CHAPTER 4: FOUR CLINGINGS

Chapter 4: Four Clingings

As we noted in Chapter Two, craving and clinging determine the location of a particular becoming within the range of possibilities offered by the field of kamma. The act of locating, however, is also an act of definition. Once an act of craving and clinging has fastened on a particular goal, it acts as a kernel around which a sense of self-identity coalesces, as one identifies the goal—or whatever aggregates can be used as a means toward that goal—as “me” or “mine.” The discourses tend to state this point formally in terms of the five aggregates, but it’s a familiar psychological truth. If one’s desires consistently center on raising a child, one becomes increasingly defined—in one’s actions, in one’s mind, and in the mind of others—as a parent. If one is devoted to playing music, one finds oneself increasingly defined as a musician.

This process of definition, however, tends to take on such solidity and reality that we often lose sight of its constructed nature. The more solid and real it seems, the more we let ourselves be limited by it. This is why the Buddha’s approach of analyzing it into its component factors, such as the five aggregates, is such a useful first step in overcoming those limitations.

Then Ven. Rādha went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “‘A being,’ lord. ‘A being,’ it’s said. To what extent is one said to be ‘a being’?”

“Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Rādha: When one is caught up [satta] there, tied up [visatta] there, one is said to be ‘a being [satta].’

“Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, Rādha: When one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be ‘a being.’”— SN 23:2

“If one stays obsessed with form, that’s what one is measured/limited by. Whatever one is measured by, that’s how one is classified.

“If one stays obsessed with feeling…

“If one stays obsessed with perception…

“If one stays obsessed with fabrications…

“If one stays obsessed with consciousness, that’s what one is measured/limited by. Whatever one is measured by, that’s how one is classified.”— SN 22:36

Visākha: “But, lady, how does self-identity come about?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “There is the case, friend Visākha, where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person—who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma—assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

“He assumes feeling to be the self, or the self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in the self, or the self as in feeling.

“He assumes perception to be the self, or the self as possessing perception, or perception as in the self, or the self as in perception.

“He assumes fabrications to be the self, or the self as possessing fabrications, or fabrications as in the self, or the self as in fabrications.

“He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness. This is how self-identity comes about.”— MN 44

Notice that the sense of self is not necessarily equated with the aggregates. Instead, the aggregates form the ground from which the sense of self can be fabricated. Thus every sense of self would be classified under the fabrication-aggregate (see SN 22:81). Yet even though individual aggregates may be small and finite events, there is no need for a sense of self derived from them to be small or finite in order to have a location. For instance, one may cling to a particular feeling and then assume a self around that feeling, either as possessing the feeling, containing the feeling, or contained within the feeling. As DN 15 points out, this sense of self may be possessed of form and finite, formless and finite, possessed of form and infinite, or formless and infinite. Thus a formless, infinite sense of self centered on a feeling of infinite, interconnected bliss would nevertheless count as a state of becoming grounded in the aggregates, located in the particular feeling.

So it is a mistake to say, as is often said, that the five aggregates constitute the Buddha’s analysis of what we are. Actually, they constitute his analysis of the range of raw materials from which we choose, with craving and clinging, the location where we will fabricate whatever sense of self we can imagine. And because craving and clinging focus “now here, now there,” one’s sense of self can change instantaneously in line with wherever one’s latest craving lands. This means that a new sense of self could form around any of the aggregates, or any combination of aggregates provided by one’s field of kamma, at any time at all. For example, while engaged in abstract thought, one might identify oneself as the thinker possessing those perceptions and thought-fabrications. Then, with a sudden feeling of thirst, one might drop that thought world, and identify instead with the thirst and whatever efforts the body makes to assuage it.

In another way of analyzing what is essentially the same territory, self-identity can also form around any of the six senses, their objects, or the processes that grow out of contact between the senses and their objects.

“Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. With feeling as a requisite condition there is craving.

“Dependent on the ear & sounds…

“Dependent on the nose & aromas…

“Dependent on the tongue & flavors…

“Dependent on the body & tactile sensations…

“Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. With feeling as a requisite condition there is craving…

“This is the path of practice leading to self-identity. One assumes about the eye that ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’ One assumes about forms… One assumes about eye-consciousness… One assumes about eye-contact… One assumes about feeling… One assumes about craving that ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’

“One assumes about the ear….

“One assumes about the nose….

“One assumes about the tongue….

“One assumes about the body….

“One assumes about the intellect that ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’ One assumes about ideas… One assumes about intellect-consciousness… One assumes about intellect-contact… One assumes about feeling… One assumes about craving that ‘This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.’”— MN 148

“What do you think, Māluṅkyaputta: the forms cognizable via the eye that are unseen by you—that you have never before seen, that you don’t see, and that are not to be seen by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?”

“No, lord.”

“The sounds cognizable via the ear…

“The aromas cognizable via the nose…

“The flavors cognizable via the tongue…

“The tactile sensations cognizable via the body…

“The ideas cognizable via the intellect that are uncognized by you–that you have never before cognized, that you don’t cognize, and that are not to be cognized by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?”

“No, lord.”— SN 35:95

It is possible, of course, to give birth to a desire for a sight that one has not seen. However, strictly speaking, the desire is not “there” at the unseen sight. Rather, it’s there at the present idea of the unseen sight—in other words, at the sense of ideation, rather than the sense of sight. This distinction is important to keep in mind when trying to track and understand the movements of craving and clinging, and the psychology of how we define ourselves and our sense of the world within the limitations provided by past kamma.

