Asevana and Annamanna Paccaya

November 20, 2016

1. As mentioned in the “Pattana Dhamma – Connection to Cause and Effect (Hethu Phala)“, there are 24 paccaya or conditions that contribute to various steps in the Paticca Samuppada (PS) cycles.

  • As we have discussed in the post “What Does “Paccaya” Mean in Paticca Samuppada?” and in the above mentioned post, a given step in a PS cycle cannot proceed until one or more conditions are satisfied. And we have control over most of these conditions. Therein lies the value of Pattana Dhamma; we can see how to stop akusala-mula PS cycles from proceeding, and to maintain kusala-mula PS cycles.
  • In this post we will discuss two of those 24 paccaya or conditions. They are somewhat related to each other and thus are suitable to be discussed together.

2. Äsevana paccaya — which can be loosely translated as the “condition of association” — is an important condition that fuels various steps in PS at different times.

  • I see that in most cases, äsevana paccaya has been translated as “condition of repetition”. Even though repetition is relevant, repetition comes via close associations, so association is primary.
  • The word “äsevana” comes from “ä” and “sevana” or “came to the shade”; when one is staying close to a tree in the hot sun, one is “hanging around” the tree and is benefited from its cool shade.
  • Of course, when one is associating bad friends, one can be influenced in the wrong direction too, as we will see below. Therefore, äsevana paccaya comes into play in both kusala-mula and akusala-mula PS.
  • When one likes the experience, one tends to keep that association. Sometimes that eventually leads to bad consequences, but because of the ignorance of such bad outcomes, one still tends to keep bad associations.

3. An important role of asevana paccaya is played in the “vinnana paccaya namarupa” step in PS, whether it is kusala-mula PS or akusala-mula PS.

  • For example, a teenager who is (unknowingly) cultivating a vinnana for drinking is heavily influenced by the association with bad friends. He likes to “hang out” with such bad friends and tends to generate a lot of sankalapanä  or vaci sankhara (conscious thinking about how he/she will be having a good time with those friends in parties with lot of alcohol). The namarupa generated in his mind are such “party scenes”, visualizing those friends as well as various favorite drinks.
  • On the other hand, when one is on the right path, one is constantly thinking about Dhamma Concepts, having Dhamma discussions with good friends, and visualizing such gatherings.  Or one could be visualizing some meritorious deeds, like giving or helping out at an orphanage; these are good namarupa generated with such a good vinnana.
  • These namarupa are different from the namarupa that descends to a womb at the okkanti moment, i.e., when a gandhabba enters a womb. We will discuss that later. So, namarupa come in two main categories.

4. Äsevana paccaya can play a role under different types of situations. Let us consider two such examples.

  • One such situation is the teenager mentioned above, who cultivates bad namarupa by associating with bad friends. The more he/she associates with such bad friends, the more he/she will be generating bad namarupa of party scenes with lot of alcohol and/or drugs. Not only that, there will be other associated namarupa: He/she will be constantly visualizing favorite friends, gathering places, appropriate music, etc. too.
  • In such an environment, it is also easy to cultivate other types of “bad namarupa” such as gambling, illicit sex, stealing (to sustain those activities), violence and even killings.
  • Such namarupa and more could be cultivated by the teenager over time.

5. On the other hand, when one is on either mundane or lokottara Eightfold Path, one will be cultivating “good vinnana” and one tends to visualize exactly opposite types namarupa.

  • One could be planning a Dhamma discussion and could be thinking and visualizing who will be there and what kind of topics will be discussed. One could be organizing a charity event and making arrangements.
  • One could be planning to attend a meditation retreat and visualizing what kind of activities one could be engaging in. One could be even thinking about and trying to visualize the suffering endured by poor children in a situation one is familiar with and generating compassion-filled thoughts and namarupa.

6. In either case, “namarupa paccaya salayatana” step will then point one’s all six äyatana  or saläyatana (five physical senses and the mind) towards such thoughts, visuals, and actions.

  • Then those associations will become even stronger. When one gets totally absorbed in relevant activities, when one’s mind is occupied with such thoughts, and when one is constantly visualizing related activities, people, and objects, those namarupa will “grow” in one’s mind. Those namarupa will be closely associated with one’s gathi.
  • This is also discussed in the post: “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Asavas)“.

7. Another important application of the asevana paccaya occurs in a citta vithi itself. When we are generating sankalapana (or sankappa), we are generating an enormous number of citta vithi in a short time. Each citta vithi will make the next citta vithi stronger (actually make the javana citta in the subsequent citta vithi stronger) by association.

