The Cooling Down Process (Nibbāna) – How Root Causes are Removed

Revised June 25, 2020 (#1 and #2 revised)

1. One’s material world exists because of the six root causes: lōbha, dōsa, mōha, alōbha, adōsa, amōha. Even though we may have bouts of happiness, we suffer much more than imaginable in the rebirth process because of these six causes.

  • If there are six root causes, why did the Buddha say, “rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, mōhakkhayō Nibbānan”? Why are there only three causes to be removed to attain Nibbāna? (By the way, lōbha is a stronger form of rāga, thus rāgakkhaya means removing lōbha).
  • In fact, one needs to cultivate alōbha, adōsa, amōha in order to remove lōbha, dōsa, mōha.
  • As lōbha, dōsa, mōha are removed gradually, that leads to wisdom (pannā).

2. One outcome of the cultivation of wisdom is to realize that there are two types of alōbha, adōsa, amōha. In other words, one would realize that after following the “mundane path” one needs to comprehend the Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) to start on the “Noble Path.”

  • When one acts with “mundane” alōbha, adōsa, amōha, that leads to “good rebirth” meaning rebirths in the “good realms.” But it does not lead to Nibbāna. As we know, Nibbāna means stopping rebirth in ANY realm, not just in “bad realms.”
  • Once one comprehends Tilakkhana, one would have a deeper level of alōbha, adōsa, amōha. 
  • A Sotapnna starts on the Noble Eightfold Path with that deeper level of alōbha, adōsa, amōha. Wisdom (pannā) peaks at the Arahant stage. At that point, one would not be seeking rebirth anywhere in the 31 realms with lōbha, dōsa, mōha OR alōbha, adōsa, amōha.
  • See, “Sīla, Samādhi, Pannā to Pannā, Sīla, Samādhi” and “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart” and references therein.
  • Here is another way to see it. When one completes the mundane path, his/her level of amoha is not complete. One would still have sakkāya diṭṭhi and asmi māna. At the Sotapanna stage, sakkāya diṭṭhi goes away. Then asmi māna goes away at the Arahant stage.

3. lōbha is the extreme of greed.(“” + “bha” where “lo” is for the lōkaya or world and “bha” is for “bihiveema” (arise or establish) is the main reason how the material world is created and sustained with greed.

  • Because of lōbha, kāmacchanda (one of the five hindrances) arises.  It is said that “one loses one’s mind” when one acts with kāmacchanda (kāma chanda = “kāma” + “icca” +”anda” where “ichcha” is liking and “anda” is becoming blind; thus kāmacchanda means blinded by attachment to sense pleasures).
  • When one blinded by kāmacchanda and when obstacles arise in the way, one develops dōsa or dvesa (“dvi”+”vésa” or second manifestation of greed; see,

    Pāli Glossary” for the pronunciation key), i.e., hate for whatever gets in one’s way.

  • And one has lōbha because one cannot see the truth about this world, i.e., because one has mōha: mōha comes from “muva” + “” or literally “closed mouth”. Here what is meant is that if there is a vessel and if its mouth or opening is closed, then one cannot see what is inside. Thus when one has mōha, one is ignorant about the true nature of this world, and thus acts blindly and foolishly, just based on outward appearances.

4. One who has not heard about the Buddha’s world view is likely to act with mōha and thus in turn has both lōbha and dōsa.

  • However, many people do not have strong versions of lōbha, dōsa, mōha because they may have been exposed to Buddha Dhamma in recent previous lives. They are likely to carry over such habits (gati) compatible with alōbha, adōsa, amōha. In fact, ANYONE is likely to have been exposed to Buddha Dhamma sometime in the deep past. But the more time lag there is, one is likely to lose those qualities.
  • In any case, it is clear that if and when one has kāmacchanda, one gets blinded by the urge to get possession of whatever the sense object in question at the time. We all have had instances of kāmacchanda taking over; anyone can possibly remember instances where “the ability to reason out” got lost, at least for a brief time. It is good to contemplate such a past situation and verify this fact.

5. Long-lasting hateful situations (dōsa) arise because of kāmacchanda. Again one can go back and remember such situations. This is why dōsa (or dvesa) is called the second manifestation of greed. At the extreme, dōsa brings out the second of the five hindrances, vyāpada. This word comes from “vaya”+”pada”, where “vaya” means decline and “pada” means to “walk towards.” Thus vyāpada means one is on a (morally) declining path.

  • When one gets extremely angry, one again loses control and this could be even worse than kāmacchanda; it is possible for one to kill another human being in a moment of rage. And when one habitually gets angry, one could be in a state of vyāpada for longer times, and that could become a “normal” state of affairs if one is not stopped, i.e., become a “gati“. We can see people get into the “vyāpada mode” during (political) debates on television, or during arguments.
  • All five hindrances arise because of not seeing the futility of craving or hate. This “getting attached to this world” via greed and hate is called taṇhā; see, “Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance

6. Avijjā (ignorance) and taṇhā feed off each other, but it is avijjā that one needs to tackle first. This is because unless one’s mind sees the dangers hidden behind taṇhā, it is not possible to reduce taṇhā.

  • When one starts learning Dhamma one begins to understand the nature of the wider world of 31 realms where beings move around birth to birth, how beings suffer mostly in the lowest four realms, that all actions have consequences, and why it does not make sense, in the long run, to act immorally to satisfy one’s immediate urges (the concept of anicca); see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations“, and follow-up posts.
  • When one truly understands anicca, one’s avijjā starts to reduce first from the strong mōha stage which contributes to vicikiccā (acting without mindfulness); this in turn reduces greed and hate.
  • Most people make the mistake of trying to get rid of greed and hate (via breath meditation), and that is NOT POSSIBLE; one needs to engage in the correct version of “ānapāna” meditation; see, “Anāpānasati Bhāvanā (Introduction)“.
  • As long as one has a wrong world view and does not see the danger in having thoughts of excess greed and hate, it is not possible to FORCIBLY get rid of greed and hate; see, “Difference Between Giving Up Valuables and Losing Interest in Worthless”.
  • This is why Sammā Diṭṭhi or the correct world view comes first in the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • When one does the breath meditation, what one is doing is to forcibly SUPPRESS kāmacchanda and vyāpada, and other hindrances.

