August 16, 2018
This post will analyze two famous key verses to show the inter-connections among the Four Noble Truths, Tilakkhana, Paticca Samuppāda, and the Noble Eightfold Path. These are the main concepts that must be comprehended in order to benefit from Buddha Dhamma.
“Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā,
Tesaṃ hētuṃ tathāgato āha;
Tesañca yo nirōdhō,
- From just hearing this verse uttered by Ven. Assaji, Upatissa (later Ven. Sariputta) became a Sōtapanna. This is the fundamental concept of Buddha Dhamma, and is explained in detail in the Paticca Samuppāda.
- The correct translation is: “Whatever dhammā (which are really kamma beeja) that give rise to the rebirth process, causes for those to arise have been declared by the Buddha; he has also explained how those causes can be stopped from arising (and thus end the rebirth process)”.
- First, let us briefly discuss how we arrive at this translation.
1. “Ye dhammā” means “those dhammā”. The complex word in the verse is hetuppabhavā: It is the combination of “hētu“, “pa“, and “bhava“, which respectively mean causes, repeated, and existence. The combination rhymes as hetuppabhavā, just as dhamma cakka pavattana rhymes as “dhammacakkappavattana“.
- So, hetuppabhavā means “causes leading to repeated birth or causes to sustain the rebirth process”.
- It is to be noted that both words hetuppabhavā and pabhassara have the words “pa” and “bha” embedded in them; see, “Pabhassara Citta, Radiant Mind, and Bhavanga“.
- So, “ye dhammā hetuppabhavā” means “those dhammā that sustain the rebirth process or sansāra“.
2. Tesam is “te” + “san” or three “san” of lōbha, dōsa, mōha. These are those hētu or causes.
- Even though there are six root causes, they all can be eliminated by eliminating those three; see, “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbana)“.
- Of course “san” are the defilements that are responsible for the rebirth process for anyone, which are basically dasa akusala; see, “San“.
- So, “Tesaṃ hētuṃ tathāgato āha” means “The Buddha has declared what those three causes are”.
3. The next part, “Tesañca yo nirōdhō” or “Te san ca yo nirōdhō” has the second complex key word of nirōdha, which comes from “nir”+”udaya”, where “nir” means stop and “udaya” means “arise”.
- Thus nirōdha means stop something from arising; see, “Nirödha and Vaya – Two Different Concepts“.
- The easiest way to understand nirōdha is to see that a plant can be stopped from arising (i.e., coming into being), by destroying the seed. Put in the real context of the word nirōdha, a plant’s coming into being can be stopped by stopping the creation of that seed.
- In the same way, a future existence (bhava) can be stopped by stopping the formation of the corresponding viññāna (kamma beeja), i.e., bhava nirōdha is achieved by viññāna nirōdha.
4. By going backward further in PS, viññāna nirōdha in turn is done by (abhi)sankhāra nirōdha; see below too. Of course, abhisankhāra nirōdha cannot be done by sheer will power. One must cultivate panna (wisdom) and get rid of avijjā. That requires comprehending of Tilakkhana or the futility of clinging to this suffering-filled world of 31 realms that will make one helpless in the end (especially when born in the four lowest realms or apayas).
- We can thus see that viññāna nirōdha leads to the stopping of initiation of akusala-mula Paticca Samuppāda (PS) cycles starting at the “avijjā paccayā sankhāra” step.
5. Now it is clear what is meant by “tesañca (te san ca) yo nirōdhō, evaṃvādī mahāsamaṇō”. The Buddha (mahāsamaṇō) has explained how those defilements can be stopped from arising”.
- Viññāna nirōdha is achieved via stopping abhisankhāra or — to put in a practical statement — by abstaining from all dasa akusala. That involves the 3 akusala done by the body (via kāya sankhāra), 4 akusala done by the speech and defiled conscious thoughts (via vaci sankhāra), and 3 akusala done by the mind (via manō sankhāra).
- It is really important to understand what is meant by key words like sankhāra and viññāna; see, “Mental Aggregates“.
- It is important to realize that conscious thoughts are also vaci sankhāra; see, “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra“. It is not just immoral speech and deeds that matter, but immoral “day dreaming” counts too.
6. The way to achieve viññāna nirōdha is of course the Noble Eightfold Path. When one follows the Noble Path, one’s avijjā will be removed and thus no more initiations of PS cycles, i.e., no more suffering (there will not be “jāti paccayā jarā, marana, sōka,..).
- In the Petakopadesa, this verse is used to express the four Noble Truths (cattāri ariyasaccāni), and we can now see why.
7. The second related verse “yaṃ kiñci samudaya dhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirōdha dhamman“ is in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11).
- Translated: “If there are dhammā that give rise to suffering (i.e., any samudaya dhammā), all such dhammā can be stopped from arising (via the Noble Eightfold Path)”.
- “yaṃ kiñci samudaya dhammaṃ” means “any dhammā that eventually lead to suffering. And, “sabbaṃ taṃ nirōdha dhamman” means “all such dhammā” are nirōdha dhammā, i.e., they can be stopped from arising.
8. But we need to get the idea embedded in this verse, instead of just translating the verse.
- From what we have learned so far, we know that samudaya dhamma (or kamma beeja) are created by viññāna, for which the best translation is “defiled consciousness“.
- Viññāna in turn arise due to our own (abhi) sankhāra. And the reason that we do abhisankhāra is that we are ignorant of the anicca nature, i.e., we have avijjā.