  • The best example is one we have talked about several times in the “Living Dhamma” section. When we start thinking about an enemy, we start visualizing more and more bad situations that we encountered with that person; we tend to pull out all “past associations” from memory, as well as conjure up “many possible future scenarios” in our minds.
  • All these “bad sankalpana” or “conscious bad thoughts” will strengthen the PS steps.
  • Our minds can run wild if not controlled with Satipattana or Anapana; see, “Satipattana Sutta – Relevance to Suffering in This Life“.

8. Even in a given citta vithi, each javana citta is strengthened by the previous javana citta, via asevana paccaya. this happens in the time scale of billionth of a second and is driven by our gathi.

  • The first javana citta is weak. But the second javana citta gets fuel from the first one, and is inevitably generating strength via association. One meaning of the name javana is “to run with”. The series of 7 javanas “run with the object in mind”, initially getting stronger until the fifth javana. Then the fuel runs out and the sixth and seventh javana become weaker and weaker.
  • Kamma generated by the first javana citta can only bring vipaka in this life. But kamma done by the second through the sixth javana citta (which get stronger by association), are potent enough to bring kamma vipaka in many future lives. When the javana get weaker, the seventh javana can bring vipaka only in the next life, and will become null if it did not bring vipaka in the next life.
  • It is not necessary to learn the complexities of citta vithi, but it is good to have some idea.

9. The association then moves to the next citta vithi. Thus the subsequent citta vithi (and thus the javana citta in that citta vithi) will be stronger. And thus it propagates and this is why one can get “really worked up” even thinking about a hated person.

  • This is why Satipattana (and being mindful of bad thoughts) is so important. The start of such a hateful mindset is AUTOMATIC (and is due to our gathi) as discussed in the “Living Dhamma” section. But we have the ability to stop those initial thoughts BEFORE they get strong and become out of control.
  • This can be compared to a seed giving rise to a mighty tree, unless one destroys it when it is just a little bud. When a seed germinates and becomes visible as a little plant, it can be easily broken. But if one waits and allows it to grow, it COULD grow to be a strong tree that is hard to take down.

10. As we can see, pattana dhamma can go to very fine details. This is why paticca samuppada has been compared to an ocean. It is vast, and can explain the arising of ANY SANKATA (whether live or inert) in this world.

  • However, if we start digging deeper, that could become a waste of time since there is no ending as to how much finer detail one wants to examine.
  • Still, it is good to see the depth of Buddha Dhamma. It gives one confidence in following the Path. Unshakable faith comes by realizing that   Buddha Dhamma describes our world as it is.

11. Now let us briefly discuss the annamanna paccaya, usually translated as “mutuality condition”. This is not a bad translation, but it could be also translated as “forward and backward condition”.

  • Many of the steps in the PS cycle, go backward as well as forward. For example, the step we have discussed, “vinnana paccaya namarupa” runs backwards (in the same PS cycle) too.
  • Therefore, while namarupa are generated AND get stronger by a given vinnana, the vinnana itself gets stronger by the cultivation of namarupa, i.e.,  “namarupa paccaya vinnana” step runs simultaneously too. This is the “mutual strengthening”.
  • In the example of the teenager, cultivation of those bad namarupa (visuals of party scenes, bad friends etc) leads to the strengthening of that bad vinnana (desire to drink or take drugs), even though the bad vinnana first led to corresponding namarupa.

12. The annamanna paccaya — just like the asevana paccaya — is highly effective in the first several steps in PS. While “avijja paccaya sankhara” step initiates bad actions (or sankhara), the continued actions in the same direction then lead to strengthening avijja (or ignorance of the consequences of such actions), i.e., “sankhara paccaya avijja“.

  • This is why it is very important to stop such conscious sankhara (especially sankalapana or the first part of vaci sankhara), when one realizes that one is getting into the wrong track. Otherwise, one’s avijja will grow and one’s bad gathi will only grow.
  • Such immoral sankhara — in the form of vaci sankhara — appear to provide us with a sense of satisfaction at that time. For example, when one gets “really worked up” thinking about a bad deed done by an enemy, it gives one pleasure to say bad things about that person to others, or even retaliate directly to that person.
  • However, such actions actually lead to a “heat” or “thāpa” in us in the longer term. Long after that “initial satisfaction” of  putting down that person, one will be “burning inside” for long times, even of one does not realize that. One will be prone to frequent outbursts even with other people.
  • Removal of this thāpa or “fire” in us is what is meant by the phrase “āthāpi sampajano” in the Satipattana Sutta. That will help reduce our tendency to get “worked up” at the slightest provocation, i.e., to change our gathi in the right direction.
  • This is the first type of suffering that many of us don’t even realize; see, “Suffering in This Life – Role of Mental Impurities” and other posts in “Living Dhamma“.
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