In posts with advanced concepts I have to use to many Pali words. There are no short phrases in English to give the same meanings for phrases like “samphassa ja vedana“. Thus it will be beneficial to learn the meanings of these Pali words and phrases, and also to be able to pronounce them if that seems to be helpful. I have included some audio files in the post, “Pali Glossary“. Here is how to pronounce the Pali words in the title of this post:
1. In the previous post, “What is “Kāma”? It is not Just Sex“, we saw that kāma is not sex or even attractive sense objects, ear-pleasing sound, tasty food, nice smell, or a sensual body touch as many believe. Kāma is basically vaci sankhara about sense-pleasing objects (constantly thinking about those pleasures) , whether it is an eye-catching object, ear-pleasing sound, tasty food, nice smell, or a body touch.
- We saw that kāma (or kāma assāda) is sankalpita rāga which means thinking about such sense objects and giving priority to them. We also saw that such kāma assāda (or assāda in Sinhala) are vaci sankhara that arise when our deep-seated asava/anusaya (which are related to our habits or “gati“) are triggered by certain sense inputs.
- Thus we can see that kāma assāda, sankalpita rāga, mano sankhara mean basically the same thing.
- To re-emphasize: kāma assāda are beyond actually experiencing those sense inputs that come our way due to good kamma vipaka (even though one would need to stay away from high-pleasure activities, because one could get used to them and make corresponding habits). kāma assāda are craving and thinking and planning about such sense inputs.
- Some extreme kāma assāda (or at least actions and speech initiated by them) can be suppressed by understanding the bad consequences (ādeenava) of them.
- Without a Buddha appearing in the world, we would not even realize that even milder kāma assāda have bad consequences (ādeenava) too. Yet, they do have bad consequences as we saw in the previous post.
2. The critical point that we need to discuss now is how to prevent milder, but still harmful, kāma assāda from arising in our minds. We basically have to use the same tactic that was discussed both in the previous post and also in the introduction to this series, “Assāda, Ādīnava, Nissarana – Introduction“.
- When a mind comprehends that certain actions are harmful, it avoids such actions. As we discussed in that introductory post, the best way to quit smoking is to fully understand the bad consequences of that habit. Another is to cultivate a good habit (say, listening/reading Dhamma) instead.
- In the previous post we discussed how we avoid immoral actions via speech and bodily actions by comprehending the bad consequences of such actions.
- In other words, the primary way to effectively remove bad habits (nissarana) is to comprehend the bad consequences (adeenava) of such kāma assāda from arising in our minds.
3. This is where another important aspect of Buddha “previously unheard Dhamma” comes into play. This unique message is that in addition to being harmful, kāma assāda are unfruitful in the long run. Even though we normally value them, when analyzed with the way the Buddha taught, we can see that they are just mind-made due to our ignorance of the true nature of this world.
4. It is important to understand the big difference between vipaka vedana and kāma assāda. We cannot stop vipaka vedana from arising; but we can stop kāma assāda by cleansing our minds.
kāma assāda are normally triggered by a vipaka vedana. Also, kāma assāda are totally made up in our minds. Let us take a simple example to gain more insight.
- Husband and wife are walking down the street and the wife stops and looks at a beautiful painting on display in a store window. Husband looks at it, shrugs his shoulders and wants to move on. It is somewhat expensive, so she is thinking about whether they can afford it right now, but she would really like to buy it. Husband has no interest in it, and thinks that it is a waste of money to buy it.
- They both saw the same painting as a vipaka vedana. That was just the “seeing event”, and as we will discuss in Abhidhamma, most vipaka vedana are neutral, like seeing or hearing. The exceptions are bodily contacts, which can be either bodily dukha vedana (like a cut or a headache) or sukha vedana (like getting a massage or being in an air-conditioned room on a hot day) depending on whether it is bad or a good vipaka.
- Now, any “happy feeling” that was generated in the mind of the wife would have been due to kāma assāda. Such a “happy feeling” was not generated in the mind of the husband. This is an important point. The “happy feeling” that was generated in the wife could not have been a property of the painting; if so, it should have given the same “happy feeling” to the husband!
5. Thus in the above particular case, only the wife started enjoying kāma assāda due to seeing the portrait. In other words, a pavutti akusala-mula paticca samuppada cycle operated only for the wife; it was triggered by her deep-seated craving (asava/anusaya) for such an object, which made her act with avijja.
- We could also state the same process by saying that “cakkhunca paticca rupeca uppadati cakkhu vinnanan” was followed by “thinnan sangathi phasso” and “phassa paccaya vedana“; see, “Tanha – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.
- Now she is attached and deliberately looks at the picture, “avijja paccaya sankhara” step started and then went through the step, “(san)phassa paccaya vedana” in a fraction of second; see, “Akusala-Mula Pavutti (or Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppada“.
- However, for the husband, who saw the same portrait, there was no asava/anusaya for such an object to “attach to it” and to act with avijja and to initiate those processes; also see, ““Self” and “no-self”: A Simple Analysis – Do We Always Act with Avijja?“.
- For some, this may be crystal clear but those who are not very familiar with the concepts may want to review those relevant posts.
