The Cooling Down Process (Nibbāna) – How the Root Causes are Removed

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The Cooling Down Process (Nibbāna) – How the Root Causes are Removed

Revised June 25, 2020 (#1 and #2 revised); May 28, 2022; August 31, 2022


1. The rebirth process (and suffering) continues because of the six root causes: lobha, dosa, moha, alobha, adosa, and amoha. Even though we may have bouts of happiness, we suffer much more than imaginable in the rebirth process because of these six causes.

If there are six root causes, why did the Buddha say, “rāgakkhayo Nibbanan, dosakkhayo Nibbanan, Mohakkhayo Nibbanan”? Why are there only three causes to be removed to attain Nibbāna? (By the way, lobha is a stronger form of rāga, and thus rāgakkhaya means removing lobha).

While lobha, dosa, and moha lead to rebirths in the apāyās (or “bad realms, including the animal realm,) mundane versions of alobha, adosa, and amoha lead to rebirths in the “good realms.”

However, one must overcome rebirth in ALL realms to be guaranteed no rebirths in the apāyā. See “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna).”

Furthermore, one needs to cultivate alobha, adosa, and amoha to get started on the process of removing lobha, dosa, and moha.

As wisdom (paññā) grows, lobha, dosa, and moha (as well as mundane versions of alobha, adosa, and amoha) will fade away gradually, and one will get to Nibbāna (where suffering is absent.)

Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhaṇa – Interrelated

2. Buddha Dhamma is about eliminating suffering associated with the rebirth process. Before following the Noble Eightfold Path, one must understand the First Noble Truth. See “Buddha Dhamma – Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhaṇa.”

Once one comprehends Tilakkhaṇa, one would have a deeper level of alobha, adosa, and amoha.

A Sotāpanna starts on the Noble Eightfold Path with that more profound level of alobha, adosa, and amoha. Wisdom (paññā) peaks at the Arahant stage. At that point, one would not be seeking rebirth anywhere in the 31 realms with lobha, dosa, and moha OR alobha, adosa, or amoha.

See, “Sīla, Samādhi, Paññā to Paññā, Sīla, Samādhi” and “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart” and references therein.

Here is another way to see it. When one is on the mundane path, their level of amoha is not complete. That amoha still has avijjā or the “ignorance of the Noble Truths.” That is the same as having sakkāya diṭṭhi goes away. At the Sotāpanna stage, sakkāya diṭṭhi goes away by comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkhaṇa.

Lobha is Extreme Greed

3. Lobha is the extreme of greed.(“lo” + “bha” where “lo” is for the lokaya or world and “bha” is for “bihiveema” (arise or establish) is the main reason how the material world is created and sustained with greed.

Because of lobha, kāmacchanda (one of the five hindrances) arises. One “loses one’s mind” when acting with kāmacchanda which comes from kāma + icca” + “anda” where “ichcha” means liking and “anda” is becoming blind. Thus, kāmacchanda means blinded by attachment to sensual pleasures.

When blinded by kāmacchanda and when obstacles arise in the way, one develops dosa or dvesa (“dvi”+”vesa” or second manifestation of greed; see “Pāli Glossary (A-K) and Pāli Glossary (L-Z)” for the pronunciation key), i.e., hate for whatever gets in one’s way.

And one has lobha because one cannot see the truth about this world, i.e., because one has moha: Moha comes from “muva” + “” or literally “closed mouth.” The analogy is that if there is a vessel whose mouth or opening is closed, one cannot see what is inside. Thus when one has moha, one is ignorant about the true nature of this world, and thus acts blindly and foolishly, based on outward appearances.

Total Ignorance (Moha) is the Root Cause

4. One who has not heard about the Buddha’s worldview is likely to act with moha and, thus, has both lobha and dosa.

However, many people do not have strong versions of lobha, dosa, and moha. Most “moral people” have avijjā, a milder version of moha, as discussed in #2 above.

They will likely carry over such habits (gati) compatible with alobha, adosa, and amoha. ANYONE is likely to have been exposed to Buddha Dhamma sometime in the deep past. But the more time lag there is, one will likely lose those qualities.

It is clear that if and when one has kāmacchanda (strong cravings for sensual pleasures), one may be tempted to do immoral deeds. We all have had kāmacchanda taking over; anyone can remember cases where “the ability to reason out” got lost, at least for a brief time.

Lobha (Greed) Leads to Dosa (Anger/Hate)

5. Long-lasting hateful situations (dosa) arise because of kāmacchanda. If something gets in the way of one’s sensual pleasures, one can become angry/hateful.

That is why dosa (or dvesa) is the second manifestation of greed. At this extreme, dosa brings out the second of the five hindrances, vyāpāda. This word comes from “vāya”+”pāda”, where “vāya” means decline and “pāda” means to “walk towards.” Thus vyāpāda means one is on a (morally) declining path.

When one gets extremely angry, one again loses control, which could be even worse than kāmacchanda; one can kill another human being in a moment of rage. When one habitually gets angry, one could be in a state of vyāpāda for longer times, becoming a “normal” state of affairs i.e., becoming a “gati.” We can see people get into the “vyāpāda mode” during (political) debates on television or during arguments.

All five hindrances arise from not seeing the futility of craving or hate. This “getting attached to things in this world” via greed and hatred is called taṇhā; see “Taṇhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance

Avijjā and Taṇhā Go Together

6. Avijjā (ignorance) and taṇhā feed off each other, but it is avijjā that one needs to tackle first. That is because unless one’s mind sees the dangers hidden behind taṇhā, it is not possible to reduce taṇhā.

When one starts learning Dhamma, one begins to understand the nature of the broader world of 31 realms: Living beings move from birth to birth; they suffer mightily in the lowest four realms.

