by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Paticcasamuppada contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Dhamma Ratanā. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
In Chapter 17 we have undertaken to deal with Dependent Origination and this is the occasion for it. We shall explain Dependent Origination in a manner neither too brief nor too detailed.
“(i) The veracity of the Four Truths, (ii) the illusion of a ‘being’’ as regards the five aggregates, (iii) the process of rebirth that links up existences, (iv) the conditionality of all things such as ignorance - these four subjects are difficult for one to understand and, having understood, are difficult to explain them to others.” So say the Sammohavinodanī Commentary and others.
Paṭiccasamuppāda, being one of the difficult subjects to understand, will now be explained to the reader in a manner neither too brief nor too elaborate, using the brief exposition in the text, based on the late Ledi Sayadaw’s 13 expository, Myanmar verses on Paṭicca-samuppāda.
Avijjā paccaya saṅkhāra saṅkhāra paccaya viññāṇaṃ viññāṇa paccaya nāmarūpaṃ nāmarūpa paccaya saḷāyatanaṃ saḷāyatana paccaya phasso phassa paccaya vedanā vedāna paccaya taṇhā taṇhā paccaya upādānaṃ upādāna paccaya bhavo bhava paccaya jāti jāti paccaya jarāmaraṇaṃ soka parideva dukkha domanassupāyāsā sambhavanti evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
Avijjā paccaya saṅkhāra: With ignorance of the Truth as condition, i.e. due to the inability to see things as they truly are, volitional activities that pertain to the present and future existences come about.
Saṅkhāra paccaya viññāṇaṃ: With volitional activities, pertaining to the present and future existences as condition, birth-linking Consciousness comes about.
Viññāṇa paccaya nāmarūpaṃ: With birth-linking Consciousness as condition, mind and body comes about.
Saḷāyatana paccaya phasso: With the six Sense-doors as condition, the six kinds of contact, with their respective sense objects, come about.
Phassa paccaya vedanā: With the six kinds of contact as condition, six kinds of sensation, that cognize or experience the sense objects, come about.
Vedanā paccaya taṇhā: With the six kinds of sensation as condition, the six kinds of craving or attachment, for the six sense objects (i.e., sensual objects), come about. Taṇhā paccaya upādānaṃ: With the six kinds of craving as condition, clinging, i.e. deeprooted attachment, comes about.
Upādāna paccaya bhavo: With clinging as condition, the causal process of ones' own actions, with their results in the present and in future existences, comes about.
Bhava paccaya jāti: With the causal process of one’s own actions as condition, recurrence of fresh existences or rebirth comes about.
Jāti paccaya jarāmarana soka parideva dukkhadomanassūpayasa sambhavanti: With rebirth as condition, ageing-and-death, grief, lamentation, bodily pain, distress of mind, and agony, come about.
——Ledi Sayadaw’s rendering——
Ledi Sayadaw’s verses on Dependent Origination
(Gist of the Myanmar Verses)
Homage to the Peerless Lord of all Devas, who has the penetrative Knowledge of the Four Truths! I shall now explain the causal law that governs the ceaseless rounds of existences in the three Spheres (i.e. the Sensuous Sphere, the Fine Material Sphere and the Non-Material Sphere.) Not knowing the Four Truths on account of the great darkness of ignorance, the worldling does not understand the fires of defilements in him and so, being deeply attached to the five aggregates that are merely fuel to the burning defilements, commits demeritorious deeds with heart and soul every day. Thinking the glorious existences in the human world and the deva-world as real happiness; he also performs meritorious deeds of ten kinds which tend to rebirth in the Sensuous Sphere and the Fine Material Sphere on the one hand, or to the Non-Material Sphere on the other hand. Thus he does volitional actions that result in endless rebirth in the three Spheres.
(1) Avijjā paccaya saṅkhāra [Verse One]
Dependent on Ignorance, volitional activities arise, i.e. thoughts, deeds and acts are caused by a certain motive or volition that are conditioned by Ignorance. There are an infinite number of beings that live in the infinite world-systems but all of them, in the ultimate sense, are representations of just the twelve factors of Dependent Origination, namely, Ignorance, Volitional activities, Birth-linking consciousness, Mind and matter, the six Sense-bases, Contact, Sensation, Craving, Clinging, Kammic process, Rebirth, Ageingand-death. (Paṭicca, dependent on or conditioned by (cause); Samuppāda arising of Saṅkhāra, etc. (results).
Of these twelve factors, Ignorance is the root condition of the earlier part of saṃsāra. Hence it is mentioned first, as between avijjā and saṅkhāra, the former is the cause and the latter the result. Saṅkhāra means volitional thoughts, words and deeds.
Avijjā is one of the 52 mental concomitants (cetasika). It is essentially bewilderment (moha), a demeritorious state of mind. Moha is variously rendered as ‘not knowing’, ‘unskilled’, ‘unknowing’, ‘Ignorance’, ‘darkness of delusion’.
Ignorance means: (1) not knowing the Truth of Dukkha i.e. not perceiving the truth that the five mundane aggregates pertaining to the three Spheres are dukkha; (2) not knowing the Origin of Dukkha, i.e. not perceiving the Truth that Craving (taṇhā) is the cause of dukkha; (3) not knowing the Truth of Cessation, i.e. not perceiving the truth that Nibbāna is the cessation of dukkha; (4) not knowing the Truth of the Path, i.e. not perceiving the Truth that Ariya Path of eight constituents is the way that leads to Nibbāna.
The fourfold ignorance of the Four Truths are the condition whereby all worldlings, blinded by their own Ignorance, commit evil deeds that send them down to the four miserable states of apāya, or perform good deeds that send them to the seven fortunate existences and the sixteen Fine Material realms of Brahmās, or to the four Non-Material realms of Brahmās. The evil deeds are motivated by evil volitions called apuññabhi saṅkhāra. The good deeds that tend to the seven fortunate existences and the Fine Material realms are motivated by good volitions called Puññābhisaṅkhāra. The volitions in the four types of good deeds leading to the four Brahmā realms of the Non-Material Sphere are called Āneñjabhisaṅkhārā. Therefore the Buddha declares that with Ignorance as condition, three types of volitional activities of the mundane meritoriousness and mundane demeritoriousness come to be.
(Now with reference to Verse One above.)
In the eulogistic reference to the Buddha at the beginning of this stanza:
- the Penetrative Knowledge is compared to the Jotirasa ruby, one of the seven boons of a Universal Monarch;
- the Four Truths is symbolised by the Four Island Continents over which a Universal monarch reigns;
- the Analytical exposition of the Four Truths is symbolised by the roaming of the four Island continents by the Universal Monarch.
And the act of reverence is performed by the poet, Ledi Sayadaw, mentally, verbally and physically.
In Buddhist literature there are three kinds of worthy persons or devas, namely, the devas who are born instantly as mature individuals are upapatti devas, the rulers who have sovereignty over a country are sammuti devas, and arahats, the Pure Ones, are visuddhi devas. Amongst the arahats the Buddha is peerless.
The poet calls his subject matter “the train of saṃsāra that speeds along the three Spheres” because Paṭiccasamuppāda is the ceaseless round of causal factors that give rise to the aggregates, Sense-bases and Elements pertaining to the three Spheres of existence.
