October 18, 2021; revised March 4, 2023
As pointed out in many suttas, future suffering (Loka/Dukkha Samudaya) starts with sensory input (ārammaṇa). We specifically discuss the Loka Sutta and the Dukkha Sutta as part of our discussion of the suttas in Samyutta Nikaya 12 on Paṭicca Samuppāda.
Previously Unheard Dhamma – Arising of Suffering Same as Arising of the World
1. I have emphasized this before. However, this is so contradictory to our perception of the world that I need to repeat it.
- An average person has a wrong “nicca view/perception” that one can succeed and be happy by striving to “make money and acquire things of worldly value,” such as houses, cars, etc. That is because our time horizon is VERY short.
- Some people believe that there is no afterlife. Most of those who may believe in rebirth are too busy living this life. Both those groups focus on “enjoying life while it lasts.”
- However, the Buddha pointed out that we will be reborn, and MOST of the future existences are guaranteed to be “filled with much suffering.” That is true for even the most moral person living today until understanding the Noble Truths. I have explained this in detail before.
- Until that is understood, people will inevitably have the “nicca view/perception,” i.e., everything will work out if we try to be “successful” by getting a good job and acquiring worldly things. However, the world has the “anicca characteristic.”
“The World” Includes Both Physical and Mental Worlds
2. Modern science is focused on the “physical world.” But the Buddha taught that one’s world includes both physical and mental worlds. The mental world is more important than the physical world.
- The Buddha defined the “world” (same as “sabba” or “all”) in several different ways. All of them encompass the physical world and the mental world.
- For example, the Buddha taught that everything in the world comes under six dhātu: pathavī, āpo, tejo vāyo, ākāsa, viññāṇa. As you can see, the first five include everything in the physical world. Everything in the mental world comes under viññāṇa dhātu.
- The Buddha also described everything in the world as pañcakkhandha (five aggregates): rūpakkhandha, vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha, and viññāṇakkhandha. In this categorization, the first five dhātu are included in rūpakkhandha. Viññāṇa dhātu covers the other four aggregates.
A Sentient Being Has All Six Dhātu/Five Aggregates
3. It is evident that the difference between sentient living beings and everything else (rocks, houses, planets, stars, etc., as well as plant life) is that a conscious being has viññāṇa dhātu.
- All physical entities (including the physical bodies of living beings) are made of the four great elements (pathavī, āpo, tejo vāyo) and are in specific locations in space (ākāsa.)
- However, viññāṇa dhātu has no such space location. It permeates the whole space and is accessible to any sentient being from anywhere. For example, astronauts can function well on the Moon, just as on Earth. Their memories remain intact, i.e., memory has no spatial locations and is accessible from anywhere.
- Therefore, any living being anywhere in the universe will have all six dhātu/ five aggregates.
Loka Sutta (SN 12.44) – Existence in a Loka Means Subjected to Suffering
4. The Buddha starts the “Loka Sutta (SN 12.44)” by saying, “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the origin and the cessation of the world.” (“Lokassa, bhikkhave, samudayañca atthaṅgamañca desessāmi“.)
- One’s world does not end at the death of the physical body. For example, when a human dies, he will be reborn with a different human body if more kammic energy remains in the human bhava. Otherwise, he will grasp a new bhava, and the rebirth will be in that appropriate realm (among the 31 realms.) That is “loka samudaya” or “origin of the world” above.
- As we have discussed, “cessation of the world” (stopping the rebirth process) happens at Arahanthood, and that Arahant will be “totally separated from this world” at Parinibbana (death of the physical body.)
5. Next, the Buddha explained how “loka samudaya” happens: “Katamo ca, bhikkhave, lokassa samudayo? Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhu viññāṇaṁ. Tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso. Phassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā; taṇhā paccayā upādānaṁ; upādāna paccayā bhavo; bhava paccayā jāti; jāti paccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Ayaṁ kho, bhikkhave, lokassa samudayo.”
Translated: “And what, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world? When cakkhu and rupa “get together” (paṭicca), cakkhu viññāṇa arises. Then contact with “san” (samphassa or “san” + “phassa“) happens due to one’s saṅgati (“san” + “gati“). As a result, “samphassa-jā-vedanā” arises; with samphassa-jā-vedanā as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. That, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world.”
- I have discussed this in the previous series on “Origin of Life.” You can review the relevant posts under the “Worldview of the Buddha” subsection. I discussed the “Chachakka Sutta (MN 148),” which discusses sensory inputs through the six sense faculties. But we will discuss that verse briefly again.
- It is CRITICAL to note that the Buddha equated birth in any realm (loka samudaya) the same as the origin of suffering!
- The second part of the sutta describes how “cessation of the world” (or loka nirodha/atthaṅgama.) See #8 below.
Seeds for the “Origin of the World” (Rebirths) Initiate With Our Response to Sensory Inputs (Arammana)
6. Then, the verse is repeated for the other five senses. Thus, the “origin of the world” (or the rebirth process) can start with sensory input (i.e., ārammaṇa) coming through any of the six senses.
