July 6, 2019
Rebirths Arise Due to Our Own Actions
1. Uppatti Paticca Samuppāda describes how we create our own rebirths. Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda describes how we create our own kamma vipāka that arise during a life. The differences between kamma bhava and uppatti bhava are discussed in the post, “Bhava paccayā Jāti….Jarā , Marana,…“.
- Both types of bhava or existences arise due to the generation of (abhi)sankhāra due to avijja. We remember that we do all types of kamma (kaya kamma, vaci kamma, mano kamma) with sankhāra (kaya, vaci, and mano sankhāra) or “how we think and then act on such thinking”.
- ALL sankhāra arise in the MIND. As we see, they lead to future rebirths with physical bodies. This is why the Buddha said: “Mano pubbangamā dhammā..” or “ALL dhammā arise with the mind as precursor..”.
- When we generate (abhi)sankhāra that creates a “future expectation” or a viññāna; see, “Viññāna Aggregate“. That ALWAYS leads to a kamma bhava, which is a “seed” to bring about a future existence in this life or in a future life.
- A kamma bhava can become an uppatti bhava if it becomes strong enough to give rise to a rebirth. For example, killing a parent WILL generate an uppatti bhava that WILL bring in a birth in an apāya in the very next rebirth.
2. That is basically the key difference between Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda and Uppatti Paticca Samuppāda; see, “Paticca Samuppāda Cycles“.
- Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda generates kamma seeds or kamma bhava moment-to-moment.
- Those bhava (or kamma seeds or kamma bija) that bring kamma vipāka during a lifetime (whether in this life or WITHIN a future life) is called a “kamma bhava”.
- Some of those are strong enough to bring in a new future existence (whether in a bad realm or in a good realm) are called “uppatti bhava”.
Regardless of whether it is a kamma bhava or an uppatti bhava, we ourselves generate them every time we act with avijja and generate viññāna via the steps, “avijja paccaya sankhāra” and “sankhāra paccaya viññāna”.
- Then subsequent Paticca Samuppāda steps invariably lead to “bhava paccaya jāti” and “jāti paccaya jara, marana, soka, perideva, dukkha, domannasa” or “the whole mass of suffering”.
Grasping a Bhava Happens Automatically
3. We do not have any control over which “uppatti bhava” is selected at death. The strongest with the most “upādāna” associated with it gets to the front automatically. The Buddha gave a simile to explain how this selection of a “uppatti bhava” or a strong kamma seed happens at the cuti-patisandhi transition at death.
- Imagine a barn that keeps the cows in for the night. In the morning, all the cows are anxious to get out and roam around. But when the gate opens, it is the strongest cow that has come to front and is out of the gate when it is opened. The weaker ones don’t even make an effort to be at the front.
- Just like that, it is the strongest “kamma seed” or a “patisandhi bhava” that wins at the cuti-patisandhi transition.
- In the case of the teenager that we discussed in the previous post, “Bhava paccayā Jāti….Jarā , Marana,…“, if the kamma seed that he nourished during this life as a violent person with “animal-like” behavior is the strongest one of all his accumulated kamma seeds, then it will bring about an animal existence at the cuti-patisandhi transition.
4. A Buddha could analyze such a patisandhi paticca samuppāda cycle in finer details to pin-point even what type of animal would it be. This is because a Buddha can see not only a person’s whole history in the present life, but going back to many aeons; thus he could see which kamma seed will bring the next existence and exactly which kind of “gati” are embedded in that kamma seed. We can only discuss the general trends, and here we have discussed only the main ideas of how these paticca samuppāda cycles operate.
- Going back to the teenager, In this case it is the patisandhi paticca samuppāda cycle that operates, and “bhava paccayā jāti” here leads to the birth in a new existence as an animal using that uppatti bhava.
Difference Between Bhava and Jāti
5. Here it is important to realize that cuti-patisandhi transition DOES NOT necessarily happen when a human dies. He/she can be reborn many times as a human within a given “human bhava“; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein“.
- Once born (jāti) in such an animal existence (bhava), that animal will grow and then start the old age (“jarā“), and eventually die (“marana“).
- At that death, it is likely that the kammic energy of that kamma seed has not been depleted.
- Since most violent animals have shorter lifetimes, only a fraction of that kammic energy is likely to have been spent and “he” will keep going through many of similar births (“jāti“) until the energy of that kamma seed is spent. Many animals keep coming back to the same life many hundreds of times.
6. That is the difference between “bhava” and “jāti“. Once one gets a new existence or “bhava“, one could have many births (“jāti“) in that existence until the energy of the kamma seed is totally spent. I keep repeating this, because it is very important to understand the difference between “bhava” and “jāti“.
- Thus, we can see that the last step of “jāti paccayā jarā, marana, sōka, paridēva, dukkha, dōmanassa” will be with that “teenager” for a long time to come. It is not just one birth but many that will correspond to that existence as that animal.
- For us also, in general, when one is in the human “bhava” one could be reborn many times before the energy of that “good kamma seed” is depleted. This is why those rebirth memories can be recalled from adjacent lives. A human bhava can last many thousands of years, but each human birth (jāti) lasts only about 100 years.
