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A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination

Chapter 1 - Vinnana And Nama-rupa

The doctrine says that vinnana gives rise to nama rupa. This means that with the arising of rebirth consciousness there also arise mind and body. Rebirth consciousness is invariably coupled with feeling (vedana), perception (sanna), contact (phassa), volition (cetana), mental advertance (manasikara) and other elements of mind relating to the objects of death bed visions of a person. Every citta is bound up with these mental elements. The high (tihetu) rebirth of some Brahmas, devas and human beings also, involve the three noble predispositions of alobha, adosa and amoha; some devas and human beings have only alobha and adosa while the earth bound devas and human beings with defective organs are totally devoid of noble predispositions. Their rebirth is a good ahetu birth as distinct from the evil ahetu rebirth of the denizens of the lower worlds who are also devoid of good inborn tendencies.

Rebirth may assume one of the three forms: rebirth in the mothers womb, rebirth generated in putridity (samsedaja) and rebirth as sudden and spontaneous emergence of the full fledged physical body (opapatika). Rebirth in the mothers womb is of two kinds, viz., viviparous as in the case of human beings and quadrupeds emerging from the wombs with umbilical cords and oviparous as in the case of birds coming out of eggs. These living beings may differ in origin as they do in size and gestation or incubation period. We will leave it at that and now go on with the human rebirth as described in the commentaries.

With the arising of rebirth consciousness there occur simultaneously three kammaja rupakalapa or thirty rupas. These are rupas that have their origin in kamma, viz., ten kaya rupas, ten bhava rupas and ten vatthu rupas. The nine rupas, to wit, the solid, fluid, heat, motion, colour, smell, taste, nutriment and life together with the kayapasada (body essence), rupa form the ten kaya rupas; bhava rupa and the solid, etc., form the group of ten bhava rupas. Bhava rupa means two germinal rupas, one of manhood and the other for womanhood. With the maturation of these rupas the mental and physical characteristics of man and woman become differentiated, as is evident in the case of those who have undergone sex changes.

In the time of the Buddha Soreyya, the son of a merchant, instantly turned into a woman for having wronged Mahakaccayana thera. All masculine features disappeared and gave way to those of the fair sex. He even gave birth to two children. It was only when he begged for forgiveness that he again became a man. Later on, he joined the holy order and died as an Arahat. It is somewhat like the case of a man who develops canine mentality after having been bitten by a rabid dog. The sex freak who is neither a male nor a female has no bhava rupa. He has only ten kaya rupas and ten vatthu rupas. Vatthu rupas are the physical bases of rebirth, subconscious, death and other cittas. So at the moment of conception there is already the physical basis for rebirth consciousness. The three kalapas or thirty rupas form the kalala which, according to ancient Buddhist books, mark the beginning of life.

This embryonic rupa has the size of a little drop of butter oil scum on a fine woollen thread. It is so small that it is invisible to the naked eye. It does not exist by itself. We should assume that it arises from the fusion of the semen (sukka) and blood (sanita) of the parents. If we reject this view, it will be hard to explain the childs resemblance to his parents in physical appearance. It is also said in the suttas that the physical body is the product of the four primary elements and the parents semen. Moreover, the pitaka specifies three conditions necessary for conception, viz., the parents intercourse, the menstrual discharge of the mother and the presence of something qualified to become an embryo. Thus, it is clear that according to the scriptures, the embryonic kalala has its origin in the fusion of parents semen and blood.

The semen and blood dissociated from the parents are utuja (temperature based) rupa but it is quite possible for utuja rupa to assimilate kammaja (kamma based) rupa. Modern doctors excise a lump of unhealthy tissue from the human body and replace it with healthy tissue. The graft is utuja rupa when cut out from the body but, as it becomes one whole with the natural tissues there appears kayapasada or kammaja rupa. There are also cases of transplanting a goats intestine or a human eye in place of diseased organs. No doubt these transplants develop kammaja rupas in the form of kayapasada and cakkhupasada. Likewise, we should assume that the three kammajakalapas are fused with utuja rupas of semen and blood detached from parents.

According to Western biologists, it is the fusion of the mothers ovum and the fathers spermatoza that gradually develops and becomes a child. The original embryo is so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. The findings of these scientists fairly agree with what the Buddhist books say about conception. Without the help of microscope or other instruments, but purely by means of his intellect, the Buddha knew how life begins with three kalapas or thirty rupas as kalala on the basis of parents semen and blood. This was the Buddhas teaching 2500 years ago and it was only during the last 300 years that Western scientists discovered the facts about conception after long investigation with microscopes. Their discoveries bear testimony to the Buddhas infinite intelligence. However, they are as yet unable to reveal the genesis of thirty rupas probably because the extremely subtle kammaja rupas defy microscopic investigation.

Thus, the cetasika and kammaja rupa are the nama rupas born of rebirth consciousness. The kammaja rupas are renewed at every thought moment as are the utuja rupas due to heat. From the arising of the first bhavanga citta there also occur cittaja rupa (consciousness based) rupas at the moment of the arising of citta. But, cittas which make us barely aware of seeing, etc., cannot cause rupa. So cittaja rupas do not arise at the moment of the arising of the bare cittas. Thus, with the arising of the rebirth citta, there develop in due course all other kinds of citta, that is, cetasikas, e.g., feeling, etc., as well as all kinds of rupa, to wit, kammaja, utuja and cittaja rupas. After a week, the kalala becomes turbid froth (abbuda) which turns into a lump of flesh after a week. This hardens into //ghana// in another week and in the fifth week there develops //pasakha// with four knobs for hands and legs and one big knob for head.

The Buddhist books do not describe in detail the development after the fifth week, but say that after 77 days the four pasada rupas for seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting appear as do the ahara rupas, the product of the nutriment in the mothers body. It is also said that the embryo has toe nails, finger nails, etc. The books do not go into further details as it is not necessary for the yogis to know them. Such knowledge is beneficial only to doctors.

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