Akusala-Mūla Paticca Samuppāda

This is an early post; revised May 10, 2018

Akusala-mūla version is the only version of paticca samuppāda (PS) described in even the current Theravada texts, even though the other versions are in the Tipitaka.

1. One is born in this world due to the six root causes.

  • One is born in the apayas or dugati (and also subjected to suffering even when born in good realms) due to bad gati arising mainly due to lōbha, dōsa, mōha. The akusala-mula PS operates when actions, speech, and thoughts take place with these three root causes.
  • One is born in the remaining “good realms” or sugati (and also experience mundane sense pleasures) due to good gati due to alobha, adosa, amoha. The kusala-mula PS operates when actions, speech, and thoughts take place with these three root causes; see, “Kusala-Mula Paticca Samuppada“.

2. Akusala-mūla PS describes the PS process when one acts with lōbha, dōsa, mōha, the three root causes that bring “bad outcomes”. It is also two fold:

  • The uppatti  PS describes how a “lifestream” or a being makes the sansaric journey via repeated births in the 31 realms.
  • The pavutti (or pravurti) PS describes moment-to-moment progression of a “lifestream” or a being. This is discussed at, “Akusala-Mula Pavutti (or Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppada“.
  • It is important to note that Buddhaghosa (in Visuddhimagga) described only the uppatti PS. In recent times, several Theros have pointed out and discussed the pavutti PS.

2. Let us first discuss the uppatti PS, which describes how the PS cycle goes through a new birth at the end of current life. The steps in this cycle are:

avijjā paccayā sankhāra; sankhāra paccayā viññāna; viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa, nāmarūpa paccayā salāyatana, salāyatana paccayā phassō, phassa paccayā vēdanā, vēdanā paccayā tanhā, tanhā paccayā upādāna, upādāna paccayā bhavō, bhava paccayā jāti, jāti paccayā jarā, marana, soka-paridēva-dukkha-dōmanassupāyasā sambhavan’ti”

And that is how this whole mass of suffering arises: “Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayō hōti “

Let us briefly translate them:

3. With ignorance as condition, one accumulates sankhāra. It must be noted that these are really abhisankhāra, i.e., they are done with ignorance.

  • When we are born, we are born without ANYTHING material other than our tiny baby body, which actually started as a single cell in the mother’s womb. We grow up and start acquiring “stuff” both material and non-material: knowledge, material things, friends, spouse, children, fame, etc.
  • While we acquire these “things” we also acquire new habits (gati) or strengthen ones that we brought from previous lives; these take place according to the pavutti PS at every moment: “pati+ichcha sama uppāda“, i.e., we do things that we like and get similar kind of results.
  • When we die, we take with us only the kamma seeds (both good and bad) from our actions; the habits (gati)and cravings (āsavas) are embedded in them. These are in the manōmaya kaya, and the manōmaya kaya leaves the dead physical body with those “updated” kamma seeds; see the next post. This is basically the “net result” of our life here.
  • One of existing kamma seeds (from this life or from previous lives) gives rise to the next life, where we acquire more of them BASED ON the gati and āsavas. So the cycle perpetuates.

4. With sankhāra as condition, a patisandhi viññāna arises in the new life.

  • This viññāna of the new life arises according to the nature of the kamma seed that gave rise to it. If that kamma seed was acquired by doing some hateful act(s), then the viññāna will be matching: “pati+ichcha sama uppāda“. If it is a seed due to an act of a generosity done with loving kindness, it could be the viññāna of a Brahma.
  • Thus the “base level of viññāna” for an animal life is VERY DIFFERENT from that of a human life, even for the same “lifestream”, i.e., when a human is reborn as an animal the  “base level of viññāna” makes a huge downward transition. This is why it is NOT correct to say that “viññāna is transferred from life to life”.

5. With viññāna as condition, nāmarūpa arise.

  • Again, the nature of the “nāmarūpa” of the new life is according to “pati+ichcha sama uppāda“. In the above mentioned cases, the new life form may be that of an animal of a being in the niraya (hell) or that of a Brahma with a fine body.

6. With nāmarūpa as condition, salāyatana arise.

  • The salāyatana (six sense doors) arise accordingly too: In the above mentioned cases, all six sense doors suitable for the kind of animal form or just three sense doors (eye,ear, and mind) suitable for a Brahma.

7. With salāyatana as condition, phassō arise.

  • Here phassa is really “samphassa” or “san phassa; see step #2 in “Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.
  • This is why this “Akusala-mūla Paticca Samuppāda” is not applicable for an Arahant (and also for other Ariyas too at most times). An Arahant does not generate “samphassa” but just “phassa” without “san“.

8. With (san)phassa as condition, vēdanā arise.

9. With vēdanā as condition, tanhā arise.

  • tanhā arise, when one gets “attached” or ‘fused” into a thing or situation: with sukha vēdanā, one attaches with greed; with displeasure, one attaches with hate; one also attaches with not knowing what to do (with a highly agitated mind); see, ““Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.

10. With tanhā as condition, upādāna arise.

  • At the moment of death, in the last citta vīthi, the dying person gets a kamma nimitta. This is normally a vision or a sound that depicts the nature of the strong kamma seed that came to the forefront of the mind. For example, if the kamma seed that is about to give the next birth was due to a killing, then the person may see a gun or hear the sound of it, or even see himself as getting ready to shoot; thus the person will have the same hateful thoughts arise and just like at the time the crime was committed, the person embraces that situation automatically (upādāna), because one has such “gati” or habits.

11. With upādāna as condition, bhavō arise.

  • The next citta vīthi starts with the new existence or “bhava” matching that state of mind: “pati+ichcha sama uppāda“. Depending on the kamma nimitta that was grasped, a matching existence, a human, animal, deva, etc. arise; see, “Paticca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppäda”“.

12. With bhava as condition, jāti (new birth) arise.

  • Then a birth matching the bhava starts. If the bhava is human realm, then a human birth will result. Now, here is the difference between bhava and jāti: The duration of the selected “human bhava” will last until the kammic energy associated with that kamma seed is exhausted. Thus if the kamma seed has potential for thousand years of life, when the current life ends the next birth will be still in the human realm. This is UNLESS one commits a anantariya kamma or even a very strong other type of kamma. For example, if one attains Anāgami or Arahant stages, the person will not be reborn in the human realm; or if one kills a parent, for example; all these are anantariya kamma.

13. With jāti as condition, “jarā, maranan, soka-parideva-dukkha-dōmanassupāyasa sambhavan’ti” arise.

  • jāti inevitably results in decay and eventual death, and this is how dukkha originates.
  • No matter where one is born in the 31 realms, one ages and eventually dies; in between one goes through all kinds of suffering, in particular at human realm and below. Aging and death are certainties. And at death the whole cycle re-starts.

14. The above steps describe the uppatti PS. The other aspect, i.e., what happens during a given lifetime, is described in, “Akusala-mūla Pavutti (Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppda“.

All the steps in the akusala-mūla paticca samuppāda are described in detail in the series: “Paticca Samuppāda in Plain English“.

Next, “Kusala-mūla Paticca Samuppāda“, ………..

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