July 22, 2016; revised December 1, 2017; December 14, 2019
Three Components of the Mental Body (Manōmaya Kāya)
1. In previous posts in this series, we discussed kabalinkā āhāra for the physical body and three types of āhāra for the “mental body” (or manōmaya kāya or gandhabba): phassa āhāra, manō sancētanā āhāra, and viññāna āhāra.
- The manōmaya kāya or the gandhabba consists of three components: kammaja kāya, citta kāya, and utuja kāya. The kammaja kāya gets its energy at the beginning of that bhava and does not require any external āhāra. The utuja kāya is sustained continuously via fine rupa produced by kammaja kāya and cittaja kāya.
- Therefore, the three types of āhāra for the manōmaya kāya are all consumed by the cittaja kāya. This cittaja kāya is nothing but the stream of thoughts we generate.
- An aside: Sometimes, the gandhabba can inhale “arōma” or gandha (kabalinkā āhāra) and have a fine (misty) physical body too. Thus, the name gandhabba, where “abba” means “inhale” or, in this case, “absorb.” Such “more solidified” are the ones that people can sometimes see and even be captured by a camera.
The Big Picture
2. Now, we can take a step back and look at the big picture, which gives a very illuminating view. This “big picture” could be beneficial in comprehending the anicca nature. Of course, this is not the only way to grasp anicca nature.
- The physical body we value so much and think about as “me” is a temporary shell. Like anything material in this world, it grows and peaks and then starts the downhill march ending in decay and eventual death. At the death of the physical body, the gandhabba comes out and has to wait for a suitable womb to start building a new body if the human bhava still has more kammic energy left; see, for example, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein” and “Gandhabba – Only in Human and Animal Realms.”
- This is a critical factor that contributed to the concept of a “self” (“āthma” in Hinduism.) Hindu yogis who cultivated abhiññā powers could look back at a finite number of previous lives and could see a gandhabba giving rise to repeated rebirths in human form (they likely practiced jhāna in those recent previous lives, which made it easier for them to attain abhiññā powers in this life).
- However, they could not see far back enough to see that one could be born an animal or even worse.
3. For humans and animals, we can compare the physical body controlled by the gandhabba to a car (or any other vehicle) being driven by a person. The vehicle’s body is like our physical body; the driver is analogous to the gandhabba. Without the gandhabba, the physical body cannot do anything; it would be lifeless, i.e., a dead body. The gandhabba “operates” the human body; see “Ghost in the Machine – Synonym for the Manomaya Kaya?“.
- The birth of a gandhabba, in turn, is due to the kammic energy that was created in a previous life. The kammaja kāya represents that energy (which will slowly deplete with time.) The term kammaja kāya comes from “kamma” and “ja” and “kāya“. Here “ja” means “birth” or “origin,” and “kāya” is the body. Thus kammaja kāya means the “body that was created due to kamma.”
- Similarly, cittaja kāya arises due to citta (loosely translated as thoughts).
- “Utu” means “change,” and the utuja kāya is that part of the gandhabba body that arises by the conversion of kammic energy and the energy from citta (javana).
We Have Control Over Cittaja Kāya
4. Now, we can see the critical importance of citta. Kammaja kāya arises due to previous kamma, i.e., by citta in a previous life. More specifically, javana in such citta provided the energy for a new bhava, which led to the kammaja kāya; see “Javana of a Citta – The Root of Mental Power.”
- Kammaja kāya is just a result, and it will slowly lose its energy over human existence. We cannot do anything about it (but if one does an ānantariya kamma, it will be shortened). Thus it is only the cittaja kāya that we have control over. This is critically important. We have finally converged to the essence of a human being.
- This is why the Buddha said, “manō pubbangamā Dhamma.…”. The origin of anything in this world can be traced back to the mind (thoughts).
- Here we see the truth of the above statement for living beings. In the future, it will become clear that ANYTHING in this world has origins in mind. That is the story in the Agganna sutta. But we have to proceed step-by-step. An introduction at “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).”
5. We control our destiny via our thoughts or cittaja kāya. I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of the cittaja kāya.
