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LESSON 2882 Thu 24 Jan 2019 Dependent Origination: the Buddhist Law of Conditionality
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LESSON 2882 Thu 24 Jan 2019


the Buddhist Law of Conditionality

by Ven. Prayudh Payutto

Translated from the Thai by Bruce Evans



1. An Overview of
Dependent Origination

    Types of
Dependent Origination found in the texts

        1. The
general principle

        2. The
principle in effect

2. Interpreting
Dependent Origination

essential meaning

3. Man and

4. The Standard

    The main

Ignorance and craving-clinging

Volitional impulses and becoming

Consciousness to feeling, and birth, aging and death

5. Other

Preliminary definition

    How the links


An example of
Dependent Origination in everyday life

6. The Nature of

7. Dependent
Origination in Society

8. The Middle

9. Breaking the


    A note on
interpreting the principle of Dependent Origination

    Birth and death
in the present moment

Origination in the Abhidhamma

    A problem
with the word “nirodha”




The teaching of causal
interdependence is the most important of Buddhist principles. It describes
the law of nature, which exists as the natural course of things. The
Buddha was no emissary of heavenly commandments, but the discoverer of
this principle of the natural order, and the proclaimer of its truth to
the world.

    The progression of causes
and conditions is the reality which applies to all things, from the
natural environment, which is an external, physical condition, to the
events of human society, ethical principles, life events and the happiness
and suffering which manifest in our own minds. These systems of causal
relationship are part of the one natural truth. Our happiness within this
natural system depends on having some knowledge of how it works and
practicing correctly within it, through addressing problems on the
personal, social, and environmental levels. Given that all things are
interconnected, and all are affecting each other, success in dealing with
the world lies in creating harmony within it.

    The sciences which have
evolved with human civilization, and which are influencing our lives so
profoundly today, are said to be based on reason and rationality. Their
storehouse of knowledge has been amassed through interacting with these
natural laws of conditionality. But the human search for knowledge in
modern scientific fields has three notable features: Firstly, the search
for knowledge in these sciences, and the application of that knowledge, is
separated into distinct categories. Each branch of science is distinct
from the others. Secondly, human beings in this present civilization are
of the belief that the law of conditionality applies only to the physical
world, not to the mental world, or to abstract values such as ethics. This
can be seen even in the study of psychology, which tends to look at the
cause and effect process only in relation to physical phenomena. Thirdly,
the application of scientific knowledge (of the laws of conditionality) is
applied solely to serve self interests. Our relationship with the natural
environment, for instance, is centered around trying to derive as much
resources from it as we can with little or no regard for the consequences.

    Underneath it all, we
tend to interpret such concepts as happiness, freedom, rights, liberty,
and peace in ways that preserve self interests and encroach on others.
Even when controlling other people comes to be seen as a blameworthy act,
this aggressive tendency is then turned in other directions, such as the
natural environment. Now that we are beginning to realize that it is
impossible to really control other people or other things, the only
meaning left in life is to preserve self interests and protect territorial
rights. Living as we do with this faulty knowledge and these mistaken
beliefs, the natural environment is thrown out of skew, society is in
turmoil, and human life, both physically and mentally, is disoriented. The
world seems to be full of conflict and suffering.

    All facets of the natural
order — the physical world and the human world, the world of conditions
(dhamma) and the world of actions (kamma), the material world and the
mental world — are connected and interrelated, they cannot be separated.
Disorder and aberration in one sector will affect other sectors. If we
want to live in peace, we must learn how to live in harmony with all
spheres of the natural environment, both the internal and the external,
the individual and the social, the physical and the mental, the material
and the immaterial.

    To create true happiness
it is of utmost importance that we not only reflect on the
interrelationship of all things in the natural order, but also see
ourselves clearly as one system of causal relationships within that
natural order, becoming aware first of the internal mental factors, then
those in our life experiences, in society, and ultimately in the world
around us. This is why, of all the systems of causal relationship based on
the law “because there is this, that arises; when this ceases that
ceases,” the teachings of Buddhism begin with, and stress throughout, the
factors involved in the creation of suffering in individual awareness —
“because there is ignorance, there are volitional formations.” Once this
system of causal relationship is understood on the inner level, we are
then in a position to see the connections between these inner factors and
the causal relationships in society and the natural environment. This is
the approach adopted in this book.

    I would like to express
my appreciation to the Buddhadhamma Foundation, to Khun Yongyuth
Thanapura, who has undertaken the responsibility of having this book
translated into English, and also Bruce Evans, who has translated it with
heart as well as mind, making a number of adjustments to it in order to
turn one chapter of a larger book into a comprehensive whole.

    May the good intentions
involved in the production of this book serve to play some small part in
creating well-being, both individual and social, in the world at large.


P. A. Payutto  

Dependent Origination Explained - A Key Buddhist Teaching

Published on Feb 10, 2008
Dependent Origination Explained - A Key Buddhist Teaching

Bhante Vimalaramsi
Published on Feb 10, 2008
In this short video piece Bhante V discusses how the most important idea in Buddhism works.

This is what the Buddha came to teach. That everything arises due to a
cause and that you can see it happen at each moment in your very own

Upon deep realization of this idea the meditator sees Nibbana and becomes free from the round of rebirths.

Dependent Origination is 12 links long. The most important ones are
dealt with here. That is: 1.CONTACT with the sense object;
2.Experiencing a pleasant or unpleasant FEELING from that object; 3.
Liking or Disliking that feeling-CRAVING-; 4. CLINGING or the thoughts
about why you like or dislike it; 5. Habitual Tendencies which are what
you tend to do about that type of sensation which leads to 6. Birth
lamentation, grief, old age and death ETC

Through the meditation
practice that Bhante Vimalaramsi teaches, he trains students to see this
noble truth as the Buddha taught it.

Book just published on Bhante’s teachings

Check out Bhante’s book: “Life is Meditation; Meditation is Life” on Amazon. Just search “Vimalaramsi” on
Science & Technology
In this short video piece Bhante V discusses how the most important idea in Buddhism works. This is what…


An Overview of
Dependent Origination


The principle of Dependent
Origination is one of Buddhism’s most important and unique teachings. In
numerous passages of the Pali Canon, it was described by the Buddha as a
natural law, a fundamental truth which exists independently of the arising
of enlightened beings:

“Whether a Tathagata
appears or not, this condition exists and is a natural fact, a natural
law; that is, the principle of conditionality.

“The Tathagata, enlightened
to and awakened to that principle, teaches it, shows it, formulates it,
declares it, reveals it, makes it known, clarifies it and points it out,

“‘See here, conditioned by
ignorance are volitional impulses.’

“This suchness, monks, this
invariability, this irreversibility, that is to say, this law of
conditionality, I call the principle of Dependent Origination.”

    The following excerpts
indicate the importance which the Buddha ascribed to the principle of
Dependent Origination:

“Whoever sees Dependent
Origination sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees Dependent
Origination.” [M.I.191]

*  *

“Truly, monks, a noble
disciple who is learned and has understood for himself, independent of
faith in others, that ‘When there is this, then there is that; with the
arising of this, that arises …’

“When a noble disciple thus
fully sees the arising and cessation of the world as it is, he is said
to be endowed with perfect view, with perfect vision; to have attained
the true Dhamma, to possess the initiate’s knowledge and skill, to have
entered the stream of Dhamma, to be a noble disciple replete with the
purifying knowledge, one who is at the very door of the Deathless.”

*  *

“Whichever recluse or
Brahmin knows these conditions, knows the cause of these conditions,
knows the cessation of these conditions, and knows the way leading to
the cessation of these conditions, that recluse or Brahmin is worthy of
the name ‘a recluse among recluses’ and is worthy of the name ‘a Brahmin
among Brahmins’, and of him it can be said, ‘He has attained to the goal
of the recluse’s life and the goal of the Brahmin life due to his own
higher wisdom.’” [S.II.15,45,129]

    In the following exchange
with Venerable Ananda, the Buddha cautions against underestimating the
profundity of the principle of Dependent Origination:

“How amazing! Never before
has it occurred to me, Lord. This principle of Dependent Origination,
although so profound and hard to see, yet appears to me to be so

“Say not so, Ananda, say
not so. This principle of Dependent Origination is a profound teaching,
hard to see. It is through not knowing, not understanding and not
thoroughly realizing this teaching that beings are confused like a
tangled thread, thrown together like bundles of threads, caught as in a
net, and cannot escape hell, the nether worlds and the wheel of
.” [S.II.92]

    Those who have studied
the life of the Buddha may recall his reflections shortly after the
Enlightenment, when he had not yet begun to expound the teaching. At that
time, the Buddha was reluctant to teach, as is related in the Scriptures:

“Monks, the thought arose
in me thus: ‘This truth which I have realized is profound, difficult to
see, abstruse, calming, subtle, not attainable through mere
sophisticated logic.

“‘But beings revel in
attachment, take pleasure in attachment and delight in attachment. For
beings who thus revel, take pleasure and delight in attachment, this is
an extremely difficult thing to see: that is, the law of conditionality,
the principle of Dependent Origination. Moreover, this also is an
extremely difficult thing to see: the calming of all conditioning, the
casting off of all clinging, the abandoning of desire, dispassion,
cessation, Nibbana. If I were to give this teaching and my
words were not understood, that would simply make for weariness and
difficulty.’” [Vin.I.4; M.I.167]

This passage mentions two
teachings, the principle of Dependent Origination and Nibbana, stressing
both their profundity and also their importance within the Buddha’s
enlightenment and teaching.


Types of Dependent Origination found in the texts

The textual references
dealing with the principle of Dependent Origination can be divided into
two main categories. Firstly, those which describe the general principle,
and secondly, those which specify constituent factors linked together in a
chain. The former format is often used to precede the latter as a general
outline. The latter, more frequently encountered, is mostly expressed on
its own. This latter description may be regarded as the practical
manifestation of the principle of Dependent Origination, showing as it
does how the natural process follows the general principle.

    Each of these two main
categories can further be divided into two limbs, the first showing the
process of origination, the second, the process of cessation. The first
limb, showing the process of origination, is called the samudayavara.
It is the sequence in its forward mode, and corresponds to the second of
the Four Noble Truths, the cause of suffering (dukkha samudaya).
The second limb, showing the process of cessation, is called the
. It is the sequence in its reverse mode and corresponds
to the third Noble Truth, the cessation of suffering (dukkha nirodha).


1. The general principle

In essence, this general
principle corresponds to what is known in Pali as idappaccayata,
the principle of conditionality.

A. Imasmim sati
idam hoti:
    Imasuppada idam upajjati:

When there is this,
that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.

B. Imasmim asati
idam na hoti:
    Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati:

When this is not,
neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases. [S.II.28,65]


2. The principle in effect

A)    Avijja-paccaya

        With Ignorance as condition, there are Volitional Impulses. 


        With Volitional Impulses as condition, Consciousness. 


        With Consciousness as condition, Body and Mind.


        With Body and Mind as condition, the Six Sense Bases.

Salayatana-paccaya phasso

        With the Six Sense Bases as condition, (sense) Contact.


        With Contact as condition, Feeling.


        With Feeling as condition, Craving.


        With Craving as condition, Clinging.


        With Clinging as condition, Becoming.


        With Becoming as condition, Birth.


        With Birth as condition, Aging and Death,

Soka-parideva-dukkha-domanassupayasa sambhavan’ti

        Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief and Despair.

kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti

        Thus is the arising of this whole mass of suffering.


B)    Avijjaya tveva
asesa-viraga nirodha sankhara-nirodho

        With the complete abandoning of Ignorance, Volitional Impulses


        With the cessation of Volitional Impulses, Consciousness ceases.


        With the cessation of Consciousness, Body and Mind cease.


        With the cessation of Body and Mind, the Six Sense Bases cease.

Salayatana-nirodha phassa-nirodho

        With the cessation of the Six Sense Bases, Contact ceases.


        With the cessation of Contact, Feeling ceases.


        With the cessation of Feeling, Craving ceases.


        With the cessation of Craving, Clinging ceases.


        With the cessation of Clinging, Becoming ceases.


        With the cessation of Becoming, Birth ceases.


        With the cessation of Birth, Aging and Death,

Soka-parideva-dukkha-domanassupayasa nirujjhan’ti

        Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief and Despair cease.

kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti

        Thus is there a cessation to this whole mass of suffering.
[Vin.I.1-3; S.II.1,65]

    Note that this format
treats the principle of Dependent Origination as a process of the arising
and cessation of suffering. This is the wording most commonly found in the
texts. In some places, it is given as the arising and cessation of the
world, using the Pali words ayam kho bhikkhave lokassa samudayo
— “Thus, monks, is the arising of the world,” and ayam kho bhikkhave
lokassa atthangamo
— “Thus, monks, is the dissolution of the world”
[S.II.73]; or emamayam loko samudayati — “Thus does this world
arise,” and emamayam loko nirujjhati — “Thus does this world
cease” [S.II.78]. Both of these wordings in fact have the same meaning,
which will become clear once our terms are defined.

    In the Abhidhamma texts
and Commentaries the principle of Dependent Origination is also known as
paccayakara, referring to the interdependent nature of things.

    The extended form given
above contains twelve factors, interdependently linked in the form of a
cycle. It has no beginning or ending. Putting ignorance at the beginning
does not imply that it is the First Cause, or Genesis, of all things.
Ignorance is put at the beginning for the sake of clarity, by intercepting
the cycle and establishing a starting point where it is considered most
practical. We are in fact cautioned against assuming ignorance to be a
First Cause with the following description of the conditioned arising of
ignorance — Asava-samudaya avijja-samudayo, asava-nirodha
— ignorance arises with the arising of the outflows,
and ceases with their cessation. [M.I.55]

    The twelve links of the
standard principle of Dependent Origination format are counted from
ignorance to aging and death only. As for ’sorrow, lamentation, pain,
grief and despair’, these are actually by-products of aging and death for
one with outflows (asava) and defilement, becoming ‘fertilizer’
for the further arising of outflows, and consequently ignorance, which
turns the cycle once more.

    The Buddha did not always
describe the Dependent Origination cycle in one fixed form (from beginning
to end). The extended format was used in cases where he was explaining the
principle in general, but when he was addressing a particular problem, he
often applied it in reverse order, thus: aging and death <= birth <=
becoming <= clinging <= craving <= feeling <= contact <= six sense bases
<= body and mind <= consciousness <= volitional impulses <= ignorance [see
S.II.5-11,81]. In other descriptions he may have begun at one of the
intermediate factors, depending on the problem in question. For example,
he might have started at birth (jati) [as in S.II.52], feeling (vedana)
[as in M.I.266], or at consciousness (viññana) [as in S.II.77],
following the steps forward up to aging and death (jaramarana),
or tracing backwards to arrive at ignorance (avijja). Or he may
have begun with some factor altogether different from the twelve links,
which was then worked into the Dependent Origination chain.

    Another point worthy of
note is that the dependent origination of these links does not have the
same meaning as ‘to be caused by’ as such. The determinants which make a
tree grow, for instance, include not just the seed, but also the soil,
moisture, fertilizer, air temperature and so on. These are all
‘determinants.’ Moreover, being a determinant does not necessarily imply
any sequential order in time. For instance, in the example of the tree,
the various determinants, such as moisture, temperature, soil and so on,
must exist together, not sequentially, for the tree to benefit. Moreover,
some kinds of determinants are interdependent, each conditioning the
existence of the other, as, for example, an egg is a condition for a
chicken, while a chicken is a condition for an egg.


Dependent Origination


The principle of Dependent
Origination has been interpreted in a number of ways, which can be broadly
summarized as follows:

    1. As a demonstration of
life- or world-evolution, based on a literal definition of such phrases as
loka-samudaya (arising of the world) [as in S.II.73].

    2. As a demonstration of
the arising and cessation of individual life, or individual suffering.

    This second division can
further be divided into two subcategories:

Demonstrating the process over a very long period of time, from lifetime
to lifetime. This is the more literal interpretation; it is also the
explanation most often found in the commentarial texts, where the subject
is expanded on in such minute detail that the newcomer is likely to be
confused by the plethora of technical terms.

Demonstrating a process which is continually occurring. Although related
to 2.1, this interpretation gives a more profound and practical
definition of the terms with emphasis on the present moment, which is
considered to be the real objective of the teaching. This kind of
interpretation is supported by teachings in numerous Suttas, and in the
Abhidhamma Pitaka there are passages which describe the entire Dependent
Origination process in one mind moment.[1]


In the first interpretation
given above, there are attempts to interpret the principle of Dependent
Origination as a world-origin theory, treating ignorance (avijja)
as the First Cause and tracing evolution through the whole twelve links.
This kind of interpretation makes the teaching of Buddhism seem very
similar to other religious teachings and philosophies, which postulate an
origination principle, such as God. The interpretations differ only in
that the latter teachings describe the birth and existence of the world as
the workings of some supernatural force, whereas the teachings of
Buddhism, as seen in this interpretation, would explain things as simply a
form of evolution proceeding according to the natural laws of cause and

    However, this
interpretation certainly contradicts the Buddha’s teaching, because any
teaching or school of thought which shows a world originating from a First
Cause is contrary to the principle of conditionality, or Dependent
Origination, which clearly states that all things are interdependent,
arising continually through the influences of causes and conditions. Any
First Cause, be it a Creator God or anything else, is impossible.
Interpreting the Dependent Origination cycle as a description of life- or
world-evolution can only be feasible when it presents a picture of the
universe functioning according to the natural processes of growth and
decline, ceaselessly unfolding at the dictates of cause and effect.

