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Jun 23rd
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Home Teachings Dependant Originations What is Dependant Origination - Craving to Clinging

What is Dependant Origination - Craving to Clinging

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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

Craving to Clinging

Craving to Clinging

Dependent on craving, attachment (upādāna) arises. The term upādāna is a compound of upa = intense, extreme, and ādāna = grasp, take. Thus it means to grasp firmly, or intense, obsessive craving. Attachment is of four kinds: 1) attachment to sensual pleasures, 2) attachment to wrong views, 3) attachment to rituals as the way to salvation, and 4) attachment to the belief in a soul, or personality-belief.

Attachment to Sensual Pleasures

Sensual objects arouse desire in everyone who is not free from sensual craving. These objects are five in number: sight, sound, odour, taste, and touch.

Men, women, and consumer goods may possess natural beauty or may seem beautiful in the eyes of the beholder. It is the physical appearance of women that attracts men, and vice versa. Both men and women like clothes, jewellery, cars, etc. It is not merely the shape or colour that arouses desire. Men and women are drawn towards each other, not only by the complexion but by the whole persona of the opposite sex. Consumer goods are designed to make people want them. Shape and colour announce or identify sense objects just as the cry of an animal helps the hunter to track it. The voices of men and women, songs or music are pleasing to the ear. Some sounds and voices are really melodious while others seem pleasing only to a few. Again, it is not the mere sound that attracts us for when we delight in hearing a sound or a voice, it is the whole thing or the being producing it that forms the focus of our attachment.

Fragrant odours include all kinds of scents: flowers, powders, perfumes, etc. Men and women apply perfumes to their bodies and delight in these scents. Then, it is not the scents alone, but the whole physical body giving out the scent that arouses desire.

The pleasure that we get from eating or drinking is based on food and drink. For pigs, dogs, and other animals, even scraps and waste may be pleasurable. Some people are very fond of bitter or spicy food, while others like intoxicants. Their pleasure is more apparent than real since most people do not share their preferences. The pleasure of eating is not confined to food, but also involves the preparation of food, or the person who prepares it. This is evident when a man enjoys eating food prepared by his wife although her cooking may not impress others.

Another source of pleasure is physical contact. Soft beds, luxurious clothing, warm things in the cold season, cool things in the hot season, the body of the opposite sex — all of these produce not only the craving for touch, but also the wish to possess the object of desire. Physical contact paves the way for attachment to the body.

Animate and inanimate things provide the means for enjoyment, for example, money, jewellery, food, animals, vehicles, houses, land, and dependants. People work hard to secure these sources of pleasure so that they can have delicious food, beautiful clothes, and fine houses, and enjoy entertainments.

Craving usually leads to attachment. When a man starts smoking, he enjoys it, and as he grows accustomed to the habit he becomes addicted. Through habit one becomes excessively fond of certain objects and feels frustrated or restless on not getting them. So, sensual craving gradually develops into sensual attachment, grasping or infatuation (kāmupādāna). Attachment cannot arise without craving. Foreign songs and music do not appeal as much as those from one's own culture, so people do not enthuse about them. The same is often true of exotic foreign dishes, which enjoy great popularity in their country of origin.

Attachment to Wrong Views

Another kind of attachment is attachment to wrong views (ditthupādāna). It covers all the wrong views, apart from those in the third and fourth categories of attachment. So every wrong view is to be regarded as attachment. Here, we will describe at length ten wrong views that have a firm hold on many people.

The first view is that charity is not a meritorious deed — that it is only a waste of money. This view rejects the value and benefits of a good deed, but it is baseless. An act of charity makes the donor joyful, benefits the recipient in body and mind, and may even save one's life if one is starving. The donor is popular and highly respected, and after death is reborn in a celestial realm. Convincing sceptics of this reward after death is difficult, but the results of kamma can be seen by those with psychic powers. One of these is the divine eye, which enables one to see donors prospering in celestial realms, or to see immoral, non-donors suffering in the lower realms. Such visions may even appear to meditators who lack psychic powers but have deep concentration. Sceptics may dismiss these visions as just imagination, but the widespread agreement of accounts about other realms lends weight to their credibility.

The second wrong view denies the kammic benefits of charity on a grand scale.

The third view rejects the kammic benefits of feeding guests, giving gifts on New Year's Day and so forth. This view is essentially the same as the first. It refers to small acts of charity that were customary in ancient India but dismissed as futile by heretics.

