Anulōma Patilōma Paticca Samuppāda – Key to Sōtapanna Stage

March 15, 2019

1. Just before his Enlightenment, the Buddha figured how beings are born endlessly due to their own way of thinking. That knowledge is embedded in Paticca Samuppāda, translated as, “Dependent Origination”.

  • It describes the origins of different types of living beings, according to their own thought processes (saṅ­khā­ra) based on the level of avijjā (ignorance of the real nature).
  • Anulōma Paticca Samuppāda describes the forward progression of events leading to eventual suffering. Patilōma Paticca Samuppāda describes the backward progression to see that indeed avijjā must be removed (by cultivating wisdom or paññā) in order to stop future suffering from arising.

2. “Paṭha­ma­ Bodhi Sutta (Udāna 1.1)” and “Dutiya ­Bodhi Sutta (Udāna 1.2)“state how the Buddha comprehended anulōma and patilōma Paticca Samuppāda during the night of the Enlightenment.

  • Most people are quite familiar with how suffering originates with saṅ­khā­ra generation due to the ignorance of the Four Noble Truths (avijjā), and then goes through the familiar steps: “avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā, saṅ­khā­ra­pac­cayā viññāṇaṃ, ..and ends with “.. Evametassa kevalassa duk­khak­khan­dhassa samudayo hotī”ti OR “the whole mass of suffering”.

3. It is also important to trace the steps backwards and see how future suffering can be stopped by cultivating paññā: “avijjānirodhā saṅ­khā­ra­nirodho, saṅ­khā­ra­nirodhā viññāṇanirodho, viññāṇanirodhā nāmarūpa­nirodho, nāmarūpa­nirodhā saḷāya­tana­nirodho, saḷāya­tana­nirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ soka­pari­deva­duk­kha­do­manas­supāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa duk­khak­khan­dhassa nirodho hotī’ti.

  • By stopping jāti, it is possible to stop suffering from arising (at the end).  Now we just go backwards: Jati (births) stopped by stopping bhava, which is stopped by stopping upādāna,  taṇhā, vedanā, phassa, saḷāya­tana, nāmarūpa, viññāṇa, and saṅ­khā­ra. When one gets to the first step: saṅ­khā­ra cannot be stopped from arising without eliminating avijjā (and thus getting rid of ALL gati).
  • In fact, if one really contemplates on this process, one can get some deep insights.

4. It is quite clear that in order to stop “the whole mass of suffering”, one MUST stop each of those 10 factors (jāti, bhava,upādāna,  taṇhā, vedanā, phassa, saḷāya­tana, nāmarūpa, viññāṇa, and saṅ­khā­ra) from arising.

  • Thus one can clearly see that nirōdha means “stop from arising”.
  • One can also see that can be done ONLY by removing avijjā, which is the same as  cultivating paññā.
  • The removal of avijjā (and cultivation of paññā) is done by following the Eightfold path, which has two components; see, for example, “What is Unique in Buddha Dhamma?“. There are no shortcuts!

5. We concluded in #4 above that in order to stop future suffering from arising we must stop those 10 terms from arising. This appears not to make sense with some of those terms when we try to reconcile that with the fact that an Arahant has stopped those from arising.

  • In particular, one could object in particular that vēdanā, phassa, viññāna, and saṅ­khā­ra still arise in a LIVING Arahant.
  • As I have explained in many posts scattered throughout the website (especially in the “Paticca Samuppāda” section), those terms are in the “uddēsa” version. This is explained in detail in the post, “Sutta – Introduction“.
  • Let us discuss briefly a few of those terms.

6. Basically all current English translations just provide word-by-word translations of that “uddēsa version” without any explanation. For example, the English translation of the first sutta in #1 above states, “..because of consciousness: mind and body, because of mind and body: the six sense spheres, because of the six sense spheres: contact, because of contact: feeling, because of feeling… because of continuation: birth, because of birth: old age, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair all arise, and so there is an origination of this whole mass of suffering.”.; see, “The First Discourse about the Awakening Tree (UD 1.1)“.

