Udayavaya Nana – Introduction

February 12, 2016

The udayavaya nana (nana pronounced “ngana”; see the pronunciation guide in “Pali Glossary”) is sometimes referred to as the udayabbaya nana.

Pronunciation: 

1. Things in this world do not arise without causes. Anything that arises is destroyed sooner or later, and in the meantime they change in unexpected ways (viparinama nature). That is another way to look at the anicca concept. The suffering arises because we  are trying to maintain things the way we want, but that is an impossible task.

  • Suffering does not arise merely because things are not permanent; the reason is  more deeper. Things also change in unexpected ways. Furthermore, this viparinama nature is present anywhere in the 31 realms; there is no refuge anywhere.
  • This is the very foundation of Buddha Dhamma. Suffering arises due to causes, and those root causes of lobha, dosa, moha lead to the worst kinds of suffering. The other three root causes of alobha, adosa, amoha lead to temporary relief (in deva and brahma realms, but also in the human realm to some extent), but those also do not last long in the sansaric time scale.

2. Udayavaya describes how anything in this world (pancakkhanadha) arises due to causes. And whatever arises (udaya), it matures with time while changing in unexpected ways, and then inevitably gets destroyed (vaya). Suffering is associated with anything that has the anicca nature, and everything in this world of 31 realms has that anicca nature.

  • Seeing anicca via understanding the udayavaya of the pancakkhandha (anything in this world) is stated as, “uppada vayattena anicca“, i.e., anything in this world is anicca because anything that arises is subjected to unexpected change while in existence, and is eventually destroyed.
  • When one truly comprehends “uppada vayattena anicca“, one has attained the “anuloma nana” that is a prerequisite for the Sotapanna stage.

3. For example, we think very highly about our bodies (especially when young). But we do not realize how much effort we put in (viparinama dukha) to keep our bodies just in a “presentable form” to others.  If we do not brush our teeth, wash or take a shower for a few days, do not comb the hair, do not wash our clothes, etc, we will be able to see the true nature of our bodies.

  • If we do not eat well or exercise regularly, not only will our bodies be out-of-shape, but we will also be subjected to diseases. But this life filled with  viparinama dukha is a result of a past cause, and we just have to cope with it and keep the body in good shape; otherwise, things could get even worse.
  • Thus even though we do not realize it (because that is what we have been used to), just maintaining everything in status quo requires a lot of effort; this viparinama dukha is normally hidden because we are blinded by the perceived “future pleasures”. Just like a bull is pulling a cart with a heavy load when some straw is dangled in front of it, we trudge through the daily chores with visions of pleasure blinding us.
  • Even when we do all this, sometimes “bad things happen out of the blue”: one could get into an accident, come down with cancer or some fatal disease like that, or hear about an unexpected such catastrophe of a loved one.
  • And then when we get old, no matter how much we struggle, we cannot stop the body from falling apart and eventually dying. Just think about your parents/grandparents; they were as young and vibrant when they were young too.
  • And this is what we have been doing through unimaginable number of births in the past. Always struggling just to keep up. But it gets much worse if and when born in one of four lowest realms (apayas).

4. But the key here is not be depressed about it. Some people believe contemplating on such things and cultivating a depressed mindset is the “patikula manasikara bhavana“; it is commonly mis-translated as “contemplation on foulness of the body. But it is imperative not to get distressed about these things. The idea is to realize that all body parts are subject to anicca nature.

  • When one realizes this true nature, and then also realizes that there is a way out, that leads to a higher level of niramisa sukha. That is when one “sees Nibbana” and attains the Sotapanna stage.
  • When one gains the udayavaya nana, one can see the causes that need to be eliminated to overcome otherwise inevitable future suffering.

5. In udayavaya nana, the term “vaya” has two meanings: 

  • Whatever is arisen due to past causes will be subjected to unexpected change and eventually is destroyed. This understanding about how anything that arises and causes a net suffering (even though there are pleasures to be had, they are minor compared to the suffering) is a part of the udayavaya nana.
  • More importantly, one can stop these things from arising and thus permanently remove suffering. Thus understanding udayavaya leads to knowledge about the dukkha nirodha sacca, i.e., that by eliminating the causes, one can stop future suffering from arising. This is the second and more important meaning of “vaya” in udayavaya.
  • But let us first discuss the factors associated with “udaya” or “arising”.

6. The “udaya” part  of the udayavaya nana describes five factors that lead to the arising of anything in this world. Anything in this world belongs to one of the five aggregates (pancakkhanadha): rupa khandha, vedana khandha, sanna khandha, sankhara khandha, vinnana khandha.

  • Thus our world is not only the rupa khandha. In fact, most people think about material things in the world as THE WORLD. But Buddha Dhamma reveals a more “personal world” which includes how one feels about things in the world (vedana), how one perceives those things (sanna), and how one thinks and makes plans (sankhara) according to how one feels and perceives. The end result of those three (vedana, sanna, sankhara) are the vinnana that one builds (future hopes and desires) according to one’s gathi (character). 
  • In fact, pancakkhandha is even more complex than that because it includes past, present, future,… (11 categories) for each of the aggregates; see, “The Five Aggregates (Pancakkhandha)“.

