If you are reading this without reading the earlier posts, you may be wondering whether I was being untruthful when I said this series will be in “plain English”. I did describe any of the terms used here in plain English in the previous posts. There is no easy way to get the same meaning across without using such key Pāli words.
- So, once I clarify them, I have to use these Pāli terms in order to keep a post to a reasonable length, AND readable. One can always go back and read previous posts to refresh memory.
In the previous post, we discussed how saṅkhāra can feed and build different types of viññāna during our lifetime. The Paṭicca samuppāda cycle which describes that process is the idappaccayātā Paṭicca samuppāda and we discussed the step “saṅkhāra paccayā idappaccayātā viññāna” for that Paṭicca samuppāda.
- Now we will discuss how such idappaccayātā viññāna can become strong and be “carried over” to the future lives; not only that, one of such strong viññāna can even determine the next birth. That is why such strong viññāna can become “patisandhi viññāna” by providing the “link” to the next next life (that is what “patisandhi” means: “sandhi” is connection and “pati” is bond or making the connection).
2. Sankhāra paccayā Patisandhi Viññāna
1. When we build idappaccayātā viññāna during our lifetime as described in the previous post, such viññāna can get very strong and even get carry over to the next lives.
- In fact, some of the viññāna that we easily get “attached to” very well could be coming from previous lives.
2. For example, different people have “natural tendencies” for certain tasks (music, art, science, business, basically any type of activity). Similarly, some people are attracted to gambling, drinking, sports, etc more than others. All these are saṃsāric habits, that have been cultivated by “feeding that viññāna” over many lives.
- Unless one reduces and eventually gets rid of one’s bad habits, they can lead to bad births in the lower four realms where one can get trapped for long times. Similarly, developing good habits can lead to good births, in case one is unable to attain at least the Sōtapanna stage in this life.
- This is why it is very important to get rid of “bad habits” and to cultivate “good habits”. There are many posts at the site on this important topic. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this need to change habits.
3. Following the Noble Eightfold Path is all about changing to a “good person” first; doing “ānāpānasati bhāvanā” does the same thing. When one does this, one develops wisdom to see through the Three Characteristics: anicca, dukkha, anatta. And that also leads to the Sōtapanna stage, where one is guaranteed to be free of rebirths in the lower four realms.
- By the way, many people are introduced to the wrong concept of “there is no self” (incorrect translation of the term anatta). Thus they get stuck, saying the term, “good person”, does not make sense (because there is no “self”); that could become a huge obstacle to any progress. While the Buddha rejected the concept of “self”, he also rejected the concept of “no-self”, because there is definitely some key personal characteristics that “flow” from one life to the next; see, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
4. Once one is free of the four lower realms (i.e., attains the Sōtapanna stage of Nibbāna), only then one will truly realize that it is unfruitful even to wish for or work to seek rebirths in higher realms.
- But, until one attains the Sōtapanna stage, one MUST avoid immoral abhisaṅkhāra (strong immoral actions) to avoid immoral viññāna and also engage in moral abhisaṅkhāra in order to cultivate moral viññāna; this will keep one firmly on the Path and to avoid rebirth in the lower four realms until the Sōtapanna stage is attained.
5. If we think deeply about the suffering that we encounter in this life, dukkha dukkha has arisen due to whatever immoral saṅkhāra done in a previous life. An animal suffers more than a human, because the cause for an animal birth was a stronger immoral action done previously.
- Dukkha dukkha associated with higher realms (deva, brahma) is less than the dukkha dukkha for a human life, because the saṅkhāra that led to the deva/brahma births were merely unfruitful, they were not immoral.
6. Any birth anywhere in the 31 realms is due to a abhisaṅkhāra. If it is due to a worst form of abhisaṅkhāra (immoral actions) then that leads to a birth in the lowest four realms via a strong and bad patisandhi viññāna. Lesser abhisaṅkhāra (unfruitful actions) lead to births in higher realms via “moral” abhisaṅkhāra viññāna.
- Thus cultivating “immoral” abhisaṅkhāra viññāna must be avoided by not engaging in immoral activities. Otherwise, “saṅkhāra paccayā patisandhi viññāna” could lead to “bad births”, where dukkha dukkha is very intense.
7. Viparināma dukkha associated with the current life is also mainly determined by previous action (abhisaṅkhāra) that led to this life, and can be analyzed the same way as for dukkha dukkha.
- But the saṅkhāra dukkha associated with this life is due to actions (saṅkhāra) that we do in this life. Also, the same saṅkhāra that could cause future dukkha dukkha or viparināma dukkha can also give rise to saṅkhāra dukkha in this life as well. This is an important point to be realized; if not clear, you may want to go back and review the previous posts.
- Therefore, we CAN get rid of part of the dukkha (the saṅkhāra dukkha) in THIS LIFE by understanding Dhamma and acting and thinking accordingly. We can also stop or reduce ALL types of dukkha in FUTURE LIVES by this process.
If you have forgotten what these terms mean, it is a good idea to go back and refresh memory, because otherwise it will be difficult to comprehend the upcoming posts in this series as well. And these terms are critically important for grasping the message of the Buddha. Avijjā, saṅkhāra, and viññāna are key terms that must be comprehended; they do not have corresponding English words.
More on viññāna can be found at, “3. Viññāṇa, Thoughts, and the Subconscious“.
Next, Viññāṇa paccayā Namarupa, ………..