The fourth view denies the kammic result of any virtuous or immoral act. Plenty of evidence can be found for the effects of a man's actions in this very life. As for the results after death, those with psychic powers can testify to them. However, people who are excessively fond of sensual pleasures like to give a free rein to their desires. They resent moral values and noble ideals, which they regard as an obstruction to their material progress. So they put forward many arguments to justify their rejection of the kammic law. In the end, all this prevarication is due to their excessive love of pleasure.

The fifth and sixth views deny that we owe any respect, honour or support to our mother and father for their loving care in our childhood. It is said that parents have children through the indiscretion of sexual intercourse, that they bring them up from a sense of responsibility, so why should children be grateful to them? Therefore, it is not a duty to look after one's parents nor is it immoral to ill-treat them. This is a despicable view, and those who hold it will not be respected by their children.

The seventh view denies the existence of any realm other than the human and the animal worlds. It also rejects the possibility that an animal may be reborn as a human being.

The eighth view denies the rebirth of human beings in celestial or animal realms, or in hell, and teaches annihilation after death.

The ninth view denies spontaneous rebirth. In other words, it denies the existence of living beings that appear spontaneously without being conceived in the womb. This view is untenable since encounters with benevolent or malevolent spirits are reported from all over the world, and mediums and witch-doctors can invoke them. Celestial beings or spirits are sometimes visible to meditators.

The tenth view is that no recluse or priest can speak of this world or the other world and still conform to his own teaching. The view implies that no-one can speak objectively about kamma based on personal experience. It means that all their teaching is guesswork and speculation, and so erroneous and corrupt. Today this view is echoed by those who scoff at religion. They reject the existence of Buddhas and arahants who, through their own effort, know the world as it really is. However, the logic underlying this view is self-defeating. By the same kind of reasoning, one can reject this view since those who hold it also do not really know anything about this or the other world. As for the Buddhadhamma, it rests on extraordinary insight. So it lends itself to empirical investigation, and much scientific evidence supports it. The man who taught the Indian brand of scepticism in the time of the Buddha was Ajita. He attacked all religious teaching without qualification, so presumably the arahants and the Buddha were also targets of his denunciation.

All these wrong views amount to the denial of the law of kamma. The rejection of kamma means rejection of any benefit from charity, reverence to parents and other meritorious deeds. So, the potential for arahantship or Buddhahood is also rejected. Conversely, the ten right views are based on the belief in kamma, or moral accountability.

The first right view is that charity is beneficial. A donor is admired at least by the recipients, who will respect their benefactors, praise them and help them in times of trouble. The donor dies calmly with pleasant deathbed visions and after death attains a favourable rebirth in either the celestial or human realms. A favourable rebirth may finally lead to the Noble Path and nibbāna. It was usually with an act of charity that the bodhisatta and others embarked on their long spiritual journey leading to the goal of Buddhahood, Paccekabuddhahood or arahantship. The kammic benefit of almsgiving is also evident in the disparate prosperity of various people engaged in trading or farming. Some prosper while others make a loss. Some meet with success easily while others fail to prosper despite their hard work. Other things being equal, this disparity is no doubt due to charity or the lack of it in a previous life.

As for the second and third views: One who believes in kamma will have no doubt about the value of giving alms lavishly, or the benefit of small acts of generosity such as feeding guests, giving presents, and so forth. These three right views are implicit in the law of kamma or moral accountability. That we fare according to our wholesome or unwholesome deeds is undeniable. Someone who leads a virtuous life according to the instruction of their parents and teachers is popular, gets help from others and achieves success. As they grow older, their prosperity increases. Similarly, because of wholesome kamma in a previous life one may be born in a noble family and be blessed with health, wealth, good looks, and sincere friends. The unfavourable effects of unwholesome kamma such as poor health, poverty, ugliness, etc., are also obvious.

The fourth view, the belief in kamma, also implies a recognition of deep indebtedness to our parents (the fifth and sixth views). Parents take care of their children from the time of conception. A pregnant woman is especially careful about her health, diet, and movements for the sake of the child in her womb. If she is a pious Buddhist, she keeps the eight precepts and contemplates the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in the hope of influencing her child spiritually. After the child is born, the parents provide all its physical needs and education. When the child comes of age, they give whatever financial support they can to provide it with a start in life. For all these reasons, it is our obligation to respect and care for our parents. This wholesome kamma benefits us tremendously. At the very least, children who respect their parents will be respected in turn by their children. However, if they mistreat their parents they are very likely to be disdained by their own children.

