Āhāra (Food) in Udayavaya Ñāna

March 19, 2016

1. First part of the Udayavaya Ñāna involves the causes for the arising of sankata (and hence arising of pancakkhandha). Out of the five main factors (avijjā, tanhā, kamma, āhāra, and nibbatti lakkhana), we discussed the nibbatti lakkhana in the previous post of the series.

  • Many posts at the site discuss the first three factors, so will now discuss the remaining factor, āhāra (food), that is both a cause and a condition for the arising of pancakkhandha.

2. When we think of āhāra (which means food in both Pali and Sinhala), we automatically think about food that we consume to stay alive.  However, it is clear from the previous two posts that a physical body is just a shell that is  “controlled” by a gandhabba. There are many other posts on gandhabba in the “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)” section. Here is a summary of some concepts discussed there:

  • In effect, we have four kinds of bodies (kaya):  the physical body (karaja kaya) is the one people normally associate with the perception of a “me”. But we have three “mental bodies” that are collectively “manōmaya kaya” or “gandhabba“. Those three are kammaja kaya, cittaja kaya, and utuja kaya.
  • In a way, the physical body is just a shell that we use for about 100 years or so and discard at death; the gandhabba leaves that dead body and waits for a suitable womb to make another physical body, if there is kammic energy left in the human bhava.
  • The foods for the physical body are called kabalinka āhāra. There are three other “mental foods” that are consumed by the gandhabba.
  • The gandabbha consumes three kinds of mental food: phassa āhāra, manō sancētanā āhāra, and viññāna āhāra.

3. A given Kammaja kaya was created at the cuti-patisandhi moment by a powerful previous kamma, and its energy just gets depleted with time. For example, if a particular human bhava came into existence with enough kammic energy to support a human life for 1000 years, then that energy will be slowly spent over 1000 years. In other words, kammaja kaya does not need any additional energy, i.e., āhāra.

  • In a way, all three types of mental foods are consumed by the cittaja kaya. And some of the energy from the kammaja and cittaja kaya are converted to suddhashtaka (matter), and that is what makes the fine body (utuja kaya) of the gandhabba, which is too fine for us to see.
  • As I mentioned in the previous post is this section, “Nibbatti Lakkhana in Udayavaya Ñāna“, the critical component that is under OUR CONTROL is the cittaja kaya. We can overcome our “loosely preset destiny” embedded in the kammaja kaya by cultivating our cittaja kaya, or basically our thoughts and thereby our behavior (gathi). This is what makes it possible to attain Nibbāna!

4. Let us first discuss the kabalinka āhāra. There are two relevant meanings for this name. The first meaning is associated with what this type of āhāra does: to energize the physical body. Here “kabalinka” comes from “kayata bala dena” in Pali or Sinhala where “kaya” is body, “bala” is energy or power, and “dena” means provide.

  • Therefore, kabalinka āhāra here means the food we eat to make our bodies grow and keep energized. Without food, a physical body that starts in the womb of the mother cannot grow to a baby and then once comes out cannot grow to be an adult. Without kabalinka āhāra that particular sankata cannot survive, and thus is an essential factor contributing to part of the pancakkhandha.
  • This kind of kabalinka āhāra is essential for the survival for humans and animals (and also dēvas). dēvas consume just one kind of kabalinka āhāra called “amurtha“; it is a drink that they consume, which leaves no residuals. Thus, they don’t need to worry about sweating, urinating, or defecating.
  • Thus kabalinka āhāra are needed only in kāma lōka. As we will see below, when one loses craving for kabalinka āhāra, one will never be born again in the kāma lōka, i.e., one becomes an Anāgāmi.
  • There are no solid bodies (karaja kaya) in either rūpa lōka or arūpa lōka. In rūpa lōka there is only the “thrija kaya” or the three mental bodies of kammaja kaya, cittaja kaya, and utuja kaya. Thus in the rūpa lōka beings are essentially gandabbas but that term is normally reserved for humans and animals when they are in the paralowa  waiting for a womb; see, “Hidden World of the Gandhabba: Netherworld (Para Lōka)“.
  • In the arūpa lōka, there is no utuja kaya either. Except for the hadaya vatthu, there is no rūpa associated with an arūpa brahma.
  • It is not essential to know all these details, but these details are needed to complete the “big picture”, especially for those who are interested in finer details.

5. The second meaning of kabalinka āhāra has a deeper meaning; here it is a CAUSE for the arising of FUTURE sankata. Craving kabalinka āhāra means one is hoping for rebirth in the kāma lōka to enjoy them; see, “How Perceived Pleasures (Assāda) lead to Dukkha“.

  • Thus, the stronger the craving is, harder it is to “escape from the kāma lōkas“.
  • This is a good example of how (abhi)sankhāra or strong cravings/hopes/desires lead to corresponding bhava and thus corresponding births (jāti).
  • In paticca samuppāda, “avijjā paccaya sankhāra” is followed by “sankhāra paccaya viññāna“, and leads to “upādāna paccaya bhava” and “bhava paccaya jāti“. Thus generating (abhi)sankhāra for kabalinka āhāra leads to rebirths in the kāma lōka, but most times in unexpected way, as we discuss below.