Now, it stands to reason that the act of defining a sense of self around a particular craving or clinging would also influence the way one experiences the world. In terms of present kamma, acting on a particular craving shapes the experience of events now and into the future. As for the range of possibilities offered by past kamma, one would tend to feel unity with the parts of the world that assist in achieving one’s desires, alienation from the parts that thwart them, and no interest in the parts that have no effect on one’s desires at all. This tendency is something we see repeatedly on the human level. Based on past kamma, different people have access to different sights, sounds, etc. Even when we have access to the same sights, etc., we perceive them differently—based on what we normally call our point of view, and what the Buddha might have called our point of clinging. As we noted in the Introduction, when two people are looking at the same mountain, the person who has delighted in skiing in the past will see a different mountain from the person who has found delight in the search for gold.

This observation fits especially well with the Buddha’s teachings because, in his analysis, the field of possibilities from which one draws one’s sense of the world is the same field from which one draws one’s sense of self.

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: “‘The world, the world [loka],’ it is said. In what respect does the word ‘world’ apply?”

“Insofar as it disintegrates [lujjati], monk, it is called the ‘world.’ Now what disintegrates? The eye disintegrates. Forms disintegrate. Consciousness at the eye disintegrates. Contact at the eye disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too disintegrates.

“The ear disintegrates. Sounds disintegrate….

“The nose disintegrates. Aromas disintegrate….

“The tongue disintegrates. Tastes disintegrate….

“The body disintegrates. Tactile sensations disintegrate….

“The intellect disintegrates. Ideas disintegrate. Consciousness at the intellect disintegrates. Contact at the intellect disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too disintegrates.

“Insofar as it disintegrates, it is called the ‘world.’”— SN 35:82

None of the discourses explicitly make the general point that one’s sense of self will shape one’s sense of the world, but many specific examples and stories in the discourses make this point implicitly. We have already encountered one example, in the story of flavor-earth. The influence of one’s sense of self on one’s sense of the world will come into even clearer focus if we consider some of these other examples and stories under the four types of clinging that craving can produce.

“Which clinging? These four clingings: sensuality-clinging, view-clinging, habit-&-practice-clinging, and self-doctrine-clinging.”— SN 12:2

Passages in the discourses show how each of these types of clinging can lead to a particular type of becoming. In some cases, these illustrations focus on one type of clinging at a time; in others, they combine two or more. But in every case, each type of clinging can shape one’s sense of self in the present life, shape one’s sense of the world in the present life, and lead to a particular destination-world in later rebirths. These principles apply regardless of whether the clinging is based on craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, or craving for non-becoming.

The first clinging is sensuality, here meant in its technical sense as passion for sensual resolves. The ways in which a sense of self can form around sensuality-clinging need little explanation. All they require is a graphic analogy.

“Suppose there were a beetle, a dung-eater, full of dung, gorged with dung, with a huge pile of dung in front of him. He, because of that, would look down on other beetles: ‘Yes, sirree! I am a dung-eater, full of dung, gorged with dung, with a huge pile of dung in front of me!’

“In the same way, there is the case where a certain monk—conquered by gains, offerings, & fame, his mind consumed—puts on his robes and, carrying his bowl & outer robe, goes into a village or town for alms. Having eaten there as much as he likes—full of almsfood & invited again for the next day—he goes to the monastery and, in the midst of a group of monks, boasts, ‘I have eaten as much as I like, I am full of almsfood & have been invited again for tomorrow. I am a recipient of robes, almsfood, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for curing illness. These other monks, though, have next to no merit, next to no influence. They aren’t recipients of robes, almsfood, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for curing illness.’

“Conquered by gains, offerings, & fame, his mind consumed, he looks down on other well-behaved monks. That will be for this worthless man’s long-term suffering & harm. That’s how cruel gains, offerings, & fame are: a harsh, bitter obstacle to the attainment of the unexcelled rest from bondage.”— SN 17:5

The quest for sensuality can have an enormous impact on one’s experience of this life and the next.

If one, longing for sensual pleasure,

achieves it, yes,

he’s enraptured at heart.

The mortal gets what he wants.

But if for that person

—longing, desiring—

the pleasures diminish,

he’s shattered,

as if shot with an arrow….

A man who is greedy

for fields, land, gold,

cattle, horses,

servants, employees,

women, relatives,

many sensual pleasures,

is overpowered with weakness

and trampled by trouble,

for pain invades him

as water, a cracked boat.— Sn 4:1

“Monks, have you heard the jackal howling in the last hours of the night?”

“Yes, lord.”

“That jackal is suffering from mange. He finds no pleasure whether he goes to a bluff, to the foot of a tree, or to the open air. Wherever he goes, wherever he stands, wherever he sits, wherever he lies down, he is sunk in misery.

“In the same way there is the case where a certain monk is conquered by gains, offerings, & fame, his mind consumed. He finds no pleasure whether he goes to an empty dwelling, to the foot of a tree, or to the open air. Wherever he goes, wherever he stands, wherever he sits, wherever he lies down, he is sunk in misery. That’s how cruel gains, offerings, & fame are: a harsh, bitter obstacle to the attainment of the unexcelled rest from bondage.”— SN 17:8

“Now what, Mahānāma, is the allure of sensuality? These five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, accompanied by sensuality, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear… Aromas cognizable via the nose… Flavors cognizable via the tongue… Tactile sensations cognizable via the body—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, accompanied by sensuality, enticing. Now whatever pleasure or happiness arises in dependence on these five strings of sensuality, that is the allure of sensuality.

“And what is the drawback of sensuality? There is the case where, on account of the occupation by which a clansman makes a living—whether checking or accounting or calculating or plowing or trading or cattle-tending or archery or as a king’s man, or whatever the occupation may be—he faces cold, he faces heat, being harassed by mosquitoes & flies, wind & sun & creeping things, dying from hunger & thirst.

“Now this drawback in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.

