week on the 8th waning day of Thadingyut when we gave the discourse
on the fourth part of the Sutta, we had dealt with the exposition on
the Truth of Suffering. Today, we will go on with the exposition of
the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. First, we shall go over again
the headings of the Four Truths:
As explained in
the fourth part of the discourse, after defining the Truth of Suffering
which he had personally discovered by penetrative insight, the Blessed
One went on giving the definition of the Truth of the Origin of Suffering.
"Bhikkhus, what I will presently teach is the Noble Truth concerning the origin of suffering or the Truth which Nobles Ones should know. There is this hunger, this craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth and is bound up with pleasure and attachment (or has the nature of pleasure and attachment); seeks delight, finds gratification now here, now there, everywhere. What is this tanhă (craving)? It is the three kinds, namely, kămatanhă (sensual craving, desire for enjoyment of sensuous pleasures), bhavatanhă (craving for eternal existence, holding the eternity belief), vibhavatanhă (craving for non-existence (self-annihilation)), believing that there is nothing after death. These three kinds of craving are the Truth of the Origin of Suffering."
The Truth of the Origin of Suffering, i.e. craving, is the causal agency responsible for all kinds of suffering, already explained, starting from the suffering of fresh becoming to suffering of the five aggregates of grasping. To eliminate suffering, it is essential to know the cause of suffering. It is like making a diagnosis to know the cause of an ailment so that it may be cured. The Blessed One had personally penetrated to this truth of the cause of suffering and had consequently entirely eradicated suffering by removing its cause. The samudaya saccă is nothing but tanhă, craving for hunger. It is like feeling thirsty or hungry. Tanhă is thirst or hunger for sense objects.
The craving for
sense objects gives rise to fresh becoming (ponobhavikă).
So long as one remains in the grip of this tanhă, continuous rebirths
will take place. We shall discuss how fresh rebirths take place later
in the discourse. This tanhă finds pleasure in sense objects
and clings to them. Like oil or dye solution remains absorbed on any
surface it happens to come into contact, tanhă is delighted
with seemingly pleasant sense objects and holds onto them tenaciously.
This tanhă finds gratification here, there, everywhere. There
is never any boredom or monotony in the pursuit of pleasure. Any seemingly
pleasurable sense object, wherever it presents itself gives delight.
Meanwhile, a young Naga female by the name of Sumana gave signal to other young Naga females to commence entertaining their new king. The young Naga females, assuming the appearance of beautiful devis and goddesses, started singing and dancing and playing various musical instruments. Seeing the beautiful goddesses entertaining him with song, dance and music, the Sampeya Naga king imagined his Naga abode to be the palace of the kind of the gods and felt very pleased. He also took on the appearance of a god himself and joined the female Nagas in their revelry with much delight.
However, being a Bodhisatta, he easily regained the sense of reality and resolved to be born again as a human being so that he could further promote his păramis, the virtuous qualities of alms-giving, keeping precepts, etc. In pursuance of this resolution, the Sampeya king later came to the human world and sought solitude in a forest, and kept observance of the moral precepts.
The point we wish
to make in this story of the Sampeya Naga king is that from the human
point of view, the body of a reptile is horrible, repulsive. At the
initial stage of the Naga life, the Bodhisatta also viewed his new
life with horror and revulsion, but the sight of the attractive female
Nagas brought about a change in his outlook, which kept him revelling
and delighting in the Naga existence as if it were the home of gods.
It is tanhă which seeks delight here, there, everywhere rebirth
takes place that made the Bodhisatta enjoy his Naga life after the
initial revulsion. There was also the wish he had made, while he was
a poor man in the human world, for the pleasurable life of a Naga
king. This wish or craving was also tanhă which landed him
in the realm of the Nagas, in accordance with the words of the Blessed
One: 'Ponobhavikă . . . gives rise to new birth'.
Much adored by the monarch and while still in the prime of her beauty and charm, Queen Upari went to the gods' abode. Now, 'to go to the abode of the celestial beings' is a Burmese cultural usage to denote the death of a royal personage. Likewise, 'flying back' means the passing away of a Buddhist monk, a mere cultural usage. A dead person finds rebirth in an existence as conditioned by kamma, the previous volitional activities. As it happened, Queen Upari, in spite of the saying according to the cultural usage that 'she had gone to the gods' abode', actually made her rebirth in the abode of the lowly beetles.
With the passing away of his adored queen, King Assaka was consumed by fiercely burning fires of sorrow and lamentation. He caused the corpse of the queen embalmed in oil, to be placed in a glass coffin and kept underneath his bedstead. Overwhelmed by grief, the king lay on the bed without food or sleep, wailing, moaning over the loss of his beloved queen. The royal relatives and his wise ministers tried to console him and give his solace by reminding him of the nature of impermanence and conditionality of existence, all to no avail. The corpse in the coffin, being embalmed in oil, would remain well-preserved just like being treated with chemical preservatives of modern times. The queen would therefore appear to the king as if she was lying, sleeping in the coffin. The sight of the corpse acted like fuel to his burning sorrows and lamentations which continued to consume him for seven days.
At that time, the Bodhisatta was a hermit, endowed with abhińńă (supernormal jhănic powers) living in the forest of the Himalayas. He happened to scan the whole world using his abhińńă and saw King Assaka in the throes of intense sorrow. He knew also that no one but himself could save the king from his misery. He then made his way to the royal garden of King Assaka by means of his jhănic powers.
There a young Brahmin came to meet the hermit who asked him about King Assaka. The young man told him how the king was being overwhelmed by grief and requested him to save the king. "We do not know the king, but if he came and asked us, we could tell him about his wife's presence existence", replied the hermit. Thereupon, the young man went to the king and said, "Great Sir, a hermit endowed with celestial eye and celestial ear has arrived in the royal garden. He claims he could show the present existence of the departed queen. It would be worthwhile to go and see him."
Upon hearing this, the king immediately took off for the royal garden in a carriage. On arrival, the king paid respectful homage to the hermit and addressed him, "Reverend Sir, is it true that you claim to know the present existence of the queen Upari?" When the hermit admitted his claim, the king wanted to know where she was reborn.
"Oh, great King, Queen Upari took delight in her beauteous appearance and was very vain about it. She had spent her time engaged only in beautifying herself to make herself more alluringly attractive, forgetting all the while to perform meritorious deeds, to give alms and observe moral precepts. As a result, she has passed over to a lowly existence. She is presently reborn as a female cow dung beetle in this very garden," the hermit told the whole story very frankly.
Persons favoured by fortune enjoying privileges of wealth, family, education, rank, physical beauty, etc., are prone to exhibit haughtiness in their dealings with others. Shrouded in their own vanity and self-esteem, they become neglectful in their performance of meritorious deeds. Humility plays no part in their make-up. The Blessed One had taught in the Culakammavibhaďga Sutta that such vain, glorious, haughty persons are liable to land up in lowly inferior rebirths. On the other hand, unpretentious persons who show humility and pay reverential respects to those deserving of homage will be reborn in noble families.
