A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw | 62,614 words

The Paticcasamuppada refers to “The Doctrine of Dependent Origination”. This is the English translation done by U Aye Maung Published by U Min Swe Buddhasasana Nuggaha Organization Rangoon, Burma....

Chapter 16 - Attachment To Belief

As The Cause Of Rebirth

Ditthupadana means the attachment to the view which rejects future life and kamma. Hence, ucchedaditthi which insists on annihilation after death is a kind of ditthupadana. A person who holds such a belief will have no need to do good or avoid evil. He will do nothing for other worldly welfare and seek to enjoy life as much as possible by fair means or foul. As he has no moral scruples, most of his acts are unwholesome kammas that create death bed visions and lead him to the lower worlds. This is evident in the story of Nandaka peta.

Nandaka was a general in the time of king Pingala who ruled Surattha country that lay north of the present province of Bombay in West India. He clung to false views e.g. that it was useless to give alms and so forth. After his death he became a peta on a banyan tree, but when his daughter offered food to a monk and shared her merit with him, he had an unlimited supply of celestial drinks and food. He then realized the truth of the kammic law and repented of his adherence of false views in his previous life. One day, he led king Pingala to his abode and entertained the king and his followers to a celestial feast. The king was much surprised and in response to his inquiry, the peta gave an account of his rebirth in the lower worlds as a kammic result of his false views, immorality and vehement opposition to alms giving; and the sudden change of his fortune following his sharing of merit acquired by his daughter. He also described the suffering that he would have to undergo after his death, the terrible suffering in hell that he was to share with those who held wrong views and vilified the holy men during their earthly existence.

The moral of the story is that attachment to wrong views (e.g. that an act has no kammic result, etc.) leads to unwholesome acts and rebirth in the lower worlds.

The commentary also says that clinging to uccheda (annihilation) belief leads to deva or Brahma worlds if annihilation is supposed to follow demise on those higher planes of existence, but devas and Brahmas apparently do not believe in their annihilation after death. By and large, the belief in annihilation makes people prone to misdeeds.

Kammic deeds may also be motivated by eternity belief (sassataditthi). The belief creates the illusion of personal identity, the illusion which makes a man believe that it is his permanent self that will have to bear the consequences of his good or bad deeds in a future life. So he devotes himself to what he regards as good deeds. Some of his deeds may be bad in fact, but in any case his deeds, whether good or bad, that arise from eternity belief lead to rebirth and suffering.

Still, another mainspring of kammic deed is superstitious belief. There are many superstitions, for example, that seeing a man of low class brings about misfortune, that the beehive or a guana in a house is a sure omen of poverty. Under the influence of such beliefs, a person may do evil, such as treating an outcaste cruelly or killing the bees. This is borne out by the Cittasambhuta jataka.

In the jataka the bodhisatta was a man of low chandala class called Citta. Ananda was then his cousin named Sambhuta. They made their living by dancing with bamboos. One day, the daughter of a merchant and the daughter of a high caste brahmin who were very superstitious went for a picnic with their attendants. At the sight of the two dancers, they considered it an ill omen and returned home. Their irate followers then beat the two men for denying them the pleasure of the picnic.

The two dancers then went to Taxila and disguised as brahmins, they devoted themselves to learning. Citta became a student leader by virtue of his intelligence. One day, their teacher sent them to a place where they were required to recite the brahmanical parittas. There having got his mouth burnt by drinking hot milk unmindfully, Sambhuta uttered, “Khalu, Khalu” in his dialect and Citta was so absent minded as to say, “niggala, niggala” (“spit out, spit out”); these slips of the tongue led to their undoing for their high caste brahmin students found out their secret. They were beaten and expelled from school.

On the advice of their teacher they became rishis (forest ascetics or hermits). After their death they passed on to the animal world, first as two deers and as two eagles in their next existence. Then Citta became the son of the chief Brahmin and remembered his three previous lives. He led the life of a hermit and attained jhana and psychic powers. Sambhuta became a king, he remembered his low caste life as a chandala and spent his time in the pursuit of sensual pleasure.

By means of his psychic power, Citta knew his brothers spiritual immaturity and after waiting for 50 years he came to the kings garden. The king recognized the hermit as his brother in a previous life and was prepared to share royal pleasures with him. But being aware of the kammic effects of good and bad deeds, the bodhisatta had pledged himself to a life of self restraint, renunciation and detachment. He reminded the king of their close associations in their previous lives, to wit, as low caste chandalas, as deers and as birds. His object was to point out the erratic course of kammic life and to urge the king to become an ascetic for further spiritual progress. But it was hard for Sambhuta to give up his worldly pleasures. So the bodhisatta returned to the Himalayas. Then the king became disenchanted with his worldly pleasures and went to the Himalayas where he was welcomed by the hermit. There, as a hermit he devoted himself to spiritual exercises and attained jhana and psychic powers.

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