    When assessing the
plausibility of these interpretations, we must bear in mind the Buddha’s
objective in teaching Dependent Origination. In his teachings, the Buddha
aimed to present only that which could be used to address the problems of
life on a practical basis. He did not encourage trying to understand
reality through conjecture, debate, or analysis of metaphysical problems,
which he saw as impossible. For this reason, any assessment of a teaching
as authentically Buddhist should involve an assessment of its value in
terms of ethical principles.

    A definition of the
principle of Dependent Origination as a beginningless and endless process
of evolution, although seemingly valid, can still be seen to have limited
ethical value. What may be gained from it is:

    (1) A broader view of the
world, as proceeding according to the flow of causes and effects and bound
to the conditions found in the natural process. There is no Creator or
Appointer, nor is the world a series of aimless accidents. Objectives
cannot be realized through merely wishing, supplicating the gods, or luck,
but must be effectuated through self-reliant effort based on an
understanding of causes and conditions.

    (2) Creating the right
causes for desired results can only be done when there is an understanding
of those causes and the way they connect with their respective results.
This necessitates the presence of an understanding (pañña) which
is capable of discerning these complexities; life must be dealt with and
related to with wisdom.

    (3) An understanding of
the natural process as subject to the cause and effect continuum can be
effective for reducing the delusion which causes clinging to, and
identification with, things as self. Such a perspective enables a sounder
and more independent relationship with things as they are.

    The view of the principle
of Dependent Origination as a world-evolution theory, although harmonious
with the teachings of the Buddha, is nevertheless somewhat superficial. It
lacks a profound, detailed, moment-by-moment analysis of physical and
mental components. It is not strong enough or clear enough to
unequivocally bring about the three results mentioned above, especially
the third. In order to delve deeper into the truth, it is necessary to
examine the unfolding of natural events in more detail, on a personal
basis, clearly seeing the truth of this process as it actually occurs in
our lives, even in very brief instances. With such a clear awareness, the
three benefits mentioned above will be more likely to occur. Incidentally,
this more immediate interpretation does not preclude the interpretation of
the process as evolution on a long-term basis.

    Any explanation of the
principle of Dependent Origination as a world-evolution theory, whether in
a basic or a more subtle sense, will lack depth. The second
interpretation, which concerns personal life, and particularly the process
of the continuation of personal suffering, is much more profound.

    Of the
descriptions of the Dependent Origination cycle as a personal process, the
interpretation which covers several lifetimes (given in 2.1) is
that which is most accepted and expanded on in the Commentaries.[2]
There it is treated in minute detail and greatly elaborated on,
systematized and illustrated. However, at the same time this
systematization tends to be rather rigid, and it tends to mystify the
subject for the newcomer. Here it will be given its own chapter, followed
by the partially related interpretation of Dependent Origination as
occurring in a matter of mind moments (rendition 2.2).


The essential meaning

In essence, the principle of
Dependent Origination is a description of the process of the arising and
cessation of suffering. The word ’suffering’ (dukkha) is a very
important term in Buddhism. It figures in several of its most important
teachings, such as the Three Characteristics (tilakkhana) and the
Four Noble Truths (ariyasacca). In order to more clearly
understand the principle of Dependent Origination, it is essential to
first understand this word dukkha, or suffering.

    The term ‘dukkha’ in the
Buddha’s teaching is used in a much broader sense than is its English
equivalent, ’suffering’. It is therefore necessary to discard the narrow
meaning of the word as it occurs in the English language and reconsider it
in the light of the very broad meaning of the Buddha’s words, which divide
suffering into three types [D.III.216; S.IV.259; S.V.56]. Together with
their commentarial explanations [Vism.499; Vbh.A.93], they are:

the suffering which is a feeling. This
includes both physical and mental suffering — aches, pains, sadness and
so on — much as is usually understood by the English word ’suffering’.
This corresponds to the Pali word ‘dukkhavedana‘ (’the feeling of
suffering’ which ordinarily arises whenever a disagreeable sensation is

the suffering which is inherent in
change; the suffering concealed within the inconstancy of happiness. This
is the suffering which is caused by the changes within, and the cessation
of, happiness. This can be observed on a hot day when you have been
working outside: you may not notice the heat if you are accustomed to it,
but once you go into an air-conditioned room, the resulting pleasant
feeling may cause an unpleasant reaction to take place when you go back
outside — the heat feels unbearable. The original neutral feeling of heat
turns into an uncomfortable one because of the pleasantness of the
air-conditioned coolness. The pleasantness of the air-conditioning causes
the subsequent feeling of heat to seem unpleasant. It’s almost as if the
suffering is dormant, only to reveal itself when the pleasant feeling
fades. The more intense the pleasant feeling is, the more intensely does
it change into suffering, and the suffering seems to expand in proportion
to the intensity of the pleasant feeling. If the pleasant feeling had not
arisen, the suffering dependent on it would likewise not have arisen. If
pleasant feeling is accompanied by an awareness of its fickle nature,
fear, worry and anxiety tend to shadow it. When the pleasant feeling in
time passes away, it is followed by the longing, “I used to have such
happiness, now it is gone.”

    3. Sankhara
the suffering which is inherent within all
, all things which arise from determinants; specifically, the
five khandhas. This refers to the subjection of all conditioned
things to the contrary forces of birth and dissolution, how they are not
perfect within themselves but exist only as part of the cause and effect
continuum. As such, they are likely to cause suffering (that is, the
feeling of suffering, or dukkha-dukkhata) whenever there is
inflexible craving and clinging to them through ignorance (avijja-tanha-upadana).

    The most important kind
of suffering is the third kind, which describes the nature inherent to all
conditions, both physical and mental. Sankhara-dukkhata as a
natural attribute assumes a psychological significance when it is
recognized that conditions are incapable of producing any perfect
contentment, and as such will cause suffering for anybody who tries to
cling to them.


The principle of Dependent
Origination shows the interdependence and interrelation of all things in
the form of a continuum. As a continuum, it can be analyzed from a number
of different perspectives:

    All things are
interrelated and interdependent; all things exist in relation to each
other; all things exist dependent on determinants; all things have no
enduring existence, not even for a moment; all things have no intrinsic
entity; all things are without First Cause, or Genesis.

    To put it another way,
the fact that all things appear in their diverse forms of growth and
decline shows their true nature to be one of a continuum or process. Being
a continuum shows them to be compounded of numerous determinants. The form
of a continuum arises because the various determinants are interrelated.
The continuum moves and changes form because the various factors concerned
cannot endure, even for a moment. Things cannot endure, even for a moment,
because they have no intrinsic entity. Because they have no intrinsic
entity they are entirely dependent on determinants. Because the
determinants are interrelated and interdependent, they maintain the form
of a continuum, and being so interrelated and interdependent indicates
that they have no First Cause.

    To render it in a
negative form: if things had any intrinsic entity they would have to
possess some stability; if they could be stable, even for a moment, they
could not be truly interrelated; if they were not interrelated they could
not be formed into a continuum; if there were no continuum of cause and
effect, the workings of nature would be impossible; and if there were some
real intrinsic self within that continuum there could be no true
interdependent cause and effect process. The continuum of cause and effect
which enables all things to exist as they do can only operate because such
things are transient, ephemeral, constantly arising and ceasing and having
no intrinsic entity of their own.

    The property of being
transient, ephemeral, arising and ceasing, is called aniccata.
The property of being subject to birth and dissolution, of inherently
involving stress and conflict, and of being intrinsically imperfect, is
called dukkhata. The quality of voidness of any real self is
called anattata. The principle of Dependent Origination
illustrates these three properties in all things and shows the
interrelatedness and inter-reaction of all things to produce the diverse
events in nature.

    The functioning of the
principle of Dependent Origination applies to all things, both physical
and mental, and expresses itself through a number of natural laws. These

    It is worth noting that
kamma, as with all other cause and effect relationships, can only function
because things are transient (anicca) and are void of intrinsic
entity (anatta). If things were permanent and had intrinsic being
in themselves none of the natural laws, including the law of kamma, could
operate. Moreover, these laws support the truth that there is no First
Cause, or Genesis.

    Things have no intrinsic
entity because they arise dependent on causes and are interrelated. A
simple illustration: What we know as a ‘bed’ comes from the collection of
numerous components to assume a known form. A ‘bed’ other than these
components does not exist. When all the components are dismantled, no
‘bed’ remains. All that is left is the concept of ‘bed.’ Even that concept
is without independent existence, but must relate to other concepts, such
as ’sleeping,’ a plane surface, a base, an empty space and so on.

    Concepts are formed in
the mind through the association of relationships. For most people, once a
set of relationships is formed into a concept, the habit of clinging to
things through craving (tanha) and clinging (upadana)
attaches to those concepts as fixed entities. Such clinging isolates the
concept from its relationship with other things, and stains perceptions
with notions of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ leading to identification with them and
thus preventing any true understanding.

    Things have no root cause
or first arising. Tracing back along the stream of causes ad infinitum, no
root cause can be found for anything. Yet there is a tendency for people
to try to find some kind of original cause; this kind of thinking
conflicts with the way of nature and causes perceptions which are at
variance with the truth. It is a form of self-deception, caused by the
human habit of stopping any inquiry into causes at the immediate one and
going no further. Thus the usual understanding of cause and effect,
believing in an original cause for things, is inaccurate and contrary to
the laws of nature. Considering how things are, it is necessary to search
further back by asking, “What is the cause of that so-called Original
Cause?” and so on. None can be found. The question should rather be asked,
“Why should things have a root cause anyway?”

    Another kind of reasoning
which contradicts nature and is related to the idea of a root cause is the
belief that in the beginning there was nothing. This kind of idea arises
from attachment to the concept of self (atta), which in turn is
derived from attachment to concepts. From there, the deduction is that
previously this did not exist, but then it became extant. This kind of
false reasoning is the human habit of ‘clinging to concepts,’ or ‘not
knowing the truth of concepts,’ which in turn is not knowing things as
they are. This causes the attempt to find something eternal, a First
Cause, Mover of All Things, or Creator, which in turn gives rise to a
number of contradictions, such as: “How can that which is eternal create
that which is non-eternal?” In fact, within the dynamic stream of cause
and effect there is no need for a position either supporting or denying
any static existence at all, whether ‘in the beginning’ or right now,
except within the realm of spoken concepts. We should rather encourage
fresh consideration with the question “Why must existence be preceded by

    The common belief that
all things have a Creator is another idea which contradicts reality. Such
a belief is a result of deductive thinking, based on the observation of
man’s ability to create things and produce artifacts of various kinds,
such as the arts and so on. The deduction follows that therefore all
things in the world must have a creator. In this case, we are deceived
when we isolate the concept ‘building’ or ‘creating’ from the normal cause
and effect continuum, thus taking a falsehood as our basic premise. In
fact, ‘building’ is only one phase of the Dependent Origination process.
That we are capable of creating anything at all is through becoming
determinants in the process of relationship which produces the desired
result. We differ from the purely physical factors concerned only in that
in our case there are some mental factors, involving intention, also
present. Even so, those factors remain part of a totality of factors and
must also proceed according to the cause and effect process. For instance,
when we wish to build a skyscraper, we must become part of the stream of
determinants, manipulating other determinants in the process to
completion. If the thought of creation was capable of bringing things into
existence independent of the cause and effect process, then we could
create skyscrapers anywhere simply by thinking them into existence, which
is impossible. Thus, the word ‘creation’ has no meaning beyond a
description of part of a process. Moreover, when things proceed smoothly
along the cause and effect process, the question of a creator is no longer
relevant at any point along the way.

    In any case, searching
for the facts regarding the question of a First Cause, a Creator God, and
such, have little value in the Buddhist view, because they are not
essential to a meaningful life. And even though reflecting on these
matters can provide a wider world view as mentioned above, such reflection
can still be passed over, as the value of the teaching of Dependent
Origination in terms of life fulfillment already covers the benefits
desired. We should therefore direct our attention more toward that.



Man and Nature


All of life is made up of the
five khandhas (groups): rupa or material form;
, feeling; sañña, perception; sankhara,
volitional impulses; and viññana, consciousness. There is no
owner or director of the khandhas, either within them or outside of them.
In any examination of life, the five khandhas are a comprehensive enough
base from which to work. The five khandhas proceed in conformity with the
principle of Dependent Origination, existing within the continuum of
interrelated and interdependent determinants.

    In this context, the five
khandhas, or life, are subject to the Three Characteristics: they are in a
condition of aniccata — impermanent and unstable; anattata
— containing no intrinsic self; and dukkhata — constantly
oppressed by arising and cessation, and primed to cause suffering whenever
there is association through ignorance. The five khandhas, proceeding thus
with constant change and free of any abiding entity, are subject only to
the natural continuum of interrelated determinants. But for most of us,
resistance to the flow results from mistakenly clinging to one or another
feature of the continuum as being the self, and wanting this ’self’ to
proceed in some desired way. When things don’t conform with desires, the
resulting stress causes frustration and subsequently more intense
clinging. The vague awareness of the inevitability of change to that
cherished self, or the suspicion that it may not in fact exist, causes
this clinging and desire to become even more desperate, and fear and
anxiety take root deeply in the mind.

    These states of mind are
avijja — ignorance of the truth, seeing things as self;
— wanting this imagined self to attain various things or
states; and upadana — clinging and attachment to these mistaken
ideas and all that they imply. These defilements are embedded in the mind,
from where they direct our behavior, shape personality and influence the
fortunes of our lives, both overtly and covertly. In general, they are the
cause of suffering for all unenlightened beings.

    In essence, we are here
dealing with the discord between two processes:

    1. The natural
process of life,
proceeding subject to the fixed, natural law of
the Three Characteristics. These are expressed through birth (jati),
aging (jara) and death (marana), both in their basic and
in their profound senses.

    2. The contrived
process of craving and clinging,
based on ignorance of that true
nature of life, which causes the mistaken perception of and attachment to
a self — ‘creating a self with which to clog up the flow of nature.’ This
is a life bound by ignorance, lived with clinging, in bondage, in
contradiction with the law of Nature, and lived with fear and suffering.

    Life, from an ethical
point of view, can be said to comprise two kinds of self. Any particular
life continuum, proceeding along its natural conditioned course, although
bare of any enduring essence, can still be identified as one continuum
distinct from others. This is called the ‘conventional self,’ and this
convention can be skillfully used in relation to moral conduct.

    Then there is the
‘contrived’ self, fabricated by ignorance and held fast by craving and
clinging. The conventional self is no cause for problem when it is clearly
understood as such. The ‘contrived’ self, however, concealed within the
conventional self, is the self of clinging, which must suffer the
vicissitudes of the former self, and thus produces suffering. In other
words, it is a process on two levels: on one level is the conventional
self, on the other level is the deluded attachment to the conventional
self as an absolute reality. If deluded attachment is changed into
knowledge and understanding, the problem is solved.

    A way of life founded on
clinging to the notion of self implants fear and anxiety deeply into the
psyche, from where they control behavior and enslave the unsuspecting
worldling. A life view based on attachment to the self-concept has many
harmful repercussions, such as:

    In this context, stress
and suffering not only arise within the individual, but also radiate
outwards to society. Thus the condition of clinging (upadana) can
be singled out as the main source of all man-made troubles occurring in

    The cycle of Dependent
Origination shows the origin of this stressful, self-centered life, and
its inevitable result in suffering. With the breaking of the cycle, the
stressful life is completely transformed, resulting in a life that is
lived with wisdom, in harmony with nature, and liberated from clinging to

    To live with wisdom means
to live with clear awareness of the way things are and to know how to
benefit from nature; to benefit from nature means to live in harmony with
nature; to live in harmony with nature is to live freely; to live freely
is to be free of the power of craving and clinging; to live without
clinging means to live with wisdom, to know and relate to things through
an understanding of the process of cause and effect.

    According to the Buddha’s
teaching, there is nothing which exists beyond or separate from nature,
either as a mystical power controlling events from without, or in any
other way related to or involved in the proceedings of nature. Whatever is
associated with nature cannot be separate from nature, but must be a
component of it. All events in nature proceed at the direction of the
interrelationship of natural phenomena. There are no accidents, nor is
there any creative force independent of causes. Seemingly astounding and
miraculous events are entirely causally arisen, but because the causes are
sometimes obscured from our knowledge, those events may appear to be
miraculous. However, any sense of perplexity or wonder soon disappears
once the cause of such events is understood. The word ’supernatural’ is
simply a contrivance of language referring to that which exceeds our
current understanding, but in fact there is nothing that is truly

    The same applies to our
relationship with nature. The manner of speech which describes human
beings as separate from nature, or as controlling nature, is simply a
contrivance of language. Human beings are part of nature, not separate
from it. To say that we control nature simply means that we become
determinants within the cause and effect process. The human element
contains mental factors, comprising intention, which are involved in the
process of act and result together known as ‘creation.’ However, mankind
is not capable of creating anything out of thin air, independently of the
natural causes. Our so-called control of nature arises from our ability to
recognize the factors required to produce a particular result, and knowing
how to manipulate them.

    There are two stages to
this process. The first is knowledge, which leads to the second stage,
becoming a catalyst for the other factors. Of these two stages, it is
knowledge that is crucial. Through this knowing, man is able to utilize
and take part in the cause and effect process. Only by interacting with
and influencing things with wisdom can man be said to be ‘controlling
nature.’ In this case, man’s knowledge, abilities and actions become
additional factors within the natural process.

    This principle applies to
both physical and mental phenomena. The statement, ‘to benefit from nature
is also to live in harmony with nature’ is based on the reality of the
interdependent nature of both physical and mental phenomena. We could
equally say ‘controlling the mental aspects of nature’ or ‘controlling the
mind’ and these would also be valid. Wisdom in regard to both physical and
mental phenomena is essential in order to really benefit from nature.