6. Now that she is “attached” to the portrait, the wife keep looking at it for a while, which will lead to numerous such pavutti akusala-mula paticca samuppada cycles. Not only that, she will be enjoying “kāma assāda” about that picture even after they left that place by thinking back about it. Now she has made a “vinnana” and a “bhava” for it.
- That “kāma assāda” can resurface with paticca samuppada cycles that involve only the mind when she is at home: It starts with “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan“, i.e., she just remembers the portrait while washing dishes. How does she start thinking about the portrait when she was busy with some other task?
- One way to explain that is to say that “she had ‘cultivated’ a vinnana” for that portrait and now it can resurface sometimes even without a prompt. This is sometimes known as the “subconscious”; see, “3. Vinnana, Thoughts, and the Subconscious“.
- Another way to explain it by saying that she had made a “bhava” for liking that portrait and it is a dhamma that can enter the mind when the conditions are right: “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan“. However, that particular dhamma or concept or thought would never make contact with the mind successfully if she was listening to a discourse or thinking about a key concept like anicca. Since she was doing a task that did not motivate her much (washing dishes) that is an opportunity for such “subconscious vinnana” to come to the surface.
7. Of course, now that “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan” step will be followed by, “thinnan san gathi phasso” and “(san)phassa paccaya vedana“; see, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa“. Her “gathi” for liking such pictures will make her mind “samphassa“, which in turn will lead to “samphassa paccaya vedana” or “samphassa ja vedana“.
- This is a vedana that her husband will not get. He did not make a “vinnana” or a “bhava” for that portrait and thus it will not come to his mind.
8. Now, suppose that a week later they are walking by the same store. The wife remembers the portrait, but finds that it is no longer there; someone had bought it. Now, think about what happens to the two of them.
- The wife will be distraught: “I should have bought it; now I may not be able to find such a nice portrait”. But the husband will not have any bad feelings, except may be some bad feelings about his wife not been able to get what she wanted.
- This is the suffering that we can stop from arising even in this life. It is not a vipaka vedana, but a “samphassa ja vedana“. The wife got distraught only because she got attached to that portrait, but the husband did not.
9. I just gave a very simple example from real life. Of course it is a relatively insignificant “tanha” without drastic consequences. I just wanted to use it, because most people can understand it. Of course the consequences can be much harsher if one gets attached to something of more significant, keep thinking about it and make that “vinnana grow”, and eventually does something bad to acquire it.
- a) For example, X who “falls in love” with Y, may be thinking about it all day and make a “very strong greedy vinnana” about X. So, X makes all kinds of plans in his/her mind about Y, and the more he/she does it, the more strong that vinnana gets.
- b) The more strong that vinnana is it is more likely to “come to his/her mind” because it is a dhamma that is constantly hovering around his/her mind (or in the subconscious). It is easy to start more PS process with “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan“.
10. Note the difference between a) and b) above. In a), the process starts with “avijja paccaya sankhara” when X first thinks about Y and starts thinking about Y with avijja and gets “bonded to Y” in his/her mind. At this point, a “baby vinnana” is formed about Y.
- Now, since it is at an early stage, this “baby vinnana for Y” may not trigger “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan” (process b) often. And that vinnana may start dying out if X does not get to think about Y for a while.
- But if X sees Y again in a few days, then that “baby vinnana for Y” gets fed again. The sight of Y makes X to go through many PS cycles and strengthen that “vinnana for Y”.
- If X gets to see Y often and may be even to “hang out with Y”, that “vinnana for Y” will grow because now X is giving it a lot of food (ahara).
- Now with a “strong vinnana for Y”, X’s mind will be constantly being with “dhamma about Y” and it is more likely that “mananca paticca dhammeca uppaddati mano vinnanan” will be triggered even while X is doing something else.
11. Then one day, X hears that Y has got engaged to another person. What will happen to X? He/she will be highly distraught, and depending on the level of attraction (and X’s gathi), X may do something bad.
- For example, if the attraction (level of tanha) was very strong, AND if X has “violent character” (i.e., “violent gathi“), then X may hurt Y or the person that Y got engaged to. Then not only will X be suffering due to “loss of Y”, but would also have made causes for FUTURE SUFFERING by committing a bad kamma.
12. Now we can see how both tanha and gathi are two critical issues. Both those can be lessened by contemplating on the bad consequences (adeenava) of acting foolishly.
- And that can be done on a permanent basis by comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta. Then one’s gathi will change permanently to the “moral gathi” of a Sotapanna, and one will never do anything that will lead to the birth in the apayas. Even though a Sotapanna may still generate “samphassa ja vedana“, due to some sense inputs, those will be milder and thus any suffering incurred would be mild.
- I hope that it is clear from this discussion that it is impossible to forcibly suppress kāma assāda or thoughts about sense objects. The only way it can be done is via purifying the mind by learning Dhamma (especially anicca nature of this world) and thinking about the bad consequences of such thoughts (adeenava). This is what the Buddha realized as the asavakkhaya nana, the way to get rid of asava (and anusaya) via getting rid of bad habits (gathi) and cultivating good habits (gathi).
- And this is discussed in the meditation (bhavana) section under, “9. Key to Anapanasati – How to Change Habits and Character (Gathi)“.