“If the clansman gains no wealth while thus working & striving & making effort, he sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: ‘My work is in vain, my efforts are fruitless!’ Now this drawback too… this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason….

“If the clansman gains wealth while thus working & striving & making effort, he experiences pain & distress in protecting it: ‘How will neither kings nor thieves make off with my property, nor fire burn it, nor water sweep it away, nor hateful heirs make off with it?’ And as he thus guards and watches over his property, kings or thieves make off with it, or fire burns it, or water sweeps it away, or hateful heirs make off with it. And he sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: ‘What was mine is no more!’ Now this drawback too… this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason….

“Again, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source, sensuality for the cause, the reason being simply sensuality, that kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, priests with priests, householders with householders, mother with child, child with mother, father with child, child with father, brother with brother, sister with sister, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend. And then in their quarrels, brawls, & disputes, they attack one another with fists or with clods or with sticks or with knives, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too… this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason….

“Again, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords & shields and buckling on bows & quivers, charge into battle massed in double array while arrows & spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are wounded by arrows & spears, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too… this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason….

“Again, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords & shields and buckling on bows & quivers, charge slippery bastions while arrows & spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are splashed with boiling cow dung and crushed under heavy weights, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too… this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason….

“Again, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men) break into windows, seize plunder, commit burglary, ambush highways, commit adultery, and when they are captured, kings have them tortured in many ways. They flog them with whips, beat them with canes, beat them with clubs; they cut off their hands, cut off their feet, cut off their hands & feet; they cut off their ears, cut off their noses, cut off their ears & noses; they subject them to the ‘porridge pot,’ the ‘polished-shell shave,’ the ‘Rāhu’s mouth,’ the ‘flaming garland,’ the ‘blazing hand,’ the ‘grass-duty (ascetic),’ the ‘bark-dress (ascetic),’ the ‘burning antelope,’ the ‘meat hooks,’ the ‘coin-gouging,’ the ‘lye pickling,’ the ‘pivot on a stake,’ the ‘rolled-up bed’; they have them splashed with boiling oil, devoured by dogs, impaled alive on stakes; they have their heads cut off with swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.

“Again, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (people) engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. Having engaged in bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct, they—on the break-up of the body, after death—re-appear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress in the future life, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.”— MN 14

In addition, clinging to sensuality can make it impossible for one to even conceive of the possibility of a happiness on the levels of form and formlessness, thus closing off any possibility of attaining those levels. Here it is important to note that the existence of sensual pleasure—based on past skillful sensual kamma—is not the obstacle to the levels of form and formlessness. The obstacle lies in the clinging.

“Suppose there were a poor person, penniless & indigent, with a single little shack—dilapidated, open to the crows, not the best sort; and a single bed—dilapidated, not the best sort; and a single pot of rice & gourd seeds—not the best sort; and a single wife, not the best sort. He would go to a park and see a monk—his hands & feet washed, after a delightful meal, sitting in the cool shade, committed to the heightened mind. The thought would occur to him: ‘How happy the contemplative state! How free of disease the contemplative state! O that I—shaving off my hair & beard and donning the ochre robe—might go forth from the household life into homelessness!’ But being unable to abandon his single little shack… and… his single wife, not the best sort, he wouldn’t be able to shave off his hair & beard, to don the ochre robe, or to go forth from the household life into homelessness. And suppose someone were to say, ‘That single little shack… that single bed… that single pot of rice & gourd seeds… and that single wife… which he was unable to abandon… : for him they were a weak snare, a feeble snare, a rotting snare, an insubstantial snare.’ Would the person speaking that way be speaking rightly?”

“No, lord. That single hut… that single bed… that single pot… that single wife… were for that man a strong snare, a thick snare, a heavy snare, an unrotting snare, and a thick yoke.”…

“Now suppose, Udāyin, that there were a householder or householder’s son—rich, prosperous, & wealthy—with vast amounts of gold ingots, vast amounts of grain, a vast number of fields, a vast amount of land, a vast number of wives, and a vast number of male & female slaves. He would go to a park and see a monk—his hands & feet washed, after a delightful meal, sitting in the cool shade, committed to the heightened mind. The thought would occur to him: ‘How happy the contemplative state! How free of disease the contemplative state! O that I—shaving off my hair & beard and donning the ochre robe—might go forth from the household life into homelessness!’ And being able to abandon his vast amounts of gold ingots, his vast amounts of grain, his vast number of fields, his vast amount of land, his vast number of wives, and his vast number of male & female slaves, he would be able to shave off his hair & beard, to don the ochre robe, and to go forth from the household life into homelessness. Now suppose someone were to say, ‘Those vast amounts of gold ingots… and that vast number of male & female slaves by which that householder or householder’s son was snared but which he was able to abandon… : for him they were a strong snare, a thick snare, a heavy snare, an unrotting snare, and a thick yoke.’ Would the person speaking that way be speaking rightly?”

“No, lord. Those vast amounts of gold ingots… were for him a weak snare, a feeble snare, a rotting snare, an insubstantial snare.’”— MN 66

“Now on that occasion the novice Aciravata was living in a wilderness hut. Then Prince Jayasena—walking back and forth and around to exercise his legs—went to the novice Aciravata and exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to him, “I have heard, Master Aggivessana [Aciravata’s clan name], that a monk who remains heedful, ardent, & resolute can touch singleness of mind.”

“So it is, prince. So it is: A monk who remains heedful, ardent, & resolute can touch singleness of mind.”

“It would be good if Master Aggivessana would teach me the Dhamma as he has heard & memorized it.”

“ … You wouldn’t understand the meaning of my words….”

“ … Perhaps I might….”

“ … If you don’t understand the meaning of my words, leave it to each his own. Don’t question me any further about it.”

