Ye Dhammā Hetuppabhavā.. and Yam Kiñci Samudaya Dhammam..

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Ye Dhammā Hetuppabhavā.. and Yam Kiñci Samudaya Dhammam..

August 16, 2018; Revised January 20, 2020; January 3, 2023

This post will analyze two famous key verses to show the interconnections among the Four Noble Truths, Tilakkhaṇa, Paṭicca Samuppāda, and the Noble Eightfold Path. These main concepts must be comprehended to benefit from Buddha’s Dhamma.

Ye Dhammā Hetuppabhavā..



“Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā,

Tesaṁ hetuṁ tathāgato āha;

Tesañca yo nirodho,

Evaṁvādī mahāsamaṇo”

From just hearing this verse uttered by Ven. Assaji, Upatissa (later Ven. Sariputta) became a Sotāpanna. That is the fundamental concept of Buddha Dhamma and is explained in detail in the Paṭicca Samuppāda.

The correct translation is the following. “Whatever dhammā (which are kamma bīja) that give rise to the rebirth process, causes for those to arise have been declared by the Buddha; he has also explained how those causes can be stopped from arising (and thus end the rebirth process).”

First, let us briefly discuss how we arrive at this translation.

What Does “Hetuppabhavā” Mean?

1. “Ye dhammā” means “those dhammā.” The compound word in the verse is hetuppabhavā: It is the combination of “hetu,” “pa,” and “bhava,” which respectively mean causes, repeated, and existence. The combination rhymes as hetuppabhavā,in the same way, that dhamma cakka pavattana rhymes as “dhammacakkappavattana.”

Note that “pa” (meaning repeated) and “bhava” combine to rhyme as “pabbhavā” with an additional “b.”

So, hetuppabhavā means “causes leading to repeated birth or causes to sustain the rebirth process.”

Note that both words hetuppabhavā and pabhassara have the words “pa” and “bha” embedded in them; see, “Pabhassara Citta, Radiant Mind, and Bhavaṅga.”

So, “ye dhammā hetuppabhavā” means “those dhammā that sustain the rebirth process or saṁsāra.”

Tesaṁ and Tesañca Both Have “Saŋ

2. Tesaṁ is “te” + “saŋ” or three “saŋ” of lobha, dosa, moha. These are those hetu or causes.

Even though there are six root causes, they all can be eliminated by eliminating just three (lobha, dosa, moha); see, “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna).”

Of course, “saŋ” are the defilements responsible for the rebirth process for anyone, which are dasa akusala; see, “Saŋ.”

Again, “te” and “saŋ” combine to rhyme as “tesaṁ.”

So, “Tesaṁ hetuṁ tathāgato āha” means “The Buddha has declared what those three causes are.”

3. The next part, “Tesañca yo nirodho” or “Te saṁ ca yo nirodho” has the second complex keyword of nirodha, which comes from “nir”+”udaya,” where “nir” means stop and “udaya” means “arise.” [te + saṁ + ca = tesañca]

Thus nirodha means to stop something from arising; see, “Nirodha and Vaya – Two Different Concepts.”

The easiest way to understand nirodha is to see that a plant can be stopped from arising (i.e., coming into being) by destroying the seed. Put in the real context of the word nirodha, a plant’s coming into being can be stopped by stopping the creation of that seed.

In the same way, a future existence (bhava) can be stopped by stopping the formation of the corresponding viññāṇa (kamma bīja), i.e., bhava nirodha is achieved by viññāṇa nirodha.

How Is Viññāṇa Nirodha Realized?

4. By going backward further in PS, viññāṇa nirodha in turn is done by (abhi)saṅkhāra nirodha; see below too. Of course, abhisaṅkhāra nirodha cannot be done by sheer willpower. One must cultivate paññā (wisdom) and get rid of avijjā. That requires comprehending Tilakkhaṇa or the futility of clinging to this suffering-filled world of 31 realms that will make one helpless in the end (especially when born in the four lowest realms or apāyā).

We can thus see that viññāṇa nirodha leads to the stopping of initiation of Akusala-Mūla Paṭicca Samuppāda (PS) cycles starting at the “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” step.