    A life of wisdom can be
looked at from two perspectives: inwardly, it is characterized by
serenity, cheerfulness, awareness and freedom. Experiencing an agreeable
sensation, the mind is not intoxicated or deluded by it. When deprived of
comforts, the mind is firm, unshaken and untroubled. Happiness and
suffering are no longer invested into external objects.

    The outer level is
characterized by fluency, efficiency, flexibility and freedom from
cumbersome complexes and delusions.

    Here is a teaching from
the Buddha which illustrates the differences between the life lived with
clinging and the life of wisdom:

“The unlearned,
unenlightened being (puthujjana), monks, experiences pleasant
feelings, unpleasant feelings and neutral feelings. The learned, noble
disciple also experiences pleasant feelings, unpleasant feelings and
neutral feelings. In this case, monks, what is the distinction, the
contrast, the disparity between the learned, noble disciple and the
unlearned, unenlightened being?

“When an unlearned,
unenlightened being, monks, encounters unpleasant feeling, he grieves,
laments, wails, beats his chest and is distraught and distracted
therein: he experiences two kinds of feeling, namely, in the body and in
the mind.

“It is as if an archer,
having fired one arrow into a certain man, were then to fire a second
arrow. That man would experience pain from both arrows. Such is the
unlearned, unenlightened being. He experiences two kinds of pain, bodily
and mental.

“Moreover, in experiencing
an unpleasant feeling he feels displeasure. Displeased over that
unpleasant feeling, latent tendencies to aversion (patighanusaya)
contingent on that unpleasant feeling are accumulated. Confronted with
unpleasant feeling he seeks delight in sense pleasures. Why so? Because
the unlearned, unenlightened being knows of no other way out of
unpleasant feeling than to seek the distraction of sense pleasures.
Delighting thus in sense pleasures, latent tendencies to lust (raganusaya)
contingent on those pleasant feelings are accumulated. He does not know
the origin, the cessation, the attraction, the liability and the release
from those feelings as they really are. Not knowing these things as they
really are, latent tendencies to delusion (avijjanusaya)
contingent on neutral feelings are accumulated. Experiencing pleasant
feeling he is bound to it, experiencing unpleasant feeling he is bound
to that, and experiencing neutral feeling he is bound to that. Monks,
thus is the unlearned, unenlightened being bound to birth, aging, death,
sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. He is, I say, bound by

“As for the learned, noble
disciple, monks, experiencing unpleasant feeling he neither grieves,
laments, wails nor beats his chest. He is not distressed. He experiences
pain only in the body, not in the mind.

“Just as if an archer,
having shot one arrow into a certain man, were then to shoot a second
arrow, but miss the mark: in this case that man would experience pain
only on account of the first arrow. Such is the learned, noble disciple.
He experiences pain in the body, but not in the mind.

“Moreover, he experiences
no displeasure on account of that unpleasant feeling. Not being
displeased over that unpleasant feeling, latent tendencies to aversion
contingent on that unpleasant feeling are not accumulated. Experiencing
that unpleasant feeling he does not seek distraction in sense pleasures.
Why not? Because the learned, noble disciple knows of a way out of
unpleasant feelings other than distraction in sense pleasures. Not
seeking distraction in sense pleasures, latent tendencies to lust
contingent on pleasant feelings are not accumulated. He knows the
origin, the cessation, the attraction, the liability and the release
from feelings as they really are. Knowing these things as they really
are, latent tendencies to delusion contingent on neutral feelings are
not accumulated. Experiencing pleasant feeling he is not bound to it,
experiencing unpleasant feeling he is not bound to that, experiencing
neutral feeling he is not bound to that. Monks, thus is the noble,
learned disciple, liberated from birth, aging, death, sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair. He is, I say, liberated from

“This, monks, is the
distinction, the contrast, the disparity between the learned, noble
disciple and the unlearned, unenlightened being.” [S.IV.207-210]



The Standard Format


standard form for presenting the principle of Dependent Origination is
quite complex, more a matter for the specialist than for the casual
reader. It requires an extensive foundation in Buddhism and a
comprehensive vocabulary of Pali terms to thoroughly understand it. There
are also scriptures devoted exclusively to the subject.[3]
Here I will briefly summarize the basic factors.


The main factors

The main factors have already
been covered in the

, so here they will be mentioned in brief only, given first in
the Pali language, and followed by definitions of the Pali terms in

    Avijja =>
=> viññana => namarupa => salayatana
=> phassa => vedana => tanha => upadana
=> bhava => jati => jaramaranasoka
parideva dukkha domanassa upayasa
=> The cause of suffering (dukkha

    The division on cessation
proceeds according to the same headings.

    Because the principle of
Dependent Origination revolves in the form of a cycle, beginningless and
endless, it would be more accurately represented as in Figure 1 below.

The Cycle

Fig. 1

    1. Avijja
= Unknowing,
or ignorance of dukkha, its cause, its cessation,
and the way leading to its cessation (the Four Noble Truths); and,
according to the Abhidhamma, not knowing what went before (the past), what
comes after (the future), what came both before and after (the past and
the future), and the principle of Dependent Origination.

Sankhara = Volitional Impulses:

bodily formations, or intentional actions; verbal formations, or
intentional speech; mental formations, or thoughts[5];
and, according to the Abhidhamma: meritorious formations, or good kamma (puññabhisankhara),
non-meritorious formations, or bad kamma (apuññabhisankhara), and
fixed or unmoving formations, or special meritorious kamma

    3. Viññana
= Consciousness
through eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind
(including the re-linking consciousness, patisandhi viññana).
(The six consciousnesses.)

    4. Namarupa
= Body and Mind:
nama (name or mind): feeling,
perception, intention, contact, attention, or, according to the
Abhidhamma: the khandhas of feeling, perception and volitional
impulses; and rupa (body or materiality): the four elements,
earth, water, wind and fire and all forms dependent on them.

    5. Salayatana
= The six sense bases:
eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.

Phassa =
Impingement or
eye contact, ear contact, nose contact, tongue contact,
body contact and mind contact.[6]

Vedana = Feelings
(of pleasure,
pain and indifference) arising from impingement on eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body and mind.[7]

Tanha = Craving
for sights; craving
for sounds; craving for odors; craving for tastes; craving for bodily
sensations; craving for mind objects: the six cravings.[8]

    9. Upadana
= Clinging
to sense objects (kamupadana), that is,
sights, sounds, odors, tastes and bodily sensations; clinging to views (ditthupadana);
clinging to rules and practices (silabbatupadana); clinging to
the concept of self (attavadupadana).

    10. Bhava
= Becoming,
the conditions which lead to birth; also realms of
existence: the sense realm (kamabhava); the realm of form (rupabhava);
the realm of formlessness (arupabhava).

    An alternative
definition: Kammabhava, the realm of action, or actions which
condition rebirth: meritorious actions (puññabhisankhara);
demeritorious actions (apuññabhisankhara); imperturbable actions
(aneñjabhisankhara); and Upapattibhava, the realms of
rebirth: the sense realm; the realm of form; the formless realm; the realm
of perception; the realm of non-perception; the realm of neither
perception nor non-perception.

Jati = Birth,
the arising of the
khandhas and the sense bases, birth; the appearance or arising of things[9]
(this latter interpretation used in explaining the Dependent Origination
cycle in one mind moment).

Jaramarana = Aging and death:

jara: the aging process, the fading of the faculties; and
: the breaking up of the khandhas, the dissolution of the life
principle, death; alternatively, the dissipation and dissolution of

    Here are some examples of
these general headings:

    (Asava) =>Avijja
— Ignorance: Believing that this very self will be reborn in various
states due to particular actions; that after death there is nothing; that
life is a random process in which good and evil actions bear no fruit;
that simply by adhering to a certain religion one will automatically be
’saved’; that material wealth will provide true happiness … From there

    => Sankhara
— Volitional Impulses: Thinking and intending in accordance with those
beliefs; considering and planning actions (kamma) in accordance with those
intentions, some good, some bad and some neutral. From there …

    => Viññana
— Consciousness: the perception and awareness of sensations, which will
be related to particular intentions. Mind or consciousness is fashioned
into specific qualities by intention. At death, the momentum of volitional
impulses, propelled by the law of kamma, induces the so-fashioned
re-linking consciousness (patisandhi viññana) to take a sphere of
birth and level of existence appropriate to it. This is rebirth. From
there …

    => Namarupa
— Body and mind: The process of rebirth proceeds to create a life form
primed to generate more kamma. As a result there are the rupa,
vedana, sañña, and sankhara khandhas in their
entirety, complete with the distinct qualities and defects endowed on them
by the fashioning influence of conditions, or kamma, and constrained by
the limitations of that particular sphere of existence (bhava),
be it human, animal, divine, etc. …

    => Salayatana
— The six sense bases: A sentient being must have the means to
communicate with its environment in order to function and develop within
it. Thus, supported by body and mind, and in conformity with kammic
momentum, the organism proceeds to develop the six sense bases, the sense
organs of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. From there …

    => Phassa
— Contact: The process of awareness now operates through the contact or
impingement of three factors. They are: the internal sense doors (eye,
ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), external sense objects (sights, sounds,
odors, tastes, bodily sensations and mind objects) and consciousness
(eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness,
tongue-consciousness, tactile-consciousness and mind-consciousness).
Depending on this contact, there occurs …

    => Vedana
— Feeling: The feelings, or the ‘appreciation’ of the qualities of sense
contacts, be they of comfort (sukhavedana — pleasant feeling),
discomfort or pain (dukkhavedana — unpleasant feeling) or
indifference or equanimity (adukkhamasukha-vedana — neutral
feeling; or upekkhavedana — equanimous feeling). In conformity
with the nature of unenlightened beings, the process does not stop there,
but goes on to …

    => Tanha
— Craving: Comfortable feelings tend to produce liking and enjoyment,
desire for and seeking after more of the same; for stressful feelings or
discomfort there is displeasure, a desire to destroy or get rid of them.
Neutral feeling in this context is considered to be a subtle form of
pleasant feeling because it does not disturb the mind and invokes a
certain amount of complacency. From here …

    => Upadana
— Clinging: As desire intensifies, it becomes a holding onto or clinging
to the object in question. As long as an object is yet unattained there is
craving; as soon as the object is attained it is held fast by clinging.
This refers not only to sense objects (kamupadana), but to ideas
and views (ditthupadana), modes of practice or techniques (silabbatupadana)
and the feeling of self (attavadupadana). On account of this
clinging there follows …

    => Bhava
— Becoming: Intention and deliberate action to produce and control things
in accordance with the directives of clinging, leading to the further
rotation of the whole process of behavior (kammabhava), being
good kamma, bad kamma or neutral kamma, depending on the qualities of the
craving and clinging which condition them. For example, one who desires to
go to heaven will do those things which he or she believes will lead to
rebirth in heaven, thus laying the groundwork for the five khandhas to
appear in the realm (bhava) appropriate to those actions (kamma)
(upapattibhava). With the process of creating kamma thus in full
swing, one link gives rise to the next, which is …

    => Jati
— Birth: Beginning with the re-linking consciousness, which is endowed
with features contingent on its kammic momentum and connecting to a state
appropriate to it, the five khandhas arise in a new life continuum,
comprising name and form, the six sense bases, contact and feeling. When
there is birth, what inevitably follows is …

    => Jaramarana
— Aging and death: the decay and dissolution of that life continuum. For
the unenlightened being these things are constantly threatening life in
either overt or covert ways. Therefore, in the life of the unenlightened
being, old age and death inevitably bring with them …

    => Soka
— sorrow; parideva — lamentation;
— pain; domanassa
grief; and upayasa — despair, which all in all
can be summed up as simply ’suffering.’ Thus we have in the final words of
the principle of Dependent Origination formula: “Thus is the arising of
this whole mass of suffering.”


However, as the principle of
Dependent Origination functions as a cycle, it does not stop there. The
last factor becomes a crucial link in the further continuation of the
cycle. Specifically, sorrow, lamentation and so on are all manifestations
of the outflows. These outflows are four in number, namely: the concern
with the gratification of the desires of the five senses (kamasava);
attachment to views and beliefs, for example that the body is the self or
belonging to self (ditthasava); desire for various states of
being and the aspiration to attain and maintain them (bhavasava);
and ignorance of the way things are (avijjasava).

    Aging and death have an
inflammatory effect on the outflows: in relation to kamasava they
cause feelings of separation from the loved and cherished; in relation to
ditthasava, aging and death confront the innate belief in self
and attachment to the body; in relation to bhavasava, they mean
separation from cherished states of being; in relation to avijjasava,
lack of understanding on the fundamental level, (such as not understanding
the nature of life, aging and death and how they should be related to),
aging and death cause the unenlightened being to experience fear,
melancholy, despair and superstitious grasping. These outflows are
therefore the determinants for sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and
despair to arise as soon as aging and death appear.

    Sorrow and suffering
affect the mind in negative ways. Whenever suffering arises, the mind
becomes confused and muddled. The arising of sorrow is thus commensurate
with the arising of ignorance, as is written in the Visuddhi Magga:

‘Sorrow, pain, grief and
despair are inseparable from ignorance, and lamentation is the norm for
the deluded being. For that reason, when sorrow is fully manifest, so
also is ignorance fully manifest.’ [Vism.576]

*  *

‘As for ignorance, know
that it arises with the arising of sorrow …’ [Vism.577]

*  *

‘Ignorance is present as
long as sorrow is present.’ [Vism.529]

*  *

‘With the arising of the
outflows, ignorance is arisen.’ [M.I.54]


    Thus it can be said that
for the unenlightened being, aging and death, together with their retinue
— sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair — are factors for
producing more ignorance, thus turning the cycle once more.


The cycle of Dependent
Origination is also known as the Wheel of Becoming (bhavacakka),
or Wheel of Samsara. This model covers three lifetimes — ignorance and
volitional impulses are in one lifetime, consciousness to becoming are in
a second lifetime, while birth and aging and death (with sorrow,
lamentation and so on) occur in a third. Taking the middle life-span as
the present one, we can divide the three life periods, with the entire
twelve links of the Dependent Origination cycle, into three time periods,

1. Past life — Ignorance,
volitional impulses:

2. Present life —
Consciousness, body and mind, sense bases, contact, feeling, craving,
clinging, becoming:

3. Future life — Birth,
aging and death (sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair).

    Among these three
periods, the middle period, the present, is our base. From this
perspective, we see the relationship of the past section as purely a
causal one, that is, results in the present are derived from causes in the
past (past cause => present result), whereas the future section
specifically shows results, that is extending from causes in the present
to results in the future (present cause => future result). Thus the middle
section, the present, contains both causal and resultant conditions. We
can now represent the whole cycle in four sections:

1. Past cause = Ignorance,
volitional impulses:

2. Present result =
Consciousness, body and mind, sense bases, contact, feeling.

3. Present cause = Craving,
clinging, becoming:

4. Future result = Birth,
aging and death (sorrow, lamentation, etc.).


Some of the links in this
chain are related in meaning, and they can be grouped as follows:


Ignorance and craving-clinging

From the description of
ignorance (avijja), it appears that craving (tanha) and
clinging (upadana) are involved, especially the clinging to self,
which is present throughout. Not knowing the truth of life, and mistakenly
believing in a self, leads to craving on behalf of that self, together
with its various forms of clinging. In the words ‘With the arising of
outflows there is the arising of ignorance,’ kamasava (the
outflow of sensual desire), bhavasava (the outflow of desire for
being) and ditthasava (the outflow of attachment to views) are
all types of craving and clinging. Thus, when speaking of ignorance, the
meaning invariably includes craving and clinging.

    The same applies to any
descriptions of craving and clinging — ignorance is always connected to
them. The deluded assumption of conditions to be real entities is the
determinant for any wanting and clinging that arise. The more craving and
clinging there are, the more is discernment cast aside and mindfulness and
rational behavior impaired. Thus, when speaking of craving and clinging,
ignorance is automatically implied.

    In this light, ignorance
as a past cause, and craving and clinging as present causes, mean much the
same thing. But ignorance is classed as a past determinant, while craving
and clinging are classed as present determinants, to show each of those
factors in its prominent relationship with the other factors in the Wheel
of Becoming.


Volitional impulses and becoming

Volitional impulses (sankhara)
appear in the past life segment while becoming (bhava) occurs in
the present life segment, but each plays a decisive role in the realm, or
bhava, life is to appear in, and so they have similar meanings,
differing only in their emphasis. Sankhara refers specifically to
the factor of intention (cetana), which is the predominant factor
in the creation of kamma. Bhava has a broader meaning,
incorporating both kammabhava and upapattibhava.
, like sankhara, has intention as its principal
motivating force, but it differs from sankhara in that it covers
the entire process of the generation of action. Upapattibhava
refers to the five khandhas arising as a result of kammabhava.


Consciousness to feeling, and birth, aging and death

The segment of the cycle from
consciousness to feeling is the present life, described point by point in
order to illustrate the cause and effect relationship of the factors
involved. Birth, together with aging and death, are ‘future results.’ The
cycle at this point tells us that causes in the present must generate
future results, in this case aging and death. This is a repetition, in
condensed form, of the consciousness to feeling segment of the cycle,
emphasizing the arising and cessation of suffering. Aging and death also
act as connecting points for a new cycle. It can be said, however, that
the segments from consciousness to feeling, and from birth to aging and
death, are virtually synonymous.

    Bearing this in mind, the
four stages of cause and effect can be divided thus:

1. Five past causes:
Ignorance, volitional impulses, craving, clinging, becoming.

2. Five present results:
Consciousness, body and mind, sense bases, contact, feeling (= birth,
aging and death).

3. Five present causes:
Ignorance, volitional impulses, craving, clinging, becoming.

4. Five future results:
Consciousness, body and mind, sense bases, contact, feeling (= birth,
aging and death).

of the relationship between the twelve links of the Dependent Origination
cycle, they can be divided into three groups, called the vatta[11],
or cycles.

