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Nevertheless, good actions are essential to get rid of the ills of this ocean of life.
Dependent on Volitional Activities arises Relinking Consciousness - Vinnana. This links the past with the present.
Simultaneous with the arising of Re-linking Consciousness there come into being Mind and Matter - Nama and Rupa.
The Six Senses - Salayatana, are the inevitable consequences of Mind and Matter. Because of the Six Senses Contact - Pha.s.sa, sets in.
Contact leads to Sensations - vedana, Dependent on Sensations arises Craving - Tanha.
Craving produces Attachment - Upadana.
Attachment conditions Kamma - Bhava, which in its turn determines future Birth - Jati.
OldAgeandDeath - Jara-Maranaarethe inevitable consequences of birth.
If, on account of a cause, an effect comes to be, then if the cause ceases, the effect also must cease. The complete cessation of Ignorance leads to the cessation of birth and death.
The above process of cause and effect continues ad infinitum. The beginning of this process cannot be determined, as it is impossible to say whence this life-flux was encompa.s.sed by ignorance. But when this ignorance is turned into knowledge and the life-flux is trans.m.u.ted to Nibbana Dhatu, then the end of the life process or Samsara comes about.
Modes Of Birth And Death Buddhism a.s.sesses death to the following four causes:-
1. The exhaustion of the force of Reproductive Kamma that gives rise to the birth in question - Kammakkhaya.
The Buddhist belief is that, as a rule, the thought, volition, or desire, which is extremely strong during lifetime, becomes predominant at the point of death and conditions the subsequent birth. In this last thought-moment is present a special potentiality. When the potential energy of this Reproductive Kamma is exhausted, the corporealised, the life force, cease even before the approach of old age.
2. The expiration of the life-term - Ayukkhaya.
What are commonly understood to be natural deaths due to old age may be cla.s.sed under this category. There are various planes of existence according to Buddhism, and to each plane is naturally a.s.signed a definite age-limit. Irrespective of the Kammic force that has yet to run, one must, however, succ.u.mb to death when the maximum age-limit is reached. It may also be said that if the force is extremely powerful, the Kammic energy rematerialises itself on the same plane or in some higher realm as in the case of the Devas.
3. The simultaneous exhaustion of the Reproductive Kammic energy and the expiration of the life-term - Ubhayakkhaya.
4. The action of a stronger Kamma - Upacechdaka that suddenly cuts off the power of the Reproductive Kamma before the expiry of the life-term.
The first three types of deaths are collectively called Kalamarana (timely death) and the last one is known as Akalamarana (untimely death).
An oil lamp, for instance, may get extinguished owing to any of the following four causes:- the exhaustion of the wick, the exhaustion of oil, simultaneous exhaustion of both wick and oil, and some extraneous cause like a gust of wind.
The death of a person may similarly be caused by the above-mentioned four ways.
The Four Modes Of Birth The four Modes of Births are:-
1. Egg-born creatures - Andaja, such as birds, snakes, etc.
2. Womb-born creatures - Jalabuja. All human beings, some earth-bound deities, and those animals that take their conception in mother's womb, belong to this cla.s.s.
3. Moisture-born creatures - Samsedaja, such as certain insects that take moisture as material for their growth.
4. Creatures having spontaneous births - Opapatika. They are generally invisible to the naked eye. Conditioned by past they appear suddenly, independent of parents. Brahmas, Devas of heavenly realms, Petas, and miserable ones who are subject to torments and sufferings in states of woe - Niraya are included in this cla.s.s.
There are 31 Planes of Existence. They are:-
(A) The Four States of Unhappiness - Duggati, viz., 1. Niraya - woeful states, which are temporary, but not everlasting.
2. Tiracchana Yoni - the animal Kingdom.
3. Peta Yoni - the plane of Petas or ghost-beings.
4. Asura Yoni - the plane of Asura demons.
(B) The Seven Happy States - Sugati, viz., 1. Ma.n.u.ssa - the realm of human beings.
2. 6 Devalokas - heavenly realms.
3. 16 Rupalokas- Realms of Form.
4. 4 Arupalokas- Formless Realms.
How Rebirth Takes Place To the dying man is presented a Kamma, Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta. By Kamma is here meant some action of his whether good or bad. It may be either a meritorious or a de-meritorious Weighty Action - Garuka Kamma, such as Jhanas - Ecstasies, or parricide, and so forth.
These are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions and appear very vividly before the mental eye. If experience has afforded him nothing weighty, he may take for the object of his dying-thought a Kamma done immediately before death - Asanna Kamma.
In the absence of an Asanna Kamma, a habitual meritorious or de-meritorious act (Acinna Kamma) is presented, such as stealing in the case of a robber, or the healing of the sick in the case of a good physician. Failing all these, some casual act, that is, one of the acc.u.mulative reserves of the endless past - Katatta Kamma, becomes the object of the dying thought. Kamma Nimitta is any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or idea which was obtained at the time of the commission of the Kamma, such as knives in the case of a butcher, patients in the case of a physician, an object of wors.h.i.+p in the case of a devotee, etc.