The seventh, eighth, and ninth views concern the existence of this world, the other world, and beings that are reborn spontaneously. These right views also imply the belief in kamma. The law of kamma makes it possible for an animal or deva to be reborn as a human being, or vice versa. This can be verified to a certain extent but the observer must possess psychic powers, insight knowledge, or the ability to think rationally. Through the practice of mental absorption, one can attain the power of recalling previous lives and the divine eye, which can see the condition of a person who has passed on to a new existence. This psychic power is also accessible to those who practise insight meditation. Those who cannot practise meditation must rely on reasoning. In the Buddhist scriptures many individuals are accredited with the ability to recall their previous lives. They describe their past lives as human beings, animals, spirits or ghosts. To the rational mind, these accounts clearly corroborate rebirth in other realms after death and the sudden materialisation of certain beings.

It is relevant to mention the wise attitude regarding life after death. Suppose that one person accepts the belief in kamma and life after death while another rejects it. The second person will not do meritorious deeds such as charity and taking precepts, and will not avoid doing wrong. He or she will give a free rein to desire and so has no virtue worthy of respect or emulation. If the law of kamma is true, he or she is sure to be born in the lower realms and to suffer for many lifetimes. On the other hand, the person who believes in kamma and life after death will avoid immorality and cultivate virtue. So even if kamma and the afterlife are illusory, he or she will be praised and respected as a good person and will rejoice on recalling charitable deeds. As a respectable citizen, he or she will lead a peaceful life. These are the present benefits from the belief in kamma. If there is a life after death, one is assured of happiness in the future. So accepting the belief in life after death is pragmatic since it serves our present and future interests in any event. This is the infallible way of thinking that the Buddha recommended in the Apannaka Sutta of the Majjhimanikāya.

The tenth view concerns faith in the Buddha, the arahants, and sages who can claim transcendent knowledge about this and other realms, and whose character lends credence to their teachings. Such faith also implies the belief in kamma because the attainment of the arahants and the Buddha rests in part on their perfections, which do not differ essentially from wholesome kamma. Development of perfections is a kind of learning. Just as a child has to learn many things to become well-educated, a bodhisatta has to seek knowledge and training for the attainment of his goal.

Some parents take their children to films and plays while others take theirs to pagodas and monasteries. So children learn skilful or unskilful habits and develop a taste for pleasure or appreciation of spiritual values. Skilful habits and self-discipline are a kind of perfection. Some children are spontaneously inclined towards a religious life. A few individuals have immense zeal for insight meditation. Such unusual interest in religion or strong inclination to practise meditation is born of the perfections in a previous life.

Prince Siddhattha became the Buddha because he had gradually developed and perfected virtues such as charity, morality, and renunciation over innumerable lifetimes. His enlightenment was not a matter of quick accomplishment in a single lifetime. The cumulative kammic potential strengthened his resolve to leave his family and the luxuries of the palace to seek enlightenment. Many people speak of their disillusionment with life, but it is very rare for a man to renounce all his wealth and become a monk. The kind of renunciation that distinguished the bodhisatta is barely conceivable. The bodhisatta cultivated nine other perfections in previous lives for the sake of enlightenment: generosity, morality, wisdom, energy, forbearance, resolution, truthfulness, kindness, and equanimity. Consequently, in his final existence he was able to reflect and realise independently the nature of life, its Dependent Origination, etc. So, the perfections finally led to supreme enlightenment. The spiritual attainments of Paccekabuddhas and arahants were also based on their perfections. So, the belief in kamma makes it possible for one to become an arahant, Paccekabuddha or a Buddha. One who accepts this belief has no doubt about the transcendent knowledge of the Buddha and other sages.

So, attachment to wrong views is generally synonymous with denial of the law of kamma. This view was not so widespread in the time of the Buddha, or even a hundred years ago. However, now it is gaining ground, mainly due to books that criticise the doctrine of kamma in the name of scientific inquiry. As the scriptures say, wrong views are usually rooted in craving. With man's increasing greed for consumer goods, scepticism about kamma is likely to become stronger, so pious people should guard themselves against it.

Apart from the rejection of kamma, ditthupādāna also means strong attachment to ego-belief, annihilationism, and so forth. Attachment to rituals (sīlabbatupādāna) and attachment to belief in a soul (attavādupādāna) are the other two kinds of wrong views.

Attachment to Rituals

Sīlabbatupādāna is attachment to futile practices that do not lead to the end of suffering. It is the view that imitating cows, dogs or other animals leads to the end of suffering. It found expression among some ascetics in the time of the Buddha. Like animals, they lived naked, slept on the ground, and ate, defecated, and went about on all fours. They believed that such a way of life served to purge them of all unwholesome kamma and forestall new kamma, thus assuring them of an end to suffering and eternal bliss after death.

