Different Types of Rebirth-Consciousness
We see many different beings in this world, men and animals, all with a different appearance and with a different character. They must have been different from the first moment of their lives, from the moment of rebirth-consciousness, paṭisandhi-citta. We may be inclined to think that there must be many types of paṭisandhi-citta, but, on the other hand, beings who are born in this world also have many things in common. We share the same world and we receive impressions through the senses, no matter whether we are rich or poor. On account of the objects which we experience through the six doors, kusala cittas and akusala cittas arise. All these cittas, arising in daily life, are cittas of the sense-sphere, kāmāvacara cittas. “Kāma” means “sensual enjoyment” or “object of sensual enjoyment”. However, kāmāvacara cittas are not only cittas rooted in attachment, lobha; they are all the cittas pertaining to the sense sphere.
Human birth is the result of kusala kamma. The paṭisandhi-citta arising in the human plane of existence where there are sense impressions is the result of kusala kamma performed by kāmāvacara cittas, cittas pertaining to the “sense-sphere”. It cannot be the result of jhānacittas which are not kāmāvacara cittas. The jhānacittas arising when there is calm to the degree of “absorption” do not experience objects which present themselves through the five senses. Jhānacittas cannot cause birth in this world. Thus, beings born in the human plane of existence have in common that their paṭisandhi-citta is the result of kusala kamma performed by kāmāvacara cittas. As regards the many varieties of human birth, this is due to the degree of kusala kamma which produced the paṭisandhi-citta.
One could divide human beings as regards their birth into two classes, but each of these two classes includes many degrees of vipāka. The two classes are:
  1. 1.
    Those who are born with a paṭisandhi-citta which is ahetuka kusala
    vipāka (which means that the kusala vipākacitta is not accompanied
    by beautiful roots: by alobha or non-attachment, by adosa or
    non-aversion, or by paññā or wisdom)
  2. 2.
    Those who are born with a paṭisandhi-citta which is sahetuka kusala
    vipāka (kusala vipāka accompanied by beautiful roots)
When a human being is born with a paṭisandhi-citta which is ahetuka, his birth is the result of kāmāvacara kusala kamma (kamma performed by kusala cittas of the sense-sphere), but the degree of the kusala kamma is less than the kusala kamma which produces a sahetuka paṭisandhi-citta, a paṭisandhi-citta with “beautiful” roots (sobhana hetus). People who are born with an ahetuka paṭisandhi-citta are handicapped from the first moment of life. Eyesense or earsense does not develop or they have other defects. However, when we see someone who is handicapped we cannot tell whether there was at the first moment of his life an ahetuka paṭisandhi-citta or a sahetuka paṭisandhi-citta. We cannot tell whether someone was handicapped from the first moment of his life or whether he became handicapped later on, even while he was still in his mother’s womb, and thus we do not know which type of paṭisandhi-citta he was born with. The fact that a person is handicapped has not happened by chance; it is due to one’s kamma.
There is only one type of paṭisandhi-citta which is ahetuka kusala vipāka, but there are many degrees of this vipāka depending on the kamma which produces it: there can be birth in different surroundings, in unpleasant surroundings, though not in woeful planes, and in pleasant surroundings. This type of paṭisandhi-citta can even arise in the lowest heavenly plane.
There is also an ahetuka paṭisandhi-citta which is akusala vipāka. This type of citta does not arise in the human plane, but in a woeful plane. Only one type of paṭisandhi-citta is akusala vipāka, but it is of many degrees. There are many varieties of akusala kamma and thus there must be many varieties of unhappy rebirth. The unhappy rebirth we can see in this world is birth as an animal. There are three more classes of woeful planes, which we cannot see; they are the world of petas (ghosts), the world of asuras (demons), and the hell planes. There are different kinds of hell planes because there are many degrees of akusala kamma which produce different kinds of unhappy rebirth.
The function of paṭisandhi can be performed by different types of vipākacittas which are the results of different kammas. It depends on kamma which type of vipākacitta performs the function of paṭisandhi in the case of a particular being. The paṭisandhi-citta, the first citta in life, does not arise within a sense-door process or a mind-door process of cittas experiencing an object which impinges on one of the six doors. It merely performs the function of rebirth.
