law of conditioned co-genesis
Nalluruwe Ranjit Fernando
Reproduction of food
In order to reap a good harvest, there are several conditions or factors
which have to be essentially fulfilled. The seeds should be good “fertile”
seeds. The soil has to be suitably prepared. Water, sunlight and fertiliser have
to be supplied in correct proportions. When all these conditions are
appropriately fulfilled, invariably the result would be a good harvest. On the
other hand, if these conditions are absent or deficient, the result would be
Reproduction of fire
One of the earliest technologies of man is the method of igniting fire. By
the rubbing together of two dry wooden sticks, sparks are produced and a fire
could be ignited. The Buddha pointed out that as long as the two sticks
continue to be rubbed, sparks and fire will emanate and the moment you stop the
rubbing, the process ceases. According to the Brahamin ideology prevalent at
the time, fire was a god. Chief male householder was given the exclusive
authority to control the fire in the hearth in every home. The Buddha’s
explanations exploded these myths that fire was a god and the male dominance
over fire was a bogus precept.
Human reproduction is also an example of the Law of Conditioned Co-genesis.
The Buddha listed the conditions or pre-requisites for a human birth to take
place. 1. A male and a female must unite. 2. They should have sexual
intercourse. 3. The woman should be in her fertile period. 4. Conception must
take place. i.e. the spermatoza must penetrate the ovum, completing the
conception. If these conditions are not fulfilled, no birth is possible. The
Buddha explained that scarifies, vows, gifts, etc. to gods will not produce
Another Brahmana myth exploded with this lesson on biology given by the
Buddha about human gestation. It was believed by the Brahmanas that, they are
born out of the mouth of Maha Brahma. Lord Buddha pointed out that Brahamana
children are born through the vulva of Brahamin women (Yoni Jato) when the
above conditions are fulfilled and not otherwise; nor were children born
through anyone’s mouth.
Buddhist scriptures also indicate that social structures are conditioned and
produced by social praxis, in terms of the Law of Conditioned co-genesis.
The Agganna Sutra, describes step by step, the social transformations that
took place, when conditions changed and how cultural changes took place as
conditions changed. It is a fascinating exposition of social transformations
from the beginnings to the Buddha’s time.
The Buddha also stressed the need to observe precepts in the conduct of
social affairs to prevent the decline of society.
Lord Buddha preached to the Vajjins, who had a small but resplendent
Republic, that as long as they follow 7 precepts, named Sapta Apirihana Dhamma,
their Kingdom will never disintegrate or decline. The Vajjins faithfully
followed these precepts for a long time and enjoyed autonomous status, but with
the passage of time, these precepts were neglected. Conquerors invaded and
destroyed their Kingdom. It is stated in the Scriptures that the Buddha
witnessed the over-running of the
sadness, but he had no power to intervene as the invariable law operated and
the Vajjins had to pay the Kammic price for their folly.
In this context, it will be useful to mention what these 7 precepts, Sapta
Apirihana Dhamma are:
1. The rulers must meet often. 2. They must assemble unitedly, deliberate
unitedly and disperse unitedly. 3. They must abide by the enacted rules, and
traditional rules and precepts will have to be observed. 4. Elders should be
honoured, assisted and their advice should be considered. 5. The Abduction of
women and female children should not be permitted. 6. All places of worship
should be developed and safeguarded. 7. All priests, monks and holy men should
be permitted to move freely and should be assisted and protected.
The obvious inference from this Vajjin episode is that when certain
conditions are observed, society reaps the benefit of conservation and
development, and where certain other conditions are observed, the decline and
fall takes place.
In addition to this, the Buddha has pointed out that society is controlled,
directed and operated by 4 categories of people. They are Rulers, Parents,
Teachers and Priests. These are fully responsible for the conditions that come
into being and prevail in any society. In this context, it is improper to blame
the people, for the conditions that prevail.
On deeper examination of this explanation one finds that each of these
categories give the primary, basic leadership to the persons in society, in
their own sphere of activity. If this leadership is given in terms of the
morality outlined by the Buddha, progress is assured. But if this leadership is
based on Loba, Dosa and Moha, craving, hatred and delusion, the result
obviously, would be degeneration, ending in disaster.
World history shows that the unsatisfactory situation in societies cannot be
fully overcome by any political ideology or any economic ideology. Human beings
have not seen their “winter of discontent,” through any of these. The most
brilliant apostle of such ideology, Karl Marx, is now recognised as a failure.
Lord Buddha never professed any political programme nor directed his
energies towards social reforms. His concentrated aim was to liberate
individuals from the bondage of sorrow. But this obiter dicta (other sayings)
show the way, and the means to overcome social evils, applying the universal
principle of the Law of Conditioned Co-genesis.
Lord Buddha emphasised that the conditions faced by human beings in society
have not been created by any god. It is neither blind fate nor chance
happenings that have created these conditions. Human beings, on their own, had
created the conditions historically. Therefore, they could act together on some
humane and equitable basis to transform society towards the better. The need of
the present, is not a political vanguard or economic vanguard to achieve these
objectives. The need is for a moral vanguard. In the Sri Lankan context, the
moral regeneration of rulers, parents, teachers and priests should be on the
top of the agenda, to overcome the degeneration, which is omnipresent in every
sphere of society.
Thus, Lord Buddha has pointed out that the Law of Conditioned Co-genesis,
covers all activities in the world and is a universal law. In explanation, he
stated that whether the Buddha’s come into being or not, this law remains
eternal. To learn and be convinced of this law, enables a person to eliminate
personal sorrow but also eliminate the evils in society and the way to achieve
them is spelt out in the teaching.
The Buddha summarised the basis of this doctrine to a simple four line
When this is, this is (imasmim sati, idam hoti)
This arising, this arises
(imassuppada, idam uppajjati)
Where this is not, this is not
(imasmim asati, idam na hoti)
This not arising, this does not arise (imassa nirodha, idam nirujjati)