Is bhava a sufficient condition for jāti? What's their exact relationship?


In Chapter 3 of Ajahn Brahm, Dependent Origination (2002).pdf as mentioned here Dependent Origination - Ajahn Brahmali, Ajahn Brahm frames dependent origination in terms of sufficient and necessary conditions. He indicates that bhava is a sufficient condition for jāti, but Ven Sunyo (@Sunyo) has said it is a necessary condition. So which one is it in actuality?

Here’s his list of sufficient relationships, but with arrows and the necessary conditions added in bold.

A ⟹ B: A is a sufficient condition (is enough; is always a cause, but not necessarily the only possible cause) for B
A ⟸ B: A is a necessary condition (at least this is needed, something else may do the rest) for B (Yes, the reversed arrow is true, technically B is a sufficient condition for A and vice versa, so the placement from left to right is at most chronological)

avijjā ⟹ saṅkhāra
saṅkhāra ⟸ viññāṇa
viññāṇa ⟹ nāmarūpa
nāmarūpa ⟹ saḷāyatana
saḷāyatana ⟹ phassa
phassa ⟹ vedanā
vedanā ⟸ taṇhā
taṇhā ⟹ upādāna
upādāna ⟸ bhava
bhava ⟹ jāti
jāti ⟹ dukkhā

You can also represent the last link like this.

jāti ⟹ jarā-maraṇaṁ-sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā-sambhavanti
jāti ⟹ jarā ⟹ maraṇa
jāti ⟸ maraṇa (needs aging)

In other words, if a being comes into some state of existence, does this mean they will always be born :thinking:?

Multiple Conditions

When there is a necessary condition, A ⟸ Z, it means that other condition(s) need to come together with A, then Z will happen. If B ⟸ Z, then it would be A & B ⟸ Z, but if we also add info and say that A & B together are sufficient, then A & B ⟹ Z. This would be adding more detail and explanation than before, removing ambiguity.

It can also be used to explain chronological gaps, like how birth is necessary for death, but only when there is also aging will death be sufficient. If time just froze and nothing ever changed, there’d never be death.

We can apply this to dependent origination to reveal what other conditions were needed for the necessary conditions in order to sufficiently condition the next factor. This can be used to completely describe our bhava → jāti situation.

I’ll do the other necessary conditions first as example. For vedanā ⟸ taṇhā, I believe it would need something like: avijja & vedanā ⟹ taṇhā. And you could even say vijja & vedanā ⇏ taṇhā (will not sufficiently condition). For the necessary conditions saṅkhāra ⟸ viññāṇa and upādāna ⟸ bhava, I think this will be harder since it’s more of a matter of time and change for those to happen; eventually things just have to result and have to change, and the 3 life model is to explain that.

what? + bhavajāti

Now to apply this to our bhava → jāti situation.

Ajahn Brahm’s reasoning is this: “Also, bhava is sufficient to produce birth (see AN3.76)”

However, Ven Sunyo argues,

From AN3.76, Ajahn Brahm is suggesting bhava alone is enough for jāti: bhava ⟹ jāti.

The consciousness of sentient beings—shrouded by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future

But, from AN4.131, Ven Sunyo is saying bhava ⟸ jāti, which mean there must be something else required, potentially identifiable.

What person hasn’t given up the lower fetters, the fetters for getting reborn, or the fetters for getting a continued existence? Sakadāgāmissa A once-returner…

What person has given up the lower fetters, but not the fetters for getting reborn, or the fetters for getting a continued existence? Uddhaṁsotassa akaniṭṭhagāmino One heading upstream, going to the Akaniṭṭha realm.

What person has given up the lower fetters and the fetters for getting reborn, but not the fetters for getting a continued existence? Antarāparinibbāyissa One extinguished between one life and the next.

What person has given up the lower fetters, the fetters for getting reborn, and the fetters for getting a continued existence? Arahato A perfected one.

But it feels like a truism. Without the thing conditioning birth, there’d obviously be no birth, so which fetters are they? I can’t find what the fetters for getting reborn and bhava are with a pāli search, so I suppose it’s the higher fetters divided in two by the differences between what they’ve given up.

The fetters for bhava must be the difference between arahant and non-returner, which is conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. This sutta has divided non-returner into two, and their difference contains the fetters for bhava. Logically, it could be desires pertaining to birth, so desire for existence, but I don’t really know.

