Akusala-Mūla Upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda

This is an early post; revised May 10, 2018; March 13, 2021; re-written May 13, 2021

Akusala-mūla upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda describes how our present actions dictate the rebirth process among the 31 realms.

Six Root Causes That Determine Future Births

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

  • One is born in the apāyā 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 two main versions of akusala-mula PS operate when actions, speech, and thoughts occur with these three root causes; see #2.
  • 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 occur with these three root causes with the comprehension of the Noble Truths; see “Kusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda.” In particular, that post explains why puññābhisaṅkhāra (moral deeds) become kusala (i.e., truly alobha, adosa, amoha) only with an understanding of the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkhana.
  • Also, see, “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna).”
Two Types of PS Processes Based on Lōbha, Dōsa, Mōha

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

  • The upapatti  PS describes how a “lifestream” or a being makes the saṁsaric journey via repeated births in the 31 realms.
  • The idappaccayātā PS describes the moment-to-moment progression of a “lifestream” or a being. This is discussed at “Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.”
  • It is important to note that Buddhaghosa (in Visuddhimagga) described only the upapatti PS. In recent times, Waharaka Thero has discussed the idappaccayātā PS in detail.
Upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda Process

3. Let us now discuss the upapatti 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 saṅkhāra; saṅkhāra paccayā viññāna; viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa, nāmarūpa paccayā salāyatana, salāyatana paccayā phassō, phassa paccayā vēdanā, vēdanā paccayā taṇhā, taṇhā 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 discuss those steps.
Saṅkhāra – Thoughts, Speech, Actions Due to Avijjā

4. With ignorance of the Four Noble Truths as a condition, one thinks, speaks, and acts with those “bad root causes” of lōbha, dōsa, mōha. Such thoughts, speech, and actions arise due to mano, vaci, and kāya saṅkhāra. We must note that these are really abhisaṅkhāra, i.e., they are strong saṅkhāra; “abhi” means “strong.” See, “Saṅkhāra – What It Really Means.”

  • When 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 idappaccayātā PS at every moment: “paṭi+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 (or gandhabba) leaves the dead physical body with those “updated” kamma seeds. This is basically the “net result” of our life here.
  • One of the existing kamma seeds (from this life or previous lives) gives rise to the next life, where we acquire more of them BASED ON the gati and āsavas. So the cycle perpetuates.
Viññāna in Upapatti PS Is Patisandhi Viññāna

5. With saṅkhāra as a condition, energy for a new bhava or a patisandhi viññāna arises.

  • 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 due to some hateful act(s), then the viññāna will be matching: “pati+ichcha sama uppāda.” If it is a seed due to an act of generosity done with loving kindness, it could be the viññāna of a Brahma.
  • Thus the “base level of viññāna” for animal life is VERY DIFFERENT from that of 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.” See, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream.”
What Are Nāmarūpa?

6. With viññāna as condition, nāmarūpa arise.

Salāyatana Means To Use the Sensory Faculties With an “Unpurified Mind”

7. With nāmarūpa as a condition, salāyatana arises.

  • In upapatti PS, salāyatana (six sense doors) refers to those that arise for the new existence.  For example, six sense doors arise for an animal while just three sense doors (eye, ear, and mind) arise for a Brahma.
  • See, “Nāmarūpa Paccayā Salāyatana” for details.
Phassa, in This Case, Is “Defiled Contact” or Samphassa

8. With salāyatana as a condition, phassō arises.

  • The meaning of the root word “phassa” is “contact.” Any living being sees with eyes, hears with ears, etc.
  • However, in akusala-mula PS, phassa is really “samphassa” or “saṅ phassa. See #9.
  • This is why this Akusala-mūla Paṭicca Samuppāda is not applicable for an Arahant (and also for other Ariyā too at most times). An Arahant does not generate “samphassa” but just “phassa” without “saṅ.”
  • Many posts on the website on this important concept; see, “Search Results for samphassa.”
Vēdanā Is Samphassa-Jā-Vedanā

9. With (saṅ)phassa as condition, vēdanā arise.

“Attaching” or Taṇhā

10. With samphassa-jā-vedanā as a condition, taṇhā arise.

  • Taṇhā 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.”
The Key Step of Upādāna

11. With taṇhā 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 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 of the crime, the person embraces that situation automatically (upādāna) because one has such “gati” or habits.
  • I highly recommend the subsection on “Concepts of Upādāna and Upādānakkhandha” that will also clarify the previous steps.
Kammic Energy Accumulation in the Step “Upādāna Paccayā Bhavō

12. With upādāna as a condition, a new existence (bhava) is grasped at the cuti-paisandhi moment.

Bhava Paccayā JātiKammic Energy Giving Rise to Rebirth in a New Realm

13. With bhava as a condition, jāti (new birth) arises. Note that except for human and animal realms, bhava and jāti are essentially the same. See,Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”

  • At this step, a birth matching the bhava starts for the human and animal realms. The duration of the selected “human/animal bhava” will last until the kammic energy associated with that kamma seed is exhausted, as explained in the above post.
  • Thus, if the kamma seed has the potential for thousands of years of life, the next birth will still be in the human realm when the current life ends.
Each Birth Ends Up With “Various Types of Suffering”

14. With jāti as condition, “jarā, marana, soka-paridēva-dukkha-dōmanassupāyasā sambhavan’ti”.

  • jāti inevitably results in decay and eventual death. Therefore, this process describes how dukkha arises in the rebirth process.
  • No matter where one is born in the 31 realms, one grows old and eventually dies. During that time, one goes through all kinds of suffering, particularly in the human realm and below. Aging and death are certainties.
  • And at death, the whole cycle re-starts unless the Arahanthood had not been realized. One WILL BE born somewhere in the 31 realms, and the whole process will continue.

15. The above steps describe the upapatti PS. The other aspect, i.e., what happens during a given lifetime, is described in “Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.”

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