Queen Upari of our story was extremely beautiful and, being the chief queen of the ruling monarch, was of very high status in life. She had her head turned by these pre-eminent qualities and looked down with contempt on those she should have shown her respects. For such unwholesome attitudes and actions, it may be presumed she was reborn a lowly, female cow dung beetle. On hearing this account of the rebirth of his beloved queen, King Assaka promptly rejected it, saying "I don't believe it."
The hermit replied, "I can show you the female beetle and make her talk, too." The king replied, "All right. Please do and make her talk, too." The hermit, using his supernatural powers of abhińńă made a vow for both the male and female beetles to make their appearance before the king.
When the male and female beetles emerged from the heap of cow dung into the presence of the king, the hermit said, "Oh King, the female beetle which is following from behind was your chief queen Upari devi. Having abandoned you, she is now trailing the male cow dung beetle wherever it goes. Oh King, have a good look at the female beetle who was lately your chief queen Upari."
The king refused to believe the hermit. "I can't believe that such an intelligent being as my queen Upari was reborn as this female beetle," said the king.
True, for those who do not quite believe in the laws of kamma and its resultant effect, who do not understand the principles of conditionality or causal relationship as explained in Paticca Samuppăda, it would be difficult to accept that a being of the human world should have gone down so low as to become a mere beetle. Even in these days of sasană when the Buddha's teachings are widely prevalent, there are some people holding the view that 'when man dies, he cannot descend into an existence inferior to that of a human being'. So it is not surprising that during the dark ages when the Buddha's dispensation was yet unheard of, such stories of reincarnation were received with scepticism.
Nevertheless, according to the teachings of the Buddha, for so long as one has not yet attained the status of an ariya, one can descend from the human world or the celestial realm into the four lower states of existence. Conditioned by bad kamma and the mental reflex just before death, rebirth may take place in the lower order of beings. On the other hand, conditioned by good kamma and wholesome mental attitude on the threshold of death, ascent may be made from an inferior sphere of existence into the higher realm of human and celestial beings.
There is the story of a Bhikkhu named Reverend Tissa who developed attachment to his saffron robes when he was about to die. As a consequence, he was reborn a body louse making his home on those very robes. There is another story of a frog who met its death while listening to a discourse by the Buddha. He became a celestial being in Tavatimsa celestial abode. These are examples which serve as evidence of various transformations at the time of rebirths.
However, King Assaka, not having heard of such discourses, could not accept that his queen had become a female beetle. Accordingly, he refused to believe it. The hermit, therefore, proposed that he would make the female beetle talk. The king accepted the proposal. Thereupon, the hermit made the vow using his supernatural powers to have the conversation between him and the female beetle, comprehensible to the king and his audience.
"Who were you in your past life?" the hermit asked.
"I was the chief queen Upari of King Assaka," replied the female beetle.
"What now, female beetle, do you still love King Assaka or do you love only this cow dung beetle?"
To which the female beetle gave the reply: "True, King Assaka was my husband in my past life. At that time, I used to roam about in this garden in the company of King Assaka, enjoying the five sense-pleasures of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. But, now that I am in the new existence, I have nothing to do with King Assaka."
The commentarial version of the female beetle's reply is as follows: 'In my present existence, I could relish killing King Assaka and with the blood from his throat, wash the feet of the cow dung beetle who is my present beloved husband." This commentarial exposition makes the beetle's reply sound very harsh and unfeeling, but as she was talking in the presence of her dear husband, the male beetle, it is natural that she wanted to please him. We can easily see in everyday life many conspicuous examples of estrangement between ex-husbands and wives, who get separated not through death but in this very life on grounds of incompatibility, and examples of loving tenderness heaped on their new partners in life. The remarks in the commentary appears, therefore, to be quite in order.
The Jătaka Păli
texts describe the female beetle's reply thus: 'Reverend Sir, I who
had loved King Assaka had roamed about in this garden many a time
together with King Assaka who had loved me and who was my beloved
husband then, enjoying each other's company. But now, the joys and
troubles of the present new life have obscured, covered up the joys
and troubles of the old life. The new joys and troubles have transcended
the old joys and troubles. I love my present husband, the male cow
dung beetle, more than I did King Assaka."
King Assaka was greatly distressed to hear the harsh, unfeeling words of estrangement from the lips of the female beetle. He thought to himself: 'I had loved and adored her so much. I could not betake myself to throw away her dead body. Yet she had become so antipathetic and nasty to me.'
He felt so disgusted with his old queen Upari that he ordered, even while sitting there, "Go and have that woman's body removed." Then, having bathed and washed himself, the king went back to the palace. He made another court lady his chief queen and carried on ruling over his country wisely. The hermit, Bodhisatta, after giving good advice to the king, went back to the Himalayan sanctuary.
The moral from this story is that queen Upari, while in the human world, had taken delight in being a human person, and a queen at that. She would never have even dreamt of being reborn a female beetle. But in accordance with her past kamma, when she was reborn a female beetle, she at once took to the life and delight in the physical body of a beetle. She esteemed and adored the physical body of the male beetle hundred times, thousand times more than that of King Assaka.
That she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle is due to tanhă (craving) which finds delight everywhere. That is why the Buddha had said, "Tatra tatră-bhinandini" - tanhă has the tendency to delight wherever it finds rebirth.
Reborn as a dog,
it takes delight in a dog's existence; reborn as a pig, as a fowl,
there is always delight in each existence. Even having been born as
children of affluent parents of upper social class, there are cases
of them sinking down to poverty-stricken existences and yet enjoying
their lives therein. Some of them even resisted the efforts of their
parents to take them back into the fold of the family since they are
finding their new life quite enjoyable. It is tanhă again
which is giving them pleasure wherever they are, delighting in whatever
sense object presents itself.
Thus, when a person is about to die, one or the other of these meritorious or demeritorious kammas may present itself before his mind's eyes. Or, it may be a kamma-nimitta, a symbol of the kamma (which is any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which had obtained at the time of the commission of that kamma). Or, gati-nimitta, a sign of destiny, that is a sign of the next existence where he is destined to open his new life in consequence of the said kamma. The kamma, kamma-nimitta or gati-nimitta which presents itself to the dying person is tenaciously grasped at because of tanhă and cannot be dispelled from his mind. Just like the shadows of a mountain thrown by the evening sun falls on the surface of the land and covering it, so also these sense-objects of kamma, kamma-nimitta or gati-nimitta which present themselves at the sense-doors completely occupy his mind. These sense-objects are tenaciously held by the maranasańńă-javana, otherwise called abhisaďkhăra vińńăna.