“ … If I don’t understand the meaning of Master Aggivessana’s words, I’ll leave it to each his own. I won’t question Master Aggivessana any further about it.”

Then the novice Aciravata taught Prince Jayasena the Dhamma as he had heard & memorized it. When this was said, Prince Jayasena said to him, “It’s impossible, it’s unfeasible, that a monk who remains heedful, ardent, & resolute could touch singleness of mind.” Then, having declared the impossibility and unfeasibility to the novice Aciravata, Prince Jayasena got up from his seat and left.

Then the novice Aciravata… went to the Blessed One… (who said,) “What do you expect, Aggivessana? How could Prince Jayasena—living in the midst of sensuality, consuming sensuality, chewed on by thoughts of sensuality, burning with the fever of sensuality, intent on the search for sensuality—know or see or realize that which is to be known through renunciation, seen through renunciation, attained through renunciation, realized through renunciation? That’s impossible.”— MN 125

Clinging to views has an impact similar to that of clinging to sensuality in shaping becoming. It influences one’s sense of self, one’s experience of the present world, and one’s experience of worlds to come.

“Only here is there purity”

—that’s what they say—

“No other doctrines are pure”

—so they say.

Insisting that what they depend on is good,

they are deeply entrenched in their personal truths.

Seeking controversy, they plunge into an assembly,

regarding one another as fools.

Relying on others’ authority,

they speak in debate.

Desiring praise, they claim to be skilled.

Engaged in disputes in the midst of the assembly,

—anxious, desiring praise—

the one defeated is

chagrined.

Shaken with criticism, he seeks for an opening.

He whose doctrine is (judged as) demolished,

defeated, by those judging the issue:

He laments, he grieves—the inferior exponent.

“He beat me,” he mourns.

These disputes have arisen among contemplatives.

In them are

elation,

dejection.

Seeing this, one should abstain from disputes,

for they have no other goal

than the gaining of praise.

He who is praised there

for expounding his doctrine

in the midst of the assembly,

laughs on that account & grows haughty,

attaining his heart’s desire.

That haughtiness will be his grounds for vexation,

for he’ll speak in pride & conceit.

Seeing this, one should abstain from debates.

No purity is attained by them, say the skilled.— Sn 4:8

One of the wanderers said to Anāthapiṇḍika the householder, “The cosmos is eternal. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless. This is the sort of view I have.”

Another wanderer said to Anāthapiṇḍika, “The cosmos is not eternal. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless. This is the sort of view I have.”

Another wanderer said, “The cosmos is finite …” … “The cosmos is infinite … ” … “The soul & the body are the same … ” … “The soul is one thing and the body another … ” … “After death a Tathāgata exists … ” … “After death a Tathāgata does not exist … ” … “After death a Tathāgata both does & does not exist … ” … “After death a Tathāgata neither does nor does not exist. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless. This is the sort of view I have.”

When this had been said, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder said to the wanderers, “As for the venerable one who says, ‘The cosmos is eternal. Only this is true; anything otherwise is worthless. This is the sort of view I have,’ his view arises from his own inappropriate attention or in dependence on the words of another. Now this view has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently originated. Whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently originated, that is inconstant. Whatever is inconstant is stress. This venerable one thus adheres to that very stress, submits himself to that very stress.” [Similarly for the other positions.]— AN 10:93

“There’s the case, headman, where a certain teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: ‘All those who take life are destined for a state of deprivation, are destined for hell. All those who steal… All those who indulge in illicit sex… All those who tell lies are destined for a state of deprivation, are destined for hell.’ A disciple has faith in that teacher, and the thought occurs to him, ‘Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: “All those who take life are destined for a state of deprivation, are destined for hell.” There are living beings that I have killed. I, too, am destined for a state of deprivation, am destined for hell.’ He fastens onto that view. If he doesn’t abandon that doctrine, doesn’t abandon that state of mind, doesn’t relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.

“(The thought occurs to him,) ‘Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: ‘All those who steal… All those who indulge in illicit sex… All those who tell lies are destined for a state of deprivation, are destined for hell.’ There are lies I have told. I, too, am destined for a state of deprivation, am destined for hell.’ He fastens onto that view. If he doesn’t abandon that doctrine, doesn’t abandon that state of mind, doesn’t relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.”— SN 42:8

Now at that time Nālanda was in the midst of famine, a time of scarcity, the crops white with blight and turned to straw. And at that time Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta was staying in Nālandā together with a large following of Nigaṇṭhas. Then Asibandhakaputta the headman, a disciple of the Nigaṇṭhas, went to Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta said to him, “Come, now, headman. Refute the words of the contemplative Gotama, and this admirable report about you will spread afar: ‘The words of the contemplative Gotama—so mighty, so powerful—were refuted by Asibandhakaputta the headman!’”

“But how, venerable sir, will I refute the words of the contemplative Gotama—so mighty, so powerful?”

“Come now, headman. Go to the contemplative Gotama and on arrival say this: ‘Venerable sir, doesn’t the Blessed One in many ways praise kindness, protection, & sympathy for families?’ If the contemplative Gotama, thus asked, answers, ‘Yes, headman, the Tathāgata in many ways praises kindness, protection, & sympathy for families,’ then you should say, ‘Then why, venerable sir, is the Blessed One, together with a large community of monks, wandering on tour around Nālandā in the midst of famine, a time of scarcity, when the crops are white with blight and turned to straw? The Blessed One is practicing for the ruin of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the demise of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the downfall of families.’ When the contemplative Gotama is asked this two-pronged question by you, he won’t be able to swallow it down or spit it up.”

Responding, “As you say, venerable sir,” Asibandhakaputta the headman got up from his seat, bowed down to Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, circumambulated him, and then went to the Blessed One. On arrival, he bowed down to the Blessed One and sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Venerable sir, doesn’t the Blessed One in many ways praise kindness, protection, & sympathy for families?”

“Yes, headman, the Tathāgata in many ways praises kindness, protection, & sympathy for families.”

“Then why, venerable sir, is the Blessed One, together with a large community of monks, wandering on tour around Nālandā in the midst of famine, a time of scarcity, when the crops are white with blight and turned to straw? The Blessed One is practicing for the ruin of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the demise of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the downfall of families.”

“Headman, recollecting back over ninety-one eons, I do not know any family to have been brought to downfall through the giving of cooked alms. On the contrary: Whatever families are rich, with much wealth, with many possessions, with a great deal of money, a great many accoutrements of wealth, a great many commodities, all have become so from giving, from truth, from restraint.

“Headman, there are eight causes, eight reasons for the downfall of families. Families go to their downfall because of kings, or families go to their downfall because of thieves, or families go to their downfall because of fire, or families go to their downfall because of floods, or their stored-up treasure disappears, or their mismanaged undertakings go wrong, or in the family a wastrel is born who squanders, scatters, & shatters its wealth, and inconstancy itself is the eighth. These are the eight causes, the eight reasons for the downfall of families. Now, when these eight causes, these eight reasons are to be found, if anyone should say of me, ‘The Blessed One is practicing for the ruin of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the demise of families. The Blessed One is practicing for the downfall of families’—without abandoning that statement, without abandoning that intent, without relinquishing that view—then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.”— SN 42:9

Some views are actively pernicious in that they negate the idea that present action can have an effect on one’s well being. Thus they discourage any effort to act skillfully, which in turn has a strong impact on one’s experience of the world. Determinism is one such view, and we have already seen the Buddha’s refutation of it in Chapter Two. The same refutation applies to views holding that all experience is caused by a supreme being or is totally without cause.

“Having approached the contemplatives & brahmans who hold that… ‘Whatever a person experiences… is all caused by a supreme being’s act of creation,’ I said to them: ‘Is it true that you hold that… whatever a person experiences… is all caused by a supreme being’s act of creation?’ Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.’ Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being’s act of creation. A person is a thief… a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being’s act of creation.’ When one falls back on a supreme being’s act of creation as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort (at the thought), ‘This should be done. This shouldn’t be done.’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot legitimately refer to oneself as a contemplative….

“Having approached the contemplatives & brahmans who hold that… ‘Whatever a person experiences… is all without cause, without condition,’ I said to them: ‘Is it true that you hold that… whatever a person experiences… is all without cause, without condition?’ Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.’ Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings without cause, without condition. A person is a thief… unchaste… a liar… a divisive speaker… a harsh speaker… an idle chatterer… greedy… malicious… a holder of wrong views without cause, without condition.’ When one falls back on lack of cause and lack of condition as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort (at the thought), ‘This should be done. This shouldn’t be done.’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot legitimately refer to oneself as a contemplative….

“These [along with the determinists] are the three sectarian guilds that—when cross-examined, pressed for reasons, & rebuked by wise people—even though they may explain otherwise, remain stuck in inaction.”— AN 3:62

Clinging to views includes not only the act of clinging to a firmly held opinion, but also being stuck in doubt and uncertainty, for one’s doubts can have a strong impact on one’s experience of life.

“Then there is the case of the person in doubt & perplexity, who has not arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, ‘How doubtful & perplexed I am! I have not arrived at any certainty with regard to the True Dhamma!’ He grieves & is tormented, weeps, beats his breast, & grows delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is afraid & in terror of death.”— AN 4:184

The third form of clinging, clinging to habits and practices, is one of the more controversial in its interpretation, in that the Pāli words for “habit” and “practice”—sīla and vata—can have so many other meanings as well. Sīla can also mean “precept” or “virtue.” Vata can also mean “duty” or “ritual.” Thus this form of clinging is sometimes translated as clinging to precepts and duties, to rules and vows, or to virtues and rituals. “Habit,” however, seems the most appropriate translation for sīla here, in that it covers the broadest range of behavior. A person can cling to habitual patterns of behavior regardless of whether they are related to a particular precept, virtue, or rule, and regardless of whether they are skillful.

“Now what are unskillful habits [sīla]? Unskillful bodily actions, unskillful verbal actions, evil means of livelihood…. And what are skillful habits? Skillful bodily actions, skillful verbal actions, purity of livelihood.”— MN 78

“Practice” seems the best translation for vata, in that this term denotes a more formulated set of observances. As I have noted elsewhere, though (see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, p. 66), vata also seems to cover purely mental practices, such as the practice of jhāna.

As with clinging to sensuality and to views, clinging to habits and practices shapes becoming in three ways: influencing one’s sense of self, one’s experience of the present world, and one’s experience of worlds to come.

“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas, thus: ‘There are the Devas of the Four Great Kings, the Devas of the Thirty-three, the Devas of the Hours, the Contented Devas, the Devas who Delight in Creation, the Devas Who Have Power over the Creations of Others, the Devas of Brahmā’s retinue, the devas beyond them. Whatever conviction they were endowed with that—when falling away from this life—they re-arose there, the same sort of conviction is present in me as well. Whatever virtue… Whatever learning… Whatever generosity… Whatever discernment they were endowed with that—when falling away from this life—they re-arose there, the same sort of discernment is present in me as well.’ As he is recollecting the devas, his mind is calmed, and joy arises; the defilements of his mind are abandoned. He is thus called a disciple of the noble ones undertaking the deva-uposatha. He lives with the devas.”— AN 3:71

“A person of no integrity is a wilderness dweller. He notices, ‘I am a wilderness dweller, but these other monks are not wilderness dwellers.’ He exalts himself for being a wilderness dweller and disparages others. This is the quality of a person of no integrity.