This view may sound incredible, but some people's preferences are very odd as they differ in their beliefs and inclinations. Once two ascetics, one named Punna (who lived like an ox) and another named Seniya (who lived like a dog), came to see the Buddha. They asked the Lord about the benefits of their practice. The Lord was reluctant to answer, but when pressed he replied that one who fully imitated the habits of an ox would be reborn as an ox after death, while one who imitated a dog would be reborn as a dog. He said that to believe such practices led to the celestial realm was mistaken, and that one who held a wrong view would be reborn either in hell or as an animal. The Buddha went on to describe the immoral practices that bear bitter fruits, the moral practices that bear sweet fruits, the immoral practices mixed with moral practices, and the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to the total extinction of wholesome and unwholesome kammas. On hearing this discourse Punna became a lay disciple of the Buddha. Seniya joined the Sangha and attained arahantship through the practice of the Dhamma.

The Story of Korakhattiya

Korakhattiya was an ascetic who lived like a dog. One day the Buddha passed by him, accompanied by a Licchavi bhikkhu named Sunakkhatta. Sunakkhatta saw the ascetic moving on all fours and eating his food on the ground without the help of his hands. He thought the ascetic must be an arahant who had no desires. However, the ascetic's mode of life was a kind of attachment to rituals that would lead him to one of the four lower realms. Such behaviour is abhorrent to those who have high ideals and aspirations. It appealed to Sunakkhatta only because of his own low tastes and desires. The Licchavi monk was exceptional in this respect. Unlike now, many people preferred wrong views and futile practices that did not accord with the Buddha's teaching. This was probably a residue from wrong attachments in their previous lives.

The Buddha divined Sunakkhatta's thoughts and said, "So you regard that ascetic as an arahant! I wonder why you do not feel ashamed of being called a disciple of the Buddha." Sunakkhatta then accused the Lord of envying the ascetic's arahantship. This, of course, is the kind of retort to be expected from an ignorant man when someone speaks the truth about his misguided teacher. The Buddha explained that his aim was to remove the monk's illusions, which would do him great harm. Then he went on to predict that after seven days the ascetic would die of indigestion and be reborn in the lowest asura realm; that his body would be dumped in a cemetery where there was a certain kind of grass; and that if Sunakkhatta went there and asked where the ascetic had been reborn, the dead body would reveal it. The Buddha made this prophecy to restore Sunakkhatta's faith in him. Through the practice of concentration, Sunakkhatta had attained the divine eye, with which he had seen the gods and goddesses. Since he wished to hear their voices, he asked the Buddha how to attain the divine ear. However, the Lord denied his request because he knew that Sunakkhata's obstructive kamma would prevent his attainment. Then he would blame the Lord for his non-attainment of the divine ear. Nevertheless, Sunakkhata lost faith in the Lord because he thought this refusal was motivated by envy. So the Buddha predicted the ascetic's fate to impress Sunakkhatta and salvage his faith.

Sunakkhatta informed the ascetic of the Lord's prediction and warned him against overeating. The ascetic fasted for six days but on the seventh day he could no longer resist the temptation. He wolfed down the food provided by a lay follower and died of indigestion that very night. His fellow ascetics dragged his dead body to dump it at a cemetery unlike that predicted by the Buddha. They got to a cemetery but found it had the very kind of grass specified by the Buddha. They tried to drag the body away but the rope snapped and all their efforts to remove it were in vain. So they had to abandon the corpse there. Sunakkhatta heard the news, but still hoped to disprove the latter part of the Lord's prediction. He went to the cemetery and, rapping on the dead man's chest, asked where he had been reborn. The corpse rose, saying that he was in the Kalakañjika Asura realm, then fell back on the ground. Kalakañjika is the lowest asura realm. An asura is a kind of hungry ghost with a monstrous body and a mouth that is so small that it cannot drink and eat well. According to the commentary, it was the Buddha's psychic power that caused the dead body to become possessed by the asura peta. Given the ability of some sorcerers to raise the dead, there is no need to doubt the Buddha's ability to resurrect the dead ascetic. Sunakkhatta came back crestfallen and had to admit that the Lord's prediction had been accurate. Even so, he did not have complete faith in the Buddha. He later left the Sangha and disparaged the Lord.

Other practices, besides imitating animals, can also be described as rituals. Some people deify elephants, horses, and so forth. In other words, they worship animals. The commentary refers to king-worshippers, which may include people in Burma who worship various Nats. This Nat-worship is not motivated by desire for liberation. It stems from the hope for material benefits in the present life. As such, it does not fall within the scope of attachment to rituals, but attachment to this view leads some people to make animal sacrifices. There are also fire-worship, nāga -worship, moon-worship, sun-worship, spirit-worship, and so forth. If the aim of any kind of worship is to gain bliss or liberation after death, then it is attachment to rituals. In short, all practices divorced from the Noble Eightfold Path are called rituals, and attachment to them as the way to salvation is attachment to rituals.

