One’s character (gati) determines one’s future births. The ability to figure that out is called the “namarupa paricceda nana” or “namarupa parichcheda nana“.
1. We have discussed the background material in the previous two posts: “Namagotta, Bhava, Kamma Beeja, and Mano Loka (Mind Plane)” and “Gathi and Bhava – Many Varieties“. Now I want to bring it all together and show that “bhava” is actually something that we create AND maintain on our own with the way we think, speak, and act with our ingrained habits (gati).
- If you have not read the previous two posts, I highly encourage reading them. It is important to get the basic concepts right, and then to rehash them in different (and yet consistent!) ways, so that the ideas sink in.
- We will use those ideas and use the paticca samuppada sequence to trace how we make “bhava” OURSELVES, which in turn give rise to jati (births) not only in future lives but also during this life.
- There is no one else, or even a “super being”, that can either help or hurt you in the long run. One’s destiny is up to oneself. The Buddha said, “atta hi attanō nāthō, kō hi nātō parōsiyā” or “One is indeed one’s own refuge; how can others be refuge to one?”. Even the Buddha could only teach the way.
2. “Gati” is a key word in Buddha Dhamma. There is no perfect English translation but habits, tendencies, and biases convey similar meaning. Gati has a deeper meaning because sometimes one’s sansāric gathi (habits and tendencies from previous lives) may lie dormant.
- For example, a teenger may not have a “habit” of drinking, but after a few drinks may get “hooked” easier than others if he had a corresponding gathi from past lives.
- Also, I get messages from people who never even paid attention to “Buddhism” getting to samādhi (state of calmness) just reading these posts; that is also a “gati” from past lives. They are likely to have been exposed to Buddha Dhamma in previous lives.
- Most of the time we do inappropriate things (immoral abhisankhara) because we have a gati or tendency to do so. This is what is embedded in the “avijja paccaya sankhara” step most of the time. Our avijja in such a case is not knowing that we have such gati or knowing about it but does not know why or how to get rid of it.
(As I pointed out in “Sutta – Introduction“, “avijja paccaya sankhara” is just a condensed or “uddesa” version. We need to analyze it (“niddesa” and “patiniddesa“) to get the idea, depending on the context).
- And when we (repeatedly) do such abhisankhara (thoughts, speech, actions), we build-up a vinnana for it. For example, if someone likes to watch porn, the more one does it, the more that “vinnana for watching porn” will grow. It will be in the subconscious ready to “pop up”. In other words, that “gati” gets more established.
- Then comes “vinnana paccaya namarupa“, i.e., it becomes easier to think about clips from previous views or fantasize about them. Here namarupa are the memories (mental pictures) of past activities or “blueprints” for future plans. It is important to realize that namarupa for patisandhi vinnana will be somewhat different; see, “Akusala-Mula Paticca Samuppada“.
3. Now the next step is hard to resist: “namarupa paccaya salayatana“. Here salayatana means not all six senses, but the appropriate one(s) for the activity. Here they are cakkayatana (based on the eye) and manayatana (mind).
- It is important to realize that “ayatana” does not mean the sense faculty like the eye; it is rather “using the sense faculty for this purpose”, for doing abhisankhara (for watching porn and enjoying it, in this particular example). An Arahant has eyes and can see, but will not use them as “ayatana” to “acquire ‘san‘”.
- Then comes, “salayatana paccaya phasso“. Here of course it is not just “phassa” but “samphassa“, i.e., generate “san” (according to one’s gati) in the process; see, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa“.
- Because it is not just “phassa” but “samphassa“, then one generates feelings: “phassa paccaya vedana“. For example, an Arahant watching a porn movie will not generate any joyful feelings, because that would only involve “phassa” and NOT “samphassa“.
4. Now comes the last few steps. Because of the sukha vedana (in this particular example), one will get attached to it: “vedana paccaya tanha“; see, “Tanha – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.
- And then, “tanha paccaya upadana“, i.e., one grasps whole heartedly because one really enjoys it, and would like to do it again. “Upadana” means one likes to keep it close.
- Thus one makes “bhava” for it; one has plans to do it again, and it is a “reality” or future existence at some point: “upadana paccaya bhavo“.
5. As we can see, all this is going in our minds. The bottom line is that we just keep thinking and doing things that we have become “attached to” or we have formed “gati” for. Each time we go through this series of steps we just make that “bhava” grow stronger.
- Then it becomes easier to be “born in that bhava“, i.e. jati (pronounced “jāti“). Most people think “jati” means rebirth; but it is not restricted to rebirth.
- Just like one can be born in a certain realm (animal, human, etc) at death, one can be born in the “drunken state” when one has “bhava to get drunk”. If one makes a “bhava” to watch porn, then each time one does it, it becomes easier the next time to be “born in that bhava“, i.e., to watch again.
- And it is easy to extend this to any other misdeed. If one forms a habit to drink without control (i.e., “get drunk to the point that one cannot think clearly”), then each time one does it one makes that bhava stronger; if not controlled, one day one could be an alcoholic. And it does not stop in this life. If a strong bhava is formed it can affect future births. In a new birth, one is born to a mother (and to a lesser extent father) with similar gati. Thus an alcoholic in this life is LIKELY to be born to an alcoholic mother if the next birth is in the human realm.