- However, it is very difficult to get another “human bhava“; see, “How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm“.
How Are Certain Rebirths Stopped?
7. We mentioned earlier than everyone has accumulated numerous good and bad kamma seeds strong enough to give rise to good and bad rebirths. Then the following question arises. Does a person attain the Sōtapanna stage by eliminating all those corresponding bad kamma seeds?
- While it is possible to reduce the potency of kamma seeds and maybe even eliminate some, it may not be possible to remove all. Many kamma seeds may be removed by the Ariya metta bhavana discussed in the “Bhavana (Meditation)” section, but there could be left overs. Even the Buddha had 11 instances of bad kamma vipāka including a back problem.
- Therefore, it is very likely that we all have many good and bad kamma seeds strong enough to energize many good and bad rebirths.
8. What happens at the cuti-patisandhi moment involves the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step in the uppatti paticca samuppāda cycle.
- Suppose a person dies and that was the last possible human birth for him/her. Then at the dying moment, that strong kamma seed will generate a corresponding nimitta (or sign of that kamma).
- Whether he/she will willingly grasp that nimitta will depend on whether he/she still has such “gati“.
9. Let us again consider the case of the violent teenager discussed in #3 above. Suppose he continued with his violent acts and built up an “uppatti bhava” suitable for a violent animal. Then, at the dying moment, he could see in his mind (like in a dream), a rival gang member trying to “steal a drug deal”; he will also see a gun close-by. This is the nimitta.
- If that person still has the same gati, then by his natural instincts he will get angry, grab the gun, and shoot that person.
- That is the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step for the new existence. He has willingly grasped the mindset of an animal, and he will be born as an animal. His next thought moment is associated with that animal which comes out of that dead body as a “gandhabba” (with a fine body that cannot be seen).
- This process is explained from the beginning to end in detail in the series of posts, “Paticca Samuppada in Plain English“.
How Does a Sōtapanna Avoid Bad Rebirths?
10. Let us now go back to the question of how a Sōtapanna avoids such bad rebirths even if he/she has many bad kamma seeds. Suppose that Sōtapanna has the same kind of strong (and bad) kamma seed as that teenager (could be from a previous life).
- What happens is that a Sōtapanna will not grab the gun and shoot that person even if it is his/her worst enemy. His/her mindset or “gati” have been permanently changed. Thus “upādāna paccayā bhava” step will not be executed for that kamma seed.
- In that case now the next potent uppatti bhava will come to the forefront. If that is also a bad one suitable for rebirth in the lowest four realms, that will be rejected too. Eventually, he/she will grasp a rebirth that is compatible with his/her “gati” at that dying moment. A Sōtapanna has removed “gati” of a being in one of the four lowest realms.
- This happens automatically and very quickly. We do not have any conscious control over it.
11. Thus one’s rebirth will determined by BOTH the way one lives AND how one had lived previous lives. One would generate “kamma seeds” or “uppatti bhava” for possible future existences according to the way one lives a life.
- However, if one has changed one’s gati PERMANENTLY (via attaining at least the Sōtapanna stage), then bad bhava will not result. EVEN IF one had committed bad kamma suitable to bring in a “bad bhava”, that “bad bhava” will not be grasped at the cuti-patisabdhi moment.
- This is why paticca samuppāda means “pati + ichcha” leading to “sama” + “uppāda“. What one grasps willingly and habitually is what one that will operate automatically at the dying moment; see, “Paticca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda“.
- This is why it is better to use Paticca Samuppāda rather than using the English translation of “dependent origination”. Most Pāli word have “built-in” explanations. One just needs to understand what is meant by those words and just use the Pāli words.
- I have explained this with saññā, sankhāra, and viññāna as well; see, “Mental Aggregates“. Those DO NOT have corresponding SINGLE English words. In particular it is WRONG to translate viññāna as just “consciousness”; see, “Viññāna Aggregate“.
Relevance to “Origin of Life” Issue
12. I hope that it is clear now how we create our own future births by doing strong kamma. Good kamma lead to good vipāka and good births. Bad kamma lead to bad vipāka and bad births.
- Not only that, but we can avoid bad births (in the lower four realms) by removing our “bad gati that could lead to such births”. Attainment of Sōtapanna stage ensures this.
- In the same way, we can stop births in the human and deva realms (remaining realms in kāma lōka). That is done by removing “kāma gati” or cravings for sense pleasures. The need to take this step may not become clear until one attains the Sōtapanna stage.
- Even the higher brahma realms have suffering (especially at the moment of death). Future suffering is completely removed by removing “all gati” including those based on craving for jhānic pleasures in brahma realms. This happens of course at the Arahant stage.
13. It should be also clear that “new lives” do not randomly come into existence. A new jāti based on a new bhava arises ONLY as a continuation of an existing lifestream; see, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
- When one bhava ends, a living being automatically grasps a new bhava, if the Arahant stage has not been attained.
- That is how the endless rebirth process continues. And that is also why there is no “traceable beginning to life”.
- We will discuss this in detail in a new series of posts on “Origin of Life”.