Avijjā is called the great darkness of delusion, mahātama. The darkness of Ignorance is usually described as having four contributory factors, namely, darkness that prevails on a first-moon night where no moon shines; at midnight, in the heart of a deep forest, shrouded with rain clouds. The fourfold Ignorance of the worldling is comparable to the four factored darkness.
The worldling shrouded by Ignorance commits evil deeds for his immediate welfare through twelve demeritorious thoughts; these volitional activities are the apuññābhisaṃkhāra that tend to the miserable existences.
Ignorance does not only drive the blinded worldling to commit evil actions, it also drives him to perform good actions that send him to high existences of the deva and Brahmāworlds. This is because whereas the first two truths of the Four Truths, i.e. the Truth of Dukkha and the Truth of the Cause of Dukkha are mundane truths which are of a burning nature, the latter two truths, i.e. the Truth of Cessation and the Truth of the Path are Supramundane Truths which have a cool and tranquil nature. The worldling (especially a worldling who cherishes rebirth) whose mental makeup is shrouded by Ignorance, does not understand that the two mundane truths are of a burning nature and so he resorts to them and becomes a slave to his own craving.
When craving overpowers the worldling, particularly those with a natural inclination to annihilist view, rejecting afterlife, he sets his sights on the present life only. He is prepared to perpetrate any vicious act for his immediate welfare. He would kill or steal or commit any deed as his demeritorious volition (apuññābhi-saṅkhāra), urges him. The worldlings who believe in continued existence or the eternity view, on the other hand, would aspire to higher existences in the future. They would perform meritorious deeds to go to fortunate existences or to be reborn in the Non-Material Sphere according to their hearts' desire, all of which are not conducive to gaining magga, phala and Nibbāna. These deeds are, as the case may be, either meritorious volitions (puññābhi-saṅkhāra) that lead to the Sensuous Sphere and the Fine Material Sphere or unshakable volitions (aneñjābhi-saṅkhāra) that lead to the Non-Material Sphere.
As the result of such volitional activities, fresh existences occur and there is an endless recurrence of dukkha.
(This is Ledi Sayadaw’s verse explained on its salient points. Ledi Sayadaw has explained them in detail in his Paṭiccasamuppāda Dīpaṇī.)
(2) Saṅkhāra paccaya viññāṇaṃ [Verse Two]
As the result of volitional actions of three types, rebirth in appropriate realms of existence, i.e. in the miserable states of apāya, or in the human realm, or in the deva realms or in the Brahmā realms takes place. In the new existence, consciousness which is the key mental factor arises. Consciousness is of six kinds according to the six sense doors, i.e. eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. The six kinds of consciousness each of which arises together with mental concomitants take cognisance of their respective sense objects and enjoy the sense pleasures. In so enjoying, a mistaken view of personal identity such as “I see it”, “I hear it”, “I smell it”, etc. arises, and so also the wrong concept of man or deva, he or she, etc. arises. All these misconceptions are due to the six kinds of consciousness. And so rebirth in all forms of existence, mostly in the miserable states of apāya is perpetuated.
Demeritorious volitions lead to the miserable states of apāya with the appropriate birth linking consciousness in the Sensuous Sphere and in the Fine Material Sphere, followed by appropriate resultant consciousness. Meritorious volitions lead to the seven fortunate planes of existence, i.e. the human plane and the six deva realms. These nine types of birth-linking consciousness arise at the moment of rebirth, and at the manifested stage of rebirth, sixteen types of meritorious resultant consciousness arise in the Sensuous Sphere and in the Fine Material Sphere. The meritorious pertaining to the Fine Material Sphere leads to fifteen realms of Fine Material Sphere where birth-linking consciousness followed by resultant consciousness of the Fine Material Sphere arises. The meritorious volition pertaining to the Non-Material Sphere, the Unshakable type of volition, leads to the Four realms of Non-Material Sphere where birth-linking consciousness followed by resultant consciousness of the Non-Material Sphere arises.
In the matter of good or bad volitions giving rise to resultant consciousness which are appropriate to them, the Four stages of endowment (samaṅgītā) should be briefly understood thus:
i) When an action, good or bad, is done, the appropriate volition arises to give effect to it, as good volition or bad volition. That is the endowment of volition at the moment of its arising. The act is being endowed with its appropriate volition (cetanā-samaṅgītā).
ii) After a lapse of three phases of consciousness, i.e. the three thought-moments, the volition vanishes. However, it does not (like other resultant consciousness) disappear completely; it leaves behind the kammic potential that will arise later when circumstances permit as a resultant consciousness. This kammic potential is potent throughout the successive existences unless it becomes inoperative. This mental phenomenon of being endowed with kammic potential is called endowment of kamma (kamma-samaṅgītā).
iii) When the time is ripe for the kammic potential of a past deed, whether good or bad, there appear before the appropriate sense-door of the doer the very act he/she had done, or something connected with the act, such as buildings or tools, etc., or sign of the oncoming existence. (Except for arahats this form of prescience always presents itself to the dying person in sufficient vividness that makes him/her take cognisance of.) This presentation of any of these three signs at the moment of death is called endowment of the oncoming existence (upaṭhāna-samaṅgītā).
iv) After that, one passes away and there arises the birth linking consciousness, followed (in the manifestation stage of the fresh existence) the resultant consciousness befitting the past deed. This resultant consciousness functions as the life continuum (bhavaṅga) and is always present throughout that existence when no other thought-process occurs. This arising of rebirth consciousness and resultant consciousness is called endowment of resultant (vipāka-samaṅgītā).
Vipāka is nothing but the maturity of the kammic potential or kamma samaṅgīta into a specific consciousness in the ultimate sense. It will be seen that resultant consciousness begins as volitional activity or endowment of volition. Therefore, the Buddha declares in brief that “dependent on volitional activities, the six kinds of consciousness arise.” Now with Reference to Verse Two
The three types of volitional activities are the cause of renewed existence. As the Poet puts it, they are the capital, out of which renewed existence takes shape. Through the natural process of “endowments”, i.e. the four samaṅgītā, outlined above, a volitional act is possessed of its appropriate resultant. In the renewed existence where the resultant consciousness arises, this consciousness reigns supreme throughout that particular existence. The poet calls it “His Lordship”, for it is the key factor of all mental phenomena, just as the element of heat is the key factor in all physical phenomena. (For details the reader should consult the Paṭiccasamuppāda Dīpanī).
Resultant consciousness, function-wise, is of six kinds, namely, eye-consciousness, earconsciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness and mindconsciousness. As there are six sense-doors, i.e. eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, eyeconsciousness is the supreme consciousness at the eye-door; ear consciousness is the supreme consciousness at the ear-door, nose consciousness is the supreme consciousness at the nose-door; tongue-consciousness is the supreme consciousness at the tongue-door; body-consciousness is the supreme consciousness at the body-door;and mindconsciousness is the supreme consciousness at the mind-door.
