Yellow Robe - A Real Buddhist's Journal

Jun 12th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Teachings Dependant Originations What is Dependant Origination - Consciousness to Mind-and-Body

What is Dependant Origination - Consciousness to Mind-and-Body

E-mail Print PDF
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

Consciousness to Mind-and-Body



Because of rebirth consciousness there arise mental phenomena associated with it such as feeling, remembering, perception, reflection, etc together with the three kalapas or thirty rupas. After the cessation of rebirth consciousness cetasikas (mental factors) arise in the wake of every activity of viññana and so do rupas conditioned by citta, kamma, utu (heat) and ahara (nutriment). There is no doubt about the close connection between citta and cetasika. When citta is active we feel, we remember, we think, there arise greed, anger, faith and so forth. Equally obvious are the physical phenomena that stem from cittas. We stand, sit, go or do anything that we wish to do.

According to the commentary, this obvious fact gives ground for our knowledge that the rebirth consciousness at the moment of conception leads to the three kalapas or thirty rupas. In fact the arising of rebirth consciousness and rupa at the moment of conception takes place in a split second and as such it is invisible even to the divine eye. The divine eye may see what happens shortly before death and after rebirth but it is only the Buddha's omniscience that sees death-citta and rebirth-citta directly. But from what we know about the cause of physical phenomena, we can infer the arising of rupa from the rebirth-citta at the moment of conception. Some physical phenomena have their origin not in citta but in kamma, utu (heat) and material food but without citta they will have no life.

A corpse is lifeless although it is composed of utujarupas. It is because of the contribution of citta that the rupas based on kamma, utu and nutriment exist and form a continuous stream of life. Once death supervenes, cutting off the stream of consciousness, the cetasikas and living rupas cease to exist. Hence the teaching that namarupa is conditioned of viññana. Because of sankhara (good or bad kamma) there is an uninterrupted flow of viññana in the new existence. Coupled with every citta is namarupa which arises ceaselessly. The duration of namarupa depends on citta. If citta lasts an hour, so does namarupa. If the stream of citta. flows for 100 years, we say that the life of namarupa is 100 years.

In short, we should understand that life is only the continuum of ceaseless causal relationships between namarupa and viññana. To sum up what we have said so far. Avijja causes sankhara. Because of the ignorance of the four noble truths people exert effort (sankhara) to be happy. They think that they will be happy if they get what they want. But the objects of their desire are impermanent and so they lead to suffering. Not knowing the truth about dukkha, they think, speak and do things for their welfare in the present life and hereafter. These kammic actions lead to rebirth consciousness in the lower or the higher worlds. Beginning with this rebirth consciousness there is a stream of citta that flows continuously until death and the nature of this mental life is determined by kamma. The physical body too is conditioned by kamma as well as by citta, utu (heat) and nutriment.

The physical phenomena as conditioned by citta are obvious for all our bodily and verbal actions such as moving, speaking, etc., are rooted in citta. The meditator has to practise mindfulness on the basis of these cittajarupas and it is important to know them empirically for himself. Hence the Buddha's teaching in Mahasatipatthana sutta; "The bhikkhu knows that he walks when he walks and that he stands when he stands."

According to the commentary, if we know experientially the dependence of cittajarupa on citta, we can know by inference the contribution of viññana to kammajarupa, cittajarupa, utujarupa and ähärajarupa. Hence the teaching of Paticcasamuppäda: Conditioned by viññana, there arises namarupa. The meditator cannot know empirically the rebirth-citta or for that matter any other citta in the past in its ultimate sense. All that he can know is the reality about consciousness as it is functioning at present and he can know this only if he is always mindful. If he focuses on present viññana, he comes to know namarupa fairly well. For if he notes "seeing, seeing" and knows the eyeconsciousness, he also knows the namarupa that is bound up with it. Here by eye-consciousness we mean not only the eye-viññana but the whole mental process of seeing (cakkhudvara-vithi).

The meditator notes it as a whole and not by piecemeal. Moreover, the vithi appears to the meditator as a single unit of consciousness. This way of introspection is in accord with Patisambhidamagga which says: "The citta that focuses on rupa arises and passes away. The meditator then contemplates the dissolution of the citta that has watched the dissolution of the rupa." In other words, when the rupa is manifest, the citta watches it; but since the citta has attained bhanga insight, it too sees impermanence in the rupa and dissolves away. The dissolving vipassana citta itself becomes the object of contemplation. This vipassana citta is not a simple citta; it is composed of at least avajjana and seven impulse moments. But these eight cittas cannot be watched one by one; the whole vithi is to be the object of attention. Here the eye-consciousness means the whole mental process (vithi) of seeing and it includes good or bad kamma and impulses.