In accordance with the Teaching, kammam khettan, vińńănam bijan, tanhă sincho' of Angutara Păli Canon, Tika Nipăta, for the appearance of patisandhi vińńăna (birth-consciousness) of new becoming, meritorious or demeritorious kamma serves as a field in which it may grow. Abhisaďkhăra vińńăna serves as the seed for the growth of the patisandhi vińńăna, and tanhă, which delights in every sense-object in every existence, may be likened to the moisture or water element (which promotes its growth). Here, abhisaďkhăra vińńăna (that conditions new becoming) is, according to the commentary, consciousness accompanying the volitional kamma, cetana. In the same way it arises together with the first volitional kamma, so also it accompanies the later kamma activities and as such, consciousness which appears later should also be designated abhisaďkhăra vińńăna. Particularly, maranasańńă javana consciousness which takes as its object kamma, kamma-nimitta and gati-nimitta should be called the abhisaďkhăra vińńăna because it is from this maranasańńă javana consciousness that patisandhi vińńăna arises. In addition, in the same way a seed germinates only when it comes into contact with water element, moisture, the seed of consciousness receiving support and encouragement by tanhă which accompanies or precedes it in close proximity, tenaciously holds onto kamma, kamma-nimitta or gati nimitta as its object and gives rise to patisandhi vińńăna.
after the dissolution of the death-moment, aggregates of rupa,
năma, patisandhi citta, the birth consciousness, holding onto
the kamma, kamma-nimitta or gati-nimitta as its object, arises
at a new site in a new existence complete with its physical base upon
which it depends. With each consciousness arise also its mental concomitants,
cetasikas. The patisandhi vińńăna, the re-linking
consciousness is followed by bhavanga consciousness, the
life-continuum, which goes on continuously throughout life as prescribed
by one's own kammic energy. The arising of new existence is brought
about by two factors: one's own kamma and tanhă.
Without tanhă, however, kamma by itself cannot bring about
Therefore, tanhă forms the root cause of fresh becoming. For this reason, the Blessed One had pin-pointed tanhă to be the cause of new existence . . . ponobhavikă. These are the words which the Blessed One had used in the very first discourse to teach the existence of after-life. In spite of this clear teaching, there is a group of people who maintain that 'the Blessed One taught only about the present existence. He did not touch on future life.' We could not be sure whether these people were attempting to associate the Buddha's teaching with uccheda vada, the theory of annihilation, a very misguided effort we must say! In reality, however, so long as tanhă endures, through failure to develop the Eightfold Path, or even if developing, not being fully advanced in accomplishment, so long this tanhă will continue to serve as the cause for fresh existence.
When the Eightfold Path has been fully accomplished and arahatta path and fruition attained, tanhă will be completed eradicated and there will be no more rebirth. Thus, when exercising retrospection on attainment of enlightenment as a Buddha or an Arahat, the thought always occurs to the Noble Ones: 'Ayaő antima jăti, natthi dani ponabhavoti ... This is the last existence. There is no more rebirth.' This reflection is also included in the later section of the Dhammacakka Sutta. Such reflections make it obvious that unless tanhă is completely rooted out, continuous fresh existences, new becomings are inevitable.
How this tanhă
brings on repeated rebirths will now be illustrated by a few stories.
There are thousands of stories illustrating this fact, but it will
suffice by taking three stories from the Păli commentaries and four
or five from the modern period.
The Blessed One pointed out the young female pig to Ŕnandă and said, "See that young female pig? She was a young woman in human existence during the dispensation of Kakusanda Buddha. When she died, she was reborn a hen in the neighbourhood of a monastic feeding hall. The small hen fell victim to an eagle. But earlier she happened to have heard the recitation by a yogi Buddhist monk of a meditation subject which aroused in her wholesome thoughts. By virtue of these merits, the small hen was reborn as a princess named Ubbari in a royal family. The princess Ubbari later left the household life and became a wandering mendicant. Residing in the mendicants' residence she happened one day to gaze at the maggots in the latrine. The worms served as an object for meditation (contemplation of ugliness of worm-infested corpse or contemplation of a white object) by which she attained the first jhăna. When she passed away, she was reborn a Brahma in the first jhănic Brahma world. On expiry from the Brahma world, she became the daughter of a rich man in the human world which she left again only to be born a pig now. I saw all these events which made me smile."
On hearing this story of repeated births in various existences, Venerable Ŕnandă and other monks became greatly alarmed and agitated with religious emotion. The Blessed One stopped going on alms-round and while still standing on the roadway, started teaching the dhamma in six verses, the first one of which stated:
'If the main roots of a tree remain undamaged and in good condition, even when the upper branches are cut off that tree will grow again developing new buds and shoots. Likewise, if there remains defilements (lying dormant) which are not yet eradicated by ariya magga, this suffering of rebirth will arise time and again successively.'
What is conveyed by this verse is this: 'During her existence as princess Ubbari, she renounced the world to become a wanderer. By practising meditation, she attained the first jhăna which could dispel or put away by vikkhambhana pahăna (elimination by discarding) only the defilements of pariyutthana class, i.e. craving for sensual pleasure which appears as sensuous thoughts at the mind's door. By means of vikkhambhana pahăna, jhăna can put away the defilements only to a certain distance for a certain period of time. Thus, she was able to dispel the craving for sensual pleasure when she attained the first jhăna and later in the Brahma world. But when she was born again in the human world as the daughter of a wealthy man, the craving for sensual pleasure reappeared because it had not been rooted out by the ariya magga. The bhava tanhă (craving for existence), of course, persisted even when she had attained the jhăna. Because the latent defilements had not been completely uprooted, she had to descend from the Brahma world, through the human world, into a pig's existence. So long as the craving persists, repeated rebirths will take place in this way in various existences.'
In reference to this story of descent from the Brahma world to a pig's existence, ancient Sayadaws had left an aphorism, 'In Brahma land, she shines bright; in pig's pen, too, she finds delight'. But it is not possible to be reborn as a pig straight from the Brahma world, nor as any other animal nor in the realms of petas (starving ghosts) nor in the states of misery. By virtue of the upacăra bhăvană, the access meditation, proximate to the jhăna previously attained, rebirth can take place only as a human being or in the celestial abode. The young female pig of the above story also passed through human life where she was born as the daughter of a wealthy man. It is quite possible that she landed in a pig's existence after being the daughter of a wealthy man because of the bad kamma she had committed then, in being haughty and insolent to those she should have shown respect.
When the young female pig died, she was reborn in a royal family of Suvannabhumi, which is generally taken to be the country of Thaton. Some scholars, however, take Suvannabhumi to be the Sumatra island, relying on the bronze inscriptions made by the King Devapala about 1500 Buddhist era.
From being a princess of Suvannabhumi, she passed over to Varanasi, India, as a woman. She then became a woman in Varănasi, in south-east of Bombay. From there, she was reborn the daughter of a horse-merchant in the seaport town of Supparaka, north-west of Bombay. Next, she became the daughter of a shipowner at the port of Kavira in the south-easternmost part of the Indian peninsular. This is the coastal district inhabited by the Tamil people, formerly called Damila. After that life, she was reborn in the family of a government official at Anuradha or present day Sri Lanka. Her next life was as a daughter of a rich man, named Sumana from Bhokkanta, a village south of Anuradha. She took the same name as her father, Sumana. Later her father left that village and settled down in the Mahămuni village of the Dighavapi District. One day, a minister of the king Dutthagămini, named Lakundala Atimbara, happened to visit the Mahamuni village on a certain business. Upon seeing the young lady Sumana, he fell madly in love with her. He married her with great pomp and ceremony and carried her off to his village, Mahăpunna.
The Venerable Mahă Anuruddha, who resided at the monastery of Taungsun, happened to visit her village for alms-round. While waiting for offer of almsfood at the gate of Sumana's house, he saw Sumana and said to his monk followers: "Bhikkhus, how wonderful, what a marvel! The young female pig of the Blessed One's time is now the wife of the minister Lakundaka Atimbara."
