But the present phenomena is what comes up at the six doors right now. It has not yet been defiled. It is like an unsoiled piece of cloth or paper. If you are quick enough to meditate on it just as it comes up, it will not be defiled. You fail to note it and it gets defiled. Once defiled, it cannot be undefiled. If you fail to note the mind and matter as it rises, grasping intervenes. There is grasping with craving - grasping, of sense desires. There is grasping with wrong view - grasping of wrong views, of mere rite and ritual, of a theory of the self. What if grasping takes place?
"Conditioned by grasping is becoming; conditioned by becoming is birth; conditioned by birth, old age and dying, grief, suffering, sorrow, despair and lamentation come into being. Thus comes to be the origination of this entire mass of ill."
M i 333; S ii 1-2
Grasping is no small matter. It is the root cause of good and bad deeds. One who is grasped works to accomplish what he believes are good things. Everyone of us is doing what he thinks is good. What makes him think it is good? It is grasping. Others may think it is bad, but to the doer it is good. If he thinks it is not good, of course he will not do it. There is a noteworthy passage in King Asoka's inscriptions: "One thinks well of one's work. One never thinks evil of one's work." A thief steals because it is good to him to steal. A robber robs people because he thinks it is good to rob. A killer kills because he thinks it is good to kill. Ajatasattu killed his own father, King Bimbisara. He thought it was good. Devadatta conspired against the life of the Buddha. Why, to him it was good. One who takes poison to kill himself does so because he thinks it is good. Moths rush to a flame thinking it is a very nice thing. All living things do what they do because they think it is good to do so. To think it is good is grasping. Once you are really grasped you do things. What is the outcome? Well, it is the good deeds and the bad deeds.
It is a good deed to refrain from causing suffering to others. It is a good deed to render help to others. It is a good deed to give. It is a good deed to pay respect to those to whom respect is due. A good deed can bring about peace, a long life, and good health in this very life. It will bring good results in future lives, too. Such grasping is good, right grasping. Those who are thus grasped do good deeds like giving and keeping precepts and cause thereby to bring about good karma. What is the result then? "Conditioned by becoming is birth." After death they are born anew. Where are they born? In the Good Sphere, in the worlds of men and gods. As men they are endowed with such good things as a long life, beauty, health, as well as good birth, good following, and wealth. You can call them "happy people." As gods, too, they will be attended by multitudes of gods and goddesses and be living in magnificent palaces. They have been grasped by notions of happiness - and in a worldly sense, they can be said to be happy.
But from the point of view of the Buddha's teaching, these happy men and gods are not exempt from suffering. "Conditioned by birth are old age and dying." Although born a happy man, he will have to grow into an old "happy" man. Look at all those "happy" old people in this world. Once over seventy or eighty, not everything is all right with them. Grey hair, broken teeth, poor eye-sight, poor hearing, backs bent double, wrinkles all over, energy all spent up, mere good for nothings! With all their wealth and big names, these old men and women, can they be happy? Then there is the disease of old age. They cannot sleep well, they cannot eat well, they have difficulty sitting down or getting up. And finally, they must die. Rich man, king, or man of power, dies one day. He has nothing to rely on then. Friends and relatives there are around him, but just as he is lying thereon his death bed he closes his eyes and dies. Dying he goes away all alone to another existence. He must find it really hard to part with all his wealth. If he is not a man of good deeds, he will be worried about his future existence.
The great god, likewise, has to die. Gods too are not spared. A week before they die, five signs appear to them. The flowers they wear which never faded now begin to fade. Their dresses which never got worn out now appear worn out. Sweat comes out in their armpits, an unusua1 thing. Their bodies which always looked young now look old. Having never felt bored in their divine lives, they now feel bored. When these five signs appear, they at once realise their imminent death, and are greatly alarmed. In the days of the Buddha, the Sakra (King of the gods) himself had these signs appear to him. Greatly alarmed that he was going to die and lose his glory, he came to the Buddha for help. The Buddha preached the dhamma to him and he became Stream-winner. The old Sakra died and a new Sakra was reborn. It was lucky of him that the Buddha was there to save him. Had it not been for the Buddha, it would have been a disaster to the old great god.
Not only old age and dying. "... grief, suffering, sorrow, despair and lamentation come into being." All these are sufferings. "Thus comes to be the origination of this entire mass of ill." So, the good life resulting from grasping is dreadful suffering after all. Men or gods, all have to suffer.
If the good life resulting from good deeds is suffering, had we better not do them? No. If we do not do good deeds, bad deeds may come up. These can lead us to hell, to the realm of animals, to the realm of ghosts. The sufferings of these lower planes are far worse. Human and divine life is suffering compared with the happiness of deathless Nirvana but compared with the sufferings of the lower states, human or divine life is happiness indeed.
Right grasping gives rise to good deeds. Likewise wrong grasping gives rise to bad deeds. Thinking that it is good to do so, some kill, steal, rob, do wrong to others. As a result they are reborn in bad sphere - in hell, in the realm of animals, in the realm of ghosts. To be reborn in hell is like jumping into a great fire. Even a great god can do nothing against hell fire. In the days of the Buddha there was a great Māra-god by the name of Dusi. He was contemptuous of the Buddha and the members of the holy Order. One day he caused the death of an Arahat. As a result of this cruel deed the great god died and was reborn in Avici hell. Once there he was at the mercy of the guardians of purgatory. Those people who are bullying others in this world will meet the same fate as that met by the great god Dusi one day. Then, after suffering for long time in hell, they will be reborn animals and ghosts.