The supremacy of the six kinds of consciousness may be understood thus: Take Eyeconsciousness for example. Just as when a powerful prince arises, he has the retinue, the throne and the regal paraphernalia at his command, so also whenever a certain consciousness arises, seven mental concomitants arise together with it that enable it to function properly, serving it like the retinue of the prince. The Eye-base or eye door is like the throne of the prince. The eye-sensitivity is like the paraphernalia of the prince. Just as the prince reigns supreme amidst these retinue and regal paraphernalia, so also eyeconsciousness enjoys visible objects fully and completely, having dominance over the eyedecad and associated forms of corporeality. The same principle holds true in respect of the other (five) kinds of consciousness.
The daily activities of a person, when analyzed in the ultimate sense, consists of just the six kinds of sense-consciousness, i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking or cognizing. That is why all the physical, verbal and mental activities that are carried out day in and day out fall within the six kinds of consciousness.
Since all human activity is dominated by the six kinds of consciousness for all the days, months and years of a person’s life, there comes to be the misconception of a personal identity such as, “I”, “he”, “she”, “man”, “deva”; and personalised ideas of “I see it”, “I hear it”, “I smell it”, “I eat it”, “I touch it”, “I take cognizance of it”, or “He sees it”, “He hears it”, etc. When this misconception arises, then that person is heading for further existences such as the four miserable states of apāya. All this is due to the six kinds of consciousness.
(3) Viññāṇa paccaya nāmarūpaṃ
Due to the workings of the six kinds of consciousness, a wonderfully intricate body of mental phenomena, such as contact, volition, perception, initial application of the mind, etc. appear, as fume that accompanies fire; and also, arising together with the body of mental phenomena there is the body of physical phenomena with the Four Primary elements as the basis, on which twenty-four types of corporeality depend, thus making twenty-eight types of corporeality. A combination of mental phenomena and physical phenomena, or mind and body arise, manifesting itself in an infinite variety of shapes, forms and sizes. Thus, in the various places of existence, various beings, such as devas, humans and animals, that live in water, that live on land, etc. noble beings, lowly beings, having various characteristics, all of them a compound of mind and matter, appear in the world.
The six kinds of consciousness give rise to their respective mental concomitants like the retinue of a powerful prince and also an endless variety of corporeality like the regal paraphernalia of the prince.
Now with Reference to Verse Three
As fire always arises with fume, so also consciousness always arises with its mental concomitants like the multi-coloured strand inside the gem called cat’s-eye. Mental states function wonderfully well to enable the consciousness to accomplish whatever end it is directed to. For instance, there is contact that joins up sense-organ and its respective sense object; sensation that makes the experiencing of sense objects possible discriminately; volition that motivates all the co-arising mental concomitants to carry out their respective tasks; and so on. Together with the mental phenomena, there also arise simultaneously the four Primary Elements and the twenty-four types of corporeality that arise dependent on them.
The mind and matter, arising due to the six kinds of consciousness, takes an infinite variety of shapes and forms in various places of existence, ranging from noble beings to lowly beings.
No two individuals have the same appearance or the same type of mentality. This diversity is due to the diversity of wishes of individuals that are associated with craving. As one’s craving fancies, so will a person wish for this or that kind of appearance and this or that type of mentality, and commit acts, good or bad, towards that end. (Thus diversity of craving determine diversity of action.) The diversity of one’s past volitional acts produce a diversity of existences with a diversity of individual character, even within the same place of existence. (Thus, diversity of action determines diversity of destinations of beings.)
(4) Nāmarūpa paccaya saḷāyatanaṃ
Of mind-body complex that arises due to consciousness, the body of physical phenomena (rūpa-kāya), gives rise to the five types of sensitive corporeality, such as eye-sensitivity, ear-sensitivity, nose-sensitivity, tongue-sensitivity, and body-sensitivity. And the body of mental phenomena (nāma-kāya), gives rise to mind which is mind-sensitivity. Each sensitivity has its separate function. Eye-sensitivity cognizes visible objects; Ear-sensitivity cognizes sounds;Nose-sensitivity cognizes smells; Tongue-sensitivity cognizes tastes;Body-sensitivity cognizes tangible objects; Mind-sensitivity cognizes thoughts and ideas besides doing its own thinking. As the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching or bodily impression and thinking occur ceaselessly, the worldling considers all these events as, “I see it”, “I hear it”, “I smell it”, “I taste it”, “I touch it”, “I know”, “I think”, “I am stupid”, “I am wise”, etc. all in an egocentric view. Thus the six kinds of sensitivity give rise to the fire of false view regarding the five aggregates.
From this verse onwards the elucidations will be mostly based on the verses.
There are four types of beings:
i) Beings that take birth in an egg,
ii) Beings that are conceived in the mother’s womb,
iii) Beings that spring from moisture, such as moss or lotus flower, etc.,
iv) Beings that appear as adults at birth.
Just as a fruit acquires its seed at the appropriate stage of its development, so also the egg-born beings and the womb-born beings acquire their eye-sensitivity, ear-sensitivity, nose-sensitivity and tongue-sensitivity at the appropriate stage of development, at the respective sense-organs, such as eye, ear, nose and tongue. Body-sensitivity arises simultaneously with birth-linking consciousness. With the instant-adult type of birth and moisture-sprung type of birth, all the five kinds of sensitive corporality arise simultaneously with birth-linking consciousness.
In the case of Brahmās, there are no nose-sensitivity, tongue-sensitivity and bodysensitivity.
Beings are endowed with past merit to acquire a pair of eyes. Due to that merit kammaborn corporeality arise in the present existence. The Four Primary Elements that are produced by kamma of kamma-born corporeality is the base on which eye-sensitivity, a kind of dependent corporeality, arises. Likewise, ear-sensitivity, nose-sensitivity, tonguesensitivity and body-sensitivity are kinds of dependent corporeality that arise dependent on the Four Primary Elements. All of them are kamma-born corporeality. (This is how the body of physical phenomena (rūpa-kāya), gives rise to the five kinds of sensitive corporeality.)
The body of mental phenomena (nāma-kāya), comprising contact, sensation, volition, gives rise to mind or mind-sensitivity that causes the arising of mind-consciousness. Mindsensitivity is mind-consciousness itself. Here, it has been stated previously that “dependent on consciousness, mind and body arises.” Now this mind-sensitivity becomes mindconsciousness. Does it amount to saying that “from the offspring, the mother comes to be?" Here consider the analogy of a tree. A tree grows from the seed. The tree again produces the seed. The first seed is quite distinct from the seed produced by the tree. Similarly, out of fifty-two mental concomitants, consciousness may at times be dominated by initial application of the mind and sustained application of the mind; it may at times be dominated by energy (vīriya); it may at times be dominated by delightful satisfaction; it may at times be dominated by desire, or dominated by greed, or dominated by anger, etc. When initial application of the mind is dominant, consciousness obeys the dictates of initial application of the mind. Similarly, consciousness arises under the dominant influence of sustained application of the mind, or greed, or anger, as the case may be. Thus mental concomitants give rise to mind-sensitivity. Or take another analogy: fire gives rise to wind, and wind helps fire to grow. Consciousness is like fire; mental concomitants are like wind. Mental concomitants arise due to consciousness, and consciousness is also conditioned by the mental concomitants.
