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practical importance-still remains to be answered: How comes it, that one creature in dying grasps the ovum of a woman, another the ovum in an animal womb, another in a hell or in a heaven? Or more briefly: Through what is determined the different direction of grasping, upon a being's death? The answer is: Through the same factor which represents the cause of grasping in general, thirst, tanhā. The special kind of thirst, or to put it otherwise, the main direction taken by will in a dying being, determines not only the grasping itself, but also its direction.
To understand this fully, we must before all else get a clear idea as to the condition of thirst or will at this decisive moment. We only grasp what is in harmony with our will, -this axiom holds good everywhere without exception, as we have had occasion to see in our investigations thus far, and as every one may experience at every moment in himself. But though of such unlimited validity, in normal life it must be completed by this other, that we do not always grasp
'In a village called Kalasi, Master.'
'How far is Kalasi from here, O King?'
'About two hundred miles, Master.'
'And how far is Kashmir from here, O King?'
'About twelve miles, Master.'
'Now think of the village of Kalasi, O King.'
'I have done so, Master.'
'And now think of Kashmir, O King.'
'It is done, Master.'
'Of which of these two, O King, did you think the more slowly and of which the more quickly?'
'Equally quickly of both, Master.'
'Just so, O King, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, is not reborn later than he who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir.'
'Give me one more simile.'
"What do you think, O King? Suppose two birds were flying in the air, and they should settle both at the same time, one upon a high, and the other one upon a low tree, which bird's shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird's later?' 'Both shadows would appear at the same time, Master.'
'Just so, O King, both men are reborn at the same time, and not one of them earlier and the other later.'"
what is in harmony with our willing. This is the case when we recognize with sufficient clearness the injurious or deceptive nature of that for which we long. Indeed this recognition, if only it is complete enough, may entirely cure us of our desire for an object and thereby also from grasping at it. For instance, a man may be filled with hottest passion for a woman. The girl seems inclined to gratify his lust and bares her bosom which exhibits distinct symptoms of syphilis. His passion for this woman, and therewith his grasping at her, will probably in an instant vanish for ever. Thus our willing is generally modified by cognition, inasmuch as in its light we reject objects which in themselves are in complete harmony with our willing, but are known to us to have predominantly injurious consequences. Our will affirms itself unchecked only when, from one cause or another, the light of knowledge no longer shines, thus, when the will is blind. Then, without making any distinction we grasp at everything that is in harmony with it, regardless of the fact-just because we have no knowledge of it—that the object seized will, as outcome, involve us in the most serious suffering. Even if consciousness is merely dimmed, the longing for possession of a walking-stick will cause a man to grasp at a poisonous snake lying quietly on the ground. But still more eagerly will a sleeping man greedily swallow a sweet draught dripped upon his tongue, though it be a deadly poison, if only his willing is excited so far that it acts, though yet without consciousness.* In full consciousness, thus, in possession of the light of cognition, neither of them, of course, would do would do any such thing.
But in exactly the same situation are we, and all beings at the moment of death. For then every kind of consciousness disappears, since their supporters, the recent activities of the senses, have ceased. The thirst to maintain ourselves in
* That is: Only consciousness of taste is aroused, but not thought-consciousness.
existence, our will for new Becoming, then affirms itself, because devoid of any kind of cognition, in total blindness, and for this very reason without the least regard to the consequences resulting therefrom, it simply leads to a grasping at that germ among all possible ones, among the five courses, that is most in harmony with itself, to which, precisely for this reason, it becomes chiefly attracted, all the same whether this germ is in a human female, in an animal womb, or even in some hell. Only later, when this germ has developed, and with the entry of sense-activity, consciousness again dawns, will the germ seized and adhered to, be illuminated by this same consciousness. Then we recognize ourselves as men, as beasts or as devils, just like the man who has laid hold of a poisonous snake under the delusion that it is a walking-stick, or the other who, almost wholly unconscious, has greedily gulped down the poisonous draught, and only with the restoration of the power of thought becomes aware what a trick his own will has played upon him.