The stream-winner knows the path to nibbāna, and is thus totally free from belief in futile practices. He or she knows empirically that the end of suffering is only possible through introspection of mind and matter and the development of the Noble Path. For example, if you know your way to Shwedagon Pagoda, you will not be misled by anyone who points out the wrong route. Likewise, the stream-winner has no illusions about belief in God, Nat-worship or asceticism that pass for the way to liberation.

Those who do not know the right path are not free from such illusion. They may have learnt it from their parents, teachers or friends, or they might have been misguided by books that advocate wrong views and practices. Ordinary people are ignorant of the right path to nibbāna, so if they follow a misguided teacher or wrong practice, they will meet with a lot of suffering. For example, the practice of austerities will cause unnecessary hardship and pain, while making animal sacrifices will certainly lead to the lower realms.

It is also attachment to rituals to believe that rūpa-jhāna or arūpa-jhāna means salvation. Even moral perfection or jhānic attainment, though commendable, may lead to attachment to rituals if they are regarded as sufficient for liberation without cultivating insight. The Uddaka Sutta of the Samyuttanikāya refers to the hermit Uddaka. Having attained the immaterial realm through arūpa-jhāna, he declared that he had uprooted the cause of suffering and made an end to it. This was also the illusion of another hermit called Ælāra. This illusion or attachment led to their wholesome kamma, which in turn led to their rebirth in the immaterial realms. So in his discourse to Baka Brahmā, the Buddha said, "I see the dangers of birth, aging, and death inherent in the sensual, fine-material, and immaterial realms. I see those who seek nibbāna still bound to existence, so I do not extol any kind of existence. I have rejected all attachment to existence." Like the two hermits, those who do not know the Buddha's teaching never attain their goal. Although they seek eternal happiness, they follow the wrong path and remain entangled in suffering. So we can hardly overemphasise the need to cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path.

Attachment to Belief in the Soul

Attavādupādāna is a compound of attavāda and upādāna. Attavāda means belief in a soul and so attavādupādāna is attachment to the view that every person has a soul. Attachment to the ego-belief is of two kinds: ordinary attachment and deep-rooted attachment. The ordinary attachment that prevails among ignorant Buddhists is not obstructive to progress on the Path. The belief is not deeply entrenched because they accept the Buddha's teaching, which denies a soul and recognizes mind and matter as the only reality behind a living being. Intelligent Buddhists are still less vulnerable to the belief, for they know that seeing, hearing, etc., involve only the sense-organs, the corresponding sense-objects, and the corresponding states of consciousness. However, most people are not wholly free from ego-belief. Even the insight meditator may fall for it, and everyone who has not attained the Noble Path is likely to find it attractive. Those who taught ego-belief described the self as the owner of the five aggregates, as an independent entity, possessing free-will and self-determination. It was this view of the soul that the Buddha rebutted in his debate with the wandering ascetic Saccaka. The Buddha asked, "You say that this physical body is your soul. Can you then always keep it well, free from anything unpleasant?" Saccaka had to admit that he could not. Further questioning by the Lord elicited that he had no control over any of the five aggregates. So Buddhist teachers translate "rūpam anattā" as "the body is not subject to our control." This amounts to the denial of the wrong view of a soul as a controlling entity (sāmi-attā) . Every ordinary person holds this view and believes in free-will. He can overcome it completely only through insight.

The proponents of the soul belief also say that the soul exists permanently in the physical body. This means the personality, which is said to persist throughout life. Again, they say that the soul is the agent of all actions, thus identifying it with the aggregate of mental formations. It is the belief that creates the illusions, "I see," "I hear," etc. They also say that the soul is the living entity that feels, that is happy or unhappy. In other words, they describe the soul in terms of feeling. Thus although those who believe in the soul insist that it has nothing to do with the five aggregates, they say that it owns the body, resides in the body, and has subjectivity and feeling. Therefore, they implicitly identify it with the five aggregates. The ego-illusion is rooted in the five aggregates and one can get free from it completely only when one realises the true nature of the aggregates through insight meditation.

Of the four kinds of attachment, attachment to sensual pleasures is the developed form of craving. The other three kinds of attachment all relate to views: belief in the soul, belief in rites and rituals, and any other wrong view. All wrong views arise through craving, since people adopt and cling to a particular view because they like it. Thus all four kinds of attachment undoubtedly stem from craving. Hence the Buddha's teaching, "Dependent on craving, attachment arises." So, craving is the cause and attachment is the effect.


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