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On Vibhava

In The First Question, understanding 'Ahara', we have the Four Foods discussed with the third food being "intention" (manosancittana), which is expanded with a simile this way:


And how is the food that is intention to be considered?

Imagine a pit of smokeless charcoal, deeper than a man is tall, red hot, glowing, ablaze (generally a simile for woman), and here come some beggar who loves life, dislikes death, loves happiness, dislikes pain, and two strong men grab him one at each arm and drag him, twisting This Way and that, to that very pit of smokeless charcoal, deeper than a man is tall, red hot, glowing, ablaze.

What do you think, beggars, would that man not wish to be out of that situation, out of the grip of those two strong men, far from that place?

And, How Come?

Because he would be thinking: Ho boy! I fall in ' with that pit of smokeless charcoal, deeper than a man is tall, red hot, glowing, ablaze, it's death or excruciating deadly pain for me, for sure!

That's how come.

This is the way intention is to be considered.

When the food that is intention is understood, the three "cravings" (for sense pleasures, for life, for more life — or, as vibhava is usually translated, for the end of life; when the three cravings are understood, there is nothing more that needs to be done.



The Pit of smokeless charcoal is woman, that I have known for some time (who in their right mind, couldn't see that?). The mystery to me was always the two strong men. Now I see: The pit of smokeless charcoal is sense pleasure or living in the senses; the two strong men are the intention to get or craving for life (bhava) and the intention to get away from or craving to get away from unpleasant aspects of life (vibhava); both, I believe to be understood as aspects of 'bhavasava'. The conflicted nature of the two goals — wanting life and wanting to get away from the unpleasant — is what is producing the "twisting this way and that."

This simile makes it clear that the idea of vibhava is to be understood not only as a death wish, or as a "Diṭṭhi" (point of view) the theory that individualized life comes to an end at the death of the body, but also as taṇhā or an "āsava," the desire to get away from the unpleasant aspects of life — aversion, or inclinatioin to flight in a much more general form). I suggest viewing the death wish and theory as being sub-categories of aversion, or reactions to the instinct to flight.




DhammaTalk: On Bhava and Vibhava

Glossology: Bhava

Glossology: Ahara

The Four Foods (expansion)

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