The Manual of the Four Noble Truths
by Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw | 1903 | 11,997 words
The Catusacca-Dipani The Manual of the Four Noble Truths By Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw, Aggamahapandita, D.Litt. Translated into English by Sayadaw U Nyana, Patamagyaw of Masoeyein Monastery Mandalay Edited by The English Editorial Board Note to the electronic version: This electronic version is reproduced directly from the printed version the te...
Wholesome deeds such as alms-giving, morality and mental development performed by worldlings are the actions done by those who dread the dangers of hell, so that they may escape from such dangers. Even though they arise in the planes of men, devas and Brahmas according to the quantity of wholesome volitional actions, they are always accompanied by myriads of old accumlated unwholesome kamma coupled with sakkaya-ditthi. This sakkaya-ditthi has accompanied a being throughout his existences as man, deva and Brahma with the result of multiplying more evil kamma in whatever existence he may happen to arise.
The wholesome kamma such as alms-giving, morality and mental development performed by any one being in his past existences are also subject to change (exhaustion--viparinama). They naturally fade away when they cannot have any further effect.
The groups of existence found in men, devas and Brahmas are also subject to decay. It is the law of cosmic order that they must dissolve at the exhaustion of their kamma and the expiry of their span of life.
The groups of existence of those who are enjoying sensuous pleasures in the planes of human beings, devas and Brahmas burden them with death by way of viparinama. As soon as the vitality element is cut off, sakkaya-ditthi latent in them causes them to be reborn in the lower worlds. They then have to sink in the ocean of suffering in hell which they dread very much. As explained by the commentators previously, these beings will have no chance to escape the hells and arise in a higher plane even after a lapse of one thousand or ten thousand existences. Only after a very great length of time, will some have the opportunity to arise in a higher plane, the happy course of existence.
Some will only have a chance to escape at the end of the world-system, i.e. when it is destroyed. Then they have to arise in the planes of men, devas and Brahmas; and again they who enjoy the sensual pleasures in these planes are burdened by the groups of existence by viparinama. As soon as they die in that state their sakkaya-ditthi causes them to be reborn in the lower worlds. They then have to sink in the ocean of suffering in hell and have no chance to escape in a thousand or ten thousand existences. The sequences in this respect are the same as mentioned above.
The above is the textual explanation as to how beings wander in the round of rebirths.
Here, men, devas and Brahmas may be compared to victims, and the groups of existence to the murderers. The law of change may be compared to a very sharp sword.
In the Khandha-Vagga of the Samyutta-Nikaya, the Buddha declared: 'Corporeality is a murderer, so too are vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana'. According to this, it is to be remembered that whenever beings pass away, their respective khandha play the part of murderers. If we examine the causes of all deaths, we shall find that there can be no death unless there are dislocation, displacement or change in the body. If there be no such change, even if lightning were to strike a person on the head, he would not die. That shows that the khandha of a being are really murdering him.
Another interpretation: As people call Maccu the god of death which itself is death personified, the law of change (viparinama) is again termed a murderer. The inherent quality of the law of change found in men, devas and Brahmas causes their death, Thus the khandha of men, devas and Brahmas are alway receiving capital punishment, and therefore are dukkha-dhamma (suffering miserably).
All human beings who are trying to take refuge in the world of men because they fear the dangers of hell are killed and caused to arise in the lower worlds from time to time by the groups of existence and sakkaya-ditthi. The same holds good in the cases of devas and Brahmas. The khandha of beings that are subject to change are murderers, and the unwholesome kamma together with soul-belief are constantly tending to drag them to the lower worlds.
In the cases of men, devas and Brahmas who have already got rid of soul-belief, although they die through the agencies of their khandha, they are never reborn in the lower planes, but in the higher planes of existence. This matter will be fully discussed when we come to the Chapter on Magga-Sacca (the Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering).
A question may be raised at this point: 'If what has been said be true, there should be no inhabitants in the planes of men, devas and Brahmas. But that is not the case. There are plenty of men in the world of men, many devas in the deva-worlds and many Brahmas in the Brahma-worlds. So, it may be said that it is an unwarranted threat.' This is the kind of question raised by those ignorant people who have not the slightest idea of the vastness therein of the four lower worlds, and the density of population.
The happy course of existence is very extensive, but the inhabitants are very few. An abode of a deva or a Brahma is as big as live or ten of our townships. Their bodies are about six gavuta high. Each of the planets we see high above the sky is of enormous dimensions.
The woeful course of existence is also extensive and the inhabitants there are immensely numerous too. The number of people in the world of men, and the number of inhabitants in the six deva-worlds and the twenty Brahma-worlds cannot even be equal to the number of a single kind of insect, say ants, living in our country of Burma. In our country alone, even besides ants, there are countless numbers of aquatic and land animals. Just imagine how great would be the number of those aquatic and land animals residing in the big islands, small islands, oceans, seas, mountains, rivers and lakes of the world excluding those of Burma. Thus, if the number of occupants in the twenty-seven planes of the happy course of existence be compared with those in the animal world, it will be found to be very insignificant.
Footnotes and references:
Samyutta-Nikaya, Khandha-Vagga Samyutta, (2) Radhasamyutta, (2) Dutiyavagga, (1) 6th syn. Edition. p. 159.