Ignorance-craving-clinging (avijja-tanha-upadana) — These are
kilesa (defilements), the instigating forces for the various
kinds of deluded thought and action. This section is accordingly called
the kilesavatta.  

    2. Volitional impulses (sankhara,
and rebirth conditioning actions ([kamma-] bhava) —
These are kamma, the process of action based on kilesa
which conditions life. This segment is called the kammavatta.  

    3. Consciousness, body
and mind, six sense bases, contact, feeling (viññana, namarupa,
salayatana, phassa, vedana
) — These are vipaka, the events
of life resulting from the effects of kamma. These then become food for
kilesa, which then become the causes for the creation of more
kamma. This segment is thus called the vipakavatta.

    These three vatta
are continuously propelling each other around in the cycle of life.
Diagrammatically, they can be represented as in Figure 2.

The three vatta

Fig. 2

Because defilements (kilesa)
are the prime motivators of life conditions, they are positioned at the
starting point of the cycle. Thus we can distinguish two starting points,
or activating agents, in the wheel of life:

    1. Ignorance is the agent
from the past which influences the present up until feeling.

    2. Craving is the agent
in the present time, extending the cycle from feeling up until the future,
aging and death.

    The reason that ignorance
appears in the former section while craving appears in the latter is
because ignorance follows on from sorrow, lamentation, and so on, while
craving follows on from feeling. Ignorance and craving are the predominant
defilements in each respective case.


This model of the Dependent
Origination cycle makes the following distinction in the ways rebirth
takes place, depending on whether it is ignorance or craving (for being)
that is the deciding factor:

    Although ignorance and
craving for being have been placed at starting points in the cycle, they
are not the prime movers of it. This is borne out by the Buddha’s words:

beginning can be found, monks, to ignorance, thus : ‘Before this point
there was no ignorance, but then it arose.’ In this case, it can only be
said, ‘Dependent on this, ignorance arises.’”[12]

    There are identical words
for bhavatanha.[13]

    That ignorance and
craving are major determinants and arise together in the process of
Dependent Origination is borne out by the following quotation:

“Monks, this body, so
arising in its entirety, whether to a fool or a wise man, enshrouded in
ignorance and bound by craving, together with external physical and
mental properties (namarupa), make two things. Dependent on
these two things is impingement on the six sense bases. The fool or wise
man, receiving impingement through one or other of those sense bases,
experiences pleasure or pain.” [S.II.23]


In conjunction with the above
explanations, the following schematic representations may be useful:


Detailed diagram 1

Fig. 3


Detailed diagram 2

Fig. 4



Other Interpretations


The description of Dependent
Origination given in the previous chapter is that most often found in the
scriptures and commentaries. It seeks to explain Dependent Origination in
terms of the samsaravatta, the round of rebirth, showing the
connections between three lifetimes — the past, the present and the

    Those who do not agree
with this interpretation, or who would prefer something more immediate,
can find alternatives not only in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, where the
principle of Dependent Origination is shown occurring in its entirety in
one mind moment, but can also interpret the very same words of the Buddha
used to support the standard model in a different light, giving a very
different picture of the principle of Dependent Origination, one which is
supported by teachings and scriptural references from other sources.

    The arguments used to
support such an interpretation are many. For instance, the immediacy of
the end of suffering and the sorrowless life of the Arahant are
states which can arise in this present life. It is not necessary to die
before realizing the cessation of birth, aging and death, and thus sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Those things can be overcome in this
very lifetime. The whole of the Dependent Origination cycle, both in the
arising of suffering and in its cessation, is concerned with this present
life. If the cycle can be clearly understood as it operates in the
present, it follows that the past and the future will also be clearly
understood, because they are all part of the one cycle.

    For reference, consider
these words of the Buddha:

“Udayi, whosoever can
recall the khandhas he has previously occupied in great number, of such
a person would it be fitting to question me about past lives, or I could
so question him; that person could satisfy me with an answer thereof, or
I him. Whosoever sees the passing away of beings and their subsequent
arisings, of such a person would it be fitting to ask me about future
lives, or I could so question him; that person could satisfy me with an
answer thereof, and I him.

“Enough, Udayi, of former
times and future times. I will teach you the essence of the Dhamma: When
there is this, there is that. With the arising of this, that arises.
When there is not this, that cannot be; when this ceases, so does that.”

*  *

The householder,
Gandhabhaga, having sat down at a respectful distance, addressed the
Blessed One thus, “May the Blessed One teach me the origin and the
cessation of suffering.”

The Blessed One replied,
“Householder, if I were to teach you the origin and the cessation of
suffering by referring to the past thus, ‘In the past there was this,’
doubt and perplexity would arise in you thereof. If I were to teach you
the origin and the cessation of suffering by referring to the future
thus, ‘In the future there will be this,’ doubt and perplexity would
arise in you thereof. Householder, I, here and now, shall teach you,
here and now, the origin and the cessation of suffering.” [S.IV.327]

*  *

“Sivaka, some feelings
arise on account of irregularities in the bile … some on account of
irregularities in the phlegm … some on account of wind … some on
account of the confluence of numerous factors … some on account of
changes in the weather … some on account of irregular exercise …
some on account of external dangers … some on account of kamma
results. That feelings arise dependent on these different causes is
something you can see for yourself and that people everywhere
acknowledge. On this account, any recluse or holy man who claims that
‘All feelings that arise, be they pleasant or unpleasant, are entirely
the result of previous kamma,’ can be rightly said to have spoken in
excess of what is obvious to people everywhere, and I say that such
views are wrong.” [S.IV.230]

*  *

“Monks, when there is
intentional, fixed and steady deliberation on any theme, that theme
becomes an object for sustaining consciousness. Where there is an
object, consciousness has an abiding. When consciousness is so firmly
established and developed, birth in a new sphere (bhava)
ensues. When there is arising into a new sphere of existence, birth, old
age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair follow. Thus
is there the arising of this whole mass of suffering.” [S.II.65]


Although this interpretation
of the principle of Dependent Origination must be understood in its own
right, we nevertheless do not discard the pattern established by the
standard model. Therefore, before going into its meaning, we should first
reiterate the standard model, adapting the definitions in keeping with
this interpretation.


Preliminary Definition

1. Ignorance
— ignorance of the truth, or things as they are; being deluded by nominal
realities; the ignorance behind beliefs; lack of wisdom; failure to
understand cause and effect.

2. Volitional
— mental activities, willful intent, intention and
decision, and their generation of actions; the organization of the
thinking process in accordance with accumulated habits, abilities,
preferences, and beliefs; the conditioning of the mind and the thinking

3. Consciousness
— the awareness of sensations, namely: seeing, hearing, smelling,
tasting, touching and cognizing; the basic climate of the mind from moment
to moment.

4. Body and mind
(the animated organism) — the presence of corporeality and mentality
within awareness; the state of coordination between the body and the mind
to function in line with the stream of consciousness; the bodily and
mental changes as a result of mental states.

5. The six sense
— the functioning of the sense bases.

6. Contact
— the point of contact between awareness and the outside world.

7. Feeling
— of pleasure, pain or indifference.

8. Craving
— the desire to seek pleasurable sense objects and to escape the
unpleasant. Craving is of three kinds: wanting to have and enjoy, wanting
to be, and wanting to destroy or be rid of.

9. Clinging
— attachment and grasping to either pleasant or unpleasant feelings, to
the conditions of life which precipitate such feelings, and the evaluation
of and attitudes toward those things in terms of their potential to
satisfy desires.

— the entire process of behavior
generated to serve craving and clinging (kammabhava — the active
process); also the conditions of life resulting from such forces (upapattibhava
–the passive process).[14]

11. Birth
clear recognition of emergence in a state of existence; identification
with states of life or modes of conduct, and the resulting sense of one
who enjoys, occupies or experiences them.

12. Aging and death
— the awareness of separation, or deprivation of the self from a state of
existence or identity; the feeling or threat of annihilation or separation
from such states of being; from there, the resulting experience of sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair (even in their most subtle forms).


How the links connect

1 => 2. Ignorance as
a determinant for volitional impulses:
With no knowledge or
awareness of the truth, no clear understanding or wise reflection on
experiences, the result is confused thinking based on conjecture and
imagination, and conditioned by beliefs, fears and accumulated character
traits. These consequently condition any decisions to act, speak or think.

2 => 3. Volitional
impulses as determinants for consciousness:
With intention,
consciousness is conditioned accordingly. We have a tendency (or are
conditioned) to see, hear and cognize what our background intentions
influence us to. Moreover, the context within which we see, hear or
cognize will also be conditioned by those intentions. Intention will lead
the consciousness to repeatedly recollect and proliferate about certain
events. It will also condition the basic state of mind, or consciousness,
to assume either fine and good or base and evil qualities; consciousness
is conditioned in conformity with good or evil intentions.

3 => 4. Consciousness
as a determinant for body and mind:
Cognition, sight, hearing and
so on, entail physical properties (rupadhamma) and mental
properties (namadhamma) that we know and see. In addition, when
consciousness operates, the relevant physical and mental properties (these
being the ‘cohorts’ of consciousness — the khandhas of form,
feeling, perception and volitional impulses), must also function
accordingly and in coordination with the nature of that consciousness. For
instance, when consciousness is fashioned by anger, perceptions arising as
a result will be correspondingly negative. The body will take on features
in conformity with the hostile intention, such as aggressive facial
expressions, tensing of the muscles, and high blood pressure. Feelings
will be unpleasant. When consciousness takes on any particular feature
repeatedly and habitually, the subsequent mental and physical properties
will become the corresponding bodily and mental traits of bearing and

4 => 5. Body and mind
as determinants for the six sense bases:
When body and mind
function the relevant sense bases will be activated to meet their demand
(in seeking relevant information or in enjoying sensations). Those sense
doors will function in accordance with the bodily and mental states
conditioning them.

5 => 6. The six sense
bases as determinants for contact:
With the functioning of the
various sense doors, contact (phassa), the impingement on them,
or full awareness of sensations, arises, dependent on the sense door
functioning at the time.

6 => 7. Contact as a
determinant for feeling:
Together with the awareness of
sensations there must also be feelings of one kind or another: if not
pleasant or unpleasant, then neutral.

7 => 8. Feeling as a
determinant for craving:
With the experience of pleasant
sensations there follows liking and attachment. This is sense craving (kamatanha).
Sometimes desire is for a position from which it will be possible to
control and indulge in those pleasant feelings. This is craving for being
or for states of being (bhavatanha). Experiences which produce
feelings of discomfort or suffering usually cause thoughts of aversion and
the desire to be rid of the source of those feelings. This is craving for
non-being (vibhavatanha). Within neutral feelings, such as
indifference or dullness, there is a subtle attachment, so that
indifference is regarded as a subtle form of pleasant feeling, liable to
evolve into desire for more overt forms of pleasure at any time.

8 => 9. Craving as a
determinant for clinging:
As desire becomes stronger it develops
into clinging, a kind of mental preoccupation, creating an attitude toward
and evaluation of the object of desire (with vibhavatanha, a
negative evaluation will be formed). A fixed position is adopted towards
things: if there is attraction it precipitates a binding effect, an
identification with the object of attraction. Whatever is connected with
that object seems to be good. When there is repulsion, the object of that
repulsion seems to affront the self. Any adopted position towards these
things tends to reinforce clinging, which will be directed toward, and in
turn reinforce the value of:

9 => 10. Clinging as
a determinant for becoming:
Clinging conditions bhava,
life states, both on the level of behavior (kammabhava), and as
regards character and the physical and mental properties (upapattibhava).
These could, for example, be the pattern of behavior (kammabhava)
and character traits (upapattibhava) of one who aspires to be
rich, or who desires power, fame, beauty, or who hates society, and so on.

10 => 11. Becoming as
a determinant for birth:
Given a life state to be occupied and
possessed, a being arises to fill it as enjoyer or experiencer. This is
the distinct feeling of occupation or possession of that life state. There
is a perception of one who acts and one who reaps the fruits of actions,
one who succeeds and one who fails, one who gains and one who loses.

11 => 12. Birth as a
determinant for aging and death:
Birth into a life state
necessarily entails the experiences of prosperity and decline within it.
These include the imminent degeneration of that state, the experiences of
adversity and ruin within it, and the separation from and destruction of
it. There is a constant threat of danger, and a constant need to protect
and maintain the self. The inevitability of decline and dissolution,
together with the constant anxiety and effort to protect that state from
them, combine to cause sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, or



1 => 2. Ignorance …
volitional impulses:
Not knowing the truth, the mind proliferates
and imagines accordingly, like a man who, believing in ghosts (ignorance),
is frightened (volitional impulse) by the light reflected from the eyes of
an animal at night; or like a person speculating about something held in
another’s closed fist; or like a person who believes that celestial beings
can create anything they wish, and devises ceremonies or mystic phrases to
supplicate them; or like one who, unaware of the true nature of
conditioned things as unstable and subject to determinants, sees them as
attractive and desirable, and aspires to obtain and control them. As long
as any trace of ignorance is still present, volitional impulses or
proliferation will be produced.

2 => 3. Volitional
impulses … consciousness:
With cetana, intention,
along with mental coloration, consciousness, as seeing, hearing and so on,
is conditioned accordingly. Without intention or interest, consciousness
may not arise, even in a situation where it is possible for it to do so.
For example, when we are reading an absorbing book, our attention does not
wander, but acknowledges only the matter being read into consciousness.
Even a loud sound or bites from mosquitoes may go unnoticed. When we are
intent on searching for a particular object, we may not notice other

    One and the same object
looked at in different circumstances, with different intentions, may be
seen differently, depending on the context of the intention. For example,
a vacant plot of land to a child may appear as a great playground; to a
man intending to build a house it may seem like a prospective retirement
home; to a farmer, different features again will seem important, while to
an industrialist, still different features will be prominent.

    If we look at the same
object at different times, in the context of different thoughts, different
features will appear prominent. When thinking wholesome thoughts, the mind
is influenced by those thoughts, and interprets the object of awareness in
their context. Thinking in a harsh and injurious way, the mind takes note
of, turns toward and interprets the meaning of its associated objects of
awareness in the light of those destructive thoughts. For example, amidst
a collection of objects placed together might be a knife and some flowers.
A flower lover might notice only the flowers and none of the other objects
placed nearby. The more intense the interest and attraction to those
flowers, the more intense will be the awareness of them to the exclusion
of everything else. Another person in need of a weapon might notice only
the knife. In the case of a number of people seeing the same knife, for
one there might be the perception of a weapon, while for another there
might be the perception of a kitchen utensil, while yet another might see
it as a piece of scrap metal, all depending on the background and
intention of the observer.

3 => 4. Consciousness
… body and mind:
Consciousness and body and mind are
interdependent, as Venerable Sariputta said:

“Like two sheaves of reeds
standing, supporting each other, with body and mind as condition there
is consciousness; with consciousness as condition, body and mind. If we
remove the first of those sheaves of reeds, the other falls down. If we
remove the other sheaf, the first will tumble. In the same way, with the
cessation of body and mind, consciousness ceases; with the cessation of
consciousness, body and mind cease.” [S.II.114]

    In this context, with the
arising of consciousness, body and mind will arise, and must arise. As
volitional impulses condition consciousness, they also condition body and
mind, but because body and mind depend on consciousness for their
existence, being properties of consciousness, it is thus said: “volitional
impulses condition consciousness, and consciousness conditions body and
mind.” Thus, we could analyze the way consciousness conditions body and
mind in the following way:

    1. When the mind is said
to cognize any particular sensation, such as in seeing or hearing, in fact
it is simply the cognition of body and mind (specifically, the
of form, feeling, perception and volitional impulses). All
that exists on an experiential level is what is cognized by consciousness
from moment to moment, the physical and mental properties apparent to the
senses. When there is cognition there are relative mental and physical
properties that are experienced. The existence of a rose, for example, is
the cognition by the visual or cognitive sense at that time. Apart from
this, there is no ‘rose’ as such, other than as a concept in the mind. The
‘rose’ is not independent of the feelings, perceptions and concepts
occurring at that time. Thus, when there is consciousness, body and mind
will simultaneously and independently be there.

    2. Body and mind,
especially mental qualities, dependent on any instant of consciousness
will assume qualities harmonious with that consciousness. Whenever mental
activities, or volitional impulses, are wholesome, the consciousness
resultant on them will be subsequently cheerful and clear, and bodily
gestures will be buoyant. When volitional impulses are unwholesome they
lead to the cognition of sensations from a harsh and harmful perspective.
The mental state will be negative, and bodily gestures and behavior will
be influenced accordingly. In this state, the constituent factors, both
mental and physical, are in a state of readiness to act in conformity with
the volitional impulses that condition consciousness. When there is a
feeling of love and affection (volitional impulse) there arises the
cognition of pleasing sensations (consciousness), the mind (nama)
is cheerful and bright, as are facial features (rupa). With anger
there is the cognition of unpleasant sensations, the mind is depressed and
facial features are sullen and aggressive.

    On the sports field, the
footballer focuses his attention and interest on the game being played.
His awareness arises and ceases with an intensity proportional to the
strength of his interest in the game. All the necessary components of body
and mind are primed to function and perform their duties as directed. The
interrelationship in this case refers to and includes the successive
arising and ceasing of body and mind (or physical and mental properties).
The active properties of body and mind converge to form the overall state
of being as it is directed by consciousness and volitional impulses (note
the similarity to bhava).

    All the events taking
place at this stage are important steps in the generation of kamma and its
results. The cycle, or vatta, has completed one small revolution
(ignorance is defilement, or kilesa; volitional impulses are
kamma; consciousness and body and mind are kamma-results, or vipaka)
and is preparing to begin a new cycle. This is a significant stage in the
building of habits and character-traits.

