Satara Ahara 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 kaya) and mental body (gandhabba). Both these bodies need food to survive.

  • The food we eat to sustain the physical body is called kabalinka ahara.
  • Our mental body consumes three more types of food: phassa, mano sancetana, and vinnana.
  • The four types of food are called “satara ahara“. 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 kabalinka ahara (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 Nibbana; 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 Maha Satipattana Sutta, the Buddha said that if one can practice the sutta without making any mistakes, one will attain Nibbana 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 (apayas).
  • As we have discussed before, this grasping of a new bhava is not done consciously, but automatically.
  • For example, a Sotapanna‘s mind will not grasp a bhava in the apayas; A Sakadagami‘s mind will not grasp a human bhava in addition, an Anagami will not grasp a bhava in the kama loka, 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 Samuppada (PS) cycle, a certain bhava is grasped at “upadana paccaya bhava“.

  • When we trace the cycle backwards, we see that it starts at “avijja paccaya sankhara” and “sankhara paccaya vinanna“.
  • The grasping (upadana) happens only if that PS starts with avijja and generates an appropriate vinnana for grasping that bhava.

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

(i) If one cultivates “apayagami vinnana” by doing extremely hateful/greedy actions, vinnana will keep GENRERATING kamma beeja (energy) that fuel a new bhava in the apayas. When one attains the Sotapanna 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 Sotapanna stage, his/her mind will not start a uppatti PS cycle with an apayagami vinnana, because that level of avijja has been removed. That type of vinnana has been “killed” or removed from her mind and is no longer able to grasp a new bhava in the apayas, even though apayagami 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 apayas.

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

8. Therefore, the word vinnana 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.

  • Vinnana is opposite of nana (pronounced “gnana”) or wisdom. When one cultivates nana, one’s avijja is reduced and certain types of vinnana are concomitantly reduced.
  • Pronunciation of vinnana:

    Pronunciation of nana:

  • There are many types of vinnana; see, “2. Vinnana (Consciousness) can be of Many Different Types and Forms“.
  • As one attains the four stages of Nibbana, avijja is removed in four stages and the strength of all types of vinnana 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 vinnana.
  • 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 vinnana, one will be born somewhere in the 31 realms. This is why vinnana is called a type of food for the mental body.

  • As one proceeds at successive stages of Nibbana, one will crave for less and less things in this world. For example, at the Anagami stage, one would have lost all cravings (and hopes) — or vinnana — for any type of sensual pleasures.
  • It must be noted that the birth in the apayas 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 vinnana.

10. Any type of vinnana is cultivated by thinking, speaking, and acting in such a manner. Thinking, speaking, and acting is done based on mano, vaci, and kaya sankhara which arise due to sancetana (“san” + “cetana” or defiled intentions; cetana 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 vinnana will grow.
  • It is easy to see how a gambler, smoker, etc grow their corresponding vinnana the same way.
  • Having such vinnana can lead to other immoral activities and corresponding vinnana, say tendency to lie, steal, and even murder.
  • Therefore, all activities done in cultivating such vinnana are based on mano sancetana. That is why mano sancetana are also food for the mental body.

11. The triggers for such sancetana are sense contacts or phassa. These are not mere sense contacts, but those that give rise to “samphassa ja vedana“.

  • 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, “Vedana (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 kaya.
  • Therefore, one needs to avoid sense contacts with sense objects that one has tanha for. We need to remember that tanha is attachment to something via greed or hate; see, “Tanha – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.
  • So, it is a bad idea 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 mano sancetana, which in turn cultivate vinnana.

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

13. As we discussed before, the physical body 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 mano sancetana and think, speak, and act accordingly, generating various types of vinnana.
  • Kabalinka ahara 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 mano sancetana and corresponding “greedy vinnana“. Therefore, kabalinka ahara can also be a food for the mental body. More details can be found at “Ahara (Food) in Udayavaya Nana“.
  • That is why all four types can be food for the mental body.

A deeper discussion on the four types of food (ahara) is in the post, “Ahara (Food) in Udayavaya Nana“.

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

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