Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna)

July 19, 2018; revised December 23, 2018

1. “Lōka Samudaya” (“san” “udaya“) means “arising of this suffering filled world”; “lōka nirōdhaya” (“nir” “udaya“) means “stopping the arising of this world”. By “this world” it is meant the 31 realms.

  • As long as there are causes (hētu) exist for the world to arise for a given living being, that living being will be reborn and subjected much more suffering in the apāyās than any temporary happiness experienced in the “good realms” at or above the human realm.
  • When three those causes (lōbha, dōsa, mōhaare removed, one will be released from “this world” and one would be free of suffering and would have attained Nibbāna.

2. There are 4 paramatta dhammā or “ultimate realities”: citta, cētasika, rūpa, and Nibbāna. Only the first three belong to this world of 31 realms.

  • When one is in “this world”, his/her experience is described by citta, cētasika, rūpa. 
  • When one attains Nibbāna, one would be totally dissociated from citta, cētasika, rūpa.
  • That is another way to describe Nibbāna.

3. There are 6 root causes (mūlika hētu) that lead to the arising of one’s world: lōbha (greed), dōsa hate/anger), mōha (acting with 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi) and alōbha (non-greed), adōsa (non-hate/anger), amōha (absence of mōha).

  • When one acts with one or more of lōbha, dōsa, mōha, one is giving rise to kamma bīja (kammic energy) that can lead to rebirth in the four “bad realms” or the apāyās. In other words, one is generating bad abhisaṅkhāra or “apuñña abhisaṅkhāra“, therefore, “bad viññāna” etc, which lead to “bad bhava” and “bad jāti” (see, “Paṭicca Samuppāda“).
  • In the same way, when one acts with one or more of alōbha, adōsa, amōha, one is giving rise to kamma bīja that can lead to rebirth in the “good realms” at or above the human realm. In other words, one is generating good abhisaṅkhāra or “puñña abhisaṅkhāra“, therefore, “good viññāna” etc, which lead to “good bhava” and “good jāti“.
  • However, those three “good root causes” cannot lead to rebirths in the “good realms” after the three “bad root causes” are completely removed; see below.

4. It is said that lōbha, dōsa, mōha are food (āhāra) for the apāyās; that is why they are called kilēsa or “impurities”.  That means they are food for the kamma bīja that give rise to births in the apāyās.

  • In the same way, alōbha is food or āhāra for the deva realms.
  • Alōbha and adōsa are āhāra for the brahma realms.
  • However, amōha is not a cētasika (mental factor), and instead what one cultivates is paññā cētasika. One attains Nibbāna by cultivating paññā. We will discuss this below.

5. Therefore, all six root causes lead to the continuation of the rebirth process. However, one needs to work to stop only the three “bad root causes” in order to stop the rebirth process (“rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, mōhakkhayō Nibbānan”).

  • The Path to Nibbāna STARTS  with the reducing of the 3 bad roots and cultivating the 3 good root roots.
  • In order to attain Nibbāna, one MUST be in a good realm. Therefore, the first objective is to avoid births in the apāyās. The 3 bad roots (lōbha, dōsa, mōha) are also called kilēsa (or keles or impure), because they can lead to rebirths in the apāyās.

6. Furthermore, one’s paññā (wisdom) grows as one gets rid of the 3 bad roots and cultivate the 3 good roots. That is essential to be able to comprehend Tilakhhana.

  • When one comprehends Tilakkhana, one will lose the desire to be reborn in the “good realms” too.
  • When  one’s paññā becomes optimum at the Arahant stage, one will not go through the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step in Paṭicca Samuppāda leading to ANY rebirth.
  • This is why it is said that after completing the eighth step of  Sammā Samādhi in the Noble Eightfold Path, one get to Sammā Ñāna stage (when paññā is optimized) and one attains Sammā Vimutti (complete release from this world), i.e., “dasa angehi samannāgatō Arahant“.

7. Thoughts can arise in the mind with EITHER good roots OR the bad roots (as far as kammic consequences are concerned).

  • All six roots are with a normal human as anusaya (hidden), but only one set can appear at a given time.
  • This is why even the “worst person” can do kusala kamma sometimes.

8. It is to be noted that apuñña abhisaṅkhāra arise in the mind when doing dasa akusala (i.e., when asōbhana cētasika arise in citta). Punna abhisaṅkhāra arise when doing dasa kusala, where sōbhana cētasika arise in citta; see, “Cetasika (Mental Factors)“.

  • Those immoral actions (dasa akusala) done with apuñña abhisaṅkhāra have the three “bad roots” of lōbha, dōsa, and mōha, and all those are asōbhana cētasika (other types of asōbhana cētasika can arise too).  It is to be noted that ALL apuñña abhisaṅkhāra are done with citta contaminated by the mōha cētasika; lōbha and dōsa cētasika are in some of those citta that are associated with dasa akusala; see, “Cetasika (Mental Factors)“.
  • Kusala” comes from “ku” “sala” or getting rid of immoral (“ku“). Kusala kamma are done with the three “good roots” of alōbha, adōsa, and amōha. It is also to be noted that alōbha and adōsa are in ALL kusala citta, but amōha is NOT EVEN a cētasika

9. Therefore, one can do kusala kamma without getting rid of mōha, i.e., without cultivating paññā: most people engage in giving, have compassion for others, etc. This is a key point to remember.