4 => 5. Body and mind
… six sense bases:
Body and mind must function through
awareness of the outside world, which, together with previously acquired
experience, is in turn used to serve the intention or volitional impulses.
Thus the components of body and mind which serve as transmitters and
receivers of sensations (the sense bases) are in a state of alertness to
function in conformity with their determinants. For instance, in the case
of the football player on the field, the sense organs responsible for
receiving the sensations directly concerned with the sport being played,
such as eye and ear, will be primed to receive those sensations. At the
same time, those senses not immediately concerned, such as taste or smell,
will be dormant, or in a state of suspended activity.

5 => 6. The six sense
bases … contact:
Awareness arises through the sense bases,
based on the coordination of three factors: internal sense bases (eye,
ear, nose, tongue, body, mind), external sense objects (sights, sounds,
smells, tastes, bodily feelings and mental impressions), and consciousness
(through eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind). Awareness arises in
conformity with each particular sense base.

6 => 7. Contact …
Wherever there is contact there must be the experience
of one of the three kinds of feelings: comfort or happiness (sukhavedana),
discomfort or pain (dukkhavedana), or indifference, neither
happiness nor pain (upekkha or adukkham-asukhavedana).

    The third link to the
seventh, that is, from consciousness to feeling, is known as the
, or kamma-resultant, section of the Dependent Origination
cycle. Links 5, 6 and 7, in particular, are neither wholesome nor
unwholesome in themselves, but can be catalysts for the arising of
wholesome and unwholesome thoughts and actions.

7 => 8. Feeling …
When pleasant feeling is experienced, desire usually
follows. With unpleasant feeling, the reaction is one of stress, a desire
to have the unpleasant object removed or annihilated. There is also a
desire to seek distraction in pleasant feeling. Neutral feelings, or
indifference, induce a condition of dullness or complacency. Both are
subtle and deluding forms of pleasant feeling which the mind tends to
attach to. They can also act as catalysts for the generation of desire for
further pleasant feeling.

    Craving can be divided
into three distinct kinds, thus:

        1. Kamatanha
— Craving for desirable sense objects.

        2. Bhavatanha
— ‘Craving for being,’ craving for particular life situations; on a
deeper level, this includes the life instinct and the desire to maintain a
particular condition or identity.

Vibhavatanha — ‘Craving for
non-being,’ the craving to escape from or be free of disliked objects or
situations; this kind of craving usually expresses itself in feelings such
as despair, depression, self-hatred and self-pity.[15]

    Craving thus appears in
three main forms: as craving for sense objects, craving for life
situations, and craving to be free of unpleasant situations. This last
form of craving is particularly noticeable when desires are thwarted or
opposed, and expresses itself in resentment, anger and aggression.

8 => 9. Craving …
Objects of desire become objects of attachment, the
more intense the desire, the more intense the attachment. Craving develops
into specific attitudes and values. With unpleasant feeling, clinging
manifests as an obsessive aversion to the object of that feeling and an
obsessive desire to seek escape from it. In this way, there is clinging to
objects of the senses, to the life situations which can provide them, to
identities, opinions, theories, and methods for procuring them and to the
concept or image of a self to enjoy or suffer from those situations.

9 => 10. Clinging …
Clinging naturally affects life situations in one way
or another, and its effects occur on two levels. Firstly, clinging ties
the self to, or causes it to identify with, particular life situations
which are believed to either fulfill desires or provide the means to
escape from things not desired. If there are desired situations, there
will naturally be situations not desired. Such grasped-at life situations
are called upapattibhava.

    Attachment to any life
situation will produce thoughts or intentions to either become or avoid
it. These thoughts will include the machinations to invent ways and means
of effectuating those desires. All of this thinking and activity is molded
by the direction and mode of clinging. That is, they operate under the
influence of accumulated attitudes, beliefs, understandings, values and
likes or dislikes. Some simple illustrations:

    The specific pattern
of behavior
resulting from the influence of clinging, including the
nature of events so conditioned, is called kammabhava (actions
conditioning rebirth). The life situations resulting from such
modes of behavior, be they desired or not, are called upapattibhava
(states of rebirth).

    This stage of the
Dependent Origination cycle is pivotal in the creation of kamma and its
results, and on a long term basis plays a crucial role in the development
of habit and character traits.

10 => 11. Becoming
… birth:
At this point there arises the distinct feeling of a
self, an identification with a certain situation or condition, either
desired or undesired. In Dhamma language we might say that a being has
arisen within that state (bhava), resulting in the feeling of one
who is a thief, an owner, a success, a failure, a nobody and so on. In the
case of the ordinary person, birth, or the arising of the sense of self,
can be most easily observed in times of discord, when clinging tends to
arise in very extreme ways. In arguments, even intellectual debates, if
defilements are used instead of wisdom, a distinct sense of self will
arise in the form of such thoughts as ‘I am superior,’ ‘I am the boss,’
‘he is my subordinate,’ ‘he is inferior,’ ‘this is my view,’ ‘my view is
being contested,’ ‘my authority is being questioned’ and so on. These are
all instances where the identity is being discredited or threatened. Birth
is therefore most obvious at times of jaramarana, decay and

11=> 12. Birth …
aging and death:
Given a self which occupies or assumes a certain
position, it follows that this self will sooner or later be deprived of or
separated from that position. The self is threatened by alienation,
frustration, misfortune, conflict and failure. Although it seeks to
maintain its position indefinitely, all that arises must inevitably
experience decay and dissolution. Even before dissolution sets in, the
self is surrounded by the threat of impending doom. This intensifies
clinging to life situations. Fear of death arises from the awareness of
danger. The fear of death and dissolution is embedded deeply within the
mind and is always influencing human behavior, causing neuroses,
insecurity, the intense and desperate struggle for desired life
situations, and despair in the face of suffering and loss. Thus for the
ordinary person, the fear of death haunts all happiness.

    In this context, when the
self appears in any undesired life situation, is deprived of a desired
situation, or is threatened with the possibility thereof, it is left with
disappointment and frustration, or, in the Pali language, soka
(sorrow), parideva (lamentation), dukkha (pain),
(grief) and upayasa (despair). Surrounded by all
this suffering, the result is distraction and confusion, which are
functions of ignorance. Most efforts to relieve suffering are thus
directed by ignorance, and so the cycle continues.

    A simple example: For the
average person living in a competitive world, success does not stop at
merely the social phenomenon of success, with all its trappings, but
includes clinging to the identity of being a successful person, which is a
‘becoming,’ or life state (bhava). Occasionally the feeling of
self will manifest as thoughts of “I am a success,” which in effect means
“I have been born (jati) as a successful person.” However, such
success, in its fullest sense, is dependent on external conditions, such
as fame, praise, attainment of special privileges, admiration and
recognition. Birth as a “success,” or “being successful,” depends not only
on recognition and admiration from others, but the presence of a loser,
someone to succeed over. As soon as a successful being is born, he or she
is threatened with fading, obscurity and loss. In this situation, all the
feelings of depression, worry and disappointment which have not been
properly dealt with by mindfulness and clear comprehension will become
accumulated in the subconscious, and they will exert an influence on
subsequent behavior in accordance with the Dependent Origination cycle.

    Whenever there is the
arising of the self-concept, there is an occupation of space; when there
is occupation of space, there must be a boundary or limitation; when there
is limitation, there must be separation; when there is separation there
must be the dualism of ’self’ and ‘not self.’ The self will grow and
extend outwards through the desire to attain, to act and to impress
others. However, it is not possible for self to grow indefinitely
according to its desires. The expanding self will inevitably meet with
obstruction in some form or other, and desires will be thwarted, if not
externally then from within. If one has any sensitivity to the esteem of
others, opposition will arise in the form of one’s own sense of
conscience. If there is no suppression of these desires and they are
allowed to express themselves fully, opposition will appear from external
sources. Even if it were possible to indulge every desire to the full,
such activity is weakening. It only serves to increase the power of
craving itself, together with its attendant feeling of lack. Not only does
it increase dependence on externals, but it increases internal conflict.
When desires are unfulfilled, tension, conflict and despair are the
natural result.


An example of Dependent Origination in everyday life

Let us take a simple example
of how the principle of Dependent Origination operates in everyday life.
Suppose there are two school chums, named ‘John’ and ‘Ian.’ Whenever they
meet at school they smile and say “Hello” to each other. One day John sees
Ian, and approaches him with a friendly greeting ready, only to be
answered with silence and a sour expression. John is peeved by this, and
stops talking to Ian. In this case, the chain of reactions might proceed
in the following way:

    1. Ignorance (avijja):
John is ignorant of the true reason for Ian’s grim face and sullenness. He
fails to reflect on the matter wisely and to ascertain the real reasons
for Ian’s behavior, which may have nothing at all to do with his feelings
for John.

    2. Volitional
Impulses (sankhara):
As a result, John proceeds to think
and formulate theories in his mind, conditioned by his temperament, and
these give rise to doubt, anger, and resentment, once again dependent on
his particular temperament.

    3. Consciousness
Under the influence of these defilements,
John broods. He takes note of and interprets Ian’s behavior and actions in
accordance with those previous impressions; the more he thinks about it,
the surer he gets; Ian’s every gesture seems offensive.

    4. Body and mind
John’s feelings, thoughts, moods, facial
expressions and gestures, that is, the body and mind together, begin to
take on the overall features of an angry or offended person, primed to
function in accordance with that consciousness.

    5. Sense bases (salayatana):
John’s sense organs are primed to receive information that is related to
and conditioned by the body-mind organism’s state of anger or hurt.

    6. Contact (phassa):
The impingement on the sense organs will be of the activities or
attributes of Ian which seem particularly relative to the case, such as
frowning expressions, unfriendly gestures, and so on.

    7. Feeling (vedana):
Feelings, conditioned by sense contact, are of the unpleasant kind.

    8. Craving (tanha):
Vibhavatanha, craving for non-being, arises, the dislike or
aversion for that offensive image, the desire for it to go away or to be

    9. Clinging (upadana):
Clinging and obsessive thinking in relation to Ian’s behavior follows.
Ian’s behavior is interpreted as a direct challenge; he is seen as a
disputant, and the whole situation demands some kind of remedial action.

    10. Becoming (bhava):
John’s subsequent behavior falls under the influence of clinging and his
actions become those of an antagonist.

    11. Birth (jati):
As the feeling of enmity becomes more distinct, it is assumed as an
identity. The distinction between ‘me’ and ‘him’ becomes more distinct,
and there is a self which is obliged to somehow respond to the situation.

    12. Aging and
death (jaramarana):
This ’self,’ or condition of enmity,
exists and flourishes dependent on certain conditions, such as the desire
to appear tough, to preserve honor and pride, and to be the victor, which
all have their respective opposites, such as feelings of worthlessness,
inferiority, and failure. As soon as that self arises, it is confronted
with the absence of any guarantee of victory. Even if he does attain the
victory he desires, there is no guarantee that John will be able to
preserve his supremacy for any length of time. He may not, in fact, be the
‘tough victor’ he wants to be, but rather the loser, the weakling, the one
who loses face. These possibilities of suffering play with John’s moods
and produce stress, insecurity, and worry. They in turn feed ignorance,
thus beginning a new round of the cycle. Such negative states are like
festering wounds which have not been treated, and so continue to release
their ‘poisoning’ effect on John’s consciousness, influencing all of his
behavior, and causing problems both for himself and for others. In John’s
case, he may feel unhappy for the whole of that day, speaking gruffly to
whoever he comes into contact with, and so increasing the likelihood of
more unpleasant incidents.

    In this case, if John
were to practice correctly he would be advised to start off on the right
foot. Seeing his friend’s sullenness, he could use his intelligence (yoniso-manasikara:
considering in accordance with causes and conditions) and reflect that Ian
may have some problem on his mind — he may have been scolded by his
mother, he may be in need of money, or he may simply be depressed. If John
reflected in this way no incident would arise, his mind would be
untroubled, and he might even be moved toward compassionate action and

    Once the negative chain
of events has been set in motion, however, it can still be cut off with
mindfulness at any point. For instance, if it had continued on up to sense
contact, where Ian’s actions were perceived in a negative way, John could
still set up mindfulness right there: instead of falling under the power
of craving for non-being, he could instead consider the facts of the
situation and thereby gain a fresh understanding of Ian’s behavior. He
could then reflect wisely in regard to both his own and his friend’s
actions, so that his mind would no longer be weighed down by negative
emotional reactions, but instead respond in a clearer and more positive
way. Such reflection, in addition to causing no problems for himself,
could also serve to encourage the arising of compassion.

    Before leaving this
example, it might be useful to reiterate some salient points:

    In any case, the examples
given here are very simplified and may seem somewhat superficial. They are
not sufficiently detailed to convey the full subtlety of the principle of
Dependent Origination, especially such sections as ignorance as a
determinant for volitional impulses, and sorrow, lamentation and despair
conditioning the further turning of the cycle. Looking at our example, it
may appear that the cycle only arises occasionally, that ignorance is a
sporadic phenomena, and that the ordinary person may spend large periods
of his or her life without the arising of ignorance at all. In fact, for
the unenlightened being, ignorance of varying degrees is behind every
thought, action and word. The most basic level of this ignorance is simply
the perception that there is a self which is thinking, speaking and
acting. If this is not borne in mind, the true relevance of the teaching
to everyday life may be overlooked. For this reason some of the more
profound aspects of this chain of events will now be examined in more




The Nature of Defilements



For the unenlightened being,
experiences and situations are normally interpreted and evaluated through
the following biases or influences:

    1. The concern around
desires for the five kinds of sense objects (kama — sights,
sounds, smells, tastes and bodily sensations).

    2. The concern around the
existence and preservation of the self, its identities and desired
situations (bhava).

    3. Views, beliefs, and
ways of thinking (ditthi).

    4. Delusion or ignorance
(avijja): not clearly knowing the meaning of things as they are,
which leads to the perception of self.

    The third and fourth
conditions, in particular, are obviously related: without wisdom or
understanding, it follows that behavior will be guided by habitual and
misguided views and beliefs. These two conditions cover very broad areas
of influence, including political, social and religious ideals and
practices based on temperament, habit, training, and social conditioning.
They are related to the first and second biases and exert an influence
over them, thus controlling all personal feelings and behavior. They
condition everything, from likes and dislikes to means and methods chosen
to gratify desires. Ignorance and views are concealed deeply within
consciousness and are quietly and continually exerting their influence.

    According to common
perception, we are in control of our actions and are able to pursue
desires of our own free will. Closer observation will tell us that this is
an illusion. If we were to ask ourselves, “What do we really want? Why do
we want such things? Why do we act the way we do?” we would find nothing
which is really our own. We would find instead inherited behavior
patterns, learned from schooling, religious upbringing, social
conditioning and the like. Individual actions are simply chosen from
within the bounds of these criteria, and although there may be some
adaptations made, these will again be at the direction of other
influences. Any choices or decisions made are part of a stream of
conditions, and these are themselves influenced by other factors. What
people feel to be their self is none other than the sum total of these
influences or biases. These conditions, in addition to having no self of
their own, are powerful forces over which most people have little or no
control, so that there is really very little chance for true independence.

four qualities mentioned above are called in Pali
Translated literally, asava means ‘that which floods,’ or ‘that
which pickles or festers,’ because these things ‘pickle’ or poison the
mind. They also ‘flood’ the mind whenever it experiences a sensation, and
so we will call them ‘outflows.’ No matter what may be experienced, be it
through any of the sense doors or conceived in the mind itself, these
outflows insinuate themselves into and spread their influence over it.
Sensations or thoughts, instead of being functions of the pure mind,
become instead products of the outflows, in turn polluting subsequent
mental states and causing, as a result, suffering.

    The first outflow is
called kamasava, the second, bhavasava, the third
, and the fourth avijjasava. These outflows lie
behind the behavior of all unenlightened beings. They create the delusion
of self-view, which is ignorance at its most basic level. In this sense
they control and direct thinking and behavior. This is the very first
level of the Dependent Origination cycle: ignorance is conditioned by the
outflows. From there the cycle continues — with ignorance as determinant,
volitional impulses arise accordingly.

    While, under the
influence of delusion, most people believe that they themselves are
performing actions, the irony is that they are not their own masters at
all — their behavior is totally controlled by intentions which are
lacking in reflexive awareness. Essentially, ignorance is blindness to the
Three Characteristics as they are shown in the principle of Dependent
Origination, especially the third one, not-self (anatta). More
specifically, ignorance is not clearly knowing that the conditions usually
taken to be an individual or self, ‘me’ or ‘you,’ are simply a stream of
physical and mental phenomena, constantly arising and ceasing, related and
connected by the cause and effect process. This stream is in a state of
constant flux. We could say that a ‘person’ is simply the overall result
of the feelings, thoughts, desires, habits, biases, views, knowledge,
beliefs and so on, at any particular point in time, that are either
inherited from social and environmental factors, such as through learning,
or formed from personal, internal factors, all constantly changing. Not
clearly knowing this, there is clinging to one or another of these
conditions as self or belonging to self. To cling to conditions in this
way is in effect to be deceived and controlled by them.

    This is “ignorance as a
determinant for volitional impulses” on a more profound level than given
previously. As for the remaining headings, from here up until vedana,
feeling, there should be no difficulty understanding them from the
explanations already given. Therefore we will pass on from there to
another important section, “craving (tanha) as a determinant for
clinging, (upadana),” another of the sections dealing with
, or defilement.

