THE FIRST CITTA IN
again there are cittas arising which experience different objects through the senses and
through the mind-door. There are seeing or hearing, there are cittas with attachment to
what is seen or heard. These cittas arise because of different conditions. We may wonder
whether they also have different functions. Seeing and the citta with attachment to
visible object do not arise at the same time, they are different and they perform
different functions. We will understand more about cittas if we know in what order they
arise and which function they Perform. A citta cannot arise without performing a function.
Each citta has its own function, in Pali : Kicca. There are fourteen functions of cittas
The citta arising at the first moment of life must also
have a function. 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 nama and rupa which are born. The word
'birth' is a conventional term. We should consider what birth really is. Nama and rupa
arise and fall away at every moment and thus there is birth and death of nama and rupa at
every moment. In order to understand what causes birth we should know what conditions the
nama and rupa which arise at the first moment of a new lifespan.
What arises first at the beginning of our life, nama or
rupa? At any moment of our life there have to be both nama and rupa. In the planes of
existence where there are five khandhas (four namas and one rupa), nama cannot arise
without rupa; citta cannot arise without the body. What is true for any moment of our
life, is also true for the first moment of our life. At the first moment of our life nama
and rupa have to arise at the same time. The citta which arises at that moment is called
the patisandhi-citta or rebirth-consciousness. Since no citta arises without conditions,
the patisandhi-citta must also have conditions. The patisandhi-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 not past lives? We can see that
people are born with different accumulations. Can we explain the character of a child by
looking at its parents? What we mean by 'character' is actually nama. Could parents
transfer to another being nama which falls away as soon as it has arisen? There must be
other factors which are the condition for a child's character. 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) was succeeded by the first citta of this life.
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
We do not only see that people are born with different
characters, we also see that they are born in different surroundings; some people are born
in pleasant surroundings and some people are born in miserable surroundings. In order to
understand this we should not cling to conventional terms such as 'person' or
'surroundings'. If we think in terms of paramattha dhammas we will see that being in
pleasant or miserable surroundings is nothing else but the receiving of pleasant or
unpleasant objects through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body-sense. It is kusala vipaka or
akusala vipaka. Vipaka (result) does not arise without conditions; it is caused by good or
bad deeds, by kamma. Different people perform different kamma and each deed brings its own
result. The fact that people are born in different surroundings must have a condition: it
is conditioned by kamma performed in a previous life. Kamma causes one to be born. The
patisandhi-citta is the result of kamma; it is vipaka.
In this world we see different births of people and of
animals. When we compare the life of an animal with the life of a human being, we notice
that being born an animal is sorrowful; it is akusala vipaka. Being born a human being is
kusala vipaka, even if one is born poor or if one has to experience many unpleasant
things during one's life. The patisandhi-cittas of different people are of many different
degrees of kusala vipaka because the kusala kammas which produced them were of different
At the first moment of our life kamma produces the
patisandhi-citta and then rupa has to arise at the same time. One may wonder what the
cause is of the rupa arising at the first moment of life. We see that people are born with
different bodily features: some are strong, some are weak, some are handicapped from
birth. This must have a cause. It is kamma which causes both nama and rupa to be
Could the rupa which we call 'dead matter' and the rupa we
call 'plant' be produced by kamma? A plant is not 'born' because a plant cannot perform
good and bad deeds; it has no kamma that could cause its birth. Temperature is the
condition for the life of a plant. As regards human beings, kamma produces rupa at the
moment the patisandhi-citta arises. There couldn';t be life if kamma did not produce
nama and rupa from the first moment of life. Temperature too produces rupa; if there were
not the right temperature the new life could not develop. As soon as the patisandhi-citta
has fallen away, at the moment the next citta is arising, citta too starts to produce
rupa. Furthermore, nutrition produces rupa so that the body can grow. Thus we see that
there are other factors besides kamma which are condition for rupa, namely: citta,
temperature and nutrition.