5. Now it is clear what is meant by “tesañca (te saṁ ca) yo nirodho, evaṁvādī mahāsamaṇo.” The Buddha (mahāsamaṇo) has explained how those defilements can be stopped from arising.”

Viññāṇa nirodha is achieved via stopping abhisaṅkhāra or — to put in a practical statement — by abstaining from all dasa akusala. That involves the three akusala done by the body (via kāya saṅkhāra), four akusala by the speech and defiled conscious thoughts (via vacī saṅkhāra), and three akusala by the mind (via mano saṅkhāra).

It is essential to understand what is meant by keywords like saṅkhāra and viññāṇa; see, “Mental Aggregates.”

It is essential to realize that conscious thoughts are also vacī saṅkhāra; see, “Correct Meaning of Vacī Saṅkhāra.” It is not just immoral speech and deeds that matter, but immoral “daydreaming” counts too.

6. The way to achieve viññāṇa nirodha is, of course, the Noble Eightfold Path. When one follows the Noble Path, one’s avijjā will be removed and thus no more initiations of PS cycles, i.e., no more suffering (there will not be “jāti paccayā jarā, marana, soka,..).

In the WebLink: suttacentral: Petakopadesa, this verse expresses the four Noble Truths (cattāri ariyasaccāni), and we can now see why.

Yaṁ Kiñci Samudaya Dhammaṁ..


7. The second related verseyaṁ kiñci samudaya dhammaṁ sabbaṁ taṁ nirodha dhammaṁ is in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11); see, “WebLink: suttacentral: Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN56.11).” [kiŋ + ci = kiñci ; kiṁ or kiŋ :[rel. or inter. pron.] what? ci : cid, indecl. an indefinite interrogative particle. koci [whoever] , kiñci [whatever] , kadāci [whenever] , kuhiñci [wherever] . cf. ca, cana, ce. ]

Translated: “If there are dhammā that give rise to suffering (i.e., any samudaya dhammā), all such dhammā can be stopped from arising (via the Noble Eightfold Path).” [samudaya = saŋ + udaya = rise of saŋ (that leads to suffering)]

yaṁ kiñci samudaya dhammaṁ” means “any dhammā that eventually leads to suffering. And, “sabbaṁ taṁ nirodha dhamma” means “all such dhammā” are nirodha dhammā, i.e., they can be stopped from arising.

Here Viññāṇa Is “Defiled Consciousness”

8. But we need to get the idea embedded in this verse, instead of just translating word-by-word.

From what we have learned so far, we know that samudaya dhamma (or kamma bīja) isare created by viññāṇa, for which the best translation is “defiled consciousness.”

Viññāṇa, in turn, arises due to our own (abhi) saṅkhāra. And the reason that we do abhisaṅkhāra is that we are ignorant of the anicca nature, i.e., we have avijjā.

That is what the Paṭicca Samuppāda states: “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra, saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa, viññāṇa paccayā nāmarūpa,” leading to “upādāna paccayā bhava, bhava paccayā jāti,” which ends up in the whole mass of suffering: “jāti paccayā jarā, marana,…”

9. So, again we can see that samudaya dhamma arises with defiled viññāṇa that occur due to abhisaṅkhāra done with avijjā!

If we do not cultivate such defiled viññāṇa via abhisaṅkhāra (i.e., if we stop doing dasa akusala), then we will not end up with births leading to all types of suffering. Those are jarā (old age), maraṇa (death), soka (unhappiness), parideva (long lasting state of unhappiness where soka keeps bubbling up), dukkha (physical injuries, diseases, etc), domanassa (long bouts of depression), upāsāya (extreme distress where can faint or generates suicidal thoughts).”

Those sufferings described above are mainly for the human realm. It will be much worse if one is born in the four lowest realms with unimaginable suffering.

Kamma Vipāka Are Not Deterministic

In the above, we have discussed how to stop the formation of kamma bīja. But what about that kamma bīja that we have already piled up during this life and from previous lives? Will not they bring vipāka and initiate new bhava and jāti filled with suffering?

10. Understanding that one gets a “second chance.” Kamma vipāka are not deterministic, i.e., kamma bīja cannot automatically bring vipāka.