    The three kinds of
craving already mentioned are all expressions of the one craving, and all
are commonly experienced in everyday life, but they can only be seen when
the workings of the mind are carefully analyzed. At the root of all
ignorance is ignorance of things as a natural process of interrelated
causes and effects, which gives rise to the perception of a self. This
leads to a very important and fundamental desire, the desire to be, the
desire to survive, to protect and preserve the illusion of self. Wanting
to be is related to wanting to have — desire is not simply for existence,
but existence in order to consume those objects which will produce
pleasant feelings. Thus it can be said that desire for existence depends
on the desire to have, and desire to have intensifies the desire to exist.

    As craving intensifies, a
number of situations may result: if the desired object is not obtained at
the desired time, the bhava, or state of existence, at that time
becomes intolerable. Life will seem difficult, and this leads to a desire
to annihilate the undesirable situation. At the same time, desire to
acquire will once again arise, based on fear of no longer being able to
experience pleasant feeling, and from there desire to be once more. A
second possibility might be not obtaining the desired object at all; a
third, obtaining it, but in insufficient quantity; while a fourth might be
obtaining it, but then desiring something else. The process may take
various forms, but the basic pattern is one of ever-increasing craving.

    When the workings of the
mind are examined closely, human beings seem to be embroiled in a constant
search for a state that is more fulfilling than what they have.
Unenlightened beings are constantly being repelled from the present moment
— each moment of present time is a state of stress, an unendurable
situation. The desire to extinguish this situation, to free the self from
the present and find a state which is more fulfilling, is constantly
arising. Wanting to get, wanting to be and wanting to not be are
constantly occurring in the daily life of unenlightened beings (on a level
that few are aware of). Personal life thus becomes a constant struggle to
escape the present state of being to search for some future fulfillment.

    Tracing back along the
process, we find that these desires originate from the fundamental
ignorance of things as they really are — in short, ignorance of the
principle of conditionality and Dependent Origination. This ignorance
gives rise to the basic misconception of self in one form or another:
either seeing things as separate entities, fixed and enduring,(sassataditthi)
or as being completely and utterly annihilated (ucchedaditthi).
All unenlightened beings have these two basic wrong views at the root of
their consciousness, and these give rise to the three kinds of desire. The
desire for existence (bhavatanha) springs from the distorted
perception of things as separate and enduring entities (and thus desirable
and worth attaining). Alternatively, there is the misconception that these
separate entities are destructible (and as such are not worth having and
must be escaped from), which is the basis for the desire for annihilation

    These two basic wrong
views prepare the way for craving. If there was understanding of the
stream of events as a process of interrelated causes and effects, the
perception of a separate entity which endures or is destroyed would be
baseless. All craving is naturally based on these two basic views.

    Fear of loss of pleasant
feeling leads to the frantic search for more, and the perception of a
separate entity leads to the struggle to procure for that entity and to
preserve it. On a coarser level, craving expresses itself as the struggle
to seek out objects of desire, life situations which provide such objects,
boredom with those objects already obtained, and the despair with, or
inability to endure, the lack of new objects of desire. The picture that
emerges is of people unable to be at peace with themselves, constantly
craving objects of desire and experiencing melancholy, loneliness,
alienation and distress in the struggle to escape from unendurable
boredom. When desires are thwarted there is disappointment and despair.

    For most people happiness
and suffering depend entirely on external conditions. Free time becomes a
bane, both individually and socially, a cause for boredom, misery and
loneliness. This basic dissatisfaction increases in proportion to the
amount of desire and the intensity of the search for sensual
gratification. In fact, looking from a more introspective viewpoint, we
find that the most important cause for social problems, such as drug
addiction and juvenile delinquency, is the inability of people to be at
peace with the present moment and their subsequent struggles to escape it.

    In the event of having
studied and trained in a religious teaching, and developed right views,
craving can be turned in a good direction, aimed at realizing more
long-term goals, which entails the performance of good works and,
ultimately, the use of craving to abandon craving.

    The defilement (kilesa)
which follows on from craving is clinging, of which there are four kinds:

Clinging to sensuality.
Desire and effort to
seek out sense objects are naturally followed by clinging and attachment.
When an object of desire is obtained, the wish to gratify that desire even
more and the fear of losing the object of such gratification will produce
clinging. In the event of disappointment and loss, attachment is based on
yearning. Clinging becomes even stronger and generates further action in
the quest for fulfillment because desire-objects provide no lasting
satisfaction. Because nothing can ever really belong to the self, the mind
is constantly trying to reaffirm the sense of ownership. The thinking of
unenlightened beings is thus constantly clinging to and obsessed with one
object of desire or another. It is very difficult for such a mind to be
free and unattached.

Clinging to views.
Desire to be or not to be
produces bias and attachment to views, theories or philosophical systems,
and in turn methods, ideas, creeds and teachings. When views are clung to
they become identified with as part of one’s self. Thus, when confronted
with a theory or view which contradicts one’s own, it is taken as a
personal threat. The self must fight to defend its position, which in turn
gives rise to all kinds of conflicts. The process tends to bind the mind
into tight corners where the functioning of wisdom is impaired. Such
thoughts and views do not provide knowledge, but rather obstruct it.

Clinging to mere rules and rituals.
desire to be and the fear of dissolution, together with attachment to
views, in turn lead to blind adherence to those practices and methods,
such as magic and occultism, which are believed to effectuate the desired
result. The desire for self-preservation and self-expression manifest
outwardly as blind attachment to modes of behavior, traditions, methods,
creeds and institutions. There is no understanding of their true value or
meaning. This in effect means that the creation of these methodologies and
practices leads to stricture and confusion, making it difficult to effect
any self-improvement or to derive any true benefit from them.

    On the subject of
, the late Venerable Buddhadasa, one of the most
influential Buddhist thinkers in contemporary Thailand, has given an
explanation which may be of interest here:

moral restraint, or any other form of Dhamma practice,
without knowing its aim or reflecting on its meaning, but simply
believing that such practices are auspicious and automatically
productive of benefit, leads to strict adherence to precepts according
to beliefs, customs or examples handed down from previous generations.
Rather than penetrating to the real reasons for these practices, people
simply cling fast to them through tradition. This is a kind of clinging
(upadana) which is very difficult to redress, unlike the second
kind of clinging, attachment to views, or wrong thoughts and ideas. This
kind of clinging fixes on to the actual forms of practice, its external

Clinging to the ego-idea.
The feeling of a
true self is delusion on its most basic level. There are other factors
which enhance this feeling, such as language and communications, which
produce an attachment to concepts and a tendency to see the stream of
causal phenomena as fixed entities. This feeling develops into clinging
when craving becomes involved. Implicit in craving is the clinging to a
self in order to obtain the object of desire. Both craving to be and
craving to cease are dependent on the perception of self. Fear of
disintegration intensifies the desire for being and the struggle to
survive, and thus the sense of self.

    Craving is dependent on a
powerful and independent self of some form or other. Sometimes it seems
that things can be controlled, and this supports the illusion of self, but
in fact such control is only partial and temporary. The so-called self is
merely one factor among countless other factors within the cause and
effect stream. It is beyond any person’s power to completely direct or
control objects of clinging. The feeling of ownership or control over
things may at times seem to be well-founded, but it can never be totally
or completely real, with the result that clinging and the struggle to
reaffirm the sense of self are intensified.

    Clinging to the self
makes it difficult to organize things in conformity with the true cause
and effect process. When action is not in accordance with cause and
effect, and conditions do not behave in accordance with desires, the self
is frustrated and confronted with impotency and loss. Clinging to self is
the most fundamental kind of clinging, and is the foundation for all the
other kinds.

    With the experience of
pleasant feeling, craving follows. This leads to kamupadana,
clinging to desired sense objects. Ditthupadana, clinging to
views, is present in the form of clinging to the idea that a particular
object is good, that only by obtaining it will there be happiness, and
that only the methods and teachings which encourage the search for and
procurement of this object are correct. Silabbatupadana manifests
as clinging to the methods and techniques which are considered necessary
for the attainment of the objective. Attavadupadana appears as
clinging to the self which is to own the object.

short, clinging causes confusion. The thinking of unenlightened beings
does not flow smoothly as it should in accordance with reason but is
instead irrational, distorted and convoluted. Suffering arises from
adherence to the idea of self or ownership. If things were really the self
or owned by the self, then they could be controlled at will. But instead
they follow causes and conditions. Not being in the power of desire, they
become contrary: the self is opposed and thwarted by them. Whenever the
clung-to object is attacked, the self is also attacked. The extent of the
clinging, that is the influence of the ’self’ in our actions, and the
extent of disturbance experienced by this self, are all proportional. The
result is not only suffering, but a life that is lived and operated under
the power of craving and clinging, rather than with wisdom and

    From clinging, the
process continues up to becoming, (bhava), birth, (jati),
aging and death (jaramarana), and from there to sorrow,
lamentation, and so on, as has already been explained. Any attempt to find
a way out of this predicament is conditioned by habitual thought patterns,
and dictated by biases, preferences, and views. Without awareness of the
true state of things, the cycle begins once again at ignorance and
continues on as before.

    Although ignorance can be
seen as the root cause and creator of all other forms of defilements, in
terms of their actual expression through behavior, craving plays the more
dominant role. This is why in the Four Noble Truths it is said that
craving is the cause of suffering.

    Under the blind and
confused influence of ignorance and craving, bad kamma is more likely to
exceed good kamma. But as ignorance is tempered by skillful beliefs and
right thinking, and craving directed and trained by noble aims, good kamma
is more likely to exceed bad kamma, and will lead to beneficial results.
If craving is wisely directed it becomes a valuable tool in the ultimate
destruction of ignorance and defilements. The former way is that of
unwholesomeness, unskillful behavior and evil, while the latter is the way
to goodness, skill and purity. Both good people and bad people have their
own kinds of suffering, but only the path of goodness is capable of
leading to the cessation of suffering, to liberation and freedom.

“Sister, a monk in this
Teaching and Discipline hears that such and such a monk has realized the
deliverance of mind through wisdom, which is void of outflows. He then
considers to himself, ‘When will I also be able to realize that
deliverance of mind through wisdom?’ Later, that monk himself, relying
on craving, abandons craving. It was on account of this that I said,
‘This body is born of craving. Relying on craving, one should abandon
craving.’” [A.II.145]

    Given a choice between
different kinds of craving, the good kind is the preferable incentive for
action. However, the transcendence of both good and evil desires, the path
of wisdom, is the ideal path to purity, freedom and perfect happiness.





Dependent Origination
in Society


The longest Sutta dealing
with Dependent Origination in the Pali Canon is the Mahanidana Sutta
[D.II.55-71]. There the Buddha explains the principle of conditionality
both on an individual basis, as it occurs within the mind, and also in a
social context, as it occurs in human relationships. So far we have dealt
exclusively with the principle of Dependent Origination as it occurs in
individual human consciousness. Before passing on from this subject it
would therefore seem appropriate to mention briefly how Dependent
Origination works on the social scale.

    The Dependent Origination
cycle describes the arising of social ills along the same lines as the
arising of personal suffering, but from craving onwards it diverges in to
a description of external events:

In this
way, Ananda, conditioned by feeling is craving, conditioned by craving
is seeking, conditioned by seeking is gain, conditioned by gain is
valuation, conditioned by valuation is fondness, conditioned by fondness
is possessiveness, conditioned by possessiveness is ownership,
conditioned by ownership is avarice, conditioned by avarice is
conditioned by guarding and resulting from guarding are the taking up of
the stick, the knife, contention, dispute, arguments, abuse, slander,
and lying. Evil and unskillful actions of many kinds thus appear in

    Below is a comparison of
the way the principle of Dependent Origination works on the personal and
the community levels.


personal and community


    To study the above chain
of events more clearly, let us look at some of the examples described by
the Buddha elsewhere, such as the cycle of nanatta (variation),
which can be briefly summarized thus:

(variations within the elements) => phassananatta (variations of
impingement) => vedanananatta (variations of feeling) =>
(variations of perception) => sankappananatta
(variations of thought) => chandananatta (variations of desire)
=> parilahananatta (variations of agitation) =>
(variations of seeking) => labhananatta
(variations of gain).[20]

    The first section, from
dhatu to sañña, can be simply rephrased thus: because of
the manifold proliferation of elements, there arises the manifold
proliferation of perceptions. In another place in the Pali the following
sequence of events is described:

(variations of the elements) => saññananatta (variations of
perception) => sankappananatta (variations of thought) =>
(variations of impingement) => vedanananatta
(variations of feeling) => chandananatta (variations of desire)
=> parilahananatta (variations of agitation) =>
(variations of seeking) => labhananatta
(variations of gain). [S.II.140-149]

    This sequence illustrates
a process connecting individual mind experience with external events,
showing how the origin of social problems and suffering lies within human
defilements. The sequence is very basic, showing only an outline of the
unfolding of events. More detailed explanations, emphasizing more specific
situations, appear in other Suttas, such as the Aggañña [D.III.80-98], the
Cakkavatti [D.III.58-79] and the Vasettha [Sn.594-656] Suttas. These
Suttas are the working models of the principle of Dependent Origination on
the social level. They explain the development of events in human society,
such as the arising of class structures, as the result of the interaction
between people and the environment around them. In other words, these
phenomena are a result of an interaction between three levels: human
beings, human society and the whole of the natural environment.

    The feelings that we
experience depend on sense impingement, which, in addition to existing
internal factors such as perception, depends on social and environmental
factors. Dependent on feeling, craving arises, resulting in the variations
of human behavior towards both other people and the world around them,
within the restrictions specified by social or natural circumstances.
Results of those actions further affect all other factors. Human beings
are not the only determinants in social or environmental development, and
the natural environment is not the only determinant in conditioning human
beings or society. Rather they all constitute an interdependent process of

    One section of the
Aggañña Sutta illustrates the sequence of social evolution according to
cause and effect thus:

    People become lazy and
begin to hoard rice (previously rice was plentiful and there was no need
to hoard it) and this becomes the preferred practice => people begin to
hoard private supplies => unscrupulous people steal other’s shares to
enlarge their own => censure, lying, punishment, and contention result =>
responsible people, seeing the need for authority, appoint a king => some
of the people, being disillusioned with society, decide to do away with
evil actions and cultivate meditation practice. Some of these live close
to the city and study and write scriptures; they become the Brahmins.
Those who remain with their families continue to earn their living by
various professions; they becoming the artisans. The remaining people,
being vulgar and inept, become the plebeians. From among these four groups
a smaller group breaks off, renouncing tradition and household life and
taking to the ‘homeless life.’ These become the samanas.

    The aim of this Sutta is
to explain the arising of the various classes as a matter of natural
development based on related causes, not as commandments from an almighty
God. All people are equally capable of good and evil behavior, and all
receive results according to the natural law; it follows that all beings
are equally capable of attaining enlightenment if they practice the Dhamma

    The Cakkavatti Sutta
shows the arising of crime and social ills according to the following
cause and effect sequence:

    (The ruler) does not
share wealth among the poor => poverty abounds => theft abounds => the use
of weapons abounds => killing and maiming abound => lying abounds =>
slander … sexual infidelity … abusive and frivolous speech … greed
and hatred … wrong view => lust for what is wrong, greed, wrong
teachings, disrespect for parents, elders and religious persons,
disrespect for position abound => longevity and appearance degenerate.

    It is interesting to note
that in modern times, attempts to resolve social problems are rarely
attuned to their real causes. They seek to provide stopgap solutions, such
as establishing counseling for drug addicts and delinquents, but they do
not delve deeply into the social conditions which affect the emergence of
such problems in the first place, such as consumerism and mass media. In
this respect, the Buddhist teaching of Dependent Origination on the social
scale offers an invaluable precedent for intelligent and truly effective
social analysis and reform.




The Middle Teaching


To understand the principle
of Dependent Origination is said to be Right View (sammaditthi).
This Right View is a very balanced kind of view, one which does not tend
to extremes. Thus the principle of Dependent Origination is a law which
teaches the truth in a median and unbiased way, known as the Middle
Teaching. The ‘median-ness’ of this truth is more clearly understood when
it is compared with other teachings. In order to show how the principle of
Dependent Origination differs from these extreme views, I will now present
some of them, arranged in pairs, using the Buddha’s words as explanation
and keeping further commentary to a minimum.


First Pair: 

The school which upholds that all things really
exist (extreme realism).

The school which upholds that all things do
not exist (nihilism).


“Venerable Sir, it is said
‘Right View, Right View.’ To what extent is view said to be right?”

“Herein, Venerable Kaccana,
this world generally tends towards two extreme views — atthita
(being) and natthita (not being). Seeing the cause of the world
as it is, with right understanding, there is no ‘not being’ therein.
Seeing the cessation of this world as it is with right understanding,
there is no ‘being’ therein. The world clings to systems and is bound by
dogmas, but the noble disciple does not search for, delight in or attach
to systems, dogmas or the conceit ‘I am.’ He doubts not that it is only
suffering that arises, and only suffering that ceases. When that noble
disciple clearly perceives this independently of others, this is called
Right View.

“Kaccana! To say ‘all
things exist’ is one extreme. To say ‘all things do not exist’ is
another. The Tathagata proclaims a teaching that is balanced, avoiding
these extremes, thus, ‘With ignorance as condition there are volitional
impulses; with volitional impulses as condition, consciousness … with
the complete abandoning of ignorance, volitional impulses cease; with
the cessation of volitional impulses, consciousness ceases …’”
[S.II.16-17, 76; S.III.134]

*  *

A Brahmin approached the
Buddha and asked, “Venerable Gotama, do all things exist?”

The Buddha replied, “The
view that all things exist is one extreme materialistic view.”

Question: Then all
things do not exist?

Answer: The view
that all things do not exist is the second materialistic view.

Question: Are all
things, then, one?

Answer: The view
that all things are one is the third materialistic view.

Question: Are all
things, then, a plurality?

Answer: The view
that all things are a plurality is the fourth materialistic view.

