Patisandhi Citta – How the Next Life is Determined According to Gathi

Revised September 7, 2016

1. The transition of a life stream from one existence (bhava) to another takes place during the last citta vithi of the present bhava, for example from a human to an animal or a deva. For a fundamental description of this process, see, “Cuti-Patisandhi – An Abhidhamma Description“.

  • But here let us look at how different types of kamma as well as one’s “gathi” lead to corresponding rebirths in different realms.

2. As discussed in “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipaka Citta”, all 10 types of akusala kamma are done with 12 types of akusala citta. Except for the last akusala citta which is delusion-based and associated with uddacca, the other 11 types lead to rebirth in the apayas (four lower realms).

  • All 11 types of akusala citta lead to just one patisandhi vipaka citta and it is called the “akusala vipaka upekkha santirana citta”. This is the type of citta that comes to the mind of the dying person.

3. Yet, that one patisandhi citta can lead to rebirth in an uncountable number of “bhava” in the four lowest realms. In the animal realm itself there are an uncountable number of varieties.

  • Thus what really determines the actual “place of birth” in the four lowest realms is one’s “gathi”. Once the fate is determined by to be born in one of the four lowest realms due to an akusala kamma, the next step for nature is to match “gathi to gathi”. A greedy person is likely to be matched with a birth in the peta realm (hungry ghosts), and really vicious person is likely to head to the hell (niraya); see, “How Character (Gathi) Leads to Bhava and Jati”.

4. Now let us look at how rebirth takes place according to one’s kusala kamma. As we discussed in the post, “A Simple way to Enhance Merits (Kusala) and Avoid Demerits (Akusala)”, the merits of a kusala kamma is ENHANCED when it is done without moha, i.e., without micca ditthi (or with at least mundane samma ditthi).

  • Thus out of the 8 maha kusala kamma (great meritorious actions), 4 are done with knowledge (in addition to alobha and adosa, i.e., generosity and loving kindness). Since they have all three kusala roots, they are called “tihetuka” (“thi” means three and “hethu” means roots). They lead to the best kind of rebirths, called “tihetuka patisandhi” or “rebirth with three roots”.
  • The other four maha kusala kamma are done with generosity and loving kindness, but without mundane or lokottara samma ditthi. Thus the resulting kamma vipaka lead to “dvihetuka patisandhi” or “rebirth with two roots”. They also lead to birth in the realms 5 through 11 (i.e., in human and deva realms), but they will have less kammic power for that birth.

5. It is only those with tihetuka patisandhi can attain magga phala and attain Ariya jhanas in this life. Those with “dvihetuka patisandhi” lack in necessary wisdom (but this is NOT book knowledge); they can make progress and acquire necessary merits to have a future tihetuka patisandhi. But it is impossible to say who has a tihetuka or dvihetuka patisandhi; only a Buddha is capable of that.

  • There is one more patisandhi citta that is possible from a lower grade maha kusala kamma. This is also a kamma done without knowledge, but also with less enthusiasm. This is called a kusala vipaka upekkha santirana citta and is a “rebirth with no good roots” or an “ahetuka patisandhi”. Note that here even though there are two roots present technically, they are very weak due to absence of enthusiasm (for example, some people participate in meritorious work just because others do it or they did not have a choice).
  • Such an “ahetuka patisandhi” can leads to births only in the human or the lowest deva realm. Such a birth is comparatively easy to recognize (but not always): people with ahetuka patisandhi have low IQ, could be blind or deaf at birth, or be severely handicapped. However, such deficiencies COULD occur due to problems encountered in the womb (if the mother is a drug addict or had an ailment during the pregnancy); that is why in some cases you encounter people with above characteristics, but are smart. They are not really born with an ahetuka patisandhi, and could learn Dhamma and/or attain jhanas.

6. Thus we see that there is only one patisandhi citta due to the 10 akusala kamma (from 12 akusala citta), and 9 possible patisandhi citta due to the 8 maha kusala kamma.

  • The remaining patisandhi citta lead to rebirth in the Brahma loka (16 rupa loka and 4 arupa loka). These rise due to jhanic states: rebirth in the rupa loka are due to the 5 rupa jhanas and rebirth in the 4 arupa loka are due to the 4 arupa jhanas.

7. Therefore, only 19 patisandhi citta that lead to rebirth anywhere in the 31 realms. As we have discussed, there are uncountable number of species (we ourselves can see numerous animal species). What differentiates different species are the “gathi”. You can see that each species has its own “character”: Even within a given species, there are differences in “gathi”. If you look at dogs, there are some who are vicious and then there are ones that are cuddly (poodles).

  • In the days of the Buddha, it is said that when someone dies, relatives of the deceased usually ask the Buddha “what is the jathi and what is the gathi” of the new birth. These days we don’t have the Buddha to tell us, but we ourselves can sort of guess what “gathi” we have and make sure to change them for the better.
  • When one attains the Sotapanna stage, any “gathi” matching those in the apayas are permanently removed (hate, greed, ignorance at the highest levels).
  • At the Sakadagami stage, one’s liking to a “dense body” to enjoy sense pleasures is removed; such a “dense body” is one that can get diseases, and thus a Sakadagami is never born in human or lower realms where sickness and body aches are a fact of life.
  • Then at the Anagami stage, one loses craving for enjoying pleasures with the nose and tongue, and thus one can find matching “gathi” only in the rupa and arupa loka.
  • Once the Arahant stage is reached one loses craving for any sense pleasure with even a trace of matter or any connection to matter, and the mind attains the true freedom; no more “gathi” left.

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