Kamma produces rupa not only at the first moment of life
but throughout our lives. Kamma does not only produce the vipaka-cittas which experience
pleasant and unpleasant objects through the sense-doors it also produces throughout our
lives the rupas which can function as the sense-door through which these objects are
received. Could someone for instance create his own eye-sense? It could not be created by
temperature, only by kamma. Transplantation of the eye cannot be successful unless kamma
produces eye-sense in the body of the receiver.
The mothers womb is not the only way of birth. We learn
from the teachings that there can be birth in four different ways: by way of the womb, by
way of eggs, by way of moisture and by way of spontaneous birth.
People would like to know when life starts in the mother's
womb. Life starts at the moment the patisandhi- citta arises together with the rupa which
is produced by kamma at the same time. A life-span ends when the last citta, the
dying-consciousness (cuti-citta), falls away. As long as the cuti-citta has not fallen
away there is still life. One cannot know the moment the cuti-citta of someone else arises
and falls away unless one has cultivated the knowledge of the cittas of other people. A
Buddha or someone else who has cultivated this kind of knowledge could know the exact
moment of someone's death.
We may wonder which kamma in our life will produce the
patisandhi-citta of the next life. Some people believe that by doing many good deeds in
this life they can be assured of a happy rebirth. But the kamma which produces rebirth
will not necessarily be from this life. We have in past lives as well as in this life
performed both akusala kamma and kusala kamma and these kammas are of different degrees.
Some kammas produce results in the same life they have been performed, some produce a
result in the form of the rebirth-consciousness of a future life, or in the course of a
future life. We have performed deeds in past jives which could produce rebirth but which
have not yet come to fruition. We cannot know which kamma will produce our next
If akusala kamma produces the rebirth of the next life
there will be an unhappy rebirth. In that case the cittas which will arise shortly before
the dying-consciousness (cuti-citta) will be akusala cittas and they will experience an
unpleasant object which is conditioned by kamma. The patisandhi-citta of the next life
which succeeds the cuti-citta experiences that same unpleasant object. If kusala kamma
produces the rebirth there will be a happy rebirth. In that case kusala cittas will arise
shortly before the cuti-citta and they will experience a pleasant object which is
conditioned by kamma. The patisandhi-citta of the next life experiences that same pleasant
People want to know whether they can ensure a happy
rebirth for themselves by controlling the last cittas before the dying-consciousness, by
willing them to be kusala. Some people invite monks to chant in order to help a dying
person to have kusala cittas. However, nobody can be sure that his rebirth will be a happy
one, unless he has attained one of the stages of enlightenment. One cannot have power over
one's cittas. Can we control our thoughts now, at this moment? Since we cannot do this,
how could we control our thoughts at the time shortly before dying? There is no self which
decide about one's rebirth in the next life. Even if one has done many good
deeds, there may be akusala kamma of a previous life which can produce an unhappy rebirth
in the next life. After the last akusala cittas or kusala cittas in life have fallen away,
the cuti-citta arises. The cuti-citta is succeeded by the patisandhi-citta of the next
life. When the patisandhi-citta arises the new lifespan starts. As long as kamma there
will be future lives.
Since the first citta of a lifespan performs the function
there is only one patisandhi-citta in a life. There is no self which
transmigrates from one life to the next life; there are only nama and rupa 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. Since the patisandhi-citta succeeds
the cuti-citta of the previous life the accumulated tendencies of past lives go on to the
patisandhi-citta. Thus, inclinations one has in the present life are conditioned by the
One is glad to be born if one does not realize that birth
is the result of kamma and that one will go forth in the cycle of birth and death as long
as there is kamma. Not seeing the dangers of birth is ignorance. At this moment we are in
the human plane of existence but as long as we have not attained any stage of
enlightenment we cannot be sure that there will not be rebirth in one of the woeful
planes. We all have performed both akusala kamma and kusala kamma in different lives. Who
knows which of those deeds will produce the patisandhi-citta of the next life, even if we
continue doing good deeds? Some people think that birth in a heavenly plane is desirable,
but they do not realize that life in a heavenly plane does not last and after a lifespan
in heaven is over an ill deed previously performed could produce a patisandhi-citta in a
We read in the 'Discourse on Fools and the Wise' (Middle
Length Sayings Ill, 129) that the Buddha, when he was staying in the Jeta Grove, in
Anathapindika's monastery, spoke to the monks about the sufferings in hell and about the
anguishes of animal birth. The Buddha said:
'In many a disquisition could I, monks, talk a talk
animal birth, but it is not easy to describe in full, monks,
so many are
the anguishes of animal birth.