There are two ahetuka vipākacittas which can perform the function of paṭisandhi, namely: santīraṇa akusala vipākacitta and santīraṇa kusala vipākacitta. As we have seen (in chapter 9), santīraṇa-citta is an ahetuka vipākacitta. When santīraṇa-citta arises in a sense-door process of cittas experiencing an object through one of the five senses, it performs the function of investigating (santīraṇa) the object. However, santīraṇa-citta can also perform the function of rebirth, and this is the case when the paṭisandhi-citta is ahetuka vipāka. The same type of citta can perform more than one function, but at different moments and at different occasions. When santīraṇa-citta performs the function of paṭisandhi it does not arise in a sense-door process and it does not investigate an object.
As we have seen (in chapter 9), there are three kinds of santīraṇa-citta:
  1. 1.
    Santīraṇa-citta which is akusala vipāka, accompanied by upekkhā
    (indifferent feeling)
  2. 2.
    Santīraṇa-citta which is kusala vipāka, accompanied by upekkhā
  3. 3.
    Santīraṇa-citta which is kusala vipāka, accompanied by somanassa
    (pleasant feeling)
The santīraṇa-citta which is akusala vipāka, accompanied by upekkhā, can perform the function of paṭisandhi in woeful planes. This means that the type of paṭisandhi-citta arising in woeful planes is of the same type as the akusala vipākacitta which is santīraṇa-citta performing the function of investigating in a sense-door process of cittas.
The santīraṇa-citta which is kusala vipāka, accompanied by upekkhā, can, apart from the function of investigating in a sense-door process, also perform the function of paṭisandhi in the human plane and in the lowest heavenly plane.
The santīraṇa-citta which is kusala vipāka, accompanied by somanassa, does not perform the function of paṭisandhi.
Akusala kamma and kusala kamma of different beings can produce nineteen different types of paṭisandhi-citta in all, arising in different planes of existence. One of these types is akusala vipāka and eighteen types are kusala vipāka. Of the types of citta which are kusala vipāka, one type is ahetuka kusala vipāka and seventeen types are sahetuka kusala vipāka (accompanied by beautiful roots). There are many degrees of each of these nineteen types of paṭisandhi-citta because kamma can be of many degrees. It is due to kamma that people are born ugly or beautiful and that they are born in unpleasant or in pleasant surroundings. The fact that one is born into miserable circumstances does not mean that one’s next birth will also be into miserable circumstances. It all depends on the kamma which has been accumulated and which produces result. As regards people who are born into happy circumstances, if akusala kamma produces their next birth, this will be an unhappy one.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Fours, chapter IX, paragraph 5, Darkness):
Monks, these four persons are found existing in the world. What four?
He who is in darkness and bound for darkness; he who is in darkness but bound for light; he who is in light but bound for darkness; he who is in light and bound for light.
And how, monks, is a person in darkness bound for darkness?
In this case a certain person is born in a low family, the family of a scavenger or a hunter or a basket-weaver or wheelwright or sweeper, or in the family of some wretched man hard put to it to find a meal or earn a living, where food and clothes are hard to get. Moreover, he is ill-favoured, ugly, dwarfish, sickly, purblind, crooked, lame or paralysed, with never a bite or sup, without clothes, vehicle, without perfumes or flower-garlands, bed, dwelling or lights. He lives in the practice of evil with body, speech and thought; and so doing, when body breaks up, after death, he is reborn in the waste, the way of woe, the downfall, in hell. Thus, monks, is the person who is in darkness and bound for darkness.
And how, monks, is a person in darkness but bound for light?
In this case a certain person is born in a low family ...without bed, dwelling or lights. He lives in the practice of good with body, speech and thought ...and so doing, when body breaks up, after death he is reborn in the happy bourn, in the heaven-world.
And how, monks, is a person in light but bound for darkness?
In this case a certain person is born in a high family...
And that man is well-built, comely and charming, possessed of supreme beauty of form. He is one able to get clothes, vehicle, perfumes and flower-garlands, bed, dwelling and lights. But he lives in the practice of evil with body, speech and thought. So doing, when body breaks up, after death he is reborn in the waste, the way of woe, the downfall, in hell. Thus, monks, is the person who is in light but bound for darkness.
And how, monks, is a person who is in light and bound for light?
In this case a person is born in a high family ...able to get clothes... bed, dwelling and lights. He lives in the practice of good with body, speech and thought. So doing, when body breaks up after death, he is reborn in the happy bourn, in the heaven-world. Thus, monks, is one who is in light and bound for light.
These, monks, are the four persons found existing in the world.