Or take another analogy. The Four Primary Elements are interdependent. Wherever one of them arises, the three others also arise. Similarly, whenever consciousness arises, the appropriate mental concomitants arise together. Whenever mental concomitants arise, there is also consciousness that arises together with them. (This is how the body of mental phenomena gives rise to mind or mind-sensitivity.)
A living being is able to function only due to the presence of the six sense-bases; otherwise, he/she would be inert as a log. The sense-bases are also called six sense-doors. They are not doors in the sense that they are opening but they are only sensitive to sensestimuli, like glass pane windows through which light can enter. Eye sensitivity arises at the eye; ear-sensitivity arises at the ear; nose sensitivity arises at the nose; tongue sensitivity arises at the tongue; body sensitivity arises at the whole body both internally and externally. Mind-consciousness, or mind-sensitivity arises at the heart-base. Thus the whole body is provided with the six kinds of sensitivity.
Just as when a bird alights on a branch, the shaking of the branch and the casting of the birds shadow on the ground below happen simultaneously, so also when a visible object is taken cognizance of by the eye-sensitivity, it is simultaneously taken cognizance of by mind-sensitivity also. Thus with eye-consciousness taking the leading role, an appropriate thought-process arises, making complete the knowing about the event, and one knows, “Ah, this is the sun,” “This is the moon,” or “Ah, this is a man, (or a cow, or a buffalo)”, as they may be.
When a sound is taken cognizance of by ear-sensitivity, it is simultaneously taken cognizance of by mind-sensitivity also; and after due thought process, a complete knowledge of the sound is made aware, such as: “This is the sound of thunder, or of wind or of drum, or of a lute, or a human voice, or bellowing of cow,” etc., as the case may be. When an odour is taken cognizance of by nose-sensitivity....or when a taste is taken cognizance of by tongue-sensitivity,... or when a tangible object is taken cognizance of by body-sensitivity, it is simultaneously taken cognizance of by mind-sensitivity also. Mindsensitivity takes cognizance of the five kinds of sense-data cognized by their respective sense-doors besides other mind-objects covering all sorts of physical phenomena and mental phenomena. Then an appropriate thought process arises at the mind-door; and one is fully aware of whatever mind-objects taken cognizance of. This is the natural process of how sense data are received by the respective sense-doors and a full consciousness about them arises.
As these sense experiences occur ceaselessly to a worldling, and full consciousness about them arises in him, he considers these events as: “I see it”, “I hear it”, “I smell it”, “I eat it”, “I feel it”, “I know it”, “I think it”, “I am stupid”, or “I am wise”, etc. This misconception about the five aggregates, which is a veritable cauldron of the realm of continuous intense suffering (niraya), burns furiously with the flames of greed, hatred, bewilderment, conceit, jealousy, stinginess, etc. Thus all the six sense-doors are glowing with these fires of demeritoriousness. All this is due to the presence of the six sense-bases.
(5) Saḷāyatana paccaya phasso
Due to the six sense-bases in their respective places in the body, sense objects corresponding to each of them are clearly reflected as if on a mirror. Visible objects are reflected on the eye-sensitivity; sounds are reflected on the ear-sensitivity; smells are reflected on the nose-sensitivity; tangible objects are reflected on the body-sensitivity; six kinds of mind-objects are reflected on mind-sensitivity of mind-consciousness, according to the occurrence of events at the five other sense-doors.
When these sense objects are reflected on the respective sense-door, each with its special sensitivity of its own, there arise contact at each sense-door as if a flint is struck against the steel striker in a flint match.
Due to the coming together of sense-door, sense object and sense-consciousness, (e.g. at eye-door), due to the conjunction of eye-sensitivity, visual object and eye-consciousness, eye-contact arises very vividly. Likewise, at ear-door, due to the conjunction of earsensitivity, sound and ear-consciousness, ear-contact arises very vividly. At nose-door, due to the conjunction of nose-sensitivity, smell and nose-consciousness, nose-contact arises very vividly. At tongue-door, due to the conjunction of tongue- sensitivity, taste and tongue-consciousness, tongue-contact arises very vividly. At body-door, due to the conjunction of body-sensitivity, tangible object and body-consciousness, body-contact arises very vividly. At mind-door, due to the conjunction of mind-sensitivity, the respective sense object reflected through the six sense-doors, and mind-consciousness, mind-contact arises very vividly.
The six kinds of contact are very powerful, like Sakka’s Vajira weapon, in translating the sense-experience as agreeable or disagreeable. A visible object reflected on eye-door that has become eye-contact is distinguished as agreeable or disagreeable, thanks to contact. The same principle holds in respect of the five other sense-doors, where the respective contact sorts out the respective sense objects as agreeable or disagreeable. In describing the function of contact, the poet uses the metaphor of pressing a juicy fruit to yield its flavour. Sweet fruit would yield sweet juice, sour fruit would yield sour juice. Similarly, an agreeable visible object will, through the working of contact, present itself as an agreeable thing to the individual, and a disagreeable object as a disagreeable thing. So also with the remaining sense-contacts. Agreeable things are looked upon as good things, attractive or pleasant things. Disagreeable things are looked upon as bad things, unpleasant things.
This differentiation between agreeable or pleasant things and disagreeable or unpleasant things is brought out by contact.
(6) Phassa paccaya vedanā
The six sense objects are considered (by a worldling) as agreeable or disagreeable through the functioning of contact. (If we review the process of sense cognition:) we find that the six kinds of consciousness merely know a sense object through the respective sense-door. It merely sees something, hears something, smells something, tastes something, touches or feels something, and thinks a thought or forms an idea. Contact translates these sense experiences into agreeable things or disagreeable things, When agreeable things are experienced through their respective sense-doors, one feels pleased, or experiences a pleasant sensation. When disagreeable things are experienced one feels displeased, or experiences an unpleasant sensation. Thus the six kinds of contact bring about six kinds of sensation.
Pleasant Sensation, Sukha-vedanā
Sukha-vedanā is of two aspects, physical and mental, the former is physical ease and comfort, the latter, happiness.
Unpleasant Sensation, Dukkha-vedanā
Dukkha-vedanā is (also) of two aspects, physical and mental. The former is physical pain, the latter distress of mind.
Sometimes sukkha-vedanā is used in a combined sense of physical and mental wellbeing; and dukkha-vedanā is used in a combined sense of physical and mental suffering.
Vedanā is actually of three kinds: pleasant sensation, unpleasant sensation, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant sensation. However, in this verse, the neither pleasant nor unpleasant sensation pertaining to demeritoriousness is included in the unpleasant sensation, while the neither pleasant nor unpleasant sensation pertaining to meritoriousness is included in the pleasant sensation. This point should be noted.
The reader is strongly advised to consult Paṭiccasamuppāda Dīpanī to have a fuller understanding of these verses. In the present work a bare paraphrase of the verses is given.
The Six Kinds or Elements of Sensation
(i) Sensation born of eye-contact, cakkhu samphassajā vedanā,
(ii) sensation born of earcontact,
(iii) Sensation born of nose-contact,
(iv) sensation born of tongue-contact,
(v) Sensation born of body-contact,
(vi) Sensation born of mind-contact, mano samphassajā vedanā.