By Gati Nimitra is meant some sign of the place where one is destined to be reborn - an event, which invariably happens to dying persons. When these indications of the future birth occur, if they are bad, they could be turned into good. This is done by influencing the thoughts of the dying man, so that his good thought may now act as the proximate Kamma and counteract the influence of the Reproductive Kamma which would otherwise affect his subsequent birth.
These symbols of one's destiny may be h.e.l.lish fires, forests, mountainous re ions, a mother s womb, celestial mansions, etc.
Taking for the object of the dying-thought one of the above, a thought process runs its course even if the death be an instantaneous one. It is said that even the fly which is crushed by a hammer on the anvil also experiences such a process of thought before it actually dies.
By death is meant the ceasing of the psychophysical life of one's individual existence. Death takes place by the pa.s.sing away of vitality - Ayu, heat - Usma and consciousness - Vinnana.
In the words of a Western philosopher death is merely "the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon." It is not the complete annihilation of the so-called being, for, although the organic life has ceased, the force, which hitherto actuated it is not destroyed.
Just as an electric light is only the outward visible manifestation of invisible electric energy, even so we are only the outward manifestations of invisible Kammic energy. The bulb may break and the light may be extinguished, but the current remains and the light may be reproduced in another bulb. At the death the consciousness perishes only to give birth to another consciousness in a subsequent birth. This renewed life-flux inherits all past experiences.
This new being is neither absolutely the same as the past one owing to its different composition, nor totally different - being the identical stream of Kammic energy - Na ca so na ca anno.
The birth-process of the b.u.t.terfly may be cited in ill.u.s.tration of this. It was first an egg, and then, it became a caterpillar. Later it developed into a chrysalis, and finally evolved into a b.u.t.terfly. This process occurs in the course of one lifetime. The b.u.t.terfly is neither the same as, nor totally different from, the caterpillar. Here too there is a flux of life or continuity.
The transition of the flux is also instantaneous. There is no room for an intermediate state - Antara bhava. Buddhists do not believe that the spirit of the deceased person takes lodgment in a certain state until it finds a suitable place for its reincarnation.
Rebirth takes place immediately, and there is no difference in time whether one is born in a heaven or in a state of misery, as an animal or as a human being.
What Is It That Is Reborn?
No Soul (Anatta) - Pancakkhandha According to Buddhism, apart from mind and matter, which const.i.tute this so-called being, there is no immortal soul or an eternal ego which man is either gifted with or has obtained in a mysterious way from a mysterious Being or force.
The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth should be distinguished from the theory of re-incarnation or transmigration, for Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal soul. In the ultimate sense a Buddhist cannot think of an unchanging soul, any being in the form of a Deva, a man, or an animal. These forms are merely the temporary manifestations of the Kammic force.
"Being" is only a concept used for conventional purposes. If nothing in the form of a spirit or soul pa.s.ses from this life to the other, what is it that is reborn? In asking this question one takes for granted that there is something to be reborn.
In the past it was argued - "Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am." True indeed, but it has to be proved first that there is an 'I' to think. I say that there is no I to think. In one breath I contradict myself. Yes, it has to be admitted that we cannot avoid using conventional terms we say that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west despite what scientists prove to us.
We cannot strike a place twice although to all appearance we have done so. Everything has changed so soon. Even s.p.a.ce has changed at the second moment.
According to Buddhism the so-called being is composed of mind and matter - Nama and Rupa.
Rupa or matter is merely the manifestation of forces and qualities. In the ancient days the Indian sages too believed in an indivisible atom - Paramanu. The Buddha a.n.a.lyzed this so-called indivisible Paramanu and declared that it is only a manifestation of inter-related forces, which he termed Paramatthas or fundamental units of matter.
These Paramatthas are Pathavi, Apo, Tejo, and Vayo. Pathavi means the element of extension, the substratum of matter. Apo is the element of cohesion. Tejo is the element of heat. Vayo is the element of motion.
The four essentials of matter are invariably combined with four derivatives, color - Vanna, odor - Gandha, taste - Rasa and nutritive essence Oja. The four elements and the derivatives are inseparable and inter-related, but one element may preponderate over the other, for instance, the element of extension predominates in earth; cohesion in water, heat in fire, and motion in air.
Mind, which is the most important part in the machinery of man, is also a compound of fleeting mental states. There are fifty-two such mental states. Vedana or sensation is one, Sanna or perception is another. The remaining fifty mental states are collectively called Sankharas or volitional activities. These immaterial states arise in a consciousness - Vinnana.
Thus the so-called being is a complex compound of five Aggregate - Pancakkhandha - namely, Rupa or matter, Vedana or sensations, Sanna or perceptions, Sankhara or mental states, and Vinnana or consciousness, which are in state of constant flux.
One's individuality is the combination of these five Aggregates. There is no permanent soul that resides in this so-called being.