On hearing this exclamation, Sumana, the wife of the minister, developed jatissara ńăna (knowledge of previous existences). With the help of this faculty, she recalled to her mind the previous existences she had passed through. In consequence, she became agitated with fear at the prospect of repeated births in the cycle of existences. Asking permission from her minister husband, she went to a bhikkhuni monastery and got herself ordained. After ordination, she listened to the discourse on Satipaööhăna Sutta at Tissa Mahă Vihăra monastery. Practising mindfulness meditation in accordance with the sutta, she became a sotapanna, well-established as a stream-winner in the first stage of the Path and Fruition. Then, when king Dutthagamini came on the throne, she went back to her native village, Bhokkanta, where at the Kalla Mahă Vihăra monastery she heard the discourse on Asivisopana Sutta which enabled her to attain the fourth stage of the Fruition and became an Arahat, completely free from influxes, passions.
Going over the thirteen existences of Sumana thoughtfully and mindfully, one could get aroused with religious emotion. When, as the young woman at the time of the Kakusanda Buddha died, she left behind her family, possessions and her own physical body. The bereft family and friends would have grieved over her death. She became a hen. What a frightful thought, a human being to be reborn a hen! That hen would have a family and friends, too. She met with a terrible death, from decapitation, when an eagle seized her and struck her fiercely with its beak. There is consolation, however, that she was reborn a princess for the merit accrued from having heard a discourse on meditation. The hen would not, of course, know anything of the dhamma, but as she had given devout attention to the discourse, certain merit would have accrued to her for which she was reborn a princess. Listening to a dhamma discourse is thus very beneficial and fruitful.
It is a matter for gratification that she became a Brahma after being a princess by virtue of her jhănic attainments. It is gratifying too that from the Brahma world she was reborn in the human world into a wealthy family. But it is very distressing to know that she left behind her family, friends and possessions reluctantly to be reborn a female pig. It is really frightful to think of descending to human plane from the Brahma world and to sink further still into animal kingdom as a pig. This should be enough to excite alarm and religious emotion because so long as the noble ariya magga has not been established, anyone is liable to find himself landed in lowly states of existence. It was with the intention of arousing religious emotions and exhorting the bhikkhus to take to dhamma in all earnestness that the Blessed One had told them the account of the female hen's succession of existences.
How the young female pig met her death was not mentioned in the texts, but it could be presumed that she was slaughtered by her breeder as in modern times. The young female pig must have had a family and friends which she left behind, causing grief to them. It was comforting that she was reborn afterwards as a human being in six places from Suvannabhómi to Anurădha. But in each of these existences, every time she departed from one life there must have been considerable suffering from sorrow, lamentation and grief for her and her dear ones. That she finally became Bhikkhuni Sumana Theri is the most heartening part of the story.
The cause of the succession of her existences departing from one life to be reborn in another is tanhă or samudaya saccă, the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. Other people who are not yet rid of tanhă will likewise go through the cycle of rebirths, dying from one life to be reborn in another. It is extremely important, therefore, to get established in the practice of the Noble Ariyan Path in order to eradicate tanhă, otherwise called the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. Sumana Theri first heard the discourse on Satipatthăna Sutta. Then she practised mindfulness in accordance with the Satipatthăna method which helped her attain the status of sotapanna (the stream-winner). Then, hearing the Asivisopana Sutta, she devoted herself more ardently to the practice and attained Arahatta Fruition to become a female Arahat. Tanhă, otherwise samudaya, was completely eradicated from her. Therefore, there would be no more rebirth for her and she would be enjoying peace after her parinibbana.
therefore, declared to her colleagues that she would fully pass away
(parinibbhuto) after the ayusaďkhăra, the vital
principle for her present existence had become exhausted. Thereupon,
her colleagues, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis requested of her the story
of her existences. "I was a human woman at the time of the Kakusanda
Buddha. When I died from there, I became a hen. I was killed by an
eagle which broke off my head and devoured me. Then I became a princess
in the human world . . ." she continued to recount her past existences
till the time of her final existence at Bhokkanta village. She concluded,
"Thus have I passed through thirteen existences encountering
the ups and downs, vicissitudes of life in each existence. In this
last existence, being wearied of the cycle of rebirths, I have become
an ordained bhikkhuni and finally attained Arahatship. I urge all
of you, my righteous bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, to put forth your endeavour
mindfully to become fully accomplished in sila, samădhi and pańńă."
Then she passed away, causing religious agitation in the minds of
her audience, consisting of men, women, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. This
story of the young female pig is fully described in the commentary
to the Dhammapada.
During the lifetime of the Buddha, a certain young man, having established faith in the dispensation of the Buddha, got himself ordained and stayed with his preceptor for five vassa periods. He performed all the major and minor incumbent duties for his upajjhăya and learnt thoroughly the two codes, dve matikă of Pătimokkha discipline for the bhikkhus. He also mastered the procedure for purifying himself from serious as well as trifling offences. Then, taking a meditation object of his choice, he departed to a solitary abode in the forest and devoted himself incessantly to the practice of meditation.
His efforts at meditation were very strenuous. Even at midnight, which the Blessed One had allowed as the time for rest and sleep, he continued with the practice. Thus striving day and night and getting enervated by lack of sufficient nourishing food, he was suddenly seized with a cutting pain, a paralytic stroke which ruptured the spinal nerve causing him instant death. He was meditating while walking and thus said to have passed away in the course of performing the duties of a bhikkhu.
According to the commentary, if any bhikkhu passes away while engaged in walking up and down the cloister walk or standing leaning against the leaning post, or sitting or lying down at the head of the cloister walk with the double robe on his head, he is said to 'die in harness'. A bhikkhu is also said to 'die in harness' if he passes away in the course of preaching a sermon, particularly on liberation from the chain of existences.
As the bhikkhu of our story was engaged in meditating while walking up and down the cloister walk, we could take it that he passed away while he was contemplating the năma, rupa of the body postures in accordance with the teaching in the Satipatthăna Sutta. Although he had put in a great deal of effort in the practice of meditation, he passed away without attaining the arahatta magga because he was not yet fully endowed with supporting acts of perfections (părămis) necessary for such attainments.
Complete eradication of tanhă is not possible unless arahatta magga has been attained. That this bhikkhu had not yet developed even up to the stage of the stream-winner will become clear later. Therefore, because of tanhă which can cause rebirth (ponobhavikă) he was reborn in the celestial abode of Tăvatiősă. A magnificent celestial palace awaited him in consequence of the merit he had acquired in the practice of meditation. By spontaneous rebirth, he appeared, as if just awakened from sleep, at the entrance of the palace, a celestial being resplendent in full celestial attire.
At that moment, about one thousand celestial princesses who had been awaiting the arrival of the master of the palace said, "Our Lord has arrived. Let us entertain him." They gathered around him, holding musical instruments in their hands to welcome him joyously. The deva lord of the palace, however, did not even realize that he had taken a new existence in a new world. He was under the impression that he was still a bhikkhu of the human world. On the sight of the celestial damsels, he took them to be female visitors to his monastery. He covered up his bare left shoulder with the upper garment and remained seated, his eyes lowered, assuming a very dignified and reserved pose.