Because the thirst for new Becoming at the moment of death, that is, upon the abandonment of the present body, thus acts entirely blindly, and for this very reason, in accordance with its innermost nature, therefore, to use a modern expression, we can say that at this moment it stands purely subject to the law of affinity. As a chemical substance forms a homogeneous combination only with certain other substances, but strives for this with all possible vehemence, while showing indifference towards all others, which is what we call chemical affinity, in exactly the same way there exists in every living creature at the moment of death a certain definite striving, called by the Buddha tanha or thirst, which striving stands in a relationship of affinity only with a certain kind of germ to which alone, therefore, it is led by grasping from which, thereupon, the new organism results. This is clearly to be seen in the
animal world without further ado. The fundamental striving of every animal during its lifetime, when a gleam of knowledge is present, is restricted to its own kind, all animals having intercourse only with those of its own species. All the more exclusively will this concentration of the will to live upon its own species declare itself at the moment of death, when only a striving for grasping at a similar animal germ will be present, and, accordingly, only grasping at such a germ will take place. On the other hand, the determination of affinities among mankind will be much more difficult. For among men all sorts of directions of the will are represented. Alongside of men with the mind of an angel, there are others who stand far below the beast. "Man has reason, but he uses it only to be more beastly than any beast." It will be all quite clear, then, without more ado, when the Buddha, as we have seen above, teaches that from the human realm, paths lead to all the five tracts of Samsara: the thirst for existence of a man with an angel's mind will, when in death he abandons his former organism, draw him to a heavenly world and lead him to a grasping there, with the same necessity that the light, transparent smoke of burning precious wood by natural law mounts upward. On the other hand, the base inclinations of a degenerate man, if in the animal world they light upon a germ akin to themselves, will grasp this germ, but if they are still worse than any animal, then they will only find corresponding materials in a still lower realm, in one of the hells, and, accordingly, in their blindness cling to this, exactly as the thick heavy smoke of coal cannot rise upwards, but in accordance with its nature remains in
Precisely because man possesses reason, it makes him sometimes appear much worse than a beast. First just because of this reason, man may, from a purely objective standpoint, act much worse than any beast. But then his actions, if the other conditions are equal, are, in relation to his reason, always worse than those of an animal. For it is clear that a man stealing or murdering in spite of his reason, ranks morally far below an animal doing the same without reason.
the depths. Thus the nature of our future rebirth depends upon the direction our desires take during the course of our life up till death. Thirst is the leading string, bound to which beings are led on the long road of their rebirths through Samsāra, as an ox is led along the street with a rope.
This idea finds its most pregnant expression in the fiftyseventh Discourse of the Middle Collection. Punna, a cowascetic, and Seniya, an unclad or dog-ascetic, two penitents who, Brahmin fashion, wished to secure a fortunate rebirth through exquisite self-torment, Punna leading the life of a cow and Seniya that of a dog, betake themselves to the Exalted One. Punna asks him the following question: "This unclad one, sir, this Seniya, the dog-ascetic, practises a heavy austerity: he partakes only of food thrown upon the ground. For long years he has followed and kept the dog-vow; whither will he go? What may he expect?" The Buddha at first refuses to answer the question, but at last, under Punna's urging he makes the following reply:
"Well then, Punna, as you do not give way, I will answer you. Suppose, Punna, that someone realizes the dog-vow, carries it out completely, realizes the dog's habits, carries them out completely, realizes the dog's mind, carries it out completely, realizes the dog's behaviour, carries it out completely. When he has realized the dog-vow, when he has carried it out completely, when he has realized the dog's habits, carried them out completely, when he has realized the dog's mind, carried it out completely, when he has realized the dog's behaviour, carried it out completely,-then when the body breaks up, after death, he will come back to existence among the dogs. If, however, he cherishes the opinion: “Through these practices or vows, self-castigation or abstinence, I shall become a god or a divine being, then this is a false opinion. And this false opinion, I say, Punna, causes him to come either to this side or to that: either into a hell-world or