They are called elements because sensation primarily arise only through them. When sensation is being discriminated through each of the six kinds of Contact, concepts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable, good or bad, about them are formed in the mind of the person experiencing these various sensations. When an agreeable sensation is experienced, one feels happy and is physically at ease. When a disagreeable sensation is experienced one feels unhappy, distressed, and physically agitated.
Everyone in the world has a single objective of enjoying the Element of pleasant sensation. All human activity is earnestly directed towards achieving that objective. This (so-called) Element of pleasant sensation only brings suffering to worldlings; ariyas alone are immune from its evil consequences. Worldlings strive hard in search of pleasant sensation. In extreme cases, this search after pleasant sensation takes the form of even committing suicide, for a person committing suicide decides that death alone is the way he can get peace.
(7) Vedanā paccaya taṇhā
When one sees (an agreeable) visible object, through the workings of eye-contact, that object gives a pleasant sensation to the viewer. One is very pleased with it. “It’s nice! It’s lovely!” The pleasant sensation causes elation and happiness. Just as when dry rice is sprinkled with butter, the viewer’s mental process is permeated with joy. Just as withered padumā lotus is sprinkled with cool water, he feels refreshed. His face brightens. This reaction, which arises due to pleasant sensation, is the enjoyment of that sensation. (The reaction due to the remaining five sense-pleasures, such as on hearing an agreeable sound, on smelling an agreeable odour, etc., should be understood likewise.)
The enjoyment of pleasurable sensations through the six sense-door, whets the appetite to enjoy more and more. Craving arises for pleasant sensation. So, six kinds of pleasant sensation give rise to six kinds of craving, i.e. craving for visible objects, craving for sounds, craving for odours, craving for tastes, craving for tangible objects, and craving for thoughts and ideas.
All beings are attached to their own bodies, in the sense that they want to remain alive. So they are naturally attached to food so as to remain alive. Thence their attachment stretches to paddy as the staple food, and thence to the means of production of paddy such as land, draught animals, and good rains, etc. all connected with paddy. This is a practical example of how craving multiplies itself starting with a certain object of one’s fancy. If one has a fancy for a certain visible object, then things possessing it, connected with it, whether animate or inanimate, are craved for. (Similarly with pleasant sounds, pleasant odours, pleasant tangible objects, and pleasant thoughts.)
All the endless objects that are craved for have numerous names. But, from the viewpoint of ultimate reality, they come under six sense objects only, i.e. craving for visual objects, craving for sounds, etc. (Here the poet compares the six sense objects to the Treasurer of a Universal monarch who is capable of providing whatever is asked of him.)
As all beings are always hankering after the six sense objects, trying to satisfy their sense-desires, they become obsessed with craving which is essentially greed. Therefore, they cannot even dream of the profound truth (about craving as the real source of all suffering). They are prisoners of their own greed and they live and die there.
(8) Taṇhā paccaya upādāna
It is well and good if craving for the six sense objects can be given up before they become obsession. If the indulgence in craving is prolonged over a long period, craving outgrows itself into clinging which is rooted either in craving itself or in wrong view. One clings tenaciously to oneself internally and to external sense objects. Clinging is of four kinds: (i) Clinging to sense-pleasures (ii) clinging to wrong views (iii) clinging to wrong practices as a means to purity (iv) clinging to an illusory self or attā.
i) Cling to sense pleasures, Kāmupādāna: It is the obsession with sense objects of six kinds which begins as craving and outgrows itself, like the Myanmar saying: “When an iguana grows too big it becomes an alligator;when a snake grows too big it becomes a serpent.” Clinging therefore is intensified craving.
ii) Cling to wrong view, Diṭṭhupādāna: Wrong view are of sixty-two kinds as described by the Buddha in Brahmajāla Sutta (Dīgha Nikāya sīlakkhandha Vagga). Tenacious belief in any wrong view is a form of clinging. (Three worst wrong views that send one down to the Niraya realms are included in the sixty-two kinds of wrong view mentioned in these verse)
iii) Clinging to wrong practices as a mean to purity, Sīlabbatupādāna: Some ascetics, during the Buddha’s time, resorted to the habit of cows or dogs in the mistaken belief that such practices would purify their hearts and bring salvation. Punna and Senja are two ascetics who followed such practices. (Ref: Majjhima paṇṇāsa Kukkuravatika Sutta)
Govatika ascetics were those who believed that all past evil could be obliterated if one took up a practice like the cow, that is, living a stringent ascetic life. Their reasoning is this: living a stringent life for the whole of the present life is making retribution for all past evil deeds; the present life of asceticism also does not involve fresh evil deed. Therefore, all past evil deeds and future evil deeds are eliminated, and this brings eternal happiness. A follower of this creed moves about on all fours like a cow, sleeps like a cow, eats like a cow without using the hands, and imitates all bovine behaviour. (Interestingly enough:) One, who takes up bovine practice in a slack manner, will be reborn as a cow; one who takes up the practice too stringently will go to hell after death.
Kukkuravatika ascetics were believers in the dog-practice. They believed that, if one could adopt the life and habits of a dog, one would be liberated. A follower of this creed moves about, eats and sleeps like a dog, imitating all the habits of a dog. If one takes up this practice in a slack manner, one will be reborn as a dog. If one takes up the practice too stringently, one will go to hell.
iv) Clinging to an illusory self (attā), Attavādupādāna: The mistaken belief in Self or attā is another tenacious form of clinging. It is based on the five aggregates which are considered erroneously, each in four ways, namely:
(1) With regard to corporeality: (a) that corporeality is self, and not being able to perceive corporeality apart from oneself; (b) that mental phenomena are self, and erroneously holding that self has corporeality just like a tree has its shade; (c) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that corporeality exists in self just like the scent existing in flower; (d) that mental phenomena is self and erroneously holding that self exists in corporeality just like a ruby kept in casket.
(2) With regard to sensation: (a) that sensation is self and not being able to perceive sensation apart from oneself; (b) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that self has sensation just like a tree has its shade; (c) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that sensation exists in self just like the scent existing in flower; (d) that mental phenomena is self and erroneously holding that self exists in sensation just like a ruby kept in casket.
(3) With regard to perception: (a) that perception is self and not being able to perceive perception apart from oneself; (b) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that self has perception just like a tree has its shade; (c) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that perception exists in self just like the scent existing in flower; (d) that mental phenomena is self and erroneously holding that self exists in perception just like a ruby kept in casket.
(4) With regard to volitional activities: (a) that volitional activities is self and not being able to perceive volitional activities apart from oneself; (b) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that self has volitional activities just like a tree has its shade; (c) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that volitional activities exists in self just like the scent existing in flower; (d) that mental phenomena is self and erroneously holding that self exists in volitional activities just like a ruby kept in casket.
(5) With regard to consciousness: (a) that consciousness is self and not being able to perceive consciousness apart from oneself; (b) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that self has consciousness just like a tree has its shade; (c) that mental phenomena are self and erroneously holding that consciousness exists in self just like the scent existing in flower; (d) that mental phenomena is self and erroneously holding that self exists in consciousness just like a ruby kept in casket.