So attentiveness to it leads to awareness of vedana (feeling) sañña (perception) phassa (contact) manasikara (reflection) cetana (volition) and so forth. But cetana is more apparent in connection with thinking. Thus it comes into full play when at night we think of what we have to do the next day. It urges and agitates us and its function is unmistakable. The meditator who constantly watches his namarupa is aware of cetana in action whenever he speaks or moves any part of his body. For example, if, while practising mindfulness, you feel an itch, you wish to get rid of it. You note the desire and you feel as if you are being urged to remove the itch. It is cetana which urges you to do and so it is manifest in your everyday action, speech and thinking.

In short, if you know the eye-consciousness through contemplation, you know the nama (mental) khandhas that are born of it as well as the rupas of the whole body that form its basis. This is in accordance with the teaching; "From viññana there arises namarupa." The same may be said of the consciousness in connection with hearing, etc., awareness of viññana means awareness of all the nama and rupa that are bound up with it. The awareness of contact is bases on pleasant and unpleasant sensations, when these sensations are manifest; it is based on contact when motion and rigidity are manifest; when you note the desire to bend the arm, you know the volition (cetana) behind it.

When you contemplate the viññana which thinks, you know the namarupa that is coupled with it. When you find yourself committing something to memory, you know sañña; when you note your intention to do or speak something, you become aware of cetana; when you note your desire for something, you know that it is your lobha. When you note your irritation, you know that it is dosa; you know moha when you note your view of a being in terms of a permanent and happy individual. You know alobha when you know the lack of desire in you.

Moreover, your intention to do or say something is followed by bodily behaviour or verbal expression and so through contemplation you become aware of viññana-citta as the cause of rupas in the body. Viññana and namarupa are interdependent. Just as viññana gives rise to namarupa, so also nama-rupa leads to viññana. Namarupa contributes to viññana by way of simultaneous arising (sahajata-paccaya) foundation (nissayapaccaya) and so forth. It is only through the contribution of all cetasikas collectively or the body (rupa) as the physical basis, etc that viññana comes into being. Mahapadana sutta tells us how the bodhisatta reflected on dependent origination just before he attained enlightenment. He found namarupa, six bases of mental activity, impression, feeling, craving, clinging and becoming (bhava) to be the links in the chain of causation leading to old age and death.

Then it occurs to him that namarupa is conditioned by viññana and vice-versa. The sutta ascribes this statement about the correlation between viññana and namarupa to Vipassi bodhisatta but we should understand that it is a fact discovered by all bodhisattas before they attained supreme enlightenment. Although viññana and namarupa are interdependent, the former is the determining factor and hence it is described as the cause of namarupa. In fact, when viññana arises because of sankhara, its concomitant cetasikas as well as the rupas resulting from sankhära come into being at the same time. So viññanas and namarupas arise together from the moment of rebirth. Moreover, viññana and namarupa include the six ayatanas (the six bases or sense-organs) as well as phassa (sense-contact) and vedana (feeling).

But since viññana is the cause of namarupa and namarupa the cause of salhayatana and so forth, the Buddha says: Viññana paccaya namarupa, etc to distinguish between cause and effect. Likewise a verse in the Dhammapada describes the mind (mano or viññana) as leading the cetasikas: manopubbangama dhamma; if a person acts or speaks with an evil mind, suffering follows him as a result, just as the wheels of a cart follow the ox which draws it. In point of fact citta and cetasikas arise together but because of its predominant role citta is described as leading the latter. If a man's mind is evil, he does evil deeds, utters evil words and harbours evil thoughts.

These three kinds of kammas are sankharas born of ignorance. They become potential for evil kammic effect. Every deed, speech or thought is accompanied by seven impulsemoments that flash forth several times. If the first impulse-moments are favourable, the kamma is productive in the present life; otherwise it becomes sterile. If one of the seven impulse-moments is favourable, it gives rise to kammic images or visions of afterlife on death-bed and produce kammic effect in the next life.

Otherwise it is sterile. As for the other five impulse-moments, they produce kammic effect from the third existence till the last existence (the existence when nibbāna is to be attained) under favourable circumstances. It becomes sterile only after the attainment of nibbāna. Before the attainment of nibbāna its potential remains intact for innumerable lifetimes, ready to bear fruit when circumstances permit. It bears fruit in terms of suffering, both mental and physical, in the lower worlds. If by virtue of good kamma the person is reborn in the human world, he will be dogged by evil kamma and suffer regardless of his station in life.


Preserve this Website


" He who controls his hand, controls his foot, controls his speech, and has complete control of himself; who finds delight in Insight Development Practice and is calm; who stays alone and is contented; - him they call a bhikkhu. "

The Dhammapada

Social Bookmark

Yellow Robe Newsletter