The kusala kamma producing a paṭisandhi-citta which is sahetuka vipāka (with beautiful roots) is of a higher degree than the kusala kamma producing an ahetuka paṭisandhi-citta. Kāmāvacara kusala kammas (kusala kammas of the “sense sphere”) can produce eight different types of sahetuka vipākacittas which can perform the function of paṭisandhi. Which type of vipākacitta performs this function in the case of a particular being depends on the kusala kamma which produces it.
People are born with different characters and with different capacities; they are born with different degrees of wisdom or without wisdom. The paṭisandhi-cittas of people are different. When the paṭisandhi-citta is sahetuka, it is always accompanied by alobha (non-attachment or generosity) and adosa (non-aversion or kindness), but not always by wisdom. It can be accompanied by wisdom or it can be without wisdom, depending on the kamma which produces it. When the paṭisandhi-citta is accompanied by wisdom, one is born with three sobhana hetus (beautiful roots): alobha, adosa and paññā. Someone who is born with wisdom is more inclined to develop wisdom in the course of his life than someone who is born without wisdom. Those who are born with a paṭisandhi-citta accompanied by wisdom can attain enlightenment if they cultivate the eightfold Path. If one is born without wisdom one can still develop right understanding, but in that life one cannot attain enlightenment. Thus we see that everything in our life depends on conditions.
Apart from the difference in the number of roots (two hetus or three hetus) which accompany the sahetuka paṭisandhi-citta there are other differences. Kusala kamma which produces the paṭisandhi-citta can be kamma performed by kusala citta with somanassa, pleasant feeling, or with upekkhā, indifferent feeling; by kusala citta which is “unprompted” (not induced, asaṅkhārika) or by kusala citta which is “prompted” (induced, sasaṅkhārika) (39). Several factors determine the nature of kusala kamma which produces its result accordingly. The sahetuka paṭisandhi-cittas which are the results of kāmāvacara kusala kammas can be classified as eight different types in all. Summing them up they are:
  1. 1.
    Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wisdom, unprompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-sampayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ
    (40)).
  2. 2.
    Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wisdom, prompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-sampayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  3. 3.
    Accompanied by pleasant feeling, without wisdom, unprompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-vippayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  4. 4.
    Accompanied by pleasant feeling, without wisdom, prompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-vippayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  5. 5.
    Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wisdom, unprompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-sampayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  6. 6.
    Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wisdom, prompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-sampayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  7. 7.
    Accompanied by indifferent feeling, without wisdom, unprompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-vippayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
    Accompanied by indifferent feeling, without wisdom, prompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, ñāṇa-vippayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
It is useful to know more details about paṭisandhi-citta, because it can help us to understand why people are so different. The eight types of sahetuka paṭisandhi-citta which are the results of kāmāvacara kusala kammas do not arise only in the human plane, but they also arise in those heavenly planes of existence which are “sensuous” planes of existence, kāma-bhūmi.
Eleven planes are kāma-bhūmis (or kāma-lokas), sensuous planes of existence, and of these one is the plane of human beings, six are heavenly planes and four are woeful planes. Beings born in one of the kāma-bhūmis receive sense impressions, they have kāmāvacara cittas. There are also higher heavenly planes which are not kāma-bhūmi. There are thirty-one classes of planes of existence in all (41).
If one is born in one of the kāma-bhūmis and cultivates jhāna, absorption, one can, besides kāmāvacara cittas, also have rūpa-jhānacittas and arūpa-jhānacittas (42). If one cultivates the eightfold Path one can have lokuttara cittas, supramundane cittas which directly experience nibbāna.
When someone attains jhāna, the kusala kamma he performs is not kāmāvacara kusala kamma; at the moment of jhāna there are no sense impressions. The kusala kamma which is jhāna does not produce result in the same lifespan one attains it, but it can produce result in the form of paṭisandhi-citta, the paṭisandhi-citta of the next life. In that case there are jhānacittas arising shortly before death and the paṭisandhi-citta of the next life experiences the same object as those jhānacittas.
The result of rūpāvacara kusala citta (kusala citta which is rūpa-jhānacitta) is birth in a heavenly plane which is not kāma-bhūmi but a rūpa-brahma-plane (fine-material world). The result of an arūpāvacara kusala citta (kusala citta which is arūpa-jhānacitta) is birth in a heavenly plane which is an arūpa-brahma plane (immaterial world). There are different rūpa-brahma-planes and arūpa-brahma planes.