In an uppatti [rebirth] PS cycle, we saw that kamma bīja form with the first two steps in the PS cycle: “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” and “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa.” This viññāṇa is called a kamma viññāṇa.

But when kamma bīja try to bring back corresponding vipāka at a FUTURE time, they are brought back as vipāka viññāṇa. That means the mind is exposed to a “sign” called a “nimitta” that corresponds to the same kamma done to make that kamma bīja.

11. So, it is essential to realize that in an uppatti PS cycle, the “viññāṇa paccayā nāmarūpa” step starts much later, may be even in future life.

An Example

12. We can explain that with an example. Suppose person X kills another human being in this life. That involves a lot of mano, vacī, and kāya abhisaṅkhāra and all of those contribute to a defiled mindset (viññāṇa) that led to a kamma bīja which got the most contribution at the moment of killing via a kāya abhisaṅkhāra.

Now, that kamma bīja will be there waiting to bring its vipāka at a later time.

Suppose X dies a few years later, but he has more kammic energy for this human bhava left. In that case, that kamma bīja cannot bring vipāka. He will leave a dead body as a gandhabba and wait for a suitable womb.

However, if X had killed one of his parents, that would be an ānantariya kamma, and that kamma bīja will bring its vipāka at the end of this life.

13. In either case, the “viññāṇa paccayā nāmarūpa” step will start the rest of the PS cycle leading to a new bhava (let us say in the niraya) in the following way.

So, X is now on his deathbed, whether in this life or a future life as a human. Just before the dying moment, that kamma bīja will bring a sign (called nimitta) of that kamma to X’s mind. It could be a scene from that killing event or a scene from the niraya where he is about to be born.

Since he had done this act with intention, that mindset would come back, and he will have that defiled mindset (viññāṇa) responsible for the killing. Then he will have that nimitta come in, and this is the “nāmarūpa” that comes to his mind at that time: “viññāṇa paccayā nāmarūpa.”

14. All his six sense faculties will transform according to that sign or nimitta: “nāmarūpa paccayā saḷāyatana.” Of course, the nimitta will come through only one, let us say like a picture from that killing event or a sound.

His mind will now make contact (saḷāyatana paccayā phassa) just as in any sense event, and that leads to “phassa paccayā vedanā,” i.e., now he is about to re-enact the crime in his mind, starting at the “vedanā paccayā taṇhā” step.

The Difference For a Sotāpanna

15. But a critical point in these steps occur at the “vedanā paccayā taṇhā,” “taṇhā paccayā upādāna” steps. When one gets that nimitta of birth in the niraya that appears at the moment of death, one WILL NOT grasp it if one has attained the Sotāpanna stage.

A Sotāpanna’s mind has grasped the truth of the “anicca nature” and has a higher level of paññā (wisdom), so it WILL NOT grasp that nimitta. That is why Aṅgulimāla was able to attain Arahanthood, even after killing almost 1000 people. That past kamma bīja did not get to germinate.

16. Therefore, that nimitta will be ineffective if X had become a Sotāpanna in the intervening time, and a different (good or bad) next in line will appear. The process will continue until suitable new bhava is grasped at the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step.

That is how a Sotāpanna avoids “apāyagāmi kamma bīja” from bringing their vipāka.

Of course, if X had not attained the Sotāpanna stage, he would have been born in a niraya.

Further Reading

17. Kamma viññāṇa are discussed in detail in: “Kamma Viññāṇa – Link Between Mind and Matter.”

The process of how past kamma try to bring vipāka with vipāka viññāṇa is discussed in detail in “Avyākata Paṭicca Samuppāda for Vipāka Viññāṇa.”

Of course, one needs to understand what is meant by all these terms (vedanā, taṇhā, upādāna, etc.) to understand these processes; see, “Mental Aggregates.”

If one can truly comprehend this post, one could get to the Sotāpanna stage, because this is seeing the “way to Nibbāna,” i.e., permanently stopping future suffering. That is about getting to lokuttara Sammā Diṭṭhi. [lokuttara : [adj.] super-mundane; transcendental.]