All actions have consequences. In the long run, it does not make sense to act immorally to satisfy one’s immediate urges (that is the concept of anicca; see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations,” and follow-up posts.)

Lobha and Dosa Permanently Reduced with Sammā Diṭṭhi

7. Most people make the mistake of trying to get rid of greed and hate, either wilfully or with “breath meditation.” That is NOT POSSIBLE. One needs to engage in the correct version of “ānāpāna” meditation; see, “6. Ānāpānasati Bhāvanā (Introduction).”

As long as one has a wrong worldview and does not see the danger in having thoughts of excess greed and hate, it is not possible to FORCIBLY get rid of greed and hatred; see, “Difference Between Giving Up Valuables and Losing Interest in Worthless.”

That is why Sammā Diṭṭhi, or the correct worldview, comes first in the Noble Eightfold Path.

After comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkhaṇa, there is no need to suppress lobha and dosa. That will happen automatically due to wisdom (paññā.)

Progress After Comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paṭicca Samuppāda/Tilakkhaṇa

8. When one attains the Sotāpanna stage, one’s lobha is reduced to the kāma rāga level, and dosa reduced to the paṭigha level PERMANENTLY; That also leads to the removal of the other hindrances. Paṭigha is a lower strength of vyāpāda: “paṭi” + “gha” means bonding via friction or dislike; thus, taṇhā can arise due to paṭigha. [paṭi means bonding; gha means friction of dislike.]

One can see now why a Sotāpanna is incapable of doing extremely immoral acts that can result in a birth in the four lowest realms (apāyā); one has removed vicikicchā hindrance permanently, and one always acts with mindfulness. This higher level of Sammā Diṭṭhi or the correct worldview is deeply ingrained in their minds, even in a future birth, that will not change. But one can still act with greed and hate to a certain extent.

9. When one attains the next level of Nibbāna, the Sakadāgāmī level, one permanently REDUCES kāma rāga and paṭigha.Because of this advancement, one will never be reborn in a realm where the physical body can be subjected to ailments, diseases, and old age. Thus, one will be reborn above the human realm, which is the fifth realm.

10. At the Anāgāmī stage, kāma rāga and paṭigha will not arise in mind. Thus by the Anāgāmī stage, one has completely removed any form of dosa, the second root cause. One does not get angry or hateful under any circumstance, and the dosa cetasika will be absent. Since kāma rāga also goes away, now one has no desire to be born in any realm in the kāma loka, including the deva worlds.

Thus an Anāgāmī has only rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga. That is mainly due to the desire of an Anāgāmī to listen (and read) and contemplate Dhamma concepts; there is no desire left for sense pleasures. Thus the lobha cetasika is reduced to a very low level.

As for the moha cetasika, only a low strength remains as avijjā.

Progress in Terms of the Ten Saṁyojana

11. There are ten saṁyojana (or Saṁsāric bonds) keep us bound to the rebirth process.  Out of the ten saṁyojana or sanyoga (“saŋ” + “yoga” or bound via “saŋ”), sakkāya diṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbata parāmāsa (all due to strong avijjā) are removed at the Sotāpanna stage.

That is an important point: One just needs to comprehend the true nature of this world via understanding anicca, dukkha, and anatta (Tilakkhaṇa) to become a Sotāpanna.

Just with this understanding, one removes kāmacchanda, vyāpāda, and vicikicchā. That is why a Sotāpanna is said to be “one with the vision” or “dassanena sampanno.”

Once, the Buddha took a bit of soil to his fingernail and asked the bhikkhus, “if all the soil on this Earth can be compared to the defilements one needs to get rid of, a Sotāpanna has left in him/her only an amount compared to this bit of soil on my fingernail.”

That may sound astounding to some. But it is critical to understand that most heinous immoral acts are done because of one not having Sammā Diṭṭhi at least to a significant level.

Of the remaining sanyojana (sanyoga), kāma rāga and paṭigha are reduced at the Sakadāgāmī stage, and removed at the Anāgāmī stage. The rest of the sanyoga (rūpa rāga, arūpa rāga, māna, uddhacca, and avijjā) go away at the Arahant stage.

Progress in Terms of Abandoning “Denser Realms”

12. As the attachment to sensual pleasures from “dense matter” decreases, rebirth in the “denser worlds” is progressively eliminated.

At the Sotāpanna stage, the coarse forms of suffering in the lowest four realms stop. After the Sakadāgāmī stage, rebirths do not occur even in the human realm, where physical pain and diseases prevail. An Anāgāmī is born only in the suddhāvāsa rūpa loka, where there are only subtle bodies allowing vision, hearing, and mind only. An Arahant will never be reborn anywhere in the 31 realms which have “some connection to matter”; see, “What Are Rūpa? (Relation to Nibbāna).” [Suddhāvāsā : The “Pure Abodes”; a name given to a group of Brahma-worlds – the five highest Rūpa worlds – consisting of Avihā, Atappā, Sudassā, Sudassī and Akanitthā.]

Thus at the passing away of an Arahant, the mind is released from any attachment to the material world consisting of the 31 realms; no more suffering from physical pains, mental pains, or death. One has attained Nibbāna or the “deathless state.”

That is a summary. See “Body Types in 31 Realms – Importance of Manomaya Kaya.

Citta Analysis

13. Another way to analyze the steps to Nibbāna is to look at how the 12 akusala citta ceases to arise stage by stage. See, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotāpanna Avoids Apāyagāmi Citta.”

Therefore, the four stages of Nibbāna can be characterized in different ways. With the number of saṁyojanā left, “density of matter,” types of akusala citta, and many other ways. They are all interrelated and self-consistent.