- Therefore, we must pay attention to what kind of āhāra (conventionally translated as food, but you can see that is not a good translation) we provide for our thought stream. But we have control over only those thoughts that we initiate.
Two Types of Citta (Viññāna) and Associated Feelings (Vedana)
6. There are two types of thoughts. Some citta arise due to kamma vipāka. For example, we may get to taste a delicious meal due to a good kamma vipāka, and while eating it we feel “jivhā viññāna,” i.e., those come through our sense of taste. These do not have abhisaṅkhāra. Also see, “Mōha/Avijjā and Vipāka Viññāṇa/Kamma Viññāṇa” and “Vedana (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways“.
- There is another set of citta that we initiate. For example, based on that tasty meal, we start thinking about returning to the same restaurant in the future, how to make it at home, etc. These generate abhisaṅkhāra. The worst kind is apunnābhisaṅkhāra, where we think about ways to get that meal immorally, say, by stealing.
- But if it is just some food that quenches the hunger, we do not generate that type of citta after the vipāka citta.
- In another example, we see millions of things in a day (via vipāka citta) but generate abhisaṅkhāra only in a few.
The Unending Cycle of Kamma/Vipāka
7. The Buddha said, “kammā vipākā vaddanthi, vipākā kamma sambhavō, tasmā punabbhavō hōti, ēvam lōkō pavattati“.
- What that means is: “Because of kamma vipāka, we experience sense inputs; based on those, we initiate new kamma (abhisaṅkhāra), and those, in turn, will bring vipāka in the future; that is how the world evolves (rebirth process continues).”
- Thus the critical part is where we generate abhisaṅkhāra. This is done with javana citta. We will discuss this using citta vithi in the future, but let us try to understand how javana citta can be controlled. There are many posts in the “Mind and Consciousness” and “Citta and Cetasika” sections on citta and citta vithi.
The Key Is to Change Our Gati
8. In fact, javana cittā ran too fast for us to control. Billions of citta run in a second. How can we control them? We cannot control them in situ as they initially arise.
- Javana cittā arise due to our gati! This is the key.
- For example, an Arahant is not tempted by any attractive sense input. He has removed all āsavas (cravings), and there is no anusaya to bubble up. He/she has “Noble gati of an Arahant.”
- On the other hand, a Sōtapanna may be tempted by that attractive sense input. He has not removed all āsavas (cravings), but he/she has removed gati suitable for the apāyā, so javana citta corresponding to highly immoral acts will not arise.
- The anusaya (related to gati) is analogous to the dirt in the bottom of a well. If the water in the well is perturbed, some dirt can come to the surface (āsava). (i.e., if a sensory input matching our gati comes into play, evil thoughts automatically come into the mind). This is discussed in the post, “3. The Second Level – Key to Purify the Mind,” in the Meditation section. Also, see “Anuseti – How Anusaya Grows with Saṅkhāra.”
- When one attains the Sōtapanna stage, the worst types of “gunk” will be removed. The rest will be removed in three more stages (Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, Arahant).
Ānāpānasati/Satipaṭṭhāna – Only Way to Change Gati
9. In an average human, whether or not immoral javana citta will be triggered will depend on his/her set of āsavas (or gati). If that particular sense input is attractive (i.e., matches his/her āsavas), then he/she may automatically initiate a highly immoral act to pursue that sensory input.
- But the key here is the following. Even if such immoral javana citta arises, one can still suppress them before the actual act is done, if one has learned Satipaṭṭhāna (or Ānāpāna.) For extremely immoral acts, like killing another human, most people can control such thoughts even without knowing about Satipaṭṭhāna. But the more one learns Dhamma and understands the consequences; the more one can have firm control even over minor offenses.
- Furthermore, the more one controls one’s actions this way, the more one’s gati will change for the better. This is another key! This has been discussed in detail in “9. Key to Ānāpānasati – How to Change Habits and Character (Gati)“. There are several posts under that topic.
Irreversible Change of Gati with Understanding of Tilakkhana
10. A large chunk of immoral gati disappears by comprehending anicca, dukkha, and anatta at the Sōtapanna stage. Gati that are suitable to be born in the apāyā will be removed. This is called “dassanèna pahäthabbä,” i.e., “removal via correct vision.”