Realizing at once that the new being must have been a bhikkhu in his previous existence, the celestial ladies addressed him, "My lord, this is the abode of the celestial beings. It is not the time to be observing the code of bhikkhu discipline. It is the occasion for enjoyment of celestial pleasures." But he continued maintaining solemn reserve and dignity. "This deva has not realized that he has become a celestial being in the realm of the devas. Let us drive home this fact to him by our welcoming revelries." So saying, the celestial damsels started playing the musical instruments accompanied by songs. The deva all the more tightened his retiring disposition, maintaining his dignified solemnity, thinking that the female visitors had come to his forest abode to abandon themselves to frivolous merriment.
Whereupon the celestial ladies brought out a body-length mirror and placed it in front of the deva. On seeing his reflection in the mirror, he finally realized that he had left the bhikkhu's existence and taken rebirth in the celestial land. The Samana deva was greatly perturbed then. He reflected: 'I did not take up meditation to be reborn in this celestial land. My object was to attain the most profitable goal of Arahatta fruition, but I am now like a boxer who entered the boxing competition aiming at the championship gold medal but was awarded only a bundle of turnips.'
Extremely agitated in mind, he thought: 'The celestial pleasures are easily attainable. The lifetime of an Enlightened One is a rare occasion. To hear the teaching of the Buddha and to attain the ariya magga is of utmost importance. By wallowing in the celestial pleasures, there is the danger of losing the opportunity of meeting the Buddha.' So without taking the trouble of entering the palatial building, he repaired hastily to the presence of the Buddha while the restraining sila he had observed as a bhikkhu still remained intact. His celestial damsels also accompanied him as they were anxious not to lose sight of him. On reaching the presence of the Buddha, he addressed him: "Most Venerable Blessed One. In what manner will it be possible to avoid and proceed along past the Nandavana garden otherwise known as the Mohana garden, the grove of stupidity because it serves to encourage foolish behaviour in the celestial beings who visit it, where thousands of female celestial beings indulge in singing and yodelling, where numerous demons, goblins and spirits haunt."
Here the deva referred to the celestial females as demons and goblins and to the Nandavana garden as the grove of stupidity because he was still in a repulsive mood towards sensual pleasures as a consequence of his intense efforts at Vipassană meditation. The commentary explanation of the deva's query as to 'how to proceed along' was that he was requesting the Blessed One for guidance on vipassana which provides access to the arahatta phala.
The Buddha reflected on all the circumstances concerning the deva and taught him the Noble Eightfold Path in three verses:
Here, we have given, for the benefit of the present audience, the explanatory meaning of the first line in the verse which just says 'the straight path is that path'. That bare translation would have been quite incomprehensible to this audience, but to the deva who looked as if he had come straight from the monastery, where he had devoted himself to meditation, the meaning was quite clear.
The commentary exposition is as follows: On giving meditation training to someone not yet established in sila, etc., the Blessed One always advised him, "Purity your sila (moral conduct), develop mindfulness and concentration, straighten out your views on kamma and its resultant effects," and directed the yogi to get firmly established in these fundamental practices initially. To one already engaged in meditation, he instructed him only in vipassană, the proximate to the arahatta magga. The deva was already practising meditation exercises and his sila remained unimpaired. It was only the ariya magga that he needed to accomplish, having already developed its precursor pubba magga vipassană Path. Thus, in order to instruct him in vipassană, the Blessed One taught him the three verses.
In this commentary
exposition, the fact of his sila remaining unimpaired even
after he had passed over from a bhikkhu's existence to that of a celestial
being, should be well-noted. It means that having not breached any
of the precepts such as killing, stealing, sexual relationships, etc.,
he still continued to maintain his sila. It should be understood,
therefore, that even without formal vow of keeping the precepts, sila
remains unimpaired if one abstains from evil deeds which one should
not commit. It should also be noted that these verses taught vipassană.
As to what type of vehicle should be employed to make the passage, the Blessed One said, "For a silent escape with no one becoming aware of it, you need a silent carriage which is the Vipassană two-wheeler fitted with two wheels of physical exertion and mental exertion."
The mental effort involved in noting every physical activity is known as cetasika viriya (mental exertion). When noting the bodily actions of going, standing, sitting, the physical effort required to maintain the body in respective postures is called kăyika viriya (physical exertion). Meditation while lying down involves only mental exertion, not physical exertion. Here, as the use of a two-wheeler with wheels of mental exertion and physical exertion was advised, it must be taken to mean the vipassană meditation which requires heedful noting of walking, standing and sitting. Thus, to ride on the grand carriage of the vipassană magga fitted with two wheels of physical exertion and mental exertion, we must be engaged in mindful noting while occasionally walking up and down. That is to say, we must note 'walking', 'raising', 'stepping forward', 'dropping' as prescribed in the discourse on Satipatthăna Sutta, namely, gacchanto vă gacchămiti pajănăti.
While striving thus, as the concentration gets strengthened, the yogi will come to distinguish with each noting, the rupa which causes stiffness and moves, from năma, the mental act of noting it. As the concentration still gets further strengthened, the yogi will come to distinguish the cause from the effect. He knows: 'Because of the intention to go, there appears the physical process of going, because there is the object to know, there is knowing. With further progress, the arising of such phenomenon for a moment . . . the intention to go, the physical process of going, the noting mind . . . followed by its dissolution is clearly perceived as if it is grasped in one's own hand. It is realized plainly then that what arises momentarily only to vanish soon is not permanent; that what arises and vanished incessantly is fearsome suffering. The yogi will also comprehend clearly that the phenomena are occurring of their own accord, following nobody's will and, therefore, anatta, not subjected to anyone's control. Then the heedful noting should continue while standing or sitting occasionally.
The silent carriage mentioned here is a reference to the horse-drawn vehicles of ancient days. Some carriages are by themselves noiseless, but when burdened with many passengers or heavy loads, are liable to produce creaky sound. However, the 'magga vehicle' is able to carry an unlimited number of passengers without producing any sound. Sometimes, while listening to the teachings of the Buddha, passengers numbering eighty-four thousand rode on this 'magga vehicle', piloted by 'vipassană magga' which transported them noiselessly to their final destination, Nibbăna. Thus this carriage was admired as a noiseless vehicle. Intimation was in this way given by the Buddha to the deva that it would be possible to make his silent escape, without letting the celestial females know, by means of this transport.
The meditating yogi feels repulsed and horrified at the possible arising of unwholesome thoughts concerning some objects which he may have missed in his heedful noting. It is like the revulsion one feels towards coming into with filth after having a nice, clean bath. The conscientious concern (solicitude) for non-arising of unwholesome thoughts and revulsion towards them is termed hiri or otherwise sense of shame. There is also fear of unwholesome thoughts leading to evil actions which will yield unwholesome resultant effects, and hinder escape from samsăra (the cycle of existences). This fear of evil deeds and its unwholesome consequences is termed ottappa.
Because of this sense of shame (hiri) and fear of evil deeds (ottappa), the yogi devotes himself in a reverential attitude to the task of noting every physical and mental phenomenon without missing any. In this way, magga path is kept developing with each passing moment. This is like the manner in which the leaning boards of the carriage prevent the passengers from falling backwards, maintaining them in their positions. That is the reason why the Blessed One had termed hiri and ottappa as the leaning boards of the vipassană magga vehicle.
