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Abhidhamma Series no 17. Death and Rebirth.

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  • Nina van Gorkom
    Dear friends, Death and Rebirth. What is birth, and what is it actually that is born? We speak about the birth of a child, but in fact, there are only nåma
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2010
      Dear friends,

      Death and Rebirth.

      What is birth, and what is it actually that is born? We speak about
      the birth of a child, but in fact, there are only n�ma and r�pa which
      are born. The word ``birth'' is a conventional term. We should
      consider what birth really is. In order to understand what causes
      birth we should know what conditions the naama and ruupa which arise
      at the first moment of a new lifespan.
      The citta which arises at that moment is called the rebirth-
      consciousness or pa.tisandhi-citta. Pa.tisandhi means relinking, it
      �links� the previous life to the present life. It is usually
      translated as rebirth-consciousness, but, since there is no person
      who is reborn, birth-consciousness would be more correct. Since there
      isn't any citta which arises without conditions, the pa.tisandhi-
      citta must also have conditions. The pa.tisandhi-citta is the first
      citta of a new life and thus its cause can only be in the past. One
      may have doubts about past lives, but how can people be so different
      if there were no past lives? We can see that people are born with
      different accumulations. Cittas which arise and fall away succeed one
      another and thus each citta conditions the next one. The last citta
      of the previous life (dying-consciousness) is immediately succeeded
      by the first citta of this life, without there being any interval.
      That is why tendencies one had in the past can continue by way of
      accumulation from one citta to the next one and from past lives to
      the present life. Since people accumulated different tendencies in
      past lives, they are born with different tendencies and inclinations.
      Rebirth-consciousness is the result of kamma, it is vipaakacitta. Our
      life starts at the moment the pa.tisandhi-citta arises together with
      the ruupa which is at the same time produced by kamma. A lifespan
      ends when the last citta, the dying-consciousness (cuti-citta) falls
      Kamma produces r�pa not only at the first moment of life but
      throughout our life. Kamma does not only produce the vip�kacittas
      which experience pleasant and unpleasant objects through the sense-
      doors, it also produces throughout our life the ruupas which can
      function as the sense-doors through which these objects are received.
      Some kammas produce results in the same life in which they have been
      performed, some produce result in the form of rebirth-consciousness
      of a future life, or they produce result in the course of a future
      life. We have performed deeds in past lives which could produce
      rebirth but which have not yet come to fruition. We cannot know which
      kamma will produce our next rebirth.
      If akusala kamma produces the rebirth of the next life there will be
      an unhappy rebirth. In that case the cittas which arise shortly
      before the dying-consciousness are akusala cittas and they experience
      an unpleasant object. The pa.tisandhi-citta of the next life which
      succeeds the cuti-citta (the dying-consciousness), experiences that
      same unpleasant object. If kusala kamma produces the rebirth there
      will be a happy rebirth. In that case kusala cittas arise shortly
      before the cuti-citta and they experience a pleasant object. The
      pa.tisandhi-citta of the next life experiences that same pleasant
      The object experienced shortly before the dying-consciousness may be
      a sign of kamma one performed, or a sign of one�s future destiny, or
      it may be any object experienced through one of the senses.The kamma
      that will produce the next rebirth conditions the last javana-cittas
      arising before the cuti-citta to experience that object.
      There is no self who transmigrates from one life to the next life;
      there are only naama and ruupa arising and falling away. The present
      life is different from the past life but there is continuity in so
      far as the present life is conditioned by the past.
      The Visuddhimagga (XVII, 164-168) explains by way of similes that
      although the present is different from the past there is continuity.
      The being who is born is not the same as the being of the past life,
      but it is conditioned by the past. There is ``neither absolute
      identity nor absolute otherness'', as the Visuddhimagga explains. We
      read with regard to the pa.tisandhi-citta:

      �An echo, or its like, supplies
      The figures here; connectedness
      By continuity denies
      Identity and otherness.

      And here let the illustration of this consciousness be such things as
      an echo, a light, a seal impression, a looking glass image, for the
      fact of its not coming here from the previous becoming and for the
      fact that it arises owing to causes that are included in past
      becomings. For just as an echo, a light, a seal impression, and a
      shadow, have respectively sound, etc., as their cause and come into
      being without going elsewhere, so also this consciousness.�


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