- Thus highly immoral javana cittā do not arise in a Sōtapanna. A well that has been cleaned of the visible dirt at the bottom can not be muddied by perturbing the water in that well. Just like that, highly immoral thoughts do not arise in the mind of a Sōtapanna because it is free of “worst gunk.”
- However, to grasp anicca, dukkha, and anatta, one’s mind needs to be somewhat cleansed. One needs to change one’s gati or āsava gradually. The way to get there is to practice the correct Ānāpāna bhāvanā (or Satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā). See “Is Ānāpānasati Breath Meditation?“
Udayavaya Ñāṇa – How Suffering Arises and How It Can Be Stopped
11. Thus, the key to Nibbāna is in the udayavaya ñāṇa: future rebirths arise (udaya) due to abhisaṅkhāra (or cētana) in our javana citta. By controlling immoral thoughts via reducing our āsava (bad gati), we can eventually stop them from arising.
- This is done by constantly being vigilant about the moral or immoral thoughts that come to our minds; this is Satipaṭṭhāna; see, “Maha Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.” Then if the thought is moral, we cultivate it (āna); if it is immoral, we stop it (pāna) before it leads to immoral speech or actions; this is Ānāpānasati; see, “7. What is Änapāna?“.
- The other key point is that the more one cleans one’s mind, the more one will be able to comprehend. In particular, comprehending anicca, dukkha, and anatta REQUIRES a mind cleansed to some extent.
- I hope you can see that this is a feedback loop: each time one goes through the loop (being vigilant or Satipaṭṭhāna to cleansing the mind or Ānāpāna to a more purified mind for grasping deeper Dhamma and back to being vigilant), one makes progress.
Importance of Tilakkhana
12. This effect is greatly amplified when one finally grasps Tilakkhana: One comprehends the futility of staying in this rebirth process (anatta.) Anything we acquire through much effort cannot be kept to our satisfaction in the long run (anicca) and eventually lead to nothing but suffering (dukha.) When one “sees” that, one will realize the urgency to reduce and remove one’s āsava (bad gati). This leads to the Sōtapanna stage.
- A considerable chunk of āsava (bad gati) disappears via this understanding of the anicca nature at the Sōtapanna stage. Highly potent immoral javana cittā do not arise in the mind of a Sōtapanna. Then no more rebirth in theapāyā or the four lowest realms.
- Thus with udayavaya ñāṇa, one can clarify the path to the Sōtapanna stage.
- Then the remaining āsava disappear (āsavakkhaya) via three more stages (Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, Arahant) by continuing this process (Ānāpāna and Satipaṭṭhāna), and one attains Nibbāna, permanent happiness or the removal of all future suffering.
- But one also needs to do Ānāpāna and Satipaṭṭhāna before the Sōtapanna stage to cleanse the mind to a level that is capable of grasping anicca, dukkha, anatta.
Closing the ‘Gaps”
13. Finally, I would like to close the loop by pointing to the connection to the concepts discussed in the early posts. The gandhabba consumes three kinds of mental food: phassa āhāra, manō sancētanā āhāra, and viññāna āhāra.
- As we saw in the previous post in this series, “Āhāra (Food) in Udayavaya Ñāna,” the cittaja kāya consumes all three types of mental foods. And this is confirmed by the above discussion: Our initial sense inputs that COULD trigger javana citta come via phassa, sense contacts. They are JUST contacts. But based on those, we COULD accumulate new kamma vipāka (abhisaṅkhāra) by making samphassa; also see “Vedana (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways” and “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa.”
- manō sancētanā āhāra (which are abhisaṅkhāra) come into play during those samphassa; this means we start “making plans” and also keep going back to that sensory input. Repeated triggers for a given sensory input (samphassa) provide āhāra for that viññāna; for example, see “2. Viññāṇa (Consciousness) can be of Many Different Types and Forms” and other relevant posts.
By reading the links given (and also using the “Search box” at the top right), one should be able to clarify key issues. Please don’t hesitate to comment if you need help clarifying a given concept.