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

Revised September 7, 2016; March 15, 2018; September 7, 2019

1. The transition of a lifestream from one existence (bhava) to another takes place during the last citta vithi of the present bhava. For example, when a human is reborn an animal or a dēva. 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 “gati” (pronounced “gati”),  lead to corresponding rebirths in different realms.

2. As discussed in “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipaka Citta,” all ten types of akusala kamma are done with 12 types of akusala citta.

  • Only those five akusala cittā with wrong views (micchā diṭṭhi) or vicikicca can lead to rebirth in the apāyā (four lower realms). Those akusala cittā lead to just one patisandhi vipāka citta, and it is called the “akusala vipāka upekkha santirana citta.” That is the type of cittā that comes to the mind of the dying person destined for the apāyā.
  • The two dislike-rooted (paṭighacittā do not arise at the Anāgāmi stage. The remaining five akusala cittā do not occur only in Arahants; see,  “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipaka Citta.”

3. 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 is an uncountable number of varieties.

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

4. Now let us look at how rebirth takes place according to one’s kusala kamma. The merits of a kusala kamma are ENHANCED when done without mōha, i.e., without micchā diṭṭhi (or with at least mundane sammā diṭṭhi). That is discussed in the post, “A Simple way to Enhance Merits (Kusala) and Avoid Demerits (Akusala),”

  • Thus out of the eight mahā kusala kamma (great meritorious actions), four are done with knowledge. They, of course also have alobha and adosa, i.e., generosity and loving-kindness. Since they have all three kusala roots, they are “tihetuka” births (“thi” means three and “hethu” means roots). They lead to the best kind of rebirth. Those are “tihetuka patisandhi” or “rebirth with three roots.”
  • The other four mahā kusala kammā have generosity and loving-kindness but without mundane or lōkuttara samma diṭṭhi. Thus the resulting kamma vipakā lead to “dvihetuka patisandhi” or “rebirth with two roots.” They also point to birth in the realms 5 through 11 (i.e., in the human and dēva realms), but they will have less kammic power for that birth.

5. It is only those with tihetuka patisandhi who can attain magga phala and attain Ariya jhānās in this life. Those with “dvihetuka patisandhi” lack in necessary wisdom (but this is NOT book-knowledge); they can make progress and acquire the essential 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 mahā kusala kamma. That is a kamma done without knowledge and with less enthusiasm. It involves a kusala vipāka upekkha santirana citta, and is a “rebirth with no good roots.” That is an “ahetuka patisandhi.” Note that here even though there are two roots present technically, they are very weak due to the absence of enthusiasm. For example, some people participate in exemplary work just because others do it, or because they did not have a choice.
  • Such an “ahetuka patisandhi” can leads to births only in the human or the lowest dēva 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 they are severely handicapped in other ways.
  • 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, we see people with the above characteristics but are smart. They are not born with an ahetuka patisandhi and could learn Dhamma and attain jhānās.

6. Thus we see that there is only one patisandhi citta due to the ten akusala kamma (from 12 akusala citta). There are nine possible patisandhi citta due to the eight mahā kusala kamma.

  • The remaining patisandhi citta lead to rebirth in the Brahma loka (16 rūpa loka and four arūpa loka). These rise due to jhānic states: rebirth in the rūpa loka are due to the five rūpa jhānās and rebirth in the four arūpa loka are due to the four arūpa jhānās.

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

  • In the days of the Buddha, when someone dies, relatives of the deceased usually ask the Buddha “what the jāti is, and what the “gati” is for the new birth. These days we don’t have the Buddha to clarify that for us. But we can sort of guess what “gati” we have and make sure to change them for the better.
  • When one attains the Sōtapanna stage, any “gati” matching those in the apāyā is permanently removed. That means hate, greed, ignorance at the highest levels.
  • At the Sakadāgāmi stage, one’s liking to a “dense body” to enjoy sense pleasures is no longer there. Such a “dense body” is one that can get diseases. Thus a Sakadāgāmi is never born in human or lower realms where sickness and body aches are a fact of life.
  • Then at the Anāgāmi stage, one loses cravings for enjoying pleasures with the nose, tongue, and the body. Then one can find matching “gati” only in the rūpa and arūpa loka.
  • At the Arahant stage, one loses the craving for any sensory pleasure associated with even a trace of solid matter. At that stage, the mind attains the true freedom; no more “gati” left.

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