Ignoring the lower fetters, we can derive:

fetters for bhavabhava & fetters for getting rebornjāti (Uddhaṁsotassa akaniṭṭhagāmino) (Desire for existence)
fetters for bhavabhava & no fetters for getting rebornjāti (Antarāparinibbāyissa) (No desire for existence?)
no fetters for bhava & no fetters for getting rebornbhavajāti (Arahato) (No desire)

or, even more reduced:

fetters for bhava ⟸ bhava
fetters for getting reborn ⟸ jāti

This sutta would have to mean that bhava ⟸ jāti, since that statement alone is vague on whether the fetters for getting reborn are there or not. There may also be a condition besides just bhava and fetters, such as needing an available body to be reborn into, or something which isn’t named, so it could potentially be “bhava & fetters for getting reborn ⟸ jāti”, but it would ultimately still point to bhava itself being just a necessary condition.

Well there’s the answer, I guess it lies in the reality of a higher non-returner not taking birth.

Actually, Ajahn Brahm’s sutta is hinting at this :open_mouth:

The consciousness of sentient beings—shrouded by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.

“consciousness & ignorance & craving & bhava ⟹ jāti”

Given these texts, I must side with Ven Sunyo that bhava ⟸ jāti.

I leave this topic as a Q & A because there could be more text study which changes this.

What about me, too?

As an explanation for vedanā ⟸ taṇhā, Ajahn Brahm said

vedanā is not a sufficient condition for taṇha. Vedana are certainly experienced by arahants, but they never generate taṇha.

but he also adds

Moreover, for ordinary people, not every vedanā produces craving.

So we aren’t creating causal relationships that only apply to certain stages of enlightenment, we’re using those to make a clearer argument that these relationships either necessarily bring the next link, or may not bring it, which would generally be true for everyone, and those stages of enlightenment are just clearer examples of the lack of the other necessary conditions. So bhava not necessarily bringing birth may not just be a technicality.

This means that in the moments where a practitioner is not being fettered by the lower fetters and only by certain higher fetters, they would bhava without jāti — or dukkha. But, later, they could be pulled by sensual desire and then be born and aged and dukkha again. I can’t really put this into words that are any more relatable, but this should imply something about our own experience, probably more so for deeper meditation where said lower fetters are abrupt. For example, maybe this is why the joys of the jhānas are said to be sambodhi sukha, the happiness of enlightenment, because you would not be suffering there as much since there’s no jāti after bhava to be bringing suffering :man_shrugging: :smiley_cat:

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I believe, mature teachers don’t teach about things above their level, but if they teach only what is known for them, by direct knowledge, than definitely there is a great difference between direct knowledge of different teachers.

Here you have different vision about relationships between bhava and jati:

Upādānapaccayā bhavo; bhavapaccayā jāti; jātipaccayā jarāmaranam… (‘With holding as condition, being; with being as condition, birth; with birth as condition, ageing-&-death…’) The fundamental upādāna or ‘holding’ is attavāda (see Majjhima ii,1 <M.i,67>), which is holding a belief in ‘self’. The puthujjana takes what appears to be his ‘self’ at its face value; and so long as this goes on he continues to be a ‘self’, at least in his own eyes (and in those of others like him). This is bhava or ‘being’. The puthujjana knows that people are born and die; and since he thinks ‘my self exists’ so he also thinks ‘my self was born’ and ‘my self will die’. The puthujjana sees a ‘self’ to whom the words birth and death apply.[d] In contrast to the puthujjana , the arahat has altogether got rid of asmimāna (not to speak of attavāda —see MAMA), and does not even think ‘I am’. This is bhavanirodha , cessation of being. And since he does not think ‘I am’ he also does not think ‘I was born’ or ‘I shall die’. In other words, he sees no ‘self’ or even ‘I’ for the words birth and death to apply to. This is jātinirodha and jarāmarananirodha . (See, in Kosala Samy. i,3 <S.i,71>, how the words birth and death are avoided when the arahat is spoken of. Atthi nu kho bhante jātassa aññatra jarāmaranā ti. N’atthi kho mahārāja jātassa aññatra jarāmaranā. Ye pi te mahārāja khattiyamahāsālā… brāhmanamahāsālā… gahapatimahāsālā…, tesam pi jātānam n’atthi aññatra jarāmaranā. Ye pi te mahārāja bhikkhu arahanto khīnāsavā…, tesam pāyam kāyo bhedanadhammo nikkhepanadhammo ti. (‘—For one who is born, lord, is there anything other than ageing-&-death?—For one who is born, great king, there is nothing other than ageing-&-death. Those, great king, who are wealthy warriors… wealthy divines… wealthy householders…,—for them, too, being born, there is nothing other than ageing-&-death. Those monks, great king, who are worthy ones, destroyers of the cankers…,—for them, too, it is the nature of this body to break up, to be laid down.’)) The puthujjana , taking his apparent ‘self’ at face value, does not see that he is a victim of upādāna ; he does not see that ‘being a self’ depends upon ‘holding a belief in self’ (upādānapaccayā bhavo ); and he does not see that birth and death depend upon his ‘being a self’ (bhavapaccayā jāti , and so on). The ariyasāvaka , on the other hand, does see these things, and he sees also their cessation (even though he may not yet have fully realized it); and his seeing of these things is direct. Quite clearly, the idea of re -birth is totally irrelevant here.
While maintaining the necessary reservations (see Preface) about his views, we may observe that Heidegger, in his Sein und Zeit (Halle 1927, p. 374), subordinates the ideas of birth and death to that of being , within the unity of our existential structure. I exist, I am , as born; and, as born, I am as liable at every moment to die.