  • Anyone who has any of the 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi HAS NOT removed mōha, and thus HAS NOT started cultivating paññā. But such a person can still do some dasa kusala (like giving), even though their javana power is not high compared to one who has removed the 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi.
  • By the way, the javana power of kusala citta go up even more when one starts comprehending Tilakkhana. In the Abhidhamma language, javana power is high in “ñāna sampayutta citta“, where ñāna is wisdom (paññā). And paññā grows with increasing comprehension of Tilakkhana.

10. Therefore, “kusala” has two levels: within the mundane eightfold path, one can do kusala kamma “at a lower level”; these are also called “puñña kamma“; see, “Punna Kamma – Dāna, Sīla, Bhāvanā“. That will keep one away from births in the apāyās.

  • However, those kusala kamma are “contaminated” to some degree, and they become more powerful in the Noble Path with the increasing comprehension of Tilakkhana.
  • For example, in “mundane alōbha“, one loses craving for some things and is willing to share those with others. In “lōkuttara alōbha” one just loses craving by seeing the worthlessness of things in this world.
  • In the same way, mundane adōsa and amōha arise temporarily. But of course, they bring their vipāka to make it easier to cultivate paññā and to get to lōkuttara roots, i.e., comprehend Tilakkhana.

11. It is inevitable that even the most “moral normal person” WILL generate “bad abhisaṅkhāra” either during this life or in the future life, until one REMOVES the three bad root causes from the mind by comprehending Tilakkhana. Until then they remain as anusaya, and come to the surface under suitable conditions.

  • For example, X may see an enticing object and greed (lōbha) may come to the mind.
  • But at another time, X may see a hungry person and may buy that person a meal with non-greed (alōbha), non-hate (adōsa), and amōha.
  • An Arahant has removed all six root causes. But he/she may provide a meal to a hungry person out of paññā (wisdom) — doing the appropriate thing; it is also called a kriya, an action without kammic consequences.

12. When one removes lōbha, dōsa, mōha from one’s mind, that will AUTOMATICALLY lead to the removal of alōbha, adōsa, and amōha too, because one’s paññā has now been cultivated to see the futility of all six causes to be born anywhere in the 31 realms.

  • This is a key idea to comprehend. As one progresses on the mundane eightfold path — removing the three bad roots — one’s paññā will start to grow.

13. At that point, IF one gets to hear the essence of the Buddha Dhamma (Four Noble Truths/ Noble Eightfold Path/ Tilakkhana), then paññā will start to grow much faster, as all six root causes will fade one’s mind.

  • The key is to comprehend the anicca nature of this world of 31 realms: Because of this anicca nature, one will be subjected to dukkha, and thus one will become helpless (anatta)in this rebirth process.
  • This is stated succinctly in the Dhammacappavattana Sutta in the following verse: “yampiccam (yam pi iccam) nalabhati (na labhati) tampi dukkham” or “one suffers when one does not get what one desires (iccā)”; see, “”Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations“.
  • That is because even if one desires and gets a birth in a deva or a brahma realm, that lasts only a finite time, and one will eventually be born in the apāyās and will endure much more and unimaginably harsh suffering.

14. This fact of not getting what one desires (“na” “icca“, which rhymes as “anicca“, just as “na” “āgāmi” rhymes as “Anāgāmi“) describes the key fundamental characteristic of “this world”. This then leads to “dukkha” and thus to “anatta“, as expressed by the following verse in many suttā: “yadaniccam tam dukkham, tam dukkham tadanattā” (“yad aniccam tam dukkham, tam dukkham tad anattā“); see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations“.

  • This is a special knowledge that is grasped only by a Buddha. Of course, once a Buddha discovers this knowledge, he can explain it to others.
  • It is to be noted that even when a Buddha is not in this world, there could be yōgis who have removed the 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi. However, they would not have removed avijjā, until comprehending Tilakkhana.

15. Therefore, until a Buddha or a true disciple of the Buddha explains the above “big picture”, AND until one’s mind “sees” the truth of this picture, one will be trapped in the suffering-filled rebirth process (samsāra).

  • This is because one will ALWAYS believe that by “just being moral” (i.e., acting with alōbha, adōsa, amōha), one will be able to attain permanent happiness somewhere (in the heaven per most religions or in a brahma realm per Hinduism).
  • Not believing in even the rebirth process and in the consequences of one’s actions (kamma), as well as not believing in the paraloka of gandhabba, are included in the 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi; see, “Micca Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sotāpanna Stage“.
  • When one has those 10 types micchā diṭṭhi, one is more likely to do apuñña abhisaṅkhāra (when the sense input becomes irresistible) and “become eligible” for the birth in the apāyās.

16. However, it must be clear that one cannot get to Sammā Diṭṭhi (or the correct vision) in the Noble Path (that leads to Nibbāna) merely by getting rid of the 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi.

  • The next and critical step is comprehending the deeper characteristics of Nature or Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta), per above discussion.
  • This is why the Buddha described two types of Sammā Diṭṭhi and two types of eightfold paths; see, “Mahā Chattārisaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty)“.
  • By following the first type of eightfold path, one stays away from the apāyās, and ALSO setup conditions to be able to comprehend Tilakkhana.
  • Once on the first eightfold path, one can learn the true Tilakkhana from a Buddha or a true disciple of the Buddha, contemplate on them, and start on the Noble Eightfold Path.
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