- It must be pointed out that “hateful bhava” for certain things or even for a certain person, also can be carried from life-to-life. There are many mentions in the Tipitaka of how Devadatta clashed with the Buddha (or rather the Bodhisattva) in previous lives.
- One’s physical body will change (most of the time drastically) from life-to-life, but one’s gathi, asava, and bhava are carried from life-to-life; of course those keep changing all the time too, but significant changes happen when one is human with the most ability to change one’s destiny.
6. Thus “bhava paccaya jati” applies both in this life and also for future rebirths. This is the difference between “Akusala-Mula Pavutti (or Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppada” and that for patisandhi to a new life: “Akusala-Mula Paticca Samuppada“.
- As explained in #5 above, one’s future births are due to one’s gati. The realization that one’s future births are determined by one’s gati — and the ability to figure out the bhava and jāti (jāthi) according one’s gati — is called “namarupa paricceda nana” or “namarupa parichcheda nana“. This basically means “rupa” are according “nama” (literally, one’s body is according to one’s thinking).
7. To make the final connection to Nibbana, we see that one’s gathi are intimately connected to one’s asavas (cravings). Just like gathi, asavas are deep-seated and ingrained in one’s lifestream and most can be traced back numerous lives in the past; see, “Gathi (Character), Anusaya (Temptations), and Asava (Cravings)“.
- While there can be an infinite number of gati, there are four basic categories of asavas: dittasava, kamasava, bhavasava, avijjasava; see below.
- This logical connection is clearly shown in the Samma Ditthi sutta. It was Ven. Sariputta who delivered that sutta after being asked by the Buddha to explain “Samma Ditthi” to other bhikkhus on one occasion. He went through the steps of the paticca samuppada backwards and eventually the bhikkhus asked, “Is there a cause for avijja?”. He explained that indeed asavas contribute to avijja, and vice versa.
- In fact, as we will see later in the Abhidhamma section, four of the eight “basic units of matter” in a suddhashtaka arise due to avijja and the other four due to tanha (which arise due to asava). Avijja and tanha are called “bhava-mula” for this reason.
8. One way to explain Nibbana or “complete cooling down” is to say that it is attained by getting rid of all asavas. When one follows the Noble Eightfold Path, “asavakkhaya” is achieved in steps.
- At the Sotapanna stage, the first component of asava or dittasava (craving for various ditthis or wrong worldviews) is removed. This all important component of dittasava is solely due to not knowing the true nature of this world of 31 realms: anicca, dukkha, anatta. Most people carry certain ditthis all their lives, most even coming from previous lives. The most prevalent ditthi is the belief that there is no rebirth process.
- When one truly comprehends that consequences of immoral acts can be much harsher than we normally believe (birth in the apayas), that itself removes the causes for rebirth in the apayas.
9. A Sotapanna would still have the other three asavas: kamasava (craving for sense pleasures), bhavasava (craving for living somewhere in the 31 realms), and avijjasava (cravings due to not knowing anicca, dukkha, anatta fully).
- Kamasava is reduced at the Sakadagami stage and is removed at the Anagami stage.
- Bhavasava and avijjasava are removed only at the Arahanthood.
- Of course, all four asavas keep getting reduced at each stage of Nibbana. Thus a Sotapanna, for example, would have reduced the other three asavas to some level.
- It is also clear that comprehension of anicca, dukkha, anatta gradually increases at each stage and is complete only at the Arahant stage.
10. It is nice to see the self-consistency, and the fact that one can analyze a given situation in different ways.
- One may have a Ph.D. or one may be able to recite the whole of the Tipitaka; yet one would not be even able to get to the Sotapanna magga without comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta to some level.
- Dittasava cannot be removed until one is well on the way on the mundane eightfold path, because one’s mind needs to be cleared of the strongest defilements. As I keep saying, this is not about “book knowledge”; it is all about cleansing one’s mind.
- Of course, dittasava gives rise to various gathi, and thus removal of such gati is the key to attacking dittasava. The foremost is the tendency to “cling to a certain belief” and not even willing to consider the counter arguments.
- If one has the ditthi that there is no rebirth, one needs to carefully examine the evidence for and against.
- Another is the refusal to believe anything “that cannot be proven” by a “scientific method”. Thus, just over 400 years ago, people looked around and asked “where are those infinite number of universes and infinite number of living beings that the Buddha was talking about?”. Even now, science is only aware of a minute fraction of our physical universe, not to mention pretty much nothing about the mind; see, “Dhamma and Science” for details.
11. The bottom line is that whether one will be a human,a deva or an animal in the next life will depend on what kind of gati we develop, and NOT what we wish/pray for. Furthermore, one can become a Sotapanna in this very life by cultivating the “gati of a Sotapanna” or “Ariya gati“. The key is to develop Samma Ditthi by learning and comprehending Dhamma (the correct world view).