“Brahmin! The Tathagata
proclaims a teaching that is balanced, avoiding these extremes, thus,
‘With ignorance as condition there are volitional impulses; with
volitional impulses as condition, consciousness … with the complete
abandoning of ignorance, volitional impulses cease; with the cessation
of volitional impulses, consciousness ceases …’” [S.II.77]


Second Pair:

The school of eternalism

The school of annihilationism

Third Pair:

or Sayankaravada: The
school which upholds the view that happiness and suffering are entirely
self-determined (kammic autogenesism)

The school which upholds the view that
happiness and suffering are entirely caused by external factors (kammic

    These second and third
pairs are very important to the fundamental teaching of Buddhism. If
studied and clearly understood they can help prevent a lot of
misunderstandings about the law of kamma.


Question: Is
suffering caused by the self?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Is
suffering then caused by external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Is
suffering then caused both by oneself and external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Is
suffering then caused neither by oneself nor external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: In that
case, is there no such thing as suffering?

Answer: It is not
that there is no such thing as suffering. Suffering does exist.

Question: In that
case, is it that Venerable Gotama does not see or know suffering?

Answer: It is not
that I do not see or know suffering. I do indeed know and see suffering.

Question: May the
Blessed One please tell me then, please instruct me, about suffering.

Answer: To say
’suffering is caused by the self,’ is the same as saying ‘he who acts
receives the results (suffering).’ This tends to the eternalist view (sassataditthi).
Saying ’suffering is caused by other agents,’ as a person who
experiences sharp and painful feelings would feel, is just like saying,
‘one person acts, another suffers.’ This tends to the annihilationist
view (ucchedaditthi). The Tathagata, avoiding those two
extremes, proclaims a teaching that is balanced, thus, ‘With ignorance
as condition there are volitional impulses; with volitional impulses as
condition, consciousness …   with the complete abandoning of
ignorance, volitional impulses cease; with the cessation of volitional
impulses, consciousness ceases …’ [S.II.19]

*  *

Question: Are
happiness and suffering caused by the self?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Are
happiness and suffering caused by external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Are
happiness and suffering caused by both the self and external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: Are then
happiness and suffering caused by neither the self nor external factors?

Answer: Do not put
it that way.

Question: In that
case, then, do happiness and suffering not exist?

Answer: It is not
that happiness and suffering do not exist. Happiness and suffering do

Question: In that
case, does the Venerable Gotama neither know nor see happiness and

Answer: It is not
that I neither see nor know them. I do indeed both see and know
happiness and suffering.

Question: May the
Blessed one please inform me, please instruct me, about happiness and

Understanding from the outset that feeling and self are one and the same
thing, there is the clung-to notion that happiness and suffering are
self-caused. I do not teach thus. Understanding that feeling is one
thing, self is another, there is the clung-to notion that happiness and
suffering are caused by external factors. I do not teach thus. The
Tathagata, avoiding those two extremes, proclaims a teaching that is
balanced, thus, ‘With ignorance as condition there are volitional
impulses; with volitional impulses as condition, consciousness … with
the complete abandoning of ignorance, volitional impulses cease; with
the cessation of volitional impulses, consciousness ceases …’

*  *

“Ananda, I say that
happiness and suffering are dependently arisen. Dependent on what?
Dependent on contact (phassa).

“Dependent on body and
volition in relation to the body, internal happiness and suffering can
arise. Dependent on speech and speech-volition, internal happiness and
suffering can arise. Dependent on mind and mind-volition, internal
happiness and suffering can arise.

this very ignorance as condition, bodily actions which are a cause for
internal happiness and suffering are created. Dependent on other people
(at the instigation of another person or external force), bodily
actions, a cause for internal happiness and suffering, are created. With
awareness, volitional bodily activities, the cause of internal happiness
and suffering, are created. Without awareness, volitional bodily
activities, the cause of internal happiness and suffering, are created
… volitional speech is created … volitional thoughts are created …
instigated by another … with awareness … without awareness. In all
these cases, ignorance is present.”[21]


Fourth Pair:

The belief that the doer and the
experiencer of the fruit of actions are one and the same (the monistic
view of subject-object unity).

The belief that the doer and the
experiencer of the fruit of actions are separate things (the dualistic
view of subject-object distinction).


Question: Are the
doer and the receiver one and the same thing?

Answer: Saying
that the doer and receiver are one and the same thing is one extreme.

Question: Are,
then, the doer one thing, the receiver another?

Answer: To say the
doer is one thing, the receiver of results another, is another extreme.
The Tathagata, avoiding these two extremes, proclaims a teaching that is
balanced, thus, ‘With ignorance as condition there are volitional
impulses; with volitional impulses as condition, consciousness … with
the complete abandoning of ignorance, volitional impulses cease; with
the cessation of volitional impulses, consciousness ceases …’

*  *

Question: Revered
Gotama, what are aging and death? To whom do they belong?

Answer: You have
asked the question improperly. To say either, ‘What are aging and death,
to whom do they belong,’ or ‘aging and death are one thing, the
experiencer another,’ is to say the same thing, the statements differ
only in the letter. When there is the view, ‘life and the body are one
and the same thing,’ there can be no Higher Life (brahmacariya).
When there is the view, ‘life and the body are two different things,’
there can be no Higher Life. The Tathagata, avoiding these two extremes,
proclaims a teaching that is balanced, thus, ‘With birth as condition
are aging and death.’

Question: Revered
Sir, birth … becoming … clinging … craving … feeling … contact
… the sense bases … body and mind … consciousness … volitional
impulses … What are they? To whom do they belong?

Answer: You have
asked the question wrongly. … (same as for aging and death) …
Because of the complete abandoning of ignorance, whatsoever views there
be that are confused, vague, and contradictory, such as ‘What are aging
and death, to whom do they belong?’, ‘Aging and death are one thing, the
experiencer another,’ ‘The life principle and the body are one thing,’
‘The life principle and the body are separate.’ are done away with,
finished with, abandoned and unable to arise again. [S.II.61]

*  *

Question: Who is
it who receives contact?

Answer: You have
put the question wrongly. I do not say ‘receives contact.’ If I were to
say ‘receives contact,’ you could, in that case, rightly put to me the
question ‘Who is it who receives contact?’ But I do not say that. To ask
‘on what condition does contact rest?’ would be to ask the question
rightly. And the correct answer would be, ‘With the sense bases as
condition, there is contact. With contact as condition, feeling.’

Question: Who is
it who experiences feeling? Who is it who desires? Who is it who clings?

Answer: You have
put the question wrongly … To ask ‘On what condition does feeling
rest? What is it that conditions desire? What is it that conditions
clinging?’ would be asking the question in the right way. In that case,
the correct answer would be, ‘With contact as condition there is
feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition,
clinging.’ [S.II.13]

*  *

“Monks, this body does not
belong to you, nor does it belong to another. You should see it as old
kamma, something conditioned and concocted by volitional impulses, a
base of feeling.

“In regard to this, monks,
the learned, noble disciple wisely considers the dependent arising of
all things, thus, ‘When there is this, this comes to be. With the
cessation of this, this ceases. That is, with ignorance as condition are
volitional impulses; with volitional impulses as condition,
consciousness … With the complete abandoning of ignorance, volitional
impulses cease; with the cessation of volitional impulses, consciousness
ceases.’” [S.II.64]


of Dependent Origination demonstrates the truth of all things
in nature as having the characteristics of transience, stress and not
self,[**] and as faring
according to cause and effect. There is no need for questions about the
existence or non-existence of things, whether they are eternal or whether
they are annihilated and so on, as such questions do not pertain to what
is truly useful. However, without clear understanding of Dependent
Origination, the Three Characteristics, especially not-self, will also be
misunderstood. Quite often the teaching of not-self is taken to mean
nothingness, which conforms with the nihilist (natthika) view, a
particularly pernicious form of wrong understanding.

    In addition to helping to
avoid such views, a clear understanding of the principle of Dependent
Origination will prevent the arising of views about a Genesis or First
Cause, such as mentioned in the beginning of this book. Some of the
Buddha’s words in this connection:

“Monks, for a noble
disciple who sees the dependent arising of things in conformity with the
principle of Dependent Origination, it is impossible to fall into such
extreme views as, ‘What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having
been what in the past did I become thus?’; or such views as, ‘In the
future, will I be? In the future what will I be? In the future how will
I be? In the future what will I become?’; or, ‘Am I? What am I? How am
I? Where did this being arise from, and where will it go?’ — none of
these doubts can arise for him. Why? Because that noble disciple has
seen the dependent arising of things in accordance with the principle of
Dependent Origination, clearly, as it is, with perfect wisdom.”

    In this context, one who
sees the principle of Dependent Origination will no longer be inclined to
speculate about the questions of metaphysics. This is why the Buddha
remained silent on such issues. He called such questions abyakatapañha
— questions better left unanswered. On seeing the principle of Dependent
Origination, and understanding how all things flow along the cause and
effect continuum, such questions become meaningless. Here we may consider
some of the reasons why the Buddha would not answer such questions:

“Revered Gotama, what is
the reason that, while recluses of other sects, being questioned thus:

    1. Is the world
    2. Is the world not eternal?
    3. Is the world finite?
    4. Is the world infinite?
    5. Are the life principle and the body one thing?
    6. Are the life principle and the body separate?
    7. Do beings exist after death?
    8. Do beings not exist after death?
    9. Do beings both exist and not exist after death?
    10. Do beings neither exist nor not exist after death? …

… give such answers as
‘The world is eternal,’ or ‘the world is not eternal,’ … ‘Beings
neither exist nor do not exist after death,’ but the Revered Gotama,
being so questioned, does not answer thus?”

“Herein, Vaccha, these
recluses of other sects believe either that the body is the self, or
that the self has a body, or that the self is in the body, or that the
body is in the self, or that the self lies in the body; or that feeling
… perception … volitional impulses … consciousness is the self, or
that the self is consciousness, that consciousness lies in the self or
that the self lies within consciousness. It is for this reason that
those recluses, being so questioned, answer in such ways.

But the
Tathagata, Arahant, Fully Self-Enlightened Buddha, does not apprehend
the body to be the self or the self to be the body, or that the body
lies in the self, or the self within the body … that consciousness is
the self, or that consciousness lies within the self, or the self within
consciousness. For this reason, the Tathagata, Arahant, Fully
Self-Enlightened Buddha, being so questioned, does not make such
statements as ‘the world is eternal’ or ‘the world is not eternal’.”[22]


There are a number of other
theories or schools of thought which have a special relationship to the
concept of kamma, and which also clash with the principle of Dependent
Origination, but those points are covered in

another work
, so I will not go into them here.




Breaking the Cycle

The teaching of Dependent
Origination is part of what is known as the Middle Teaching (majjhena-dhammadesana).
It is taught as an impersonal, natural truth, a description of the nature
of things as they are, avoiding the extreme theories or biased views that
human beings are want to fall into as a result of their distorted
perceptions of the world and their attachments and desires within it. The
cycle of Dependent Origination which describes the problem of human
suffering comes in two limbs: the first limb, called the samudayavara
(origination mode), is a description of the arising of suffering,
corresponding with the second Noble Truth, the cause of suffering; the
second limb, called the nirodhavara (cessation mode), is a
description of the cessation of suffering, corresponding with the third
Noble Truth.

, then, the Middle Teaching[23]
describes two processes:

    1. Samudaya:
the origination mode of the Dependent Origination cycle: ignorance =>
volitional impulses … becoming => birth => aging and death, sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair = the arising of suffering.

    2. Nirodha:
the cessation mode of the Dependent Origination cycle: cessation of
ignorance => cessation of volitional impulses => cessation of
consciousness … cessation of aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain,
grief and despair = the cessation of suffering

    The reason we must deal
with the cause of suffering (samudaya) is because we are
confronted with a problem (dukkha), the solution of which demands
a search for its causes. When the cause of suffering is understood, we
recognize that the solution of the problem consists in the eradication of
those causes. Thus the process of cessation of suffering (nirodha)
is described. In the Middle Teaching, the cessation of suffering includes
not only the process for bringing about the cessation of suffering, but
also the state of cessation itself, which is Nibbana

    A discussion of the
subjects of suffering, the cause of suffering, the process of the
cessation of suffering and the state of suffering’s cessation would seem
to be a comprehensive description of the Buddha’s teachings, but in fact
it is not. This is because the Middle Teaching describes only natural
phenomena, functioning according to natural causes and conditions. It is
not geared to practical application. This is why the process of the
cessation of suffering, or nirodha, which is included within the
Middle Teaching, is simply a description of impersonal phenomena and their
interrelated functioning to produce the cessation of suffering. It does
not address the details of practical application in any way. It states
simply that in the attainment of the goal, the cessation of suffering, the
factors must proceed in this way, but it does not state what we must do in
order to make this process take place. The Middle Teaching is simply a
description of natural processes within the natural order. Studying the
mechanics of the process of cessation may lead to an understanding of the
basic principles involved, but we still lack practical guidance. What
methods are there for realizing this solving of problems which we have now
studied? This is the point at which the natural processes must be
connected to practical application.

    It is imperative that
practical application be in conformity and harmony with the natural
process — it must work in accordance with the natural process in order to
produce results. The principle at work here is, first, to know and
understand the natural processes, and then to practice in accordance with
a humanly devised method based on that knowledge and understanding. In
other words, as far as the natural processes are concerned, our only duty
is to know them, while in relation to the practice, our responsibility is
to formulate techniques that conform with that understanding, and thereby
graduate from mere knowledge of the natural processes to practical

    Practice, techniques and
methods of practice in this context are known by the specialized term of
patipada — the methods of practice, the way of life or
life-style which leads to the cessation of suffering. The Buddha laid down
methods of practice which are in harmony with the natural process, or the
Middle Teaching, and called this practice the Middle Way (majjhima
), consisting of techniques which are balanced, in conformity
with the natural processes, and perfectly attuned to bringing about the
cessation of suffering. The Way avoids the two extremes of sensual
indulgence and self torment which lead to stagnation or digression from
the true goal.

    The Middle Way is known
in short as magga, the Way. Because this Way has eight factors or
components, and transforms the one who successfully travels it into a
noble one (ariya), it is also known as the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Buddha stated that this Way, this Middle Path, was a time-honored way
upon which many had previously traveled and attained the goal. The Buddha
was merely the discoverer and proclaimer of this ancient way. His duty was
simply to point it out to others.[S.II.106]

    The Way is a technique
for realizing the objective, which is the cessation of suffering, in
conformity with the natural processes. It works within causes and
conditions, guiding them to interact and produce the desired result. When
we talk about the Way, we are no longer talking about an impersonal
process of suffering’s cessation, but a humanly devised technique, the
Eightfold Path. In other words, we have transcended the level of bare
knowledge and are entering into the field of practical application.

    In order to understand
this transference from a natural process to a formulated technique, we may
refer to the following schematic representation:

ignorance ceases => volitional impulses cease => consciousness ceases =>
body and mind cease => sense bases cease => contact ceases => feeling
ceases => craving ceases => clinging ceases => becoming ceases => birth
ceases => aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain grief and despair
cease => the cessation of suffering

Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood,
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration => cessation of

    We can summarize the
connection between the natural process of the cessation of suffering and
the human techniques for implementing it, known as the Way, as follows:

The Way arises from the use
of knowledge of the natural processes of cessation to formulate a method
of practice. It is essential to know and understand this natural process
to some extent, and this is why the Way begins with Right View.

The Way proposes techniques
of practice which can be adapted to time and place. It can be explained
in many levels, from simple to difficult. The eight factors of the Way
can be further divided into many sub-factors, making the path of
practice very complex. The Way is a technique which gradually leads to
the state of no problems, slower or faster, and more or less effective,
in accordance with the level of practice used.

The Way is a graduated
system of practice of human invention, relying on the gradual
accumulation of goodness in order to overcome the power of evil
conditions which obstruct or hold back the attainment of the goal. For
this reason the Way puts emphasis, especially in the earlier stages, on
the abandoning of evil and the cultivation of the good.

Cessation can be compared
to the principles for extinguishing fire, or the natural conditions
which cause fire to go out, which may be summarized as: lack of fuel,
lack of oxygen, or loss of temperature.

The Way can be compared to
the practical techniques for putting out fire, which must operate in
accordance with the natural principles. These will concern ways of
depriving the fire of fuel, depriving it of oxygen or bringing the
temperature down. When these three simple principles are transferred to
practical application, they become major concerns: techniques must be
devised and devices invented for the purpose. For instance, the kinds of
materials and tools to be used must be considered in terms of whether it
is an electrical, oil, gas or ordinary fire, and the techniques best
suited to each case must be adopted. People may have to be specially
trained for the purpose of extinguishing fires.

To use another analogy,
cessation can be compared to the principles for curing an illness, which
describe the cure by removing the cause, such as by destroying the
bacteria which caused it, removing the poison or foreign matter from the
body, or by addressing the malfunction or degeneration in the organs of
the body. The Way can be compared to the techniques and methods for
curing the illness. Compared to these, the principles of curing illness
appear minuscule. The techniques for curing them are enormous, beginning
with the observation of the illness’ symptoms, the diagnosis, the
application of medicines, the techniques of surgery, for nursing the
patient, and for physiotherapy; the invention and production of surgical
instruments; the building of hospitals and nursing homes; the hospital
administration system, and the training of doctors and nurses — to name
a few — which altogether present a vast and complex picture.

Although the Middle Way is
said to have eight factors, these factors are simply the basics, and they
can all be further divided into many other factors and classified into
numerous different systems and levels in accordance with different
objectives, situations, and temperaments. Thus, there are copious and
highly detailed teachings dealing with the Way, which require a great
amount of study. The Middle Way is a vast subject, needing an explanation
in its own right. Its study may be divided into two main sections:
firstly, dealing with the factors of the Path, which is the basic system,
and another section defining and analyzing those factors into various
forms for use in specialized circumstances. Here I will deal only with a
fundamental description of the factors of the Path.