That’s my personal note on the document. Somebody must have shared that version somehow (maybe myself). Please in future share a version without the note, such as: Ajahn Brahm, Dependent Origination (2002).pdf (153.6 KB)

To answer the questions, a condition is not either necessary OR sufficient. Those two are not opposites. Something can be both necessary and sufficient. All factors in DO are necessary conditions, otherwise you could end up with rebirth and consequent suffering without ignorance. That is to say, in order to be reborn and suffer, you require the preceding factors.

The question whether bhava (aside from being a necessary condition) is also a sufficient condition for birth, I feel is rather marginal, both from a practical and textual perspective. The texts don’t discuss these particulars, and from a pragmatic point of view I think it doesn’t really matter much.

I crossed it off as a sufficient condition because of that sutta you quoted, which says some non-returners will still obtain bhava but not birth. That indicates bhava is technically not sufficient for birth. However, that is a very rare case, which is also why it is not a very relevant matter pragmatically.

Sorry, but I’m too confused by your arrows to reply in much more detail. :slightly_smiling_face: I hope this still helps. I wrote a little bit more about it here.


Got it. Sorry, I was not sure whether it was an intentional inclusion in Ajahn Brahmali’s post for us to discuss with.

It’s also true that they are all necessary because of the implied conditions (assumptions) for all of them such as that there’s even the same being that these links are happening within in the first place. So these aren’t perfectly logical, and it really is just notation to reference general observations. I felt it might be worth checking for bhava, but found it is not as useful as knowing about compared to feeling → desire, which itself isn’t that groundbreaking, and in practice, is probably to clear some skeptical doubt about desire anyway. And it’s more useful to read the Buddha’s extra explanations like DN21 or DN15 anyway or obviously practicing it.

Yes, although I’ve seen arahant be used to explain feeling → desire, since they clearly sense by hearing students’ questions without desire, which is also a rare case. Then that also applies to any being, so I was asking if since we also used some level of enlightenment to show that relationship, and also non-returner to describe bhava → birth, then that doesn’t mean that any being doesn’t sometimes have bhava without birth, or bhava without suffering (just like we sometimes sense without desire)?

It’s also similar because of the case where desire does happen is when there is some avijja, and that’s how the sutta described it with birth: when the “the fetters for getting reborn” are present, which comes from avijja, then birth will happen.

And the inverse would be:

In the case certain avijja is not there, then desire doesn’t come… In the case certain avijja (the avijja which brings the fetters for getting reborn) is not there, birth doesn’t come.

And maybe that’s what’s been happening all along. If it happens in general, then that would make this a pragmatic, noticable experience that one could check.

I will, for now, assume it isn’t a common experience at all, because how could there be clinging without suffering?!

The sutta doesn’t say anything about that, so that part was just an open question.

If the mind enters jhana, does it enter a different bhava?

Yes, or generally anytime anything happens that’s a new existence. It’s not only then.