“A person of no integrity is one who wears robes of thrown-away rags… an alms-goer… one who dwells at the root of a tree… a cemetery dweller… one who lives in the open air… one who doesn’t lie down… one who eats only one meal a day. He notices, ‘I am one who eats only one meal a day, but these other monks do not eat only one meal a day.’ He exalts himself for being one who eats only one meal a day and disparages others. This is the quality of a person of no integrity.

“A person of no integrity… enters & remains in the first jhāna. He notices, ‘I have gained the attainment of the first jhāna, but these other monks have not gained the attainment of the first jhāna.’ He exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhāna and disparages others. This is the quality of a person of no integrity.

[Similarly with the other levels of jhāna up through the dimension of nothingness.]

“A person of no integrity… enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He notices, ‘I have gained the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, but these other monks have not gained the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’ He exalts himself for the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception and disparages others. This is the quality of a person of no integrity.”— MN 113

As the Buddha learned on the night of his Awakening, actions follow from views. Thus clinging to habits and practices is often combined with clinging to views about the results that those habits or practices will yield. If the underlying view is wrong, it can lead to even greater suffering than what is engendered by the habits and practices based on it.

Then Puṇṇa Koliyaputta, an ox-practice ascetic, and Seniya, a naked dog-practice ascetic, went to the Blessed One. On arrival, Puṇṇa Koliyaputta the ox-practice ascetic bowed down to the Blessed One and sat to one side, whereas Seniya, the naked dog-practice ascetic, exchanged courteous greetings with the Blessed One and, after an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, sat down to one side, hunched up like a dog.

As they were sitting there, Puṇṇa Koliyaputta the ox-practice ascetic said to the Blessed One, “This Seniya, a naked dog-practice ascetic, does what is hard to do. He eats food thrown on the ground. He has undertaken and perfectly conformed to that dog-practice. What is his destination? What his future course?”

“Enough, Puṇṇa. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.”

A second time… A third time Puṇṇa Koliyaputta the ox-practice ascetic said to the Blessed One, “This Seniya, a naked dog-practice ascetic, does what is hard to do. He eats food thrown on the ground. He has for a long time undertaken and perfectly conformed to that dog-practice. What is his destination? What his future course?”

“Apparently, Puṇṇa, I don’t get leave from you (to avoid the matter by saying), ‘Enough, Puṇṇa. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’ So I will simply answer you. There is the case where a certain person develops the dog-practice fully and without lapse, develops the dog-habit fully and without lapse, develops the dog-mind fully and without lapse, develops dog-behavior fully and without lapse. Having developed the dog-practice fully and without lapse, the dog-habit fully and without lapse, the dog-mind fully and without lapse, dog-behavior fully and without lapse, he—on the break-up of the body, after death—reappears in the company of dogs. But if he is of a view such as this: ‘By this habit or practice or asceticism or holy life I will become one deva or another,’ that is his wrong view. For a person of wrong view, Puṇṇa, there is one of two destinations, I tell you: hell or the animal womb. Thus when succeeding, Puṇṇa, the dog-practice leads to the animal womb; when failing, to hell.”— MN 57

As he was sitting there, Tālapuṭa, the head of an acting troupe said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

“Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.”

A second time… A third time Tālapuṭa, the head of an acting troupe, said: “Venerable sir, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

“Apparently, headman, I don’t get leave from you (to avoid the matter by saying), ‘Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’ So I will simply answer you. Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor—himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless—with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,’ that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb.”

When this was said, Tālapuṭa, the head of an acting troupe, sobbed & burst into tears. (The Blessed One said:) “That was what I didn’t get leave from you (to avoid by saying), ‘Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’”

“I’m not crying, venerable sir, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of actors who said: ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’” —SN 42:2

As he was sitting there, Yodhājīva [Professional Warrior] the headman said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of professional warriors that ‘When a professional warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

“Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.”

A second time… A third time Yodhājīva the headman said: “Venerable sir, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of professional warriors that ‘When a professional warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

“Apparently, headman, I don’t get leave from you (to avoid the matter by saying), ‘Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’ So I will simply answer you. When a professional warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: ‘May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.’ If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: ‘When a professional warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,’ that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb.”

When this was said, Yodhājīva the headman sobbed & burst into tears. (The Blessed One said:) “That was what I didn’t get leave from you (to avoid by saying), ‘Enough, headman. Put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’”

“I’m not crying, venerable sir, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of professional warriors who said: ‘When a professional warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.’”— SN 42:3

In treating the fourth type of clinging—to self-doctrines—the discourses deal primarily in general terms when relating self-doctrines to states of becoming. Obviously, one’s sense of self and of the world will be shaped by one’s articulated doctrines on the topic of self, but the discourses give few specific examples of the connection between a particular doctrine and a particular state of becoming.

Strangely, many writers have maintained that the Buddha, in discussing self-doctrines, meant to refute only “the” brahmanical self-doctrine, which equated the self—ātman—with brahmā, the principle underlying the universe. Although this interpretation attempts to place the Buddha’s teachings within a specific historical context, it actually misreads both his teachings and their context. In terms of the context, even a cursory glance at the Upaniṣads—brahmanical writings generally predating the Pāli Canon—will show that there was no single brahmanical self-doctrine at the time (see Appendix II). The teachings of non-brahmanical religious wanderers who were contemporaries of the Buddha espoused many other self-doctrines as well. So the Buddha was not situated in a context where only one view of the self prevailed. Thus it is unlikely that in discussing self-doctrines he would concern himself only with one. And when we look at his discussions of the topic, we see that he tries to cast his net wide enough to cover every conceivable way of defining a self.

