Nibbatti Lakkhana in Udayavaya Nana

February 26, 2016

1. In the previous post, we discussed the first 25 factors that encompass what is involved in the “udaya” stage of udayavaya: “Uadayavaya Nana – Introduction.” Each of the five aggregates has five factors associated with it, leading to its formation; thus, 25 factors give rise to each person’s world.

  • The five aggregates, or the pañcakkhandha, are much more complex than most realize. Please read the posts on pañcakkhandha to familiarize yourself with it if you really want to grasp the udayavaya nana: “The Five Aggregates (Pancakkhandha)“.
  • Also, note that a given sankhata is a tiny fraction of pañcakkhandha. Buddha Dhamma is so profound all these different descriptions are well-connected at some level.
  • Do not worry if all this seems overwhelming (of course, some people will be able to see the connections). It will make sense with time. Just keep reading posts that you have already read. They will make more sense each time you go back and read, especially after reading other relevant posts.

2. It is important to grasp the fact that anything that we experience, we experience only for a fraction of a second. Then it is gone to the “past pile” (atita; pronounced “atheetha”) of the five aggregates or piles.

  • Anything that we are only imagining or hoping to experience has not yet materialized; those are in the “future pile” (anägata; pronounced “anägatha”) of the five aggregates.
  • Only a negligibly small fraction is being experienced at a given moment: the “present pile” (paccuppanna; pronounced “pachchuppanna”); see “Five Aggregates – Introduction“.

3. All these things arise as a sankhata, whether it is material (rupa) or mental (vedana, sanna, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa). A given sankhata itself (not the experience) may exist briefly, or some may last a long time (especially those belonging to rupa aggregate). But even then, parts of it are continually “passed on” to the past.

  • Think about a human being X. He/she starts with a single cell and grows by the day, becomes a baby, a child, a young person, an old person, and then is perished. So, when another person Y, is watching X grow, the “rupa khandha” of Y continuously grew, all the while making the “past rupa khandha” bigger each moment. See “Difference Between Physical Rūpa and Rūpakkhandha.”
  • At a given time, we can see only a momentary “snapshot” of a rupa khandha. When X dies, all those stages –moment by moment — have gone to the past and thus now belong to the “past rupa khandha” of X and Y. Note that they are different: each one’s experience of X is different.
  • Now we can see why each person’s pañcakkhandha is unique to that person.

4. Now we will analyze why all five aggregates have their origin in avijjā, tanha, and kamma: Because we have the wrong perception (nicca sanna) that we can eventually reach happiness by craving for things in this world (avijjā), we get attached to somethings or hate other things (tanha), and then act accordingly (kamma).

  • After one attains parinibbana (i.e., when an Arahant dies), there is no world to experience. No more pañcakkhandha.

5. The other two factors of āhāra and nibbatti lakkhana describe the “progression” of a pañcakkhandha that have origins in avijjā, tanha, and kamma.

  • If it is a material thing (rupa) it needs āhāra (food) to grow; it can be food that living beings eat or nutrients that plants need.
  • If it is a mental thing (vedana, sanna, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa), it needs “mental food”: phassa (contact), mano sañcetanā, and viññāṇa āhāra. We will discuss these later.

6. Any one of those five aggregates needs a “blueprint” or a set mechanism to arise, grow, mature, decay, and eventually cease to exist. This is what the fifth factor, nibbatti lakkhana, is about.

  • This “blueprint” is made according to those three causes: it is a complex plan which takes into account many aspects that are formed by the level of avijjā (ignorance), kind of tanha (greed, hate), and kamma (kind of acts that were done with body, speech, and mind).
  • Those complex factors give rise to nibbatti lakkhana, a “blueprint” for any one of the five aggregates to rise. It can be called “production characteristics” of that particular sankhata belonging to one of the five aggregates.
  • As we learn more, we will see that all five factors actually become causes and are interrelated.

7. This is easier to see this with a human (or an animal). When one gets human bhava, which is based on a specific kamma vipāka that came to focus at the time of death in the previous bhava, a blueprint for the human bhava is automatically generated by kammic energy.

  • That blueprint is the manomaya kaya or the gandhabba that we have discussed many times; see the posts under the section “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya).”
  • The arising of that human, starting from a single cell in the mother’s womb, happens according to the “blueprint” in that manomaya kaya: eventual height, eye color, skin color, etc., were determined when a suitable womb was automatically selected according to the “gati” of that being. That “selection process” — which happens automatically and is not decided by any superior being — had chosen the matching parents for the gandhabba.
  • That was the role played by the nibbatti lakkhana in this particular case.

8. Thus, the particular bhava is determined by the specific action (kamma): if that action were suitable for a dog bhava, one would get a “dog bhava.”

  • But other characteristics of that dog are determined by the overall “gati” of that being that it had acquired through uncountable previous births.
  • Thus nibbatti lakkhana is a complex entity that takes into account numerous things, but two are prominent: the specific kamma and overall gati.

9. For example, two different beings could get the same “dog bhava.” But no two dogs will look and behave alike. Some are vicious, and some are loving. Some are big, and some are small. The possible varieties are basically infinite. Even two “twin dogs” that look exactly the same will have at least some behavior differences when they grow. The same thing applies to two humans.

  • Thus nibbatti lakkhana is a complex mold of multiple factors. But only a Buddha can see why certain features are in a given being. Even spots on a dog are said to be due to some reason.
  • Even though the “bhava” is determined by a specific strong kamma (called a janaka kamma), the body will reflect numerous kamma vipāka from numerous lives in the past.
  • But as we have discussed elsewhere, what kinds of kamma vipāka can bring fruits will depend to a large extent on having suitable conditions available. If one acts foolishly, that will allow some lousy kamma vipāka from the past to bear fruit. In the same way, by acting with mindfulness, one can avoid such bad outcomes and even bring about good outcomes due to past good kamma vipāka.
  • Several posts discuss the above important fact. For example, “What is Kamma? – Is Everything Determined by Kamma?” and “Annantara and Samanantara Paccaya.”

10. Therefore, it is essential to realize that manomaya kaya does not determine one’s future rigidly; some of the “production characteristics” can change. It is not like making a robot in a factory according to a set blueprint.

  • It is easy to see that one’s body structure can change according to one’s lifestyle. If one becomes careless and starts eating indiscriminately, one will become obese. Even one’s character can change by one’s motivation and due to external influences.
  • Thus nibbatti lakkhana are not deterministically set. The overall gati can change, and the manomaya kaya and the physical body, in turn, can change.

11. The main reason for this flexibility is that the manomaya kaya has three “components”: kammaja kaya, cittaja kaya, and utuja kaya; see previous posts on manomaya kaya.

  • The kammaja kaya is the one that is really pre-set. It had accounted for the reasons (kamma vipāka) that led to the particular bhava.
  • The critical component that is under OUR CONTROL is the cittaja kaya. This is basically how we think (that leads to our speech and bodily actions). And how we think depends on our level of ignorance (avijjā).
  • The third component is the utuja kaya, which is basically the subtle/invisible body of the gandhabba. It is being created and changed CONTINUOUSLY due to both the kammaja kaya and cittaja kaya. The fine matter based on suddhashtaka are being created due to kammaja kaya and cittaja kaya; see “The Origin of Matter – Suddhashtaka.”

12. Thus, the evolvement of a human being is a complex process. But one could get an excellent basic understanding by comprehending the above basic structure. We will go into more detail in the future, but let us discuss a few more important aspects.

13. Thus, these physical bodies that we value so much are really lifeless shells. The essence — gandhabba — is hidden inside that physical body.

  • The utuja kaya of the gandhabba is the one that is spread over the whole physical body and gives it a “life.” It is a fine grid that overlaps our nervous system, and that is how we feel body sensations.
  • Under some extreme stresses, the gandhabba can get out of the physical body. This is what is known as the out-of-body experience (OBE); see “Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE).” When that happens, the physical body is lifeless, and doctors have declared many heart patients undergoing operations dead for several minutes only to find out later that the patient is alive (gandhabba had returned to the body).

14. The critical point for our present discussion is the fact that once born with a human body, the human gandhabba can determine its own nibbatti lakkhana to some extent by wisely using the cittaja kaya.

  • It is this cittaja kaya that ultimately makes it possible for a human to attain Nibbāna.
  • One can change one’s gati (habits/character) by comprehending first moral versus immoral and then comprehending the anicca nature of this world.
  • Most people do not realize the importance of the cittaja kaya. This is, in essence, why a Buddha is needed to reveal the true nature of this world and to teach how to use the cittaja kaya (i.e., the way one thinks and therefore speaks and acts): First to stay away from immoral behavior to cleanse the mind to some extent, and then to comprehend the anicca nature.

15. The nibbatti lakkhana for any sankhata associated with the five aggregates works similarly. Let us consider a certain viññāṇa that we experience when seeing a person X.

  • That viññāṇa depends on who is looking at X. If it is a loving parent for Y, then Y will generate a “loving viññāṇa” upon seeing X. That viññāṇa will arise, stay there for a certain time, and fade away as the mind is directed to something else. But when that viññāṇa arises, it arises with some nibbatti lakkhana associated with one’s own past experiences with X. An enemy of X (say, Z) could generate a “hateful viññāṇa“.

16. It is easy to see that the other three aggregates in the above example will also arise accordingly.

  • Y will generate happy feelings (vedana), will recognize (sanna) X as a parent, and may generate some action or speech via saṅkhāra. On the other hand, Z will generate an entirely different set.
  • Thus the four mental aggregates are related to each other.

17. In Buddha Dhamma, everything that we learn about is connected to each other at some level. It is the whole fabric of nature. Each and every piece of information is part of a complex puzzle. When one begins to see how it all fits together, one’s mind becomes joyful and provides incentive and desire to learn more about the true nature of this complex world.

Next in the series, “Āhāra (Food) in Udayavaya Ñāna“.

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