There are five stages of rūpa-jhāna and thus there are five types of rūpāvacara kusala citta which can produce five types of rūpāvacara vipākacitta. There are four stages of arūpa-jhāna and thus there are four types of arūpāvacara kusala citta which can produce four types of arūpāvacara vipākacitta. Therefore, there are five types of paṭisandhi-citta which are the results of rūpāvacara kusala cittas and four types of paṭisandhi-citta which are the results of arūpāvacara kusala cittas. Altogether there are nine types of paṭisandhi-citta which are the results of the different types of jhānacittas. They are sahetuka vipākacittas and they are always accompanied by paññā.
Summarising the nineteen types of paṭisandhi-citta:
  • 1 akusala vipāka santīraṇa-citta (ahetuka, result of akusala kamma)
  • 1 kusala vipāka santīraṇa-citta (ahetuka, result of kāmāvacara
    kusala kamma)
  • 8 mahā-vipākacittas (sahetuka, results of kāmāvacara kusala
    kammas)(43)
  • 5 rūpāvacara vipākacittas (sahetuka, results of rūpa-jhānacittas)
  • 4 arūpāvacara vipākacittas (sahetuka, results of arūpa-jhānacittas)
We do not know which of our deeds will produce the paṭisandhi-citta of our next life. Even a deed performed in a former life can produce the paṭisandhi-citta of the next life. The Buddha encouraged people to perform many kinds of kusala kamma. Each good deed is very valuable; it is certain to bear its fruit sooner or later. We read in As it was said (Khuddaka Nikāya, “Itivuttaka”, the Ones, chapter III, paragraph 6) about the value of generosity. The Buddha said to the monks:
Monks, if beings knew, as I know, the ripening of sharing gifts they would not enjoy their use without sharing them, nor would the taint of stinginess obsess the heart and stay there. Even if it were their last bit, their last morsel of food, they would not enjoy its use without sharing it, if there were anyone to receive it...
Kusala kamma can cause a happy rebirth, but the end of birth is to be preferred to any kind of rebirth. If one cultivates the eightfold Path and attains arahatship there will be no more rebirth. The dying-consciousness (cuti-citta) of the arahat is not succeeded by a paṭisandhi-citta. The Buddha reminded people of the dangers of birth and encouraged them to be mindful, in order to attain the “deathless” which is nibbāna. We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Eights, chapter VIII, paragraph 4) that the Buddha, when he was staying at Nādika, in the Brick Hall, said to the monks:
Mindfulness of death, monks, when made become, when developed is very fruitful, of great advantage, merging and ending in the deathless.
And how, monks, is it so...?
Take the case of a monk, who, when the day declines and night sets in, reflects thus: “Many indeed are the chances of death for me. A snake or scorpion or a centipede might bite me and might cause my death; that would be a hindrance to me. I might stumble and fall; the food I have eaten might make me ill; bile might convulse me; phlegm choke me; winds (within me) with their scissor-like cuts give me ache; or men or non-humans might attack me and might cause my death. That would be a hindrance to me.”
Monks, that monk must reflect thus: “Are there any evil and wrong states within me that have not been put away and that would be a hindrance to me were I to die tonight?” If, monks, on consideration he realize that there are such states ...then to put away just those evil and wrong states, an intense resolution, effort, endeavour, exertion, struggle, mindfulness and self-possession must be made by that monk.
Monks, just as a man whose turban is on fire, or whose hair is burning, would make an intense resolution, effort, endeavour, exertion, struggle, mindfulness and self-possession to put out his (burning) turban or hair; even so, monks, an intense resolution, effort, endeavour, exertion, struggle, mindfulness and self-possession must be made by that monk to put away just those evil and wrong states.
But if that monk, on review, realize that there are no such states within him that have not been put away which would be a hindrance to him, were he to die that night - then let that monk live verily in joy and gladness, training himself day and night in the ways of righteousness.
Take the case, monks, of a monk who reflects likewise ...when the night is spent and day breaks. He must reflect in the same way...
Monks, mindfulness of death when so made become, so developed is very fruitful, of great advantage, merging and ending in the deathless.

Questions

  1. 1.
    Can the paṭisandhi-citta be ahetuka?
  2. 2.
    How many types of paṭisandhi-citta are there?
  3. 3.
    How many types of paṭisandhi-citta are akusala vipāka?
  4. 4.
    When the paṭisandhi-citta is accompanied by wisdom, by which factor
    is this conditioned?
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