Kalaapa update

In an earlier post about jhaana – absorption, I mentioned kalaapa.

There is a reference to kalaapa in “Abhidhammatha Sangaha: A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma” by Ven. Aacariya Anuruddha and translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi with commentary by Ven. Sayadaw U Silananda and Ven Rewatadhamma.

You can also read about kalaapa here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khin/wheel231.html and do a text search for “kalapa”.

  • “The real meaning of Anicca is that Impermanence or Decay is the inherent nature of everything that exists in the Universe — whether animate or inanimate. The Buddha taught His disciples that everything that exists at the material level is composed of “Kalapas.” Kalapas are material units very much smaller than atoms, which die out immediately after they come into being. Each kalapa is a mass formed of the eight basic constituents of matter, the solid, liquid, calorific and oscillatory, together with color, smell, taste, and nutriment. The first four are called primary qualities, and are predominant in a kalapa. The other four are subsidiaries, dependent upon and springing from the former. A kalapa is the minutest particle in the physical plane — still beyond the range of science today. It is only when the eight basic material constituents unite together that the kalapa is formed. In other words, the momentary collocation of these eight basic elements of behavior makes a man just for that moment, which in Buddhism is known as a kalapa. The life-span of a kalapa is termed a moment, and a trillion such moments are said to elapse during the wink of a man’s eye. These kalapas are all in a state of perpetual change or flux. To a developed student in Vipassana Meditation they can be felt as a stream of energy.”

The quote above is the view of some adbhidhamma scholars and the orthodox scholastic Theravada Buddhism. I personally don’t follow that line. I give preference to the suttas. It seems to me that the abhidhamma distorts the Buddha Dhamma in a number of ways. I may try to elaborate on this in future blogs. It may take a few years to write about though. I still have a lot to learn. It is even possible that as I study, I may develop different preferences than those I currently have. Ideally, we go beyond all preferences.

There is an alternative tradition that does not take the abhidhamma as the word of the Buddha. Abhidhamma was developed after the Blessed One’s parinibbaana and went through a period of development over 200-300 years until ancient Theravada Buddhists established the canonical texts. The abhidhamma doctrine was developed further in the commentaries which were not written down in the form that we have them now until about 1500 years ago by Ven. Buddhaghosa.  During the past 1500 years many sub-commentaries have been written about the abhidhamma.

These days meditation teachers take various stands regarding the abhidhamma intepretation of the Dhamma.  Some teachers ignore the abhidhamma and don’t comment on it. Some teachers openly say that the abhidhamma distorts the Buddhadhamma. And yet other teachers teach in conformity with the orthodox abhidhamma doctrine. Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw is in the later group.

    Death as Process

    By Anuruddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bodhi, Nārada, Revatadhamma, U Sīlānanda
    Published by Buddhist Publication Society, 1999
    First BPS Pariyatti Edition, 2000

    ISBN : 1928706029
    EAN : 9781928706021
    Cover : Paperback
    Pages : 432
    Size : 214 x 214mm

    The advent of death is fourfold, namely: (i) through the expiration of the life-span; (ii) through the expiration of the (productive) kammic force; (iii) through the (simultaneous) expiration of both; and (iv) through (the intervention of) a destructive kamma.

    Now in the case of those who are about to die, at the time of death one of the following presents itself, according to circumstances, through any of six (sense) doors by way of the power of kamma:
    (i) a kamma that is to produce rebirth-linking in the next existence; or
    (ii) a sign of kamma, that is, a form, etc., that had been apprehended previously at the time of performing the kamma or something that was instrumental in performing the kamma; or
    (iii) a sign of destiny, that is, (a symbol of the state) to be obtained and experienced in the immediately following existence.

    Thereafter, attending to that object thus presented, the stream of consciousness–in accordance with the kamma that is to be matured, whether pure or corrupted, and in conformity with the state into which one is to be reborn–continually flows, inclining mostly towards that state. Or that rebirth-producing kamma presents itself to a sense door in the way of renewing.

    To one who is on the verge of death, either at the end of a cognitive process or at the dissolution of the life-continuum, the death consciousness, the consummation of the present life, arises and ceases in the way of death.

    Immediately after that (death consciousness) has ceased, a rebirth-linking consciousness arises and is established in the subsequent existence, apprehending the object thus obtained, either supported by the heart-base or baseless, as is appropriate; it is generated by a volitional formation that is enveloped by latent ignorance and rooted in latent craving. That rebirth-linking consciousness, so called because it links together the two consecutive existences, is conjoined with its mental adjuncts, and acts as the forerunner to the nascent states as their locus (or foundation).


    So, for those who have thus taken rebirth, from the moment immediately following the cessation of the rebirth-liking (consciousness), that same type of consciousness apprehending that same object flows on uninterruptedly like the stream of a river, and it does so until the arising of the death consciousness, so long as there is no occurrence of a cognitive process. Being an essential factor of existence (or life), this consciousness is called the life-continuum. At the end of life, having become the death consciousness on the occasion of passing away, it then ceases. Thereafter, the rebirth-linking consciousness and the others continue to occur, revolving in due sequence like the wheel of a cart.

    Just as here, so again in the next existence, there arise rebirth-linking consciousness, life-continuum, cognitive processes, and death consciousness. Again, with rebirth and life-continuum, this stream of consciousness turns around.

    The wise, disciplining themselves long, understand the impermanence (of life), realize the deathless state, and completely cutting off the fetters of attachment, attain peace.