Therefore, twenty wrong views about the five aggregates give rise to twenty different kinds of wrong view. This view which persists throughout saṃsāra is called clinging to an illusory self or attavādupādāna.
So long as the above four kinds of clinging arise in one, there is no escape from the woeful round of existences.
(9) Upādāna paccaya bhavo
(Gist of the verse:)
Holding fast to the four kinds of clinging, a worldling believes that the body of five aggregates is his own self, his own person. Due to the wrong view of the existence of a self or a person, one seeks immediate gain or satisfaction through wrongful conduct, such as killing or stealing, etc. and thereby resorts to the ten courses of demeritoriousness. This means an accumulation of demeritorious actions that leads to rebirth.
Being desirous of future wellbeing that is in no way inferior to the present wellbeing, one performs meritorious acts after the manner of virtuous ones, such as giving, observing moral precept, and cultivating the mind. All of these acts are mundane merit tending to renewed existence. They take the form of meritoriousness pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere, or meritoriousness pertaining to the Fine Material Sphere, or meritoriousness pertaining to the Non-Material Sphere. In these ways one resorts to the ten courses of meritoriousness.
The ten courses of demeritoriousness and the ten courses of meritoriousness tending to renewed existence - these two categories of committed actions - are called Kamma-bhava or the kammic causal process. This process or potential leads to the arising of resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality in the appropriate (i.e. appropriate to the acts committed) sphere of existence, either in the Sensuous Sphere, or in the Fine Material Sphere, or in Non-Material Sphere. These resultant mental aggregates and kamma-born corporeality are called Upapatti-bhava. (Mundane meritorious and demeritorious courses of conduct lead to upapatti-bhava and therefore are called Bhava. Resultant mental aggregates and kamma-born corporeality are results of kamma-bhava).
This is the gist of this verse.
In this matter, the arising of kamma-bhava and upapatti-bhava dependent on the four kinds of clinging as discussed in detail in Sammohavinodhanī, the Commentary on the Vibhaṅgha, will be briefly stated.
“What type of bhava is conditioned by what particular kind of clinging?”
The answer to this question is, “all the four kinds of clinging may be the condition for both types of bhava.” The explanation is this:-
A worldling is like a lunatic. That being so, he cannot discriminate what is proper and fitting, and what is not. Therefore, under the influence of all the (four) kinds of clinging, he commits all sorts of actions, that are of mundane merit and demerit, that tend to renewed existence. How these various actions are committed, will be considered here.
A worldling may know or hear that sense pleasures abound with the ruling class or high class of the human world and in the six deva-worlds. He may get ill advice from others that to gain what one wants, one should do anything, if needs be, one should kill or steal. So under the evil influence of clinging to sense pleasures, he commits evil deeds such as killing to gratify his strong desire for sense pleasures. These evil deeds lead to rebirth in the miserable states of apāya.
Or a worldling may have irresistible temptation to get some sense object that he sees before him; or he may wish to preserve and protect his property, and to achieve this, he would do anything whether it is morally right or wrong. This is a (more common) case of committing evil being driven by clinging to sense pleasures. Evil deeds cause rebirth in the miserable states. In these cases, the evil deeds that send him to the miserable states is called Kamma-bhava and the result and mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality pertaining to the miserable states are called Upapatti-bhava. (These are how clinging to sense pleasures leads to demeritorious kammic causal process and the result thereof.)
Another worldling, being fortunate of having wiser counsel. His friends are virtuous by example as well as by precept. He gains some knowledge of the Truth. He knows truly that by doing meritorious deeds he can have fortunate destinations. He performs meritorious acts, and, as a result of which, he is reborn in the human world or in the world of devas. In this case the meritorious deeds that send him to the fortunate destinations is called kammabhava and the resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality pertaining to the fortunate existences are called upapatti-bhava. (This is how clinging to sense pleasures leads to meritorious kammic causal process and the result thereof.)
Another worldling may have heard or have the idea that the Brahmā-world of Fine Material Sphere or Non-Material Sphere has higher sense pleasures than those of the Sensuous Sphere. And, being obsessed by this allurement of superior sense pleasures of the Brahmā-world, he practises jhāna of the Fine Material Sphere or the Non-Material Sphere, and achieves it, and, as the result, he is reborn in the Fine Material Sphere or the Non-Material Sphere. In this case the meritorious deeds of that worldling pertaining to the Fine Material Sphere or Non-Material Sphere that send him to the Fine Material Sphere and the Non-Material Sphere are called Kamma-bhava and the resultant mental aggregates and the kamma-born corporeality of the Fine Material Sphere and the resultant mental aggregates of the Non-Material Sphere are called Upapatti-bhava. (This is how clinging to sense pleasures gives rise to kammic causal process and the result thereof.)
Another worldling, clinging to the wrong view of annihilation or extinction, believes firmly that self becomes fully extinct only in a fortunate existence of the Sensuous Sphere, or in the Fine Material Sphere, or in the Non-Material Sphere, and accordingly acquires merit pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere that leads to a fortunate existence in the Sensuous Sphere, or the exalted type of merit, mahāggata which is sublimated due to absence of the hindrances. The merit of this worldling pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere and the Brahmā realms of the Fine Material Sphere and the Non-Material Sphere are called Kamma-bhava, and the resultant mental aggregate and the kamma-born corporeality are called Upapattibhava. (This is how clinging to wrong view gives rise to kammic causal process and the resultant thereof.)
Another worldling, under the influence of clinging to an illusory Self (Atta), and firmly believes that self attains real happiness in a fortunate existence of the Sensuous Sphere, or in the Fine Material Sphere, or in the Non-Material Sphere, and accordingly acquires merit pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere, that leads to fortunate existence in the Sensuous Sphere, or the exalted type of merit which is sublimated due to absence of the hindrances. The merit of that worldling pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere and the Brahmā realms of the Fine Material Sphere and the Non-Material Sphere are called Kamma-bhava and the resultant mental aggregates and the kamma-born corporeality are called Upapatti-bhava. (This is how clinging to an illusory Self (Atta) gives rise to kammic causal process and the result thereof.)
Another worldling, under the influence of clinging to wrong practices as a means to purity, and firmly believes that this (good) practice can be fulfilled with facility only in one who takes it up either in some fortunate existence of the Sensuous Sphere, or in the Fine Material Sphere or in the Non-Material Sphere, and accordingly acquires merit pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere, or to the Fine Material Sphere, or to the Non-Material Sphere. The merit of this worldling pertaining to a fortunate existence in the Sensuous Sphere and the exalted type of merit pertaining to the Brahmā realms are called Kamma-bhava, and the resultant mental aggregates and the kamma-born corporeality are called Upapatti-bhava. (This is how clinging to wrong practices as a means to purity gives rise to kammic causal process and the result thereof.)
(10) Bhava paccaya jāti
With kamma-bhava (kammic causal process) as condition, rebirth occurs. Meritorious kammic causal process and demeritorious kammic causal process are the causes of rebirth.
Rebirth means the arising of resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality caused by meritorious deeds; and resultant mental aggregate and kamma born corporeality caused by demeritorious deeds.