“To what extent, Ānanda, does one delineate when delineating a self? Either delineating a self possessed of form & finite, one delineates that ‘My self is possessed of form & finite.’ Or, delineating a self possessed of form & infinite, one delineates that ‘My self is possessed of form & infinite.’ Or, delineating a self formless & finite, one delineates that ‘My self is formless & finite.’ Or, delineating a self formless & infinite, one delineates that ‘My self is formless & infinite.’

“Now, the one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form & finite, either delineates it as possessed of form & finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will (naturally) become possessed of form & finite [in deep sleep/after death], or he believes that ‘Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.’ This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form & finite obsesses him.

“The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form & infinite, either delineates it as possessed of form & infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will (naturally) become possessed of form & infinite [in deep sleep/after death], or he believes that ‘Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.’ This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form & infinite obsesses him.

“The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless & finite, either delineates it as formless & finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will (naturally) become formless & finite [in deep sleep/after death], or he believes that ‘Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.’ This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless & finite obsesses him.

“The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless & infinite, either delineates it as formless & infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will (naturally) become formless & infinite [in deep sleep/after death], or he believes that ‘Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.’ This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless & infinite obsesses him.”— DN 15

“Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. Which five? There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person—who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma—assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

“He assumes feeling to be the self, or the self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in the self, or the self as in feeling.

“He assumes perception to be the self, or the self as possessing perception, or perception as in the self, or the self as in perception.

“He assumes fabrications to be the self, or the self as possessing fabrications, or fabrications as in the self, or the self as in fabrications.

“He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.”— SN 22:47

Thus, when discussing self-doctrines in general, the Buddha uses the term “self-doctrine” to cover any and all of the doctrines that would fall under these rubrics. However, with a few exceptions, he does not connect a particular self-doctrine to a particular type of becoming. Instead, he simply says that all self-doctrines lead to stress.

“Monks, you would do well to cling to that self-doctrine-clinging, clinging to which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. But do you see a self-doctrine-clinging, clinging to which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair?”

“No, lord.”

“Very good, monks. Neither do I….

“What do you think, monks: If a person were to gather or burn or do as he likes with the grass, twigs, branches & leaves here in Jeta’s Grove, would the thought occur to you, ‘It‘s us that this person is gathering, burning, or doing with as he likes’?”

“No, lord. Why is that? Because those things are not our self, nor do they belong to our self.”

“Even so, monks, whatever isn’t yours: Let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term welfare & happiness. And what isn’t yours? Form isn’t yours… Feeling isn’t yours… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness isn’t yours: Let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term welfare & happiness.”— MN 22

Self-doctrines include not only those that define a self and assert its existence, but also those that deny the existence of a self—for in denying a self, one first has to define what it is that one is denying.

There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person… does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends (instead) to ideas unfit for attention. And what are the ideas unfit for attention that he attends to? Whatever ideas such that, when he attends to them, the unarisen effluent of sensuality arises, and the arisen effluent of sensuality increases; the unarisen effluent of becoming… the unarisen effluent of ignorance arises, and the arisen effluent of ignorance increases…. This is how he attends inappropriately: ‘Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?’ Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?’

As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self … or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self … or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self … or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine—the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions—is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from stress.”— MN 2

Thus a self-doctrine deals with two issues: defining a self and then stating whether that self exists. Interestingly, the only cases where the discourses state that a particular self-doctrine leads to a particular state of becoming is where monks apply the Buddha’s own teachings on not-self to their meditative experience.

“Then again, the disciple of the noble ones, having gone into the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or into an empty dwelling, considers this: ‘This is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self.’ Practicing & frequently abiding in this way, his mind acquires confidence in that dimension. There being full confidence, he either attains the dimension of nothingness now or else is committed to discernment. With the break-up of the body, after death, it’s possible that this leading-on consciousness of his will go to the dimension of nothingness….

“Then again, the disciple of the noble ones considers this: ‘I am not anyone’s anything anywhere; nor is anything of mine in anyone anywhere.’ Practicing & frequently abiding in this way, his mind acquires confidence in that dimension. There being full confidence, he either attains the dimension of nothingness now or else is committed to discernment. With the break-up of the body, after death, it’s possible that this leading-on consciousness of his will go to the dimension of nothingness.”— MN 106

Later passages in this discourse show that the monks in question, in trying to abandon a sense of self, end up clinging instead to a state of equanimity—a point that shows how important it is to understand all four types of clinging in order to escape clinging entirely. However, because the discussion of these passages also covers a practice that the Buddhist monks practiced in common with other paths of their time, we will save the full discussion for the next chapter.

Here, however, we can review all four types of clinging to delineate the themes that have emerged from the above discussion. Three stand out: themes of anticipation, mutuality, and limitation.

Anticipation. The choice of a particular focal point in which to take passion and delight often has less to do with what the point already offers, and more to do with one’s anticipation of what might be gained by focusing one’s efforts there. Even in cases where sensuality-clinging forms around a sensual pleasure, the motivation lies primarily in the hope that more sensual pleasure will be engendered through the clinging. In the case of view-clinging, a view can be clearly detrimental, but if one anticipates an advantage coming from expounding that view, one will submit oneself to it. The same principle applies to habit-and-practice clinging and self-doctrine-clinging. The passion and desire focus on anticipation of possible present or future results of present action. This anticipation is, in turn, based on a view—explicit or implicit—of how cause and effect work. One believes that the act of clinging in a particular way will cause a particular happiness to arise, and one draws conclusions within that framework as to which efforts will lead to a happiness worth the effort involved.

In this way, every form of clinging starts with a type of view-clinging. And the actual prospects of happiness to be gained from an act of clinging will be determined by the accuracy of the view on which it is based. The person engaged in the deva-uposatha is a case where the accuracy of his/her view leads to happiness now and into the future. The dog-practice ascetic, the actor, and the professional warrior are instances where the inaccuracy of the view will lead to severe suffering.