Monks, it is like a man who might throw a yoke
one hole into the sea. An easterly wind might take it
westwards, a westerly
wind might take it eastwards, a
northerly wind might take it southwards, a southerly
might take it northwards. There might be a blind turtle
there who came to
the surface once in a hundred years.
What do you think about this, monks? Could that
turtle push his neck through that one hole in the yoke?'
'lf at all, revered sir, then only once in a very long
'Sooner or later, monks, could the blind turtle
his neck through the one hole in the yoke; more difficult than that, do I say,
monks, is human status once again for the fool who has gone to the Downfall. What is the
cause of that? Monks, there is no dhamma-faring there, no even-faring, no doing of what is
skilled, no doing of what is good. Monks, there is devouring of one another there and
feeding on the weak. Monks, if some time or other once in a very long while that fool came
to human status (again), he would be born into those families that are low: a family of
low caste or a family of hunters or a family of bamboo-plaiters or a family of cartwrights
or a family of refuse-scavengers, in such a family as is needy, without enough to drink or
to eat, where a covering for the back is with difficulty obtained. Moreover, he would
be illfavoured, ugly, dwarfish, sickly, blind or deformed or lame or paralysed; he would
be unable to get food, drink, clothes, vehicles, garlands, scents and perfumes, bed,
dwelling and lights; he would fare wrongly in body, wrongly in speech, wrongly in thought.
Because he had
fared wrongly in body, speech and thought, at the breaking up of the body after dying he
would arise in the sorrowful ways, a bad bourn, the Downfall, Niraya Hell....
... This, monks, is the fool's condition, completed in
The Buddha spoke about the dangers of birth in many
different ways. He said that birth is dukkha (sorrow) ; it is followed by old age,
sickness and death. He pointed out the foulness of the body and reminded people that also
at this very moment the body is dukkha, impermanent and not-self. If we continue taking
mind and body for self there will be no end to the cycle of birth and death.
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (II, Nidana-vagga, Ch.
XV, par. 10, A person) that the Buddha, when he was in Rajagaha on Vulture's Peak, said to
Incalculable is the beginning, monks, of this faring on.
The earliest point is not revealed of the running on, faring on of beings, cloaked in
ignorance, tied by craving... The bones of one single person, monks, running on, faring on
for an aeon would be a cairn, a pile, a heap as great as Mount Vepulla, were there a
collector of those bones and the collection were not destroyed.
How is this? Incalculable is the beginning, monks, of this
faring on. The earliest point is not revealed of the running on, faring on of beings,
cloaked in ignorance, tied by craving...
Thus spoke the Exalted One. After the Wellfarer had said
this, he spoke further:
The pile of bones of (all the bodies of) one man
Who has alone one aeon lived,
Were heaped a mountain high - - so said the mighty seer - -
Yes, reckoned high as Vipula
To north of Vulture's Peak, crag-fort of Magadha.
When he with perfect insight sees
The Ariyan Truths: - - what dukkha is and how it comes.
And how it may be overpassed,
The Ariyan Eightfold Path, the way all ill to abate - -
Seven times at most reborn, a man
Yet running on, through breaking every fetter down,
Endmaker does become of dukkha.
It is fortunate to be born in the human plane where one
can cultivate insight.
When one has attained the first stage of enlightenment (the stage of the
sotapanna), one has realized the Four Noble Truths. Then one will not be reborn
more than seven times and one can be sure that there will eventually be an end to rebirth.
1. How many functions of citta are there in all? .
2. The four jatis of citta are: akusala, kusaIa, vipaka and kiriya. Which jati is the
3. Is birth as a human being always the result of kusaIa kamma?
4. When does human life start?
5. Why is birth sorrow (dukkha)?
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