In “saṅkhāra paccaya viññānāṃ”, it has been shown that due to volitional activities, good and bad consciousness arises. This refers to past volitional activities giving rise to resultant consciousness at the moment of rebirth in the present existence, as well as consciousness that follows rebirth consciousness (pavatti-viññāṇa). In the present verse, “bhava paccaya jāti” refers to the kammic causal process i.e. acts committed in the present existence give rise to rebirth in a future existence, i.e. resultant mental aggregate and kamma born corporeality arise in the future (this will become clearer later).
When we discussed “Dependent on volitional activities, consciousness arises,” we have seen how volitional activities become endowed with the requisite potentialities at the four stages (samaṅgītā) giving rise to consciousness (p 700 of the original text). That is the detailed explanation of how volitional activities, i.e. meritorious action and demeritorious action of the past, cause consciousness at the moment of the conception and the developed consciousness that immediately follow it. The same kammic process is at work again in the present existence. The acts committed in the present existence, both good and bad, acquire the ‘endowment’ at the four stages, giving rise to the resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality in the future existence. This process of present actions that condition future rebirth is proclaimed by the Buddha as “bhava paccaya jāti” (This is stating the cause-effect relationship in strictly Abhidhamma terms)
In the present verse, the poet describes this relationship in a mixture of Abhidhamma terms or ultimate usage with conventional usage for easier reading.
The gist of the verse:
Dependent on the actions committed in the present existence, both good and bad, all beings, at their death, are reborn according to these actions. Hence some are reborn in the Asaññasatta realm where the existence is characterized by the presence of only the aggregate of corporeality with no mental aggregates; some are reborn in the realms of existence with five aggregates such as the human world and the Fine Material world other than the Asaññasatta realm. Their rebirth is characterized by the moral order or the Law of Kamma (kamma-niyāma). The arising, at conception and at the latter stage, of resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality that are appropriate to the kammic causal process of each individual. This fresh arising of mind and matter is termed as jāti.
(From this point onwards, the term upapatti-bhava will be used for brevity’s sake, in describing “the resultant mental aggregates and kamma born corporeality.”)
When the arising of resultant mental aggregate, and kamma born corporeality takes place, i.e. when there occurs upapatti-bhava, there are, as a rule, three phases: the moment of their arising (upāda-khaṇa), the moment of their staying (thī-khaṇa), and the moment of their dissolution (bhaṅga-khaṇa). Of these phases, the first, upāda-khaṇa, is called jāti (rebirth); the second, thī-khaṇa, is called jarā (ageing); and the third, bhaṅga-khaṇa, is called maraṇa (death).
So it will be seen that dependent on kamma-bhava or kammic causal process, there is jāti which is the initial phase of upapatti-bhava. In other words, kamma-bhava conditions jāti. This is described in this verse as “the usual birth linking process of jāti.”
This jāti, the initial arising of mind and matter, occurs not only once at the moment of rebirth but occurs repeatedly so that the compounded phenomena of mind and matter (usually regarded as this body) develops into various shapes, forms and sizes according to one’s own kamma or kammic causal order. Thus, there appear in the world castes, such as the ruling caste, the brahmin caste, etc., and people who have power and influence, who are lowly, who are noble, who are wicked, who are virtuous, an infinite variety of personalities, an infinite variety of beings in the three spheres of existence.
All these varieties of beings are possible because there are four main categories of rebirth, namely:
i) rebirth beginning as an egg or “egg-born birth”,
ii) rebirth beginning as an embryo in the mother’s womb or “womb-born birth”,
iii) rebirth from moisturous matter, such as moss or lotus flower etc., (moisture-born birth),
iv) rebirth as an instant grown up, i.e. about an age of sixteen years for a female and twenty or twenty-five for a male (instant grown-up birth).
(Note that no two individuals are exactly alike in personality, not even off-spring of the same mother, some are superior, some inferior. This is due to the workings of the kammic causal process. The Buddha proclaims this in Uparipaṇṇāsa, Cūḷa Kamma Vibhaṅga Sutta wherein it is stated: “kamman satte vibhajati yadidam hīnapaṇītatāya–It is only kamma that conditions beings either to be inferior or superior.”)
(11) Jāti paccaya jarāmaraṇaṃ
Kamma-bhava conditions upapatti-bhava. The initial phase of the arising of upapattibhava is called jāti. After the initial phase of upāda-khaṇa there follows the developing stage (thī-khaṇa), which is ageing (jarā), and then it goes into dissolution at the third stage, bhaṅga-khaṇa, which is maraṇa (death). (This is the inexorable process of all mind and matter conditioned by kamma).
(Kamma-bhava conditions just the initial phase (upāda-khaṇa) of upapatti-bhava, but not the latter two phases of thi and bhaṅga-khanas. When jāti (upāda) arises, jarā (thī) and marana (bhaṅga) follow suit just as a rising tide brings water along with it.)
(Considering what has been said above, it should be carefully noted that jāti refers to the moments of the arising of the stream of the five aggregates; jarā refers to the moments of the ageing of these aggregates; and maraṇa refers to the moments of dissolution of these aggregates that take place in all the existences. This is stating about the conditioned phenomena as they truly happen.) The gist of this verse:
As rebirth takes place in a fresh existence, there arises the initial mind-matter complex which occurs in repeated succession, bringing about development of the five aggregates. Appearance of shapes and forms as deva or human or other types of various beings, let the worldling consider them as real beings or persons or individual entities.
Assuming a hundred years of life span for the present era, a person’s lifetime may be viewed as having three phases: the first phase of youth; the second phase of middle age; and the third phase of old age. Each phase lasting for thirty-three years and four months. Just as these three phases are the natural process of a human’s lifetime, the ceaseless occurrence of the aggregates in all the forms of existence are marked by the natural process of moments of arising, moments of ageing and moments of dissolution that rigorously follow each other. Ageing is of a self-consuming nature so that it is called “the fire of ageing”.
The fire of ageing is of two kinds: (i) Khaṇa-jarā: the moments of ageing of mind and matter; and (ii) Santati-jarā: the changing process such as the corporeality that has a cool character changing into the corporeality that has a hot character, and so on. Both these two kinds burn relentlessly in all sentient beings.
(It is an interesting question to ask: whereas all living beings are subject to the two kinds of fire of ageing, why is this fact not evident in young person whose hair does not turn grey, whose teeth do not fall off, or whose skin does not have wrinkles as is the case with elderly persons?)
The answer is that elderly persons show these signs of ageing, such as greying of hair, falling off of teeth, wrinkling skin, because they have sustained the relentless onslaught of ageing for so long.
This statement will be further substantiated thus:
Beginning from the moment of conception as an invisible embryo, corporeality that has arisen ages and dissolves. By the moment, the corporeality, that has arisen, reaches the stage of ageing, fresh corporeality arises and in turn ages to go into dissolution. Thus, the corporeality that ages later than its preceding one, that has gone into ageing naturally, is of a more mature ageing. It is succeeded by corporeality that rises and goes into ageing itself, whose ageing is yet of a more mature ageing than its predecessor. In this way, successive arisings of corporeality go into ageing with greater and greater maturity. When days come to pass and months and years of the ceaseless process of ageing takes place at every moment, after the life periods lapse, the signs of the matured ageing inevitably become visible: greying of hair, falling off of teeth, wrinkling of skin, etc. are more and more apparent.