6. One NEEDS to consume  kabalinka āhāra to provide one’s body with the nutrients it needs to live a healthy life. However, if one craves for tasty foods in excess,  kabalinka āhāra can become a CAUSE to for the arising (udaya) of future births in the kāma lōka.

  • This is why it is NOT actual consumption of tasty foods that contributes to making “kāma bhava“. It is the excess greed for tasty foods (kāma āsvāda); see the section on , “Assāda, Ādīnava, Nissarana – Introduction“.
  • This second type of “pada nirukthi” or the “origin of the phrase” kabalinka āhāra comes from “kaya bali karana” which means “leading to distorted body”.  Here the word “bali” or “distort” applies because the body that one acquires in a future life due to such greedy sankhāra could be much different than expected. This is the deeper meaning of kabalinka āhāra  in the udayavaya nāna.

7. Such excessive greed for food matches the “gathi” of prētha beings. Thus when one cultivates such greedy (abhi)sankhāra, it leads to corresponding “prētha bhava” and thus “prētha jāti” in the future.

  • When encountering delicious food, some people lose any sense of decency. The greediness shows, and when eating such a meal some display “animal like” behavior, spilling food and getting the food all over their face. That is a display of “greedy animal like” sankhāra. When they cultivate such sankhāra, the corresponding birth could be that of a pig.
  • And then there are some who do not like to share such food and like to keep others away from enjoying such meals. That could cultivate sankhāra of a “vicious dog”. We see such dogs all the time; they growl when another dog comes even close to their food.

8. Once one gets the basic idea, it is easy to see various kinds of prētha and animal sankhāra can be cultivated even without realizing it, and can lead to future births corresponding to such “gathi“.

9. There are “good births” in the kāma lōka too: the human realms and the dēva realm. Bhava (and birth) in those realms also are according to one’s (abhi)sankhāra, which of course are generated according to one’s dominant gathi.

  • Those who cultivate human and dēva sankhāra like to enjoy sense pleasures, but they are not excessively greedy. They don’t have mentality of “may all good things come to me, AND not to others”. They are content with what they get and willingly share the excess with others.
  • One is not released from the kāma lōka until one’s cravings for sense pleasures completely goes away when one comprehends not only the futility of such sense pleasures but also the possible dangers.

10. At even a deeper level, the tendency to generate such extreme greed goes away AUTOMATICALLY when one starts comprehending the “anicca nature”. That it is not possible to achieve and maintain pleasurable worldly things (including food or beautiful bodies that result from eating such foods) as one desires.

  • And this change in the mindset and the change in corresponding personal behavior may not reverse in a short time. But as one learns Dhamma, one will be able to see the change over time: Sometimes in a few weeks or even several months.
  • The Buddha compared this “gradual transition” to the growth of a tree or a plant. One cannot see the change in the growth of a plant day by day; there is no point in checking it every day to see whether one can see the growth. But if one takes care of the plant by providing it with nutrients and keeps the weeds away, one will be able to see the growth over a few weeks or months. And then one day, can reap the benefits of all that work when the plant blossoms and provides the flowers/fruits.

11. Therefore, the key is to LEARN Dhamma and also to comprehend it by contemplating on it, which is MEDITATION. But it is critical to learn the correct Dhamma.

  • A good example of the wrong way to meditate is what many people are doing with the patikūla manasikara bhavana. Many translate “patikūla” as “pilikul” in Sinhala, which means “to be rejected because it is repulsive”. They meditate on contemplating the repulsiveness of the body (sweat, urine, and feces generated by the body) and also the fact that once one chews on even the most delicious food, it becomes “vomit”.
  • But the Buddha did not advice that. Just as we should not desire extreme sense pleasures, we also should not be repulsed by the things that we mentioned in the above paragraph. They both generate tanhā, in the first instant by attachment (craving) and in the second by aversion (patigha). The neutral mindset (upekkha) comes from understanding the true nature of things.

12. Now we can see that the connection of kabalinka āhāra in the udayavaya nāna has two facets:

  • One plays a role in taking care of the physical body that we have inherited due to past causes. If we are not mindful of what we eat, it can lead to bad consequences via the body that we already have. If we are mindful, we can make that body to work optimally for achieving our goals, both mundane and transcendental. And of course, if the physical body does not get enough kabalinka āhāra, it will die.
  • The other is to be aware of the role kabalinka āhāra plays in generating physical bodies for us in future births via generating (abhi)sankhāra related to pleasurable foods. One can permanently stop generating future physical bodies (nirodha or “nir” + “udā“) by getting rid of the “upādāna” or craving for kabalinka āhāra. 
  • One can become an Anāgāmi (i.e., stop rebirths in the kāma lōka) by comprehending the true nature of kabalinka āhāra. Then one loses the craving for any sense pleasures in the kāma lōka. But such a mindset is unfathomable for a normal human who only sees the immediate sense satisfaction. Furthermore, such a mindset CANNOT be achieved by sheer will power; it has to be through understanding the anicca nature of kāma lōka.

Next in the series, “Udayavaya Ñāna – Importance of the Cittaja Kaya“.

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