7. There are four factors that inevitably contribute to the arising any of the five aggregates:  We can easily guess the first two: avijja and tanha. Because of avijja (ignorance) of the true nature, beings tend to attach to things via greed or hate (tanha). And those two are always in front. Now, because of avijja and tanha, beings initiate actions (kamma) via body, speech, and mind.

  • Thus, avijja, tanha, and kamma are common to the arising of any of the five aggregates.
  • Then when any one of the five aggregates start arising, it will need another factor that helps in the arising of that aggregate. Let us discuss that next.

8.  A rupa (material thing, whether alive or not) needs food (ahara). A human or an animal needs to eat (these are called kabalinka ahara), and a tree needs nutrition from the ground. Even a thing like a rock needs ahara (not in the general sense of food) to be formed, and that is a very deep topic that we will discuss much later.

  • Since rupa khandha also includes “future rupa” one may ask how would ahara be associated with a future rupa. In this case, the ahara is a mental ahara; we will discuss four types of food (ahara) in the near future.

9. On the other hand, three of the mental aggregates (vedana, sanna, sankhara) arise due to phassa (contact), and thus phassa is considered a form a mental ahara.

  • For any of those to arise, there has to be a contact (phassa) with the outside world either via eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or the mind.
  • Vinnana is the end result of a citta that includes vedana, sanna, sankhara, and rupa. Thus the corresponding factor for vinnana is nama rupa. Even though in paticca samuppada it is , “vinnana paccaya nama rupa“, it goes the other way too, “nama rupa paccaya vinnana“. This is called “annamanna paccaya“, and is valid for many such pairs in the paticca samuppada.

10. Finally, the last factor is common to all five aggregates. In the deepest sense, any of the five aggregates is a sankata. And each thus has three common features: uppada (early stage of arising), thithi (change while growing), bhanga (destruction). Thus the fifth factor that describes a given aggregate is the uppada lakkhana or nibbathi lakkhana.

  • Note that some sankata (especially those belong to the rupa khandha) can have long lifecycles: a human lasts about 100 years, a universe lasts billions of years. But the mental components have relatively short lifecycles, especially vedana, sanna, sankhara are very short-lived. Some vinnana are brief, but others can last long times.
  • Whether it is a human or a building (rupa), a feeling, perception, sankhara, or vinnana, they all have those three characteristics of uppada, thithi, and bhanaga (i.e., nibbatti lakkhana).

11. It is easiest to discuss an example with the rupa khandha, and take just a small part of it say a human being (X) and an animal (Y). First let us start with the root causes for the birth of X or Y. Those two beings, in one of their previous lives had acted (done a kamma) with tanha (which itself was caused by avijja).

  • That moral act (for X) and an immoral act (for Y) led to the corresponding bhava (human bhava and animal bhava), which at some point led to the birth of a living being with corresponding characteristics (gathi).
  • That resulted in the conception of a human baby (X) and a baby animal (Y) in a suitable womb. They both grew by consuming food (ahara) inside the womb initially and then outside the womb after the birth.
  • Ahara also can be an actual cause and we will discuss that in a future post.

12. The baby X or Y thus born, will now grow according to the blueprint (manomaya kaya) that took hold of a single cell in the mother’s womb at conception. That manomaya kaya has the basic blueprint of that being.

  • Growing and maturing of X or Y, now proceeds with the uppada (or nibbatti) lakkhana that was associated with the particular manomaya kaya.

13. This same line of reasoning can be applied to other four khandha: Vedana, sanna, sankhara, and vinnana also arise mainly due to avijja, tanha, kamma, and also ahara (food) for them.

  • I will discuss later what it means to say ahara (food) for those mental elements. Actually, those are much more important than the food for the physical body and any other rupa.
  • Other four aggregates also arise, stay in existence for a time, and then is destroyed.

14. To summarize, the each of the five aggregates arise with the aid of five factors:

  • Rupa: avijja, tanha, kamma, ahara, nibbatti lakkhana.
  • Vedana: avijja, tanha, kamma, phassa, nibbatti   lakkhana.
  • Sanna: avijja, tanha, kamma, phassa, nibbatti   lakkhana.
  • Sankhara: avijja, tanha, kamma, phassa, nibbatti  lakkhana.
  • Vinnana: avijja, tanha, kamma, nama rupa, nibbatti  lakkhana.

15. Thus those are the 25 factors that describe how anything in this world arise. The udayavaya nana encompasses the comprehension of those 25 factors.

  • There are 25 more factors that lead either to the destruction of something that arose OR lead to the prevention of something from arising. We will discuss them in a future post.
  • Thus the udayavaya nana is said to encompass 50 factors altogether that contain all knowledge about the arising and destruction of anything in this world, AND also the knowledge on how to stop anything from arising (nirodha) in this world.
  • Thus with udayavaya nana one comprehends how suffering arises and how one can eliminate future suffering. A key point here is that anything that arises (uppada) is not just guaranteed to be destroyed (bhanga), but also that it changes unexpectedly (viparinama) during its existence (thithi). It is the anicca nature.

 Next in the series, “Nibbatti Lakkhana in Udayavaya Nana“.

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