Whereas the physical signs of ageing, such as greying of hair, falling off of teeth and wrinkling of skin are visible, i.e. cognizable by the eye, they are not ageing in its ultimate sense but merely scars of ageing. For ageing, in its ultimate sense (is not a physical phenomenon but is a mental phenomenon which), is cognizable by the mind only.
Let us take an analogy here: after a devastating flood, the roads, bridges, trees, grass, etc. are left in a visibly ravaged state. They are the signs of the flood that has taken place. One who has not seen the flood can know the intensity of the flood from the damage done by it. Likewise, the burnt up area of a fire accident testifies the scale of the fire that has caused it. Similarly, the fire of ageing has left its scars on the elderly person in a more pronounced manner. The workings of jarā should be perceived from the state of physical deterioration on a person.
(This is a profound matter. Only after some deep pondering could the phenomenon of ageing be understood. The reader is advised to read this repeatedly to gain insight into it.)
The two kinds of ageing, i.e. the moment of ageing and the changing process, are taking place relentlessly and due to their working life periods such as youth, middle age, old age; or a person as a ten year old, a twenty year old, or a thirty year old, etc. come to be called. All these changes in the life periods are taking place under the driving force of ageing.
The moment of ageing is immediately followed by the moment of dissolution so that each individual has myriads of moments of dissolution which is death taking place from moment to moment (khaṇika-maraṇa). However, conventional death only is understood by the average person, and the moment to moment deaths pass by unnoticed.
Death or dissolution, marana, is of three kinds: khaṇika-maraṇa, samuccheda-maraṇa
Khanika-maraṇa means the dissolution of conditioned mental and physical phenomena when they reach the moment of dissolution (i.e. third phase in the coming into being of mind and matter). A unit of mind and mental concomitants has an ephemeral existence which is characterized by three phases: the moment of arising, the moment of growth or ageing, and the moment of dissolution. The life of each unit of mind and mental concomitants, called “thought” (citta) lasts just these three fleeting moments, and each such unit is called one thought-moment (cittakkhaṇa).
Over one million million thought moments arise and vanish in a wink of an eye or in a flash of lightning. Of the twenty-eight types of corporeality, twenty-two of them (i.e. leaving aside the four corporeal types of salient features (lakkhaṇa) and two corporeal types of intimation (viññata)) have each a life of seventeen thought-moments. The two corporeal types of intimation arise together with a thought and cease together with mind. They are followers of mind. Of the four corporeal types of salient features, corporeality that arises at conception comprising corporeality which arises at the moment of conception (upacaya-rūpa) and corporeality which is the continued development of the corporeality which arose at conception (santati-rūpa), occurs only at the moment of arising and lasts only one thought-instant (i.e. a subdivision of one thought moment). The corporeality which arises at the stage of ageing and decay (jaratā-rūpa) lasts 49 thought-instants. The corporeality which arises at the stage of dissolution (aniccatā) lasts for just one thoughtinstant. Thus, a living being is subject to a million million times of dissolutions which are called khaṇika-maraṇa.
Samuccheda-maraṇa means complete cutting off of the process of rise and fall which is the end of all dukkha, that is the intrinsic nature of conditioned phenomena. It is attained only by an arahat. It is called “cutting off” because, after the death of an arahat which is the ultimate realizing of Nibbāna without leaving behind any substrate of existence, no fresh aggregates of mind and matter arise. Just like a flame that is exhausted, the woeful round of rebirth is totally destroyed. Hence the death of an arahat is called samucchedamaraṇa.
Sammuti-maraṇa means the conventional death of all living beings except the Buddha and arahats. It is the ceasing of one series of the life process that belongs to one existence, called the end of the life faculty (the term ‘dies’ or ‘death’ in the conventional sense is also applied to non-living things such as quick silver or iron or trees, etc. However, that does not concern our present discussion.). Sammuti-maraṇa is of four kinds:
(a) Death due to the end of life span whereas the kammic potential is still present, is āyukkhaya-maraṇa.
(b) Death due to the exhaustion or end of the kammic potential even though the life span is not ended yet, is kammakkhaya-maraṇa.
(c) Death due to the end of both (i) and (ii) above, is ubhayakkhaya-maraṇa.
(d) Death due to an abrupt intervention of some evil kamma, although the life span and the kammic potential above are still present, is upacchedaka-maraṇa.
The probability of death is ever present with all living beings regardless of realm or station in life. Any one of the four kinds of death may happen to a living being at any moment because there are all sorts of hazards that lurk around all of us. And, of course, when death claims anyone, there is no way of refusal or escape.
(Note carefully: Rebirth, ageing and death are like assassins that roam about the world, watching for an opportunity to strike any living being. To expand the example: let us say someone is under the vigilance of three enemies who are out to kill him. Between the three of them, the first murderer says to his accomplices: “Friends, I shall lure him into some jungle, after telling him about the attraction of the jungle. There is no problem for me to do that.” The second murderer says to the first accomplice: “Friend, after you have lured him into the jungle, I shall molest him and make him weak. There is no problem for me to do that.” And the third murderer says to the second accomplice, “Friend, after you have molested him and made him weak, let it be my duty to cut off his head with my sword.” Then the three accomplices carried out their plan successfully.
In the above simile, the moment when the first accomplice lures someone from amidst the circle of dear ones into any of the five new destinations is the work of jāti. The molestation and weakening of the victim, rendering him quite helpless by the second accomplice is the work of jarā. The cutting off head with the sword by the third accomplice is the work of maraṇa.
Or in another simile: Jāti is like someone taking a hazardous journey. Jarā is like the weakening of that traveller from starvation on the journey. Maraṇa is like the enfeebled traveller, alone and helpless, falling victim to the beasts of prey that infest the forest.)
(12) Soka parideva, dukkha domanasupāyāsā sambhavanti
Just as ageing and death must follow rebirth, so also when rebirth occurs in any of the four kinds of rebirth, the five kinds of loss occur as consequence, namely, (i) loss of relatives, (ii) loss of wealth, (iii) loss of health, (iv) loss of morality, (v) loss of right view. When any kind of these losses happen, there is much grief, lamentation, pain, distress of mind and anguish, which are the suffering in brief consequent to rebirth. There is of course untold misery that arises due to rebirth.
(13) Evame tassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandassa samudayo hoti.
In the long long course of saṃsāra, the truth that needs to be perceived is that, apart from mind and matter, there is, in reality, no person or being, no individual entity. It is a mere causal chain rooted in Ignorance, dependent on which twelve causal factors arise, ending up in death; and yet the occurrence of these twelve factors is considered by the worldling as deva or human (or brahmin), thus binding them to the chain of rebirth endlessly. The whole thing is just an unalloyed mass of recurrent dukkha. This is the stark truth about existence that is generally cherished as one’s ‘life’. (This verse being straight forward, is left unparaphrased by the author.)
This is the Doctrine of Dependent Origination.