- That is what the paticca samuppāda states: “avijjā paccayā sankhāra, sankhāra paccayā viññāna, viññāna paccayā nāmarupa“, leading to “upādāna paccayā bhava, bhava paccayā jāti“, which ends up in the whole mass of suffering: “jāti paccayā jarā, marana,…”
9. So, again we can see that samudaya dhamma arise with defiled viññāna that arise due to abhisankhāra done with avijjā!
- If we do not cultivate such defiled viññāna via abhisankhāra (i.e., if we stop doing dasa akusala), then we will not end up with births that are destined to lead to all types of suffering: jarā (old age), marana (death), sōka (unhappiness), parideva (long lasting state of unhappiness where sōka keeps bubbling up), dukkha (physical injuries, diseases, etc), dōmanassa (long bouts of depression), upāsāya (extreme distress where can faint or generates suicidal thoughts)”.
- Those sufferings described above are mainly for the human realm. If one is born in the four lowest realms, it will be much worse, mostly physical suffering or dukkha.
In the above we have discussed how to stop the formation of kamma beeja. But what about those kamma beeja that we have already piled up during this life and from previous lives? Will not they bring vipāka and initiate new bhava and jāti filled with suffering?
10. The key is to understand that one gets a “second chance”. Kamma vipāka are not deterministic, i.e., kamma beeja can not automatically bring vipāka.
- In an uppatti PS cycle, we saw that kamma beeja are formed with the first two steps in the PS cycle: “avijjā paccayā sankhāra” and “sankhāra paccayā viññāna“. This viññāna is called a kamma viññāna.
- But when those kamma beeja try to bring back the vipāka corresponding to those kamma beeja at a FUTURE time, they are brought back as vipāka viññāna. What this means is the mind is exposed to a “sign” called a “nimitta” that corresponds to the kamma that was done to make that kamma beeja.
11. So, it is important to realize that in an uppatti PS cycle, the “viññāna paccayā nāmarupa” step starts much later, may be even in a future life.
12. This is best explained with an example. Suppose person X kills another human being in this life. That involves a lot of manō, vaci, and kāya abhisankhāra and all those contribute to a defiled mindset (viññāna) that led to a kamma beeja which got the most contribution at the moment of killing via a kāya abhisankhāra.
- Now, that kamma beeja will be there waiting to bring its vipāka at a future time.
- Suppose X dies a few years later, but he has more kammic energy for this human bhava left. In that case, that kamma beeja cannot bring vipāka. He will leave a dead body as a gandhabba and wait for a suitable womb.
- However, if X had killed one of his parents, for example, that would be an ānantariya kamma and thus that kamma beeja will bring its vipāka at the end of this life.
13. In either case, the “viññāna paccayā nāmarupa” step will start the rest of PS cycle leading to a new bhava (let us say in the niraya) with the following way.
- So, X is now at deathbed, whether in this life or in a future life as a human. Just before the dying moment, that kamma beeja will bring a sign (called nimitta) of that kamma to X’s mind. it could be a scene from that killing event or a scene from the niraya that he is about to be born.
- Since he had done this act with intention, that mindset will come back and he will basically have that defiled mindset (viññāna) that was responsible for the killing. Then he will have that nimitta come in and this is the “nāmarupa” that comes to his mind at that time: “viññāna paccayā nāmarupa“.
14. All his six sense faculties will transform according to that sign or nimitta: “nāmarupa paccayā salāyatana“. Of course the nimitta will come through only one, let us say as a picture from that killing event or a sound.
- His mind will now make contact (salāyatana paccayā phassa) just as in any sense event, and that leads to “phassa paccayā vēdanā“, i.e., now he is about to re-enacting the crime in his mind, starting at the “vēdanā paccayā tanhā” step.
15. But a critical point in these steps occurs at the “vēdanā paccayā tanhā”, “tanhā paccayā upādāna” steps. When one gets that nimitta of a birth in the niraya appears at the moment of death, one WILL NOT grasp it if one has attained the Sōtapanna stage.
- A Sōtapanna‘s mind has grasped the truth of the “anicca nature” and has a higher level of panna (wisdom), so it WILL NOT grasp that nimitta. This is why Angulimala was able to attain the Arahanthood, even after killing almost 1000 people: those past kamma beeja did not get to germinate.
16. Therefore, that nimitta will be ineffective if X had become a Sōtapanna in the intervening time and a different (good or bad) next in line will appear, and the process will continue until a suitable new bhava is grasped at the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step.
- This is how a Sōtapanna avoids “apāyagāmi kamma beeja” from bringing their vipāka.
- Of course, if X had not attained the Sōtapanna stage, then he will be born in niraya.
17. Please do not hesitate to ask questions at the forum if this is not clear. Kamma viññāna are discussed in detail at: “Kamma Viññāna – Link Between Mind and Matter”.
- The process of how past kamma try to bring vipāka with vipāka viññāna is discussed in detail at, “Avyākata Paticca Samuppāda for Vipāka Viññāna“.
- Of course one needs to really understand what is meant by all these terms (vēdanā, tanhā, upādāna, etc.) in order to understand these processes; see, “Mental Aggregates“.
- If one can truly comprehend this post, one could get to the Sōtapanna stage, because this is really seeing the “way to Nibbana“, i.e., how to stop the future suffering permanently. This is about getting to lokottara Sammā Ditthi.