7. When one attains the Sōtapanna stage, one’s lōbha is reduced to the kāma rāga level and one’s dōsa reduced to the paṭigha level PERMANENTLY; The fifth hindrance of vicikiccā is removed, and the other two hindrances reduced. Patigha is a lower strength of vyāpada: “pati” + “gha” means bonding via friction or dislike; thus paṭigha is included in taṇhā.

  • One can see now why a Sōtapanna is incapable of doing extremely immoral acts that can result in a birth in the four lowest realms (apāyā); one has removed vicikiccā hindrance permanently, and one always acts with mindfulness. This higher level of Sammā Diṭṭhi or the correct world view is deeply ingrained in his/her mind, and even in a future birth that will not change. But one is still capable of acting with greed and hate to a certain extent.

8. When one attains the next level of Nibbāna, the Sakadāgami level, one permanently REDUCES kāma rāga and paṭigha. Because of this advancement, one will never be reborn in a realm where the physical body can be subjected to ailments, diseases, and old age. Thus, one will be reborn above the human realm, which is the fifth realm.

9. At the Anāgami stage, kāma rāga and paṭigha are permanently REMOVED. Thus by the Anāgami stage, one has completely removed any form of dōsa, the second root cause. One does not get angry or hateful under any circumstance, and the dōsa cētasika is permanently removed. Since kāma rāga also goes away, now one has no desire to be born in any realm in the kāma lōka, including the deva worlds.

  • Thus an Anāgami has only rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga. This is mainly due to the desire of an Anāgami to listen (and read) and contemplate on Dhamma concepts; there is no desire left for sense pleasures. Thus the lōbha cētasika is reduced to a very low level.
  • As for the mōha cētasika, only a low strength remains as avijjā.

10. Thus out of the ten sanyōjana or sanyōga (“san” + “yoga” or bound via “san”), sakkāya diṭṭhi, vicikiccā, silabbata paramasa (all due to strong avijjā) are removed at the Sōtapanna stage.

  • This is an important point: One just needs to comprehend the true nature of this world via understanding anicca, dukkha, anatta in order to become a Sōtapanna.
  • Just with this understanding, one removes kāmacchanda, vyāpada, and vicikiccā. This is why a Sōtapanna is said to be “one with the vision” or “dassanēna sampannō“.
  • Once the Buddha took a bit of soil on his fingernail and told the bhikkhus, “if all the soil in this Earth can be compared to the defilements one needs to get rid of, a Sōtapanna has left in him/her only an amount compared to this bit of soil on my fingernail”.
  • This may sound astounding to some. But it is critical to understand that most heinous immoral acts are done because of one not having Sammā Diṭṭhi at least to a significant level.
  • Of the remaining sanyōjana (sanyōga), kāma rāga and paṭigha are reduced at the Sakadāgāmi stage, and removed at the Anāgami stage. The rest of the sanyōga (rūpa rāga, arūpa rāga, mana, uddacca, and avijjā) go away at the Arahant stage.

11. In the kāma lōka, we experience a form of olarika sukha (or primitive form of coarse sensations), where sense faculties and corresponding sense objects are dense. As the attachment to pleasures from “dense matter” decreases, rebirth in the “denser worlds” is progressively eliminated. One exception is the peta realm where the bodies are not dense, but that is done to impart enhanced mental suffering.

  • At the Sōtapanna stage, the coarse forms of suffering in the lowest four realms stop. That includes the peta realm. After the Sakadāgami stage, rebirths do not occur even in the human realm where physical pain and diseases prevail. An Anāgami is born only in the suddhāvasa rūpa lōka, where there are only subtle bodies allowing vision, hearing, and mind only. An Arahant will never be reborn anywhere in the 31 realms which have “some connection to matter”; see, “What Are rūpa? (Relation to Nibbāna)“.
  • Thus at the passing away of an Arahant, the mind is released from any attachment to the material world consisting of the 31 realms; no more suffering from physical pains, mental pains, or death. One has attained the state of amaraneeya (no death).

12. Another way to analyze the steps to Nibbāna is to look at how the 12 akusala citta cease to arise stage by stage. See, “Akusala Citta – How a Sōtapanna Avoids apāyagami Citta“.

13. Therefore, the four stages of Nibbāna can be characterized in different ways. These include hindrances, sanyōga (or samyōjanā), “density of matter”, akusala citta, and many other ways. They are all inter-related and self-consistent.

14. Even before the Sōtapanna stage, one can start feeling the nirāmisa sukha; see, “Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Nirāmisa Sukha?“, and “Nirāmisa Sukha“.

  •  Nirāmisa sukha can increase considerably if one can get to the Ariya jhānā.
  • It is not necessary to attain Ariya jhānā to become a Sōtapanna, but Ariya jhānā can be attained only if one is already a Sōtapanna; see, “How does one know whether the Sōtapanna Stage is Reached?” (this became clear to me only recently and I have verified it in a desana from the Thero).
  • Thus, If one can get to Ariya jhānā one can confirm the attainment of the Sōtapanna stage. And it is possible to distinguish Ariya jhānā from Anariya jhānā easily since Ariya jhānā are immune to external influences or even forced defiled thoughts; see, “Magga Phala via Cultivation of Saptha Bojjhaṅga“.
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