  • According to the second sutta, all those terms (consciousness, six senses, contact, feeling) should not arise in an Arahant!
  • Furthermore, it is not clear what is meant by “continuation” (for bhava), which leads to jāti (births), and thus “this whole mass of suffering”.

7. For example, the step, “avijjā paccayā saṅ­khā­ra” really should be “avijjā paccayā abhisaṅ­khā­ra“.

  • As is explained in the post, “Sankhāra – What It Really Means“, an Arahant generates saṅ­khā­ra, but NOT abhisaṅ­khā­ra.
  • It is those abhisaṅ­khā­ra that lead to future births and thus future suffering!

8. The next step is written in suttas as “saṅ­khā­ra paccayā viññāna” and  that is the uddēsa version.

  • It needs to be explained as “abhisaṅ­khā­ra paccayā viññāna“, where viññāna means “defiled consciousness”.
  • An Arahant would have “purified viññāna” and NOT “defiled viññāna“. This is explained at, “Viññāna Aggregate“.

9. Another confusing step could be “nāmarūpa paccayā salāyatana“, where “salāyatana” or “six āyatana” are normally translated as “six sense faculties”. Of course, a living Arahant has perfectly good sense faculties (indriya). 

  • Those six indriya (or sense faculties) become salāyatana when one acts with avijjā and use them to accumulate “san“; see, “Nāmarūpa paccayā Salāyatana“.

10. In next step of “salāyatana paccayā phassa“, it is really “salāyatana paccayā samphassa“. When those indriya are used as āyatana, one “makes contact with a defiled mind” and that defiled contact is “samphassa” (“san” + “phassa“).

11. Now when those sense inputs are evaluated with a defiled mind, one generates “mind-made vēdanā” or “samphassa jā vēdanā“. These are greedy, angry, jealous, types of vēdanā generated due to the defilements in the mind.

  • Such “defiled and mind-made vēdanā” are absent in an Arahant. An Arahant will, however, generate vēdanā due to the contacts with the six indriya.
  • For example, if someone hits an Arahant, he/she will feel the pain. Spoiled milk would taste bitter and a piece of cake would taste sweet, etc. But an Arahant would not generate angry thoughts about someone offering spoiled milk and would not generate cravings for the cake.
  • This explained in detail in the post, “Vēdanā (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways“.

12. The next confusion is at the step, “bhava paccayā jāti“, which is translated in #5 as, “because of continuation: birth”.  I am not sure what is meant by “continuation” there.

13. If one can spend some time reading those posts and the links given in them, one should be able to get a good idea of how different types jāti originate via abhisaṅ­khā­ra (one’s own thoughts).

  • The Sōtapanna stage of Nibbāna is attained by getting rid of the wrong way of looking at one’s body (and actions) are due to an unchanging “soul”.
  • However, one’s bhava and jāti arise due to one’s own abhisaṅ­khā­ra. We are humans in this life because of good abhisaṅ­khā­ra cultivated in a previous life.
  • If we do bad (or apunna) abhisaṅ­khā­ra in this life, we may be born as animal or worse. If we do good (or punna) abhisaṅ­khā­ra in this life, we may be born as devas, brahmas, or humans again.

14. However, there in no birth in the 31 realms that can bring a permanent state of happiness. Any deva or brahma existence will come to an end, and then one could be born in the apāyās.

  • Permanent state of happiness (which means absence of ANY suffering) is attained by stopping this never-ending rebirth process. That is key message of the Buddha.
  • When one truly understands that, one has the “vision” of a Sōtapanna, i.e., one would have gotten rid of sakkāya ditthi (and vicikiccā and silabbata parāmāsa all at the same time).

15. More details can be found in the “Paticca Samuppāda” section. The “Living Dhamma” section there is an attempt to provide a systematic approach to learn and practice Buddha Dhamma (of course, with more details in other sections).

  • I have encountered an unexpected medical emergency (that is anicca nature, which is much more than just impermanence). If I recover, I will be back in several weeks.
  • May you all attain Nibbāna!
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