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Jun 12th
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Home Teachings Dependant Originations What is Dependant Origination - Clinging to Becoming

What is Dependant Origination - Clinging to Becoming

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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

Clinging to Becoming

Clinging leads to becoming (bhava), of which there are two kinds: kammabhava and upapattibhava. Kammabhava means the kamma that leads to rebirth. The Buddha describes it as the wholesome, unwholesome and imperturbable kammas that lead to the sensual realms or the fine-material and immaterial realms. He also identifies kammabhava with all kammas that produce new existence. Of the three kammas, wholesome kamma comprises the eight wholesome volitions of the sensual sphere, and five of the fine-material sphere. Unwholesome kamma is the twelve unwholesome volitions. Imperturbable kamma is the four wholesome volitions of the immaterial sphere. Kammas that arise with wholesome thoughts of the sensual sphere also lead to rebirth. This means abstaining from covetousness, ill-will, and wrong views. In short, kammabhava is the wholesome or unwholesome volition that leads to rebirth.

Upapattibhava is of nine kinds: 1) kāmabhava means the mind and matter of living beings in the sensual realm. In other words, it refers to existences in hell and celestial realms, or among human beings, animals, and hungry ghosts. 2) Rūpabhava is the aggregates of brahmās with form. 3) Arūpabhava is the mental aggregates of formless brahmās. 4) Saññībhava is the mental and material aggregates of beings with gross perceptions, i.e. beings in twenty-nine realms other than the realm of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. 5) Asaññībhava is the material aggregate of Asaññī-brahmās. 6) Nevasaññī-nāsaññībhava is the mental aggregates of higher brahmās. 7) Ekavokārabhava is the becoming with only the material aggregate. 8) Catuvokārabhava is the becoming with four mental aggregates. 9) Pañcavokārabhava is the becoming with five mental and material aggregates. In short, upapattibhava means the aggregates of existence that result from kamma. It comprises consciousness, mind and matter, sense-bases, contact, and feeling. The becoming conditioned by attachment is kammabhava; upapattibhava is merely its by-product.

From contact with the six pleasant or unpleasant sense-objects, six pleasant or unpleasant feelings arise. Feelings lead to craving, and craving develops into attachment. attachment may become excessive to the point of longing for reunion with one's family in a future life or attainment of nibbāna with one's beloved. The awesome power of attachment is evident in the story of the merchant Mendaka.

The Story of Mendaka

Mendaka had been a rich merchant in a previous life. In that life, during a famine, his provisions gradually dwindled and ran out. Finally, he had to send away all his servants, and was left with just his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, and one slave. His wife had cooked rice that was just sufficient for their own needs when a Paccekabuddha appeared, collecting almsfood. At the sight of the Paccekabuddha, the merchant thought of his lack of charity in previous lives, which had led to hunger in this one. So he offered his share of rice to the Paccekabuddha and prayed for an abundant supply of food and reunion with the members of his household in his future lives. His wife, too, donated her share of rice and expressed a similar wish. The son and his wife followed suit and prayed similarly for an unlimited supply of food and money and reunion with the same wife, husband, parents, and slaves. The prayers of the merchant and his family clearly point to the powerful influence of sensual attachment.

Most people today are subject to the same kind of attachment. However, more appalling is the attachment of the slave Punna. After offering his share of rice, he prayed for abundance of food and rebirth as the slave of the same family! It never occurred to him to pray for a rebirth as a king or a merchant. His attachment to his master and mistress was so strong that he wanted only to be their slave again in the future.

Once, a village headman stood well with government officials. Those were the days of British rule when most of the high-ranking officials in Burma were English. The headman took great delight in paying respect to them. He said that he enjoyed saying, Phayā, "Yes, my Lord," when he was called by an officer. His attachment was essentially the same as that of Punna.

The Paccekabuddha blessed Mendaka's household and departed. By means of his psychic power they saw him fly back to the Himalayas and share the food with five hundred other Paccekabuddhas. On that very day, the merchant and his family found their acts of charity miraculously bearing fruit. They found the rice pot full of rice, and after they had eaten to their heart's content, the pot was still full of rice. They found their granaries, too, overflowing with grain. Their prayers were fulfilled in the lifetime of Buddha Gotama for they again became members of the same household in Bhaddiya, a city of the Māgadha country. The news of the fulfilment of their prayers was so remarkable that the king had a minister investigate it. He found that it was indeed true. This story is mentioned in the Vinaya Pitaka.

When desire for an object develops into intense craving, a person becomes desperate and tries to secure it by any means. Theft, robbery, fraud, murder, and so forth, which are rampant nowadays, stem from attachment. Some crimes are rooted in sensual attachment while others arise from one of the three kinds of illusion based on attachment. People commit crimes not only because of their unwholesome desire but also because of their blind attachment to wives, husbands, etc. The following story illustrates the unfavourable results of sensual attachment.

Puppharatta Jātaka

Long ago, there was a poor man in Benares. He and his wife had only white clothes. He washed them to wear during a festival, but his wife disliked them and craved for pink garments. All his efforts to reason with her being in vain, he finally sneaked into the royal garden at night to steal the flower needed to dye his wife's garments. He fell into the hands of the guards and was ordered by the king to be impaled. He suffered terribly with the crows pecking at his eyes. Yet he murmured that his agony was nothing compared with the grief that overwhelmed him when he thought of the non-fulfilment of his wife's desire and his inability to enjoy the festival with her. So mourning over his misfortune, he died and landed in hell.

Many people do wrong due to the pressure of those whom they love. All these immoral deeds comprise kammas stemming from attachment. So the Visuddhimagga says, "Under the influence of sensual attachment, people act immorally in deed, speech, and thought, craving to get and keep sensual objects. Such immoral deeds usually lead to the lower realms."

Right and Wrong Good Intentions

Some well-intentioned deeds are skilful, but some so-called good deeds are harmful, and produce unwholesome kamma. For example, some people believe it is kind to end the suffering of sick animals by "mercy killing." All living beings are afraid to die, so killing animals is definitely wrong. Some people think it is compassionate to hasten the death of someone suffering from an incurable and painful disease. However, the patient does not really want to die, but just wants to be free from pain. Even if they express the wish to die, causing death is always unethical from the Buddhist point of view. If one directly or indirectly causes the premature death of a parent by euthanasia it is a heavy kamma that inevitably leads to hell.

"Craving for the pleasures of human and celestial realms, being misled by false teachings, some people do misdeeds such as killing to attain their objective, but because of their unwholesome kamma, they are reborn in the lower realms after death." According to the commentary, these misconceptions arise from corrupt teachers, lack of wholesome kamma in the past and the failure to protect oneself. Reliance on corrupt teachers leads to unwholesome kamma. Much unwholesome kamma in the previous life makes it easy to adopt wrong views and unskilful habits. Lack of vigilance makes one an easy prey to temptation.

True religion is called saddhamma, "the religion of the virtuous." Those who follow the true religion hear wise teachings, avoid immoral deeds, words, and thoughts, and acquire right views about the future life, kamma and its fruits. So, for their own benefit, they cultivate wholesome thoughts and practise charity, morality, and meditation. Such practices are noble because they are blameless and acceptable to everybody. Nobody will blame a man who avoids killing, stealing, slander, and other misdeeds. The meritorious deeds that we do are wholesome kammas stemming from attachment to the sensual realm. They lead to rebirth in the human or celestial realms. So the Visuddhimagga says, "Those who hear the true teaching believe in kamma and the efficacy of meritorious deeds as a passport to a better life in the sensual realms as wealthy men or divine beings. So they do meritorious deeds from sensual attachment and are reborn in the human and celestial realms."


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