How Is Rebirth Possible Without A Soul To Be Reborn?
Birth is simply the arising of the Khandhas, the aggregates Rebirth is the arising of the aggregates again and again. Just as the arising of a physical state is conditioned by a preceding state as its cause, even so the coming-into-being of this psychophysical life is conditioned by causes anterior to its birth. As one life-process is possible without a permanent thing pa.s.sing from one thought-momentto another, a series of life-processes is possible without anything to transmigrate from one life to another.
This body - to use conventional terms - dies transmitting its Kammic force to another without anything transmigrating from this life to the other. The future being there will be conditioned by the present Kamma here. The new being is neither absolutely the same as its predecessor - since the composition is not identical - nor entirely another being the same stream of Kammic energy. There is, therefore, a continuity of a particular life-flux; just that and nothing more.
The Four n.o.ble Truths Truth is that which is Sacca. It is an incontrovertible fact. According to Buddhism there are four such Truths - all a.s.sociated with man.
In the Rohita.s.sa Sutta the Buddha states: - "In this very one-fathom long body, along with its perceptions and thoughts, I proclaim the world, the origin ot the world, the cessation of the world, and the Path leading to the cessation of the world."
This interesting pa.s.sage refers to the Four n.o.ble Truths, which the Buddha Himself discovered. Whether Buddhas arise or not, they exist, and it is a Buddha that reveals them to the ignorant world.
These truths are in Pali termed Ariya Saccani because they were discovered by the Greatest Ariya,thatis,one whois farremovedfrom pa.s.sions, or because they lead to the Ariyan state of pa.s.sionless ness.
The first Truth deals with Dukkha, which, for need of better English equivalent, is inappropriately rendered by suffering. As a feeling Dukkha means that which is difficult to be endured (Du-difficult, Kha - to endure). Here Dukkha is used in the sense of contemptible (Du) emptiness (Kha) The world rests on suffering (Dukkhe loko palitthito) - hence It is contemptible. It is devoid of any reality - hence it is empty or void.
Average men are only surface-seers. An Ariyan sees things as they truly are. To one who sees, there is no real happiness in this sorrowful world, which deceives mankind with illusory pleasures. What we call happiness is merely the gratification of some desire. "No sooner is the desired thing gained then it begins to be scorned." Insatiate is all desires. All are subject to birth - jati, and consequently to decay-jara, disease- vyadhi, and death - marana. No one is exempt from these four causes of suffering.
Impeded wish is also suffering. We do not wish to come in contact with persons or things we do not like, nor do we wish to be separated from persons or things we like most. But our wishes are not always fulfilled. What we least expect or what we least desire is often thrust on us. At times such unpleasant circ.u.mstances become so intolerable and painful that weak ignorant folks are compelled to put an end to their lives.
In brief, this body itself is a cause of suffering. Buddhism rests on this pivot of suffering. But it does not allow that Buddhism is pessimism. It is neither totally pessimistic nor totally optimistic. On the contrary it teaches a truth that lies midway between them. Whilst emphasizing the truth of suffering, the Buddha suggests a means to get rid of this suffering and gain the Highest Happiness.
The cause of this suffering is Craving, which is the second n.o.ble Truth.
The Dhammapada states:- "From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear; For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, whence fear?"
Suffering exists as long as there is craving or attachment - Tanha. There are three kinds of craving. The first is the grossest form of craving, which is simple attachment to all sensual pleasures Kamatanha. The second is attachment to pleasures connected with the view of Eternalism - Bhavatanha, the third is that which is connected with the view of Nihilism - Vibhavatanha.
It is this gross and subtle craving that leads to repeated births in Samsara and that which makes one cling to all forms of life.
This craving is so powerful a force that one has to summon eight equally powerful) forces (the Eightfold Path) to overpower this one single foe. The grossest forms of craving are first weakened on attaining Sakadagami and are eradicated on attaining Anagami. The subtle forms of craving are eradicated only on attaining Arahants.h.i.+p.
The Third n.o.ble Truth is the complete Cessation of suffering, which is Nibbana, the Bliss Supreme. It is achieved by the total eradication of all forms of craving. The Fourth n.o.ble Truth is the Path leading to the Cessation of suffering, which is the n.o.ble Eightfold Path, the via media - the golden mean - of the Buddha.
The first two are mundane - lokiya, the second two are supra-mundane - lokuttara.
The first three deals with the philosophy of the Buddha's Teaching and the fourth with the practice in accordance with that philosophy.
Buddhism as such is neither an ordinary philosophy nor an ordinary ethical system. It is a moral and philosophical teaching, founded on the bedrock of facts that can be tested and verified by personal experience.
Strictly speaking, Buddhism cannot be called a religion either, because it is not a system of faith and wors.h.i.+p, which emphasizes the existence of a supernatural G.o.d. If by religion is meant a teaching (Agama) which distinguishes between right and wrong, and which furnishes men with a guide to proper conduct, then it is a religion of religions.