SN12.2 (also SN38.13)

And what is bhava?
There are these three bhavas.
Existence in the sensual realm, the realm of luminous form, and the formless realm (kāmabhavo, rūpabhavo, arūpabhavo).
This is called bhava.

Also the sutta I referenced in the post AN3.76

“So, Ānanda, deeds are the field, consciousness is the seed, and craving is the moisture. The consciousness of sentient beings—shrouded by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a higher realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.

That’s how continued existence is defined.”

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Note: This is tautology; existence defined as existence of three types. Not very satisfying. :pray:

The sutta method does this a lot, eg

Perception is the six classes of perception and thus called because ‘it perceives’.

Consciousness is thus called because ‘it cognizes’.

I think it is akin to saying that magnetism is of those two kinds; repelling & attracting; and it is thus called because ‘it magnetizes’.

It would not be fair to explain what magnetism is in terms of it being something else because it is not something else.

At the end of the day one has to make a model and have it explain everything in certain terms.

But does it not give you an idea of what bhava is through example of some? You learn what these terms are through a training of perception. Words will never be enough to describe blue or pleasure or sounds or existence. I can’t really say what they are, you’ll just have to assume I’m referring to the same experiences that you point to with those terms. The practice originates subjectively, from our own perceptions / trainings / habits / kamma, so we only have to go that far; pure metaphysics/philosophy isn’t really needed by then.

We know what is meant by dukkha by using others as a reference: it is/comes from sickness, joining with the disliked, not getting what you want for examples.

No one will tell you why bhava happens or why you exist, only where that observably comes from or what it causes or its classifications, only saying that existence depends on choices, and that all you can do is observe there is something like that happening.

If anything, these relative definitions offer you to look into the reality of causality, and ask “who is it that could exist when existence just depends on choices, stuck into morphing between one to another of just 3 realms for so long? It’s not me that exists, clearly a permanent self can’t entirely switch from one existence to another.” And even this question might mean nothing if you haven’t practiced to know what it’s really referring to, like someone still learning English.


I agree.

Maybe bhava can be seen as a certain sphere of existence but not as existence. The sensual sphere which is coarse. A subtler fine material rupa sphere. And a pure arupa sphere. I like this.

Bhava refers to a constructed sphere of existence, i believe. And this can be in this very life and in a next life. This constructed sphere of existence Buddha (in Dph) refers to as a house. It is build up.
Buddha also describes there is a strong relation in what mind habitually constructs in this very life, and what will happen after death.

I believe in this very life we can see that this building up, this constructing happens by grasping at and clinging for example to arising tendencies and emotions. . And due to that we find ourselves in a certain mind-state, temporary mindset that comes with a certain view, speech, actions.

But in this very life we can also notice that this does not all the time happen. Is it not that this building up, this constructing proces, always takes place. Not at all. It is not that mind is always with grasping and clinging. I believe this means that bhava is not fixed at birth.

I also feel it is important :blush: to accept that Paticca Samuppada concerns an unvoluntairy happening. In this sense also an unfreedom, a fettering. But a Buddha can still at will enter different bhava, still become emotional, be uneaseful, but never in a unfree habitual way.

Based upon the sutta’s, I do not think one can really hold that a Buddha cannot be in a state of unease, in a state of emotions, or never in a state of like and dislike or annoyence. But, i believe there is a difference between becoming emotional and entering in bhava’s in a habitual unvoluntairy unfree fettered way, and a free way. Like a parent who deals with difficult children. The parent can become angry as an impulse but that does not mean that any anger of a parent must arises from impulse and is unreasonable, unskillful and never good. For myself i have seen that one must not judge bad about being emotional but the real issue is: how do these emotions arise? What is there cause?
There the problem lies and never in being emotional, being unpeaceful. If one wants to be at peace all the time, that is abnormal. One must kill ones hearts.

In the end, all definitions are relative definitions, right? In a certain sense, all definitions are tautologies; we use words to describe other words. Still, some of these loops are very tight and we call these tautologies.

For the purposes of this thread, I thought it insightful to point this out given the purported aim of describing the conditionality of ‘birth’ and ‘existence.’ The prima facie conceit of such a program is that the two words describe concretely distinct phenomena. However, when you observe that the definition’s employed are ephemeral tautologies, this can serve to undermine the conceit, which I think is beneficial.

If the purported definitions of these seemingly concrete words are so nebulous, then what passion should we invest in a program which assumes non-nebulous definitions? :pray: