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Jun 23rd
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Home Teachings Dependant Originations What is Dependant Origination - Formations to Consciousness

What is Dependant Origination - Formations to Consciousness

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Article Index
What is Dependant Origination
Ignorance to Formations
Formations to Consciousness
Consciousness to Mind-and-Body
Mind-and-Body to Six Bases
Six Bases to Contact
Contact to Feeling
Feeling to Craving
Craving to Clinging
Clinging to Becoming
Becoming to Birth
Birth to Suffering
The Three Periods
Other Aspects
All Pages

Formations to Consciousness


Because of avijja there is sankhara which in turn causes viññana. As the result of the good or bad kamma in the previous life there arises the stream of consciousness beginning with rebirth consciousness in the new life. Evil deeds may, for example, leads to the four lower worlds. After that there arises the stream of viññana called bhavanga-citta which functions ceaselessly when the six kinds of vithi consciousness do not occur at the moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, eating, touching and thinking. In other words, bhavanga is the kind of subconsciousness that we have when we are asleep. We die with this subconsciousness and it is then called cutti-citta. So the rebirthconsciousness, the subconsciousness and the cuti or death consciousness represent the mind which results from the kamma of previous life.

The five kinds of consciousness associated with the five unpleasant sense-objects such as unpleasant eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc., are due to unwholesome kamma as are (1) the consciousness that is focussed on these five sense-objects and (2) the inquiring (santirana) consciousness. There are altogether seven types of consciousness that stem from bad kamma (apuññabhisankhara). As for aneñjabhi-sankhara, because of the four arupakusala-dhammas there arises the resulting arupa-consciousness in the four immaterial worlds in the form of rebirthconsciousness in the beginning, the bhavanga citta in the middle and the cuticitta as the end of existence.

Similarly because of the five rupakusala-dhammas there arise five rupa vipakacittas in rupabrahma worlds. Then there are eight mahavipakacittas corresponding to eight good kammas in the sensual sphere. They form the rebirth, bhavanga and cuti cittas in the human words and six devaworlds. They also register pleasant sense-objects (tadarammana) after seven impulse-moments (javana) that occur on seeing, hearing, etc. Also due to good kamma of the sensual sphere are the five kinds of consciousness associated with five pleasant sense-objects, the registering consciousness, the joyful, inquiring consciousness and the nonchalant, inquiring consciousness. Hence the resulting (vipaka) consciousness is of thirty two kinds, viz., four arupavipaka, five rupavipaka, seven akusala vipaka and sixteen kusala vipaka in sensual sphere. All these thirty-two vipaka are resultants of sankhara.


It is very important but hard to understand how sankhara gives rise to rebirth-consciousness. Ledi Sayadaw points out that this part of the teaching on Paticcasamuppada leaves much room for misunderstanding. It is necessary to understand the extinction of the last consciousness (cuti citta) together with all nama-rupa as well as the immediate arising of the rebirth-consciousness (Patisandhi citta) together with the new nama-rupa as a result of good or bad kammas in the case of living beings who are not yet free from defilements. Lack of this understanding usually leads to the belief in transmigration of souls (sassataditthi) or the belief in annihilation after death (ucchedaditthi) which is held by modern materialists.

The belief in annihilation is due to ignorance of the rela tion between cause and effect after death. It is easy to see how avijja leads to sankhara and how the sense-bases (ayatana), contact, sensation, craving, etc form links in the chain of causation for these are evident in the facts of life. But the emergence of new existence following death is not apparent and hence the belief that there is nothing after death. Learned people who think on the basis of faith usually accept the teaching that sankhara gives rise to rebirth consciousness. But it does not lend itself to purely rational and empirical approach and today it is being challenged by the materialistic view of life.

The way rebirth takes place is crystal clear to the meditator who has practised vipassana. He finds that the units of consciousness arise and pass always ceaselessly, that they appear and disappear one after another rapidly. This is what he discovers by experience, not what he learns from his teachers. Of course he does not know so much in the beginning. He discovers the fact only when he attains sammasana and udayabbaya insights. The general idea of death and rebirth mental units dawns on him with the development of paccaya-pariggaha insights but it is sammasana and udayabbaya insights that leave no doubt about rebirth. On the basis of his insight he realizes that death means the disappearance of the last unit of consciousness and that rebirth means the arising of the first unit of consciousness in the manner of the vanishing and arising of consciousness-units that he notes in the practice of vipassana.

Those who do not have vipassana insight miss the point. They believe in a permanent ego and identify it with the mind. It is rejected by those who have a good knowledge of Abhidhamma but it lingers in some people because of attachment to it in their previous lives. Even the contemplating meditator who is not yet intellectually mature sometimes feels tempted to accept it.


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" The wise do not say that bods made of iron, of wood and of hemp are strong bonds; they say that only passionate attachment to and care for gems and jewellery, children and wives are strong bonds. These drag one down (to lower planes of existence) and although they seem yielding are difficult to unfasten. The wise, cutting off this bond (of craving) and resolutely giving up sensual pleasures, renounce the world. "

The Dhammapada

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