Then the Blessed One went on to explain how the mindfulness is like the covering drapery or the awning of the magga vehicle. In the same way, the shielding awning fitted in a carriage guards against the danger of stones or sticks being thrown in. Mindfulness of every mental and physical phenomenon, as it arises, keeps oneself secure from the danger of demeritorious deeds. Therefore, the four foundations of mindfulness such as the contemplation of the body, etc., are termed the covering drapery of the magga vehicle.
The Blessed One
continued: "I call the right view pertaining to ariya magga
'ariya magga sammăditthi', preceded by vipassană sammăditthi
(the right view pertaining to vipassană) the driver of the carriage."
The last verse runs as follows:
In accordance with this last verse, the owner of the eightfold magga vehicle, irrespective of sex, is definitely bound to 'reach' Nibbăna. So it is very clear that anyone desirous of reaching Nibbăna must develop ariya magga based on the vipassană magga.
It is common knowledge that in this mundane world, the owner of some form of transport is able to reach the required destination by using it. However, just having the knowledge of the mechanism of the transport without actually possessing it will not get anyone anywhere. Likewise, by just knowing how to enumerate the various types of rupas and nămas, or the different kinds of maggas, no one can reach Nibbăna. It must be definitely noted that only by coming into possession of the vipassană magga vehicle through contemplation of the actual arising and dissolution of năma and rupa and riding on the carriage of the Eightfold Path, one can reach Nibbăna. The three verses explained above are summarised as follows:
After teaching the three verses, the Buddha also gave the discourse on the Four Noble Truths which we shall discuss again when we come to the section on the Truth of the path, magga saccă.
The deva Sumana, while listening to the discourse, reflected on the meditation practices of his former existence. Although he had not been able to attain to higher knowledge as a bhikkhu in spite of strenuous efforts at meditation, in the existence of a deva whose physical body was free from impurities, in no time he was able to develop successive vipassană ńănas step by step until he attained the Path and Fruition of the first stage and realized Nibbăna, thus becoming a sotapanna (stream-winner).
The main point which this story of Sumana deva has brought home is that although the bhikkhu had been engaged ardently in vipassana meditation, as ariya magga, which could cut off the tanhă had not yet been attained, this tanhă, otherwise called samudaya saccă, had after death caused rebirth in the new existence of a celestial being. The story also pointed out how ariya magga could be developed and how as a deva higher knowledge could be attained with ease.
Another point brought out in the story is that if attachment lingers on in an individual or an object, bhava tanhă (craving for existence) is likely to cause rebirth in the vicinity of such a person or object. How attachment to an object will lead to renewed existence in close proximity to it is borne out by the well-known story of Bhikkhu Tissa who died with great craving for his robes and consequently was reborn in the form of a body louse on those very robes.
Now we shall deal
with the account of how attachment to one's wife had caused rebirth
as a snake, a dog and a cattle.
When the husband came back from work in the forest, the wife made a show of loving affection for him and fondly brushing his hair said, "Your hair needs cleaning, it is too dirty. Why not go and shampoo it at the riverside near the big caper tree?" Happy with the thought 'my wife is very tender with her affections for me', he went accordingly to the bathing place at the riverside. He was preparing to wash his hair, bending his head down, when his younger brother came out from the hiding place and cruelly chopped his head off with the axe.
Because of the clinging attachment to his wife, he was reborn a green snake (rat snake according to Sri Lankan scholars). Still attached to his wife, the snake took to dropping himself down from the roof of the house upon the woman. Realizing that the snake must have been her former husband, she caused it to be killed and removed. Even after passing away from the snake's existence, his attachment for his former wife still remained strong and he was reborn a dog in his old house. As a dog it was still clinging to his former wife, following her everywhere even when she went to the forest. People made derisive remarks, 'The hunter woman with the dog is going out. Wonder where she is headed for?' The woman asked her lover again to kill the dog.
His attachment, still intense and persisting, the dog was reborn a calf in the same house. The young calf also followed her everywhere, drawing laughter and ridicule from the people again, 'Look, the cowherd has come out. Wonder which pasture her cattle are going to graze in?" Again the woman asked her man to kill the young calf, but his tenacious attachment to his wife caused rebirth again, this time in the womb of herself.
In the human world which he regained, he was born endowed with jătissara ńăna (faculty of recalling previous existences). Exercising this faculty, he went over the past four existences and was greatly distressed when he came to know that they were all terminated at the insistence of his former wife. "What an irony to have taken rebirth in the womb of such an enemy," he lamented.
He would not let his mother, the enemy, touch him. Whenever the mother tried to hold him, the baby cried vociferously. So the grandfather had to take over the task of bringing up the child. When the child reached the age when he could speak, the grandfather asked him, "My dear child, why do you cry when your mother tries to hold you?" "This woman is no mother to me. She is my enemy who killed me in four successive existences." So saying, he recounted to his grandfather the story of his previous lives. On hearing this sad tale, the old man wept embracing the child and said, "Come, my poor grandchild, let us get away. I see no gain in staying here." They went away and stayed in a monastery where both of them received ordination and in time, through practice of meditation, were able to attain arahatta path and fruition and gained Arahatship.
The moral to be drawn from this episode is that attachment gives rise to repeated new existence at the very location of that attachment. This story clearly bears out the truth of the teaching, ponobhavikă, 'attachment brings about fresh existences'. After the existences of a snake, a dog, a calf, and meeting violent death in each, in the last life of a human being when he attained Arahatship, the tanhă was completely extinguished. There would be no more rebirth for him and he would be free from all forms of suffering.
It would be well
to take to heart the moral of this story and strive for freedom from
all suffering through the practice of vipassana meditation. There
would be no end of quoting similar stories from the Păli texts and
commentaries. Let us now come to the experiences and episodes met
with in modern times.
"This life of mine is transitory, but my death is truly permanent. I must die inevitably. My life will end only in death. Life alone is impermanent; death, on the other hand, is definitely stable, permanent."
This contemplation on death was used as the theme of his sermon. We were present on the occasion of that ceremony and had heard his sermon personally. Within a few days after this event, we heard the sad news of the demise of the dhamma-preaching Sayădaw. We had thought then that he would have passed away contemplating on death as he had preached only a few days ago. We heard that the Sayădaw had met a violent death at the hands of assassins who had stabbed him with a dagger.
About three years later, a certain young boy from Mergui came to Moulmein accompanied by his parents. He had been worrying his parents, asking them to take him to Moulmein. On arriving at the monastery of the former Sayădaw, the boy informed his parents that in his previous existence he was the presiding Sayădaw of that monastery. He could tell every thing about the monastery and whatever he said was found to be true. He remembered all the leading monks from the nearby monasteries and addressed them by names he had used to call them previously.
When he was asked by mentioning the name about a certain man, who was a close disciple of the late Sayădaw, the boy replied, "Afraid, afraid." When questioned what he was afraid of, he recounted how that man in association with some persons had stabbed him to death, how he had run away from them, and coming to the river bank and finding a boat, he made his escape riding on the boat. Later, arriving at the village on the Mergui coast, he said he entered the house of his present parents.
The visions he
saw of how he had fled from his assassins, how he found a boat on
the river bank, how he took a ride on it and came to the house of
his parents, were all gati nimittas (signs of destiny) which
had appeared to him at the approach of death. This is also a notable
incident which confirms the fact that attachment brings forth new
Soon after, the moneylender passed away. And there was born in the house of the farmer, who had made a double payment of his loan, a young buffalo. Guessing that the moneylender had made a rebirth in his house as a buffalo, the poor farmer called out to the young buffalo, "Sayă, Sayă, please come,' in the same way he used to address the old moneylender. The young buffalo answered his call and came to him. Believing now that the old moneylender had really become a buffalo in his house according to his oath, the farmer started to talk about this incident. Thereupon, the daughter of the departed moneylender went to court suing the poor farmer for defaming her father.
The judge who heard the case sent for the appellant, the defendant and the young buffalo together with witnesses for both sides. In the court, the farmer called out 'Saya, Saya, please come' to the buffalo in the same way he used to address the moneylender. The buffalo responded to his call by coming to him. The moneylender's daughter used to address her father as 'Shi, Shi'. In the court when she said 'Shi, Shi', the buffalo went to her. The judge came to the conclusion that the poor farmer was making an honest statement (without any intention of defamation) and accordingly discharged the case.
From this story
it is not hard to believe that a human being may be reborn a buffalo.
It is plain, therefore, that tanhă will cause rebirth. It
should be observed also that swearing a false oath is liable to land
one in dire calamity.
The poor cock died afterwards and took conception in the womb of the cow. When the calf had grown up considerably, it was bought for four kyats by his friends for a feast which Nga Nyo would also join. While they were butchering the calf and cutting up the meat in preparation for their feast, a couple from Taungdwingyi, a clerk and his wife, happened to arrive on the scene. Expressing her sympathy for the calf, the clerk's wife said, "If it were my calf, I wouldn't have treated it so cruelly. Even if it had died a natural death, I wouldn't have the heart to eat its flesh. I would just bury it."
Sometime afterwards, a son was born to the clerk's wife. The child remained without speech till he was seven when, one day his father told him, "Son, do utter some words and talk to us. Today is pay day. I'll buy and bring back some nice clothes for you." Keeping his promise, the father came back in the evening with some pretty garments for his son. He said, "Here, Son, these beautiful clothes are for you. Do speak to us now." The boy then uttered, "Nga Nyo's measure of rice."
The father said, "Son, just talk to us. Not only a measure, but a whole bag of rice we will pay back the loan for you." Thereupon the boy said, "If so, put the bag of rice on the cart. We will go now to settle my debt." After putting a bag of rice on the cart, they set off on their journey. The father asked the son, "Now, where to?" The child directed his father to drive towards the north of Taungdwingyi. Eventually they came to Chaungyo village when the son said, "That's it. That's the village," and kept directing his father through the village lanes until they came to Nga Nyo's house. Upon enquiring whether it was indeed U Nyo's house, U Nyo himself confirmed it by coming out from the house. As he approached the cart, the child hailed him, "Hey Nga Nyo, do you still remember me?" The elderly man was offended to be rudely addressed as 'Nga Nyo' by a mere child, the age of his son, but became pacified when the clerk explained, saying, "Please do not be offended, U Nyo. This child is under some strange circumstances."
When they got into the house, the boy began, "So, Nga Nyo, you don't remember me? We were once together going round the villages selling betel leaves. I borrowed a small measure of rice from you. Then I was bitten by a poisonous snake and died before I could return the loan. I then became a cockerel in your house. After winning three fights for you, I lost the fourth fight because my opponent was much stronger than I was. For losing that fight, you beat me to death in anger. Half dead, you threw me down near the water pot and a cow came and kissed me. I took conception in her womb and was reborn a cow. When I became a heifer, you all killed me to eat. At that time a clerk and his wife, who are now my father and mother, came nearby and had expressed sympathy for me. After my death as a cow, I was born as a son to my present father and mother. I have now come to repay my debt of the measure of rice."
All that the child recounted were found to be true by U Nyo who wept, feeling repentant for all the ill-treatment he had meted out to his former friend.
With this story
we want to stress again that unless tanhă has been rooted
out, repeated rebirths in new existences are unavoidable.
One of his colleagues was curious and asked him about his previous lives. He recounted thus, "I passed away from human life to become a female demon. I suffered terribly in that life, having scarcely anything to eat, no decent place to live in, roaming here and there to look for a resting place. From a female demon, I became a draught cattle. I was herded in the same pen with a team mate, whose nostrils were running with putrid nasal fluid. As its nasal smell was becoming unbearable, I goaded it to keep it away from me and the owner beat me up thinking I was bullying the other cattle, domineering over it. When I passed away from that existence, I regained human life and becoming agitated with religious emotion, have now taken to the life of a bhikkhu."
This story also
serves to emphasise the fact that as long as tanhă persists,
rebirth is inevitable. It also shows what a horrible life is that
of demon and how, handicapped by the inability to communicate, a cattle
is liable to be misunderstood by man and could be subjected to maltreatment
consequently. These accounts should serve to cause terror and incite
religious emotions in us.
This story should also cause the realization that with tanhă still lingering, fresh existence could arise and taking fright from this realization, one should develop ariya magga to rid oneself of tanhă. The reason why we bring out these evidential stories of modern times is because there are some people who maintain that there is no such thing as afterlife. Some are undecided and perplexed, not being able to conclude whether there is afterlife or not. In spite of clear accounts of renewed existences in the scriptural literature, many are sceptical of what was written of ancient times. In order to provoke faith in kamma and its resultant effects and belief in afterlife and to remain steady with such conviction, we have brought out these stories. Similar stories abound, which we can produce, but enough has been said to accomplish our aim.
As stated above,
because tanhă can cause rebirths, the Blessed One had taught,
"This hunger, this thirst, the craving gives rise to fresh rebirth
and bound up with pleasure and lust, finds even fresh delight now
here, now there." He also gave the enunciation of this tanhă.
What is this craving? Firstly, there is this thirsting desire for
sensual pleasures. Secondly, there is attachment to the belief of
eternality. Thirdly, there is holding onto the view that there is
nothing after life. These three types of craving are the Truth of
the Origin of Suffering.
1 desire or craving for any pleasurable sense object is kăma tanhă.
Wishing to be born a human being, a celestial being, wishing to be born a man or a woman; longing to enjoy the sensual pleasures as a human being, as a celestial being, as a man or a woman - all these cravings are also kăma tanhă. Therefore, we say that taking delight in any pleasurable thought or object is kăma tanhă.
On seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching a sense object, if one considers it to be pleasant, a liking is at once developed for it. Thinking it to be pleasant amounts to avijjă, which covers up the true nature of the sense object and give rise to false views about it. Avijjă takes what is transitory to be permanent; what is suffering because of incessant arising and vanishing, to be pleasant; takes mere physical and mental phenomena which are not soul nor living entity as soul or living entity; considers one's own physical body or other people's body which are repulsive and disgusting as beauteous and pleasing.
what is unpleasant to be pleasant, liking is developed for it; and
liking it and desiring it lead to craving which drives one into activities
for the fulfilment of that craving. Such volitional activities are
the kammas and saďkhăras which are responsible for formation of new
aggregates of năma and rupa of the new existence.
As such, each instance of liking or desiring a sense object amounts
to venturing into a new round of becoming.
Religious faiths outside of the teachings of the Buddha mostly hold this view of eternalism. Some of them believe that, after death, man remains permanently in heaven or suffers eternal damnation in hell according to God's wish. Others take the view that a being migrates from one existence to another according to kamma and exists permanently. And again, others believe that a being exists eternally changing from one life to another on a prescribed set course.
In short, any belief that holds the view that 'soul or living entity moves on without dissolution to new existences' is sassata ditthi, wrong belief of eternalism. For instance, a bird on a tree flies away to another tree when the first tree falls. When the second tree falls, it flies to a third tree. Likewise, the soul or living entity, on the dissolution of a gross body or form on which it is dependent, moves on to another coarse body, itself remaining everlasting, cannot be destroyed.
Tanhă accompanied by the wrong view of eternalism is termed bhava tanhă (craving for existence). This tanhă takes delight in the view that the soul or living entity is permanent, enduring. This 'I', which has been in permanent existence since eternity, feels the sensations and will continue feeling them. Believing thus, it takes delight in every object seen, heard, touched or known and also in the objects which one hopes to come to enjoy in the future. It wishes to enjoy a prosperous happy life now and in the future, to be born in good, happy existences; wants to enjoy in the coming existences the rich life of human or celestial beings. Some wish to be born always a man, some a woman. All these are bhava tanhă.
Every time craving arises for sense objects which are presently available or for the existence one is in now, or in looking forward to the existence one wishes to be in, because of this tanhă, a conditioning influence or potential power is being built up for the arising of a new life. That is why the Buddha taught ponobhavikă . . . liable to give rise to new birth. We have summarised thus:
Craving for existence with the notion that it is eternal is bhava
An individual is made up of the four Great Primary elements. When he dies, the earth element of his body goes into the mass of the earth element that exists in the inanimate external bodies. (What it means is: The element of earth which had manifested itself as hardness or coarseness while in the living body, merges itself with the inanimate external earth element, the earth element of the dead body. In time, it turns into material earth (pathavi rupa) which is again converted into earth element of trees and plants, etc.)
The water element of the living body flows into the inanimate mass of water (that is to say the wetness or fluidity of the dead becomes the moisture or fluidity of the mass of water).
The fire element of the living body merges with the mass of inanimate external heat and the living air element flows into the mass of inanimate external air. All knowing faculties (organs of senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, etc.) move over into space (Nihilists holding the uccheda view do not recognise separate existence of eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc. They hold the view that the material forms of the eye, ear, etc., themselves see, hear, taste, touch, etc. Mana, otherwise called the indriya, itself thinks. They explained the cessation of consciousness in terms of the six faculties of sense which, according to them, merge with space or disappear into space. . .)
Be he a fool or a wise man, when he dies he completely disappears. Nothing is left after death. The fool does not suffer in a new existence for his past misdeeds. The wise man does not get a new existence in which he enjoys the fruits of his good kammas. After death everything disappears.
This is then some of the teachings of Ajita who holds the view of nihilism. This ideology may be readily accepted by those who are reluctant to avoid evil or to do good. As it is postulated by this ideology that there is no life, nothing exists after death, it amounts to the admission that there is life before death. This question may arise then: What is that that exists before death? The answer according to their line of reasoning could only be that it is the living self (atta) or being (satta). Thus, although Ajita maintained that an individual is made up of the four great primaries, it must be said that for him, atta or satta exists. Because of this attachment to self, holders of this view argue that instead of wasting time in doing good deeds for the forthcoming existences, full opportunity should be taken of the present moment for the enjoyment of pleasures. The craving accompanied by this nihilistic view that nothing remains after death, everything is destroyed, is termed vibhava tanhă. To summarise:
3 Craving which arises accompanied by nihilistic view is vibhava tanhă.
This vibhava tanhă likes the idea that after death, existence is annihilated without any special effort. The reason is that one who holds this view shrinks from the practice of meritorious deeds and does not abstain from doing evil deeds. The evil deeds committed are also innumerable. If new life occurs after death, these evil deeds will bear unwholesome fruits which, of course, they cannot relish. Only if nothing happens after death and there is no new existence, their misdeeds will be expunged; they will have to bear no responsibility for them and escape scot free from all consequences of their evil actions. Hence, this great appeal for this nihilistic ideology.
At the same time, holding that the time for enjoying is now, the present life before death, they are too eager to go after any desirable objects of pleasure. Consequently, they go all out in the pursuit of what they consider to be pleasurable. This ardent pursuit of pleasure leads to commission of kammas and sankhăras, every act of which contributes to the formation of new life.
And every time there is delight in, and enjoyment of pleasures of the present life, impulse of this tanhă is imparted to the stream of consciousness, life-continuum. Consequently, javana consciousness, proximate to death, otherwise called the abhisaďkhăra vińńăna, holds on to the death signs, namely, kamma, kamma nimitta and gati nimitta. While holding on to these objects, when death comes with death consciousness, rebirth consciousness arises for a new existence conditioned by any of the three signs. Thus, the man afflicted with uccheda ditthi is reborn, whether he likes it or not, in a new existence, because of his tanhă, craving for pleasurable objects. And his new existences is very likely to be in inferior and miserable states because he had developed nothing but evil deeds previously.
The Buddha had taught, therefore, that this type of tanhă, namely, vibhava tanhă, also gives rise to new existence, ponobhavikă. Thus all the three types of craving, kăma tanhă, bhava tanhă and vibhava tanhă lead to new life and suffering. Therefore, we have summarised:
4 True cause of suffering lies in the three tanhăs.
The abovementioned three tanhăs are the origin of sufferings starting from jăti (birth) to upădănakkhandhă (the groups of grasping) and are, therefore, termed samudaya saccă, the Truth of the Origin of Suffering.
As to where these tanhăs arise and take root, the Maha Satipatthăna Sutta states: 'Wherever in the world, there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this tanhă (craving) arises and takes root.'
Here, 'craving arises' means actual arising of the craving because of delightful and pleasurable things. This is known as pariyutthăna kilesa. By 'taking root' is meant that, failing to contemplate on the impermanent nature of pleasurable things, craving for them lies dormant, taking root to arise when favourable circumstances permit. This latent craving, lying dormant in sense-objects which escape being contemplated on, is known as ărammananusaya. Vipassană meditation eradicates this defilement.
The delightful and pleasurable things from which craving arises are described elaborately in the Maha Satipatthăna Sutta and may be summarised as:
These delightful and pleasurable things should be contemplated on in the practice of meditation. Failing to recognize them as impermanent, unsatisfactory, etc. through heedful noting will result in their becoming the breeding grounds for craving. These two types of craving, namely, anusaya tanhă (the dormant craving) for the pleasurable objects which have escaped being noted as they really are at the time of seeing, hearing, etc., and pariyutthăna tanhă, which has arisen from the pleasurable things, constitute the noble Truth of origin of suffering such as birth, etc. This fact should be thoroughly understood and remembered.
We have explained
the Truth of the Origin of Suffering sufficiently. We must end our
discourse on it here.