lowest realms (apāyas).
  • As we have discussed before, this grasping of a new bhava is not done consciously, but automatically.
  • For example, a Sōtapanna‘s mind will not grasp a bhava in the apāyas; A Sakadāgami‘s mind will not grasp a human bhava in addition, an Anāgami will not grasp a bhava in the kāma lōka, and an Arahant will not grasp any.

5. There is another way to look at this mechanism of grasping a new bhava at the cuti-patisandhi moment. In the uppatti Paticca Samuppāda (PS) cycle, a certain bhava is grasped at “upādāna paccayā bhava“.

  • When we trace the cycle backwards, we see that it starts at “avijjā paccayā sankhāra” and “sankhāra paccayā vinanna“.
  • The grasping (upādāna) happens only if that PS starts with avijjā and generates an appropriate viññāna for grasping that bhava.

6. Therefore, it is important to realize the two roles that viññāna play. We can understand this by examining how a Sōtapanna avoids birth in the apāyas.

(i) If one cultivates “apāyagami viññāna” by doing extremely hateful/greedy actions, viññāna will keep GENRERATING kamma beeja (energy) that fuel a new bhava in the apāyas. When one attains the Sōtapanna stage, one will automatically stop generating any more such kamma beeja, but those ones that had been created will be there.

(ii) However, after someone attains the Sōtapanna stage, his/her mind will not start a uppatti PS cycle with an apāyagami viññāna, because that level of avijjā has been removed. That type of viññāna has been “killed” or removed from her mind and is no longer able to grasp a new bhava in the apāyas, even though apāyagami kamma beeja will still be there.

7. A good example from the Tipitaka is Ven. Angulimala. He killed almost 1000 people and definitely had accumulated enough strong kamma beeja to be born in the apāyas.

  • But at death his mind was devoid of that kind of bad viññāna to grasp any type of bhava in the 31 realms. Therefore, he was not reborn anywhere in the 31 realms.

8. Therefore, the word viññāna represents much more than just consciousness: It can be “food” for accumulating new kamma beeja AND also “food” or “fuel” that leads to grasping a new bhava.

  • viññāna is opposite of ñāna (pronounced “gñāna”) or wisdom. When one cultivates ñāna, one’s avijjā is reduced and certain types of viññāna are concomitantly reduced.
  • Pronunciation of viññāna:

    Pronunciation of  ñāna:

  • There are many types of viññāna; see, “2. viññāna (Consciousness) can be of Many Different Types and Forms“.
  • As one attains the four stages of Nibbāna, avijjā is removed in four stages and the strength of all types of viññāna are accordingly reduced (removed) and all are eventually removed at the Arahant stage.
  • This pure level of consciousness — without any defilements and thus any cravings — is called pabhasvara citta and also anidassana viññāna.
  • In other words, an Arahant can experience the world with a purified mind that is not blemished by even a trace of greed, hate, or ignorance. Therefore, at death, his purified mind will not grasp any existence (bhava).

9.  As long as one has viññāna, one will be born somewhere in the 31 realms. This is why viññāna is called a type of food for the mental body.

  • As one proceeds at successive stages of Nibbāna, one will crave for less and less things in this world. For example, at the Anāgami stage, one would have lost all cravings (and hopes) — or viññāna — for any type of sensual pleasures.
  • It must be noted that the birth in the apāyas is not due to cravings to be willingly born there (no one has such cravings), but due to immoral deeds one one had done to enjoy sensual pleasures AND has not yet removed that mentality (desire to enjoy sense pleasures at any cost) or bad viññāna.

10. Any type of viññāna is cultivated by thinking, speaking, and acting in such a manner. Thinking, speaking, and acting is done based on manō, vacī, and kāya sankhāra which arise due to sancētana (“san” + “cētana” or defiled intentions; cētana is pronounced “chethanä”).

  • For example, an alcoholic regularly thinks about drinking, likes to speak about it and likes to drink. The more he does those, the more that viññāna will grow.
  • It is easy to see how a gambler, smoker, etc grow their corresponding viññāna the same way.
  • Having such viññāna can lead to other immoral activities and corresponding viññāna, say tendency to lie, steal, and even murder.
  • Therefore, all activities done in cultivating such viññāna are based on manō sancētana. That is why manō sancētana are also food for the mental body.

11. The triggers for such sancētana are sense contacts or phassa. These are not mere sense contacts, but those that give rise to “samphassa jā vēdanā“.

  • Phassa is a sense contact. When one just looks at something that is phassa. But if one looks at it with greed or hate (and ignorance) in mind, that is samphassa (“san” + “phassa“); see, “vēdanā (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways“.
  • This is why sense contacts or phassa (more precisely samphassa) are food for the mental body. Such sense contacts can lead to thoughts about bad actions and can give rise to future kammaja kāya.
  • Therefore, one needs to avoid sense contacts with sense objects that one has tanhā for. We need to remember that tanhā is attachment to something via greed or hate; see, “tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.
  • So, it is a bad idea for a gambler to visit casinos, an alcoholic to make visits to bars, etc. Furthermore, one needs to avoid friends who encourage such activities too.
  • It is best to avoid any type of contacts that can lead to sense exposures that provide “food” for the mental body, i.e, get us started thinking about those bad activities.

12. Now we can see how those three types of food act in sequence to feed the mental body: Sense contacts (phassa) can lead to manō sancētana, which in turn cultivate viññāna.

  • Such sense contacts (samphassa) automatically start manō sankhāra; then we start thinking and speaking about those favorite activities, i.e., we start vacī sankhāra (consciously think about them and even speaking about them). Then when  the feelings get strong, we will start doing them (using kāya sankhāra).
  • It is important to realize that manō sankhāra, vacī sankhāra, and kāya sankhāra are all generated in the mindvacī sankhāra are conscious thoughts that can lead to speech; kāya sankhāra are conscious thoughts that move the physical body.
  • All three types of sankhāra arise due to manō sancētana. We cannot think, speak or do things without generating appropriate manō sancētana.

13. As we discussed before, the physical body is just a shell; it is controlled by the mental body (gandhabba).

  • Sense contacts come through the physical body. When we get attached to them, we generate manō sancētana and think, speak, and act accordingly, generating various types of viññāna.
  • kabalinkā āhāra or the food that we eat are experienced through one of the six sense contacts (tongue or jivha pasada). If we eat food with greed, that also lead to manō sancētana and corresponding “greedy viññāna“. Therefore, kabalinkā āhāra can also be a food for the mental body. More details can be found at “āhāra (Food) in Udayavaya ñāna“.
  • That is why all four types can be food for the mental body.

A deeper discussion on the four types of food (āhāra) is in the post, “āhāra (Food) in Udayavaya ñāna“.

Next, “Micca Ditthi, gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage“,..

Print Friendly, PDF & Email