What this means in practice is that the most direct way of getting someone to abandon a particular type of clinging is to get that person to change his/her views, particularly about cause and effect. This is why the Buddha stated that the central insight of his Awakening involved a principle of cause and effect, and why his teaching career centered on various ways of getting people to change their views to adopt his vision of cause and effect as well.

Mutuality. Just as views fashion all clinging, a similar case can be made that self-doctrines, habits, and practices fashion every form of clinging as well. People tend to cling to areas that seem to offer the best possibility of happiness given their sense of their capabilities and the means at hand. This sense, in turn, is influenced by their sense of self and their experience of which habits and practices have and haven’t worked in the past. The case of the poor man unable to abandon his meager possessions is an example here. He clung to his shack, his wife, his pot of rice & gourd seeds because they lay within his sense of the possible—his familiar sense of himself and of the actions of which he was capable. Thus all forms of clinging contain elements of views, habits and practices, and self-doctrines, which in turn are shaped by the ways one has clung in the past. In some cases these aspects are clearly articulated in one’s mind; in others, not. A particular act of clinging would be classified under one of these three sorts primarily on the basis of which aspect is most consciously felt or clearly articulated.

The one type of clinging that does not necessarily participate fully in this mutual interplay is sensuality. Even though every instance of sensuality-clinging is shaped by views, habits and practices, and self-doctrines, not every instance of those forms of clinging is shaped by sensuality. In fact some forms of habit-&-practice-clinging, involving the practice of jhāna, require the abandoning of sensuality-clinging, at least for the duration of the practice.

The fact of mutuality explains why every state of becoming that follows on clinging has three dimensions: a view of a world’s working in line with a particular pattern of cause and effect, a sense of what habits and practices will lead to happiness within that pattern, and a sense of oneself trying to operate within that pattern. And as we noted in Chapter Two, the Buddha’s path to the end of becoming involves creating states of becoming conducive to viewing things as they have come to be. Thus in formulating his path he had to include not only a view of causality, but also a guide to the proper habits and practices to follow within that view, and a sense of self capable of following those habits and practices. Because his path ultimately had to put aside the state of becoming it used as a tool, it also had to include teachings that eventually brought freedom from each of these three mutual aspects.

Limitations. In its choice of a spot in the field of kamma, the act of clinging can add limitations on top of the limitations already inherent in the past kamma within that field. These limitations work in two dimensions: limitations on what is experienced in the present, and limitations on what will be done in the present. Although the first dimension may create a heaven in human life, it can also create a hell, as in the example of the person convinced that he was destined to hell because of his past bad actions. This then creates constraints on what one will do in the present, which in turn limits what will be experienced and feasible to do in the future.

Prince Jayasena is a prime example here. Obsessed with sensuality, his only knowledge of human potential centered on the sensual quest, which meant that although he lived in the midst of sensual pleasures, his pleasure was eaten away by sensual thoughts and on fire with sensual fever. With his mind inflamed in this way, he could not conceive of the possibility of a human being’s achieving singleness of mind. This limitation on his imagination thus limited the range of action that he was even willing to attempt. This, of course, would then have a limiting effect on what he would experience in the future. If—like the person who denounces alms-going—he was led by his current actions to hell or the animal world, that would place severe limitations not only on the happiness he could experience in those locations, but also on the range of activities he could engage in there. The existence of these limitations helps to explain why the Buddha, in using becoming to put an end to becoming—and thus clinging to put an end to clinging—did not employ sensuality-clinging as part of his path.

Clinging to fortunate effects of past kamma or even to skillful actions in the present also entails limitations, which are of two sorts. The first sort is illustrated in the cases of the “dung-beetle” monk and the person of no integrity practicing jhāna. Conceit can easily form around these otherwise fortunate circumstances and skillful practices, and the conceit itself can then become a source of unskillful action.

The second sort of limitation is of a more general nature, and derives from the inherent limitations in the field of kamma in which craving and clinging work: No matter how skillful or fortunate the act of clinging, if it is not transcended the happiness it produces is always impermanent. At some point it will have to end, and there is no guarantee that a person falling from refined, long-term happiness will be wise or fortunate in finding a new place to cling. The incident of flavor-earth, for instance, was only the first in a long string of foolish decisions made by beings after descending from the Radiant realm. At the same time, cravings and clingings are not necessarily consistent. A state of becoming may be based on conflicting views and habits, and thus contain inevitable tension. The poor person clinging to his shack is again an example here. Although he rightly saw the contemplative life as desirable, he could not bring himself to abandon his meager sensual pleasures because of other, conflicting views and desires.

Thus the happiness gained solely through clinging is inherently unreliable.

This is why the Buddha saw that the craving and clinging leading to becoming also lead inevitably to suffering and stress. And this is why his path to the end of suffering, although it involves the creation of skillful becoming, ultimately requires the ability to allow becoming to come to an end. It is also why his path requires a full understanding of the craving and clinging underlying becoming. Otherwise, without an understanding of the causes of becoming, the path would not have worked, for the causes—unapprehended—would have continued to function. Only when the causes are overcome through understanding can becoming be overcome as well.

To help gain a full appreciation of the skillful strategy embodied in his path, however, it will be useful first to look at the Buddha’s discussion of some unsuccessful attempts to overcome the limitations of clinging, craving, and becoming. As he notes, all of these attempts fail because they are based on an incomplete understanding of the various guises that clinging, craving, and becoming can take. Thus, in their failure, they provide instructive lessons as to why the twists and turns of the Buddha’s strategy are essential for his path to succeed.