- That is explained (in summary form) in the following part of the verse: “ Phassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā; taṇhā paccayā upādānaṁ; upādāna paccayā bhavo; bhava paccayā jāti; jāti paccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti.
- That is how “seeds” for future rebirths accumulate with strong akusala kamma. Even though only a tiny fraction of sensory interactions lead to the creation of such “seeds” (or “kamma bija“), we all have accumulated countless such seeds over previous lives. Luckily, they DID NOT inevitably bring future rebirths, and we will discuss that. (Otherwise, no one will be able to attain Nibbāna.)
- Now let us discuss the Dukkha Sutta (SN 12.43), which comes just before the Loka Sutta (SN 12.44).
Dukkha Sutta (SN 12.43) – Origin of Suffering Same as Origin of the World (Rebirth)
7. The Buddha starts the “Dukkha Sutta (SN 12.43)” by saying, “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the origin and the cessation of suffering.” (“Dukkhassa, bhikkhave, samudayañca atthaṅgamañca desessāmi.”)
- Then the Buddha explained “dukkha samudaya“: “Katamo ca, bhikkhave, dukkhassa samudayo? Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhu viññāṇaṁ. Tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso. Phassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā. Ayaṁ kho, bhikkhave, dukkhassa samudayo.”
- Comparing this verse with that in #5 above from the Loka Sutta (SN 12.44) makes the following very clear: “Loka samudaya is the SAME as dukkha samudaya.”
- In other words, “arising of a new world in a new birth” is the SAME as “arising of another mass of suffering.”
End of Suffering (Nibbāna) Is Cessation of the World (Rebirth Process)
8. In the second part of the Dukkha Sutta the Buddha says how that suffering can be stopped from arising: “Katamo ca, bhikkhave, dukkhassa atthaṅgamo? Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ. Tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso. Phassapaccayā vedanā; vedanāpaccayā taṇhā. Tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodhā upādāna nirodho; upādānanirodhā bhava nirodho; bhava nirodhā jāti nirodho; jāti nirodhā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti. Ayaṁ kho, bhikkhave, dukkhassa atthaṅgamo.”
- That is also the same verse as the second part of the Loka Sutta (SN 12.44.) In other words, “Stopping the arising of a new world (new birth)” is the SAME as “stopping the arising of another bout of suffering.”
- The above verse requires a detailed discussion. We will do that in upcoming posts.
- It is a good idea to understand what an ārammaṇa is before we get into that discussion. See “Ārammaṇa Plays a Critical Role in a Sensory Event.”
9. We know that Nibbāna is the cessation of suffering. We see clearly from the above two suttas that the end of suffering stops the rebirth process (bhava and jāti).
- Of course, there are many more suttas stating the same. These two suttas are in the “Saṁyutta Nikāya 12” on Paṭicca Samuppāda that we are discussing presently.
Connection to Paṭicca Samuppāda
10. The other important point is that the above two suttas illustrate the connection of loka samudaya/dukkha samudaya to Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- As I have pointed out before, the Paṭicca Samuppāda process starts with “salayatana paccaya phasso,” i.e., with sensory input (ārammaṇa) coming to one of the six sensory faculties.
- That is what the verse in #8 above says. As we can see, it has the following steps (in the latter part) of the Paṭicca Samuppāda sequence: “Phassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā. Tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodhā upādāna nirodho; upādāna nirodhā bhava nirodho; bhava nirodhā jāti nirodho; jāti nirodhā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.”
- I have discussed this in the previous series on “Origin of Life,” as mentioned in #5 above.
- We will look at it from a bit different point of view here, highlighting the steps in Paṭicca Samuppāda.
11. The process by which that future suffering arises is (Akusala-Mula) Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- In plain English, the following happens. One gets attached to an ārammaṇa and starts doing foolish/immoral deeds (“avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra.”) Such actions are going to have future consequences, ALWAYS leading to suffering at the end.
- But that process starts only with a strong sensory input or an ārammaṇa. See “Ārammaṇa Plays a Critical Role in a Sensory Event.”
- The critical point is that those consequences can also manifest in future lives. Strong immoral deeds lead to future births in “undesired existences,” the four lowest realms.
Future Suffering (Loka/Dukkha Samudaya) Starts With Sensory Input (Ārammaṇa)
12. As we can see in #5 and #7, the two suttas state that loka samudaya/dukkha samudaya (origin of the world/origin of suffering) starts with: “Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhu viññāṇaṁ..” The suttas repeat that verse for all six senses. That is the same as the “salayatana paccaya phasso” step in Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- Then, attachment (taṇhā) to such a sensory input lead to the subsequent steps leading to suffering at the end: “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”
- It is at the “upādāna paccayā bhavō” step that Paṭicca Samuppāda goes to the step “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” and starts accumulating kamma to that could power future existences.
- We will discuss that in the next post.