    Before beginning to
describe the Path itself, let us look at some ways of illustrating the
step up from a natural state to practical application, or from a natural
process to a human technique.

    In the texts, these two
kinds of practice are described:

wrong practice or the wrong way, being the
way leading to suffering

right practice, or the right way, being the
way which leads to the cessation of suffering.

    In some places the
origination mode of the Dependent Origination cycle is said to be
, and the cessation mode is said to be
, represented like this:

ignorance => volitional impulses =>
consciousness => body and mind => sense bases => contact => feeling =>
craving => clinging => becoming => birth => aging and death, sorrow,
lamentation, pain grief and despair => suffering.

cessation of ignorance => cessation of
volitional impulses => cessation of consciousness => cessation of body and
mind => cessation of sense bases => cessation of contact => cessation of
feeling => cessation of craving => cessation of clinging => cessation of
becoming => cessation of birth => cessation of aging and death, sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair => cessation of suffering.[S.II.4]

    In another place,
however, the Buddha explained the practices which are directly opposed to
the Eightfold Path as miccha-patipada, and the Eightfold Path
itself as samma-patipada, thus:

Wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood,
wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration

Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood,
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.[S.V.18]

    The cycle of Dependent
Origination is a description of a natural process, not a path of practice.
However, the first set of right and wrong practices described above
describes practice in terms of the cycle of Dependent Origination. Is
there a contradiction here? It may be answered that the Dependent
Origination cycle illustrated here (and it is only illustrated as a form
of practice in this one Sutta) seeks to describe practical application.
The Commentators to this Sutta ask the question: ignorance may be a
condition for good actions, or merit (puññabhisankhara), or it
may serve to generate the state of highly stable concentration (aneñjabhisankhara);
why then is it said to be wrong practice? Answering their question, the
Commentators state that when people are motivated by a desire to be or to
get something, no matter what they may do — whether they develop the five
higher knowledges (abhiñña) or the eight attainments (samapatti)
— it is all wrong practice. On the other hand, those who are motivated by
an aspiration for Nibbana, who are aiming for relinquishment, or the
liberated mind, rather than attaining or obtaining something, will always
have right practice, even when doing such minor actions as making
offerings.[See S.A.II.14]

    However, my intention in
presenting these two kinds of right and wrong practice for comparison is
simply to incorporate them into an examination of the progression from the
natural process of cessation to the humanly devised technique known as the
Path, as has been explained above. Note that apart from describing the
process and practical path to goodness, those which are harmful or wrong
are also described.

    There is another way in
which the Buddha described the cycle of Dependent Origination in its
cessation mode which differs from those explained above. The beginning
half describes the arising of suffering in accordance with the normal
Dependent Origination cycle in forward or origination mode, all the way up
to the arising of suffering, but from there, instead of presenting the
cycle of Dependent Origination in the regular sequence, it describes a
progression of skillful conditions which condition each other in another
sequence that culminates in liberation. This is a wholly new sequence of
conditions which does not refer to the cessation of conditions in the
origination mode at all. This sequence is a very important example of how
the Path factors may be applied to a practical, real-life system. In other
words, it is a sequence which may arise for one who successfully treads
the Path and attains to the goal. This process of liberation is mentioned
in several places in the texts, differing somewhat from place to place. I
would like to present each of them, as follows:

    Ignorance => volitional
impulses => consciousness => body and mind => sense bases => contact =>
feeling => craving => clinging => becoming => birth => suffering
=> faith => gladness => rapture => calmness => happiness => concentration
=> knowledge and insight of things as they are => disenchantment =>
dispassion => liberation => destruction of the outflows.[S.II.31]

    Note that the progression
begins with ignorance and proceeds to suffering, which is the origination
mode of Dependent Origination, or the arising of suffering, but then,
having reached suffering, instead of the sequence beginning again at
ignorance as is usual, it continues with faith, which proceeds to take the
flow from ignorance into another direction, a skillful one, leading
ultimately to knowledge of the destruction of the outflows, no longer
returning to ignorance at all. Note that when suffering is taken as the
middle factor, the number of factors preceding it and succeeding it is the

    For one who understands
the nature of ignorance, the progression above will not seem strange: if
we divide it into two sections, we find that one is the sequence from
ignorance to suffering, while the other is the sequence from faith to
knowledge of the destruction of the outflows (enlightenment). In the
latter sequence, faith takes the place of ignorance. Faith here refers to
a modified or diluted form of ignorance. At this stage, ignorance is no
longer the totally blind kind, but is imbued with a grain of
understanding, which prods the mind to proceed in a good direction,
eventually leading to knowledge of things as they are and liberation.

    Simply speaking, this
means that once suffering has arisen, in accordance with the normal
channels, one searches for a way out. In cases where one has a chance to
hear the true teachings, or one develops an understanding of moral
rationale, this leads to gladness and rapture, which then encourage one to
strive for the development of progressively higher good qualities.

    In fact,
this latter sequence corresponds with the cessation mode of the standard
Dependent Origination format (with the cessation of ignorance is the
cessation of volitional impulses, etc.), but here a more detailed picture
is given, seeking to illustrate how the sequence of the arising of
suffering connects with the sequence of the cessation of suffering.

    In the
the following passage attributed to the Buddha is said to be a description
of the cessation mode of the Dependent Origination cycle:

in this way, skillful moral conduct has absence of remorse as its
objective, absence of remorse has gladness as its objective, gladness
has rapture as its objective, rapture has calmness as its objective,
calmness has happiness as its objective, happiness has concentration as
its objective, concentration has knowledge and insight into things as
they are as its objective, knowledge and insight into things as they are
has disenchantment as its objective, disenchantment has dispassion as
its objective, dispassion has knowledge of liberation as its objective.
It is thus that skillful moral conduct brings about the fulfillment of
these respective factors for the attainment of arahantship.”[25]

    According to this
passage, the sequence goes like this:

    Skillful moral conduct =>
absence of remorse => gladness => rapture => calmness => happiness =>
concentration => knowledge and insight into the way things are =>
disenchantment => dispassion => knowledge of liberation

    It can be seen that this
sequence is the same as that mentioned previously, except that it mentions
only the section dealing with the cessation of suffering, and excludes the
section dealing with the arising of suffering. Let us look once more at
the previous sequence:

    Ignorance => volitional
impulses => consciousness => body and mind => sense bases => contact =>
feeling => craving => clinging => becoming => birth => suffering => faith
=> gladness => rapture => calmness => happiness => concentration =>
knowledge and insight into things as they are => disenchantment =>
dispassion => liberation => destruction of the outflows

    Although both these
sequences are the same, they are not identically worded. One sequence
begins with faith, the other begins with skillful moral conduct and
continues with absence of remorse. From there they are the same. In fact
the only difference is in the wording and in terms of emphasis. The first
sequence illustrates the situation in which faith plays a prominent role.
However, in this kind of faith, the mind has full confidence in
rationality, is inspired by goodness, and assured of virtue. This mental
state will also be affected by behavior. Faith being so supported by
skillful and good behavior, it is followed by gladness, as in the other
sequence, which begins with skillful moral conduct and absence of remorse.
This sequence gives prominence to moral practice. In this situation, a
foundation of confidence in rationality and a predilection for goodness
are essential in order to maintain good moral conduct. With morality and
absence of remorse, self-assurance arises in the quality of one’s
behavior, which is a characteristic of faith. This gives the mind
confidence and clarity, and becomes a condition for the arising of
gladness, just as in the previous sequence.

    One of these sequences
finishes up with ‘liberation and destruction of the outflows,’ while the
other finishes up with ‘knowledge of liberation.’ They are both the same,
except that the latter sequence includes liberation and the destruction of
the outflows under the one heading of ‘knowledge of liberation.’

    Another illustration of
the process of liberation proceeds like this:

    Intelligent reflection (yoniso-manasikara)
=> gladness => rapture => calmness => happiness => concentration =>
knowledge and insight into things as they are => disenchantment =>
dispassion => liberation.[D.III.288]

    This sequence differs
only in that it begins with intelligent reflection, or knowing how to
think and reason for oneself, instead of faith, which relies on outside
influences for instruction. When one thinks properly and in accordance
with reality, one sees the way things really are, and the result is
gladness. From there, the factors of the progression are the same as in
the previous sequences.

These sequences show more
clearly the path of practice in relation to the cycle of Dependent
Origination. Even so, they are only a rough outline of practical
techniques. There are still many points that need to be clarified, such as
what needs to be done to initiate the arising of such a sequence. That is
a concern of the Path, the fourth of the Noble Truths, or the Middle Way,
which deals with the Buddhist ethical system, moral practice based on
knowledge of the natural processes. However, that is a vast subject which
must be dealt with in a later book.


Destruction of the Outflows





note on interpreting the principle of Dependent

It has been mentioned that in
the commentary to the Abhidhamma Pitaka (Sammohavinodani), the
principle of Dependent Origination is shown occurring entirely within the
space of one mind moment. This point needs to be reiterated because modern
study of the teaching (at least in traditional scholastic circles)
interprets it completely on a lifetime-to-lifetime basis. Accordingly,
when there are attempts to interpret the Dependent Origination cycle as a
process occurring in everyday life, those who adhere to the traditional
interpretations are want to dismiss them as baseless and in contradiction
to the scriptures. For mutual comfort and ease of mind, therefore, I have
included this reference to show that such an interpretation is not without
scriptural basis.

    Indeed, it is worth
noting that what evidence there is for this interpretation is possibly
only a shadow from the past which has become well-nigh forgotten, and
which is still in existence only because the Tipitaka stands as an
irrefutable reference.

    The commentarial
description of the cycle of Dependent Origination as a
lifetime-to-lifetime process, which is generally taken to be the
authority, comes from the Visuddhimagga, written by Acariya
Buddhaghosa around the fifth century AD. However, there is another
commentary which deals with the principle of Dependent Origination and
that is the Sammohavinodani mentioned above. The explanation here
is divided into two sections, the first dealing with the principle of
Dependent Origination on a lifetime-to-lifetime basis, as in the
, and the second explaining it as an event occurring
within one mind moment.

    The Sammohavinodani
is also the work of Acariya Buddhaghosa, and is believed to have been
written after the Visuddhimagga. The difference between the two
is that whereas the Visuddhimagga was authored by Acariya
Buddhaghosa himself, the Sammohavinodani is a commentary by him
on the Abhidhamma Pitaka. In his introduction to the Sammohavinodani,
Buddhaghosa writes, “I will glean this work from the ancient
commentaries.”[Vibh.A.1 (approx.)] Even in the Visuddhimagga,
when it comes to the section dealing with the principle of Dependent
Origination, he reveals, “An explanation of Dependent Origination is
extremely difficult,” and “Now I would like to expound on the
(principle of conditionality), even though I haven’t a
foot to stand on, like a man stepping into a flowing river with no
stepping stone. However, the Dependent Origination is rich with teachings,
not to mention the commentaries handed down from the ancient teachers in
an unbroken line. Relying on these two sources, I will now expound the
principle of Dependent Origination.”[Vism.522; identical to Vibh.A.130

    The explanation of the
principle of Dependent of Origination given in the Visuddhimagga,
unlike the Sammohavinodani, contains only an explanation of the
principle on a lifetime-to-lifetime basis. This explanation is almost
identical to that given in the Sammohavinodani. This being the
case, it may be asked, “Why is there no explanation of the principle of
Dependent Origination in one mind moment given in the Visuddhimagga?” It
may be that even in the time of Buddhaghosa scholastic circles generally
described the principle of Dependent Origination on a lifetime-to lifetime
basis. It may also be that the author felt more comfortable with this
interpretation because, difficult as it was, as he noted in his
introduction, still there existed the commentaries of the teachers handed
down till that time. The one-mind-moment interpretation, on the other
hand, was not only very difficult, but had also disappeared form
scholastic circles. This can be surmised from the Sammohavinodani
itself, where the description of this interpretation is extremely brief.
That any explanation of it occurs at all may be simply due to the fact
that it is mentioned in the Tipitaka and as such demanded an explanation.
The author was able to make use of the traces of commentary still
remaining to formulate his own commentary.

    Now let us consider the
explanation given in the Sammohavinodani itself. The
is a commentary to the Vibhanga, which is
the second volume of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The section of the
which describes the principle of Dependent Origination is
called the Paccayakara Vibhanga. It is divided into two sections:
the first is called Suttantabhajaniya (definition according to
the Suttas), the second, the Abhidhammabhajaniya (definition
according to the Abhidhamma). The Sammohavinodani , the
commentary to this volume, is likewise divided into two sections. It
describes the difference between the two sections thus:

    “The Fonder expounded the
paccayakara in terms of numerous moments of consciousness in the
Suttantabhajaniya, but as the paccayakara is not limited
to numerous minds, but can occur even in one mind moment, he now seeks to
explain the paccayakara as it occurs in one mind moment, and this
is the Abhidhammabhajaniya.”[Vibh.A.199 (approx.)] And elsewhere:
“In the Suttantabhajaniya the paccayakara is divided
into different lifetimes. In the Abhidhammabhajaniya it is
expounded in one mind moment.”[Vibh.A.200 (approx.)] In regard to the
principle of cause and effect as it functions in one mind moment in
everyday life, it is said, “…birth, (aging and death) for example, here
refer to birth (aging and death) of arupa (immaterial) things,
not to the decaying of the teeth, the graying of the hair, the wrinkling
of the skin, dying, the action of leaving existence.”[Vibh.A.208

final point deserves a mention: In the Vibhanga of the Tipitaka,
the section which describes the lifetime-to-lifetime interpretation
occupies only five pages of material. The section which describes the
principle of Dependent Origination in one mind moment contains seventy-two
pages.[26] But in the
, Buddhaghosa’s commentary, it is the reverse. Namely,
the section dealing with the lifetime-to-lifetime interpretation is long,
containing 92 pages, whereas the section dealing with the one-mind-moment
interpretation contains only 19 pages.[27]
Why the commentary on the one-mind-moment version of Dependent Origination
is so short is possibly because the author did to have much to say about
it. Or perhaps he thought it had already been explained sufficiently in
the Tipitaka, there being no need for further commentary. Whatever the
case, we can affirm that the interpretation of Dependent Origination in
everyday life is one that existed from the very beginning and is founded
on the Tipitaka, but only traces of it remain in the Commentaries.


Birth and death in the present moment


Those who would like to see a
reference to the cycle of rebirth in the present moment, in the present
life, might like to refer to the Sutta presented below:

“”The deep-grained
attachment to the feeling of self does not arise for one who is endowed
with these four conditions (pañña, wisdom; sacca,
integrity; caga, generosity; and upasama, calm.). With
no perception of self clouding one’s consciousness one is said to be a
muni, a peaceful one.” On what account did I say this?
Perceptions such as ‘I am,’ ‘I am not,’ ‘I will be,’ ‘I will not be,’ ‘I
will have form,’ ‘I will not have form,’ ‘I will have no form,’ ‘I will
have perception,’ ‘I will not have perception,’ ‘I will neither have nor
not have perception,’ monks, are an affliction, an ulcer, a dart. By
transcending these perceptions one is a muni, a peaceful one.

the muni is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not
confused, nor does he yearn. There are no longer any causes for birth in
him. Not being born, how can he age? Not aging, how can he die? Not
dying, how can he be confused? Not being confused, how can he be
desirous? “The deep-grained attachment to the feeling of self does not
arise for one who is endowed with these four conditions. With no
perception of self clouding one’s consciousness, one is a muni,
a peaceful one” — It was on this account that this statement was


Dependent Origination in the Abhidhamma


In the Abhidhamma many
different models of Dependent Origination are presented, sorted according
to the various kinds of skillful, unskillful and neutral mental states
involved in producing them. These are further analyzed according to the
levels of mental state involved, be they of the sensual realm (kamavacara),
the realm of form (rupavacara) the formless realm (arupavacara)or
the transcendent realm (lokuttara). This is because the
Abhidhamma studies the mind on the level of “thought moments,” and thus
analyses Dependent Origination according to the kind of specific mental
state involved. The factors occurring within these models will vary
according to the kind of mind-state.

    For example, in some
skillful mind states, the model might begin at sankhara,
volitional impulses, ignorance not being present, or it may even start
with one of the roots of skillfulness (non-greed, non-hatred and
non-delusion) instead of ignorance. Especially noteworthy is the fact that
craving will only occur in the models based on unskillful mental states.
In some instances, craving is replaced by pasada, inspiration, or
is excluded altogether. Ignorance and craving are suppressed at these
times — they do to appear in their standard forms but in other forms, if
not excluded altogether. Moreover, in the Abhidhamma Pitaka the various
factors are presented as components of a whole or as reversing actions
(such as “ignorance conditions volitional impulses, volitional impulses
condition ignorance; volitional impulses condition consciousness,
consciousness conditions volitional impulses;” etc.) Here I will present
only the more important descriptions:

A. 12
unskillful mental states (akusala citta):



volitional impulse

volitional impulse





mentality (nama)



sense base[a]

sixth sense base









(or) feeling



(or) feeling



(or) feeling



(or) craving



(or) craving



(or) aversion



(or) restlessness



(or) clinging



(or) conviction



(or) doubt



or) becoming



(or) birth


aging and death

= the arising
of the whole mass of suffering

B. Skillful
mental states (only those occurring in the realms of sensuality, form and



volitional impulse



volitional impulse

volitional impulse








sixth sense base

sixth sense base




















aging and death

= the arising
of the whole mass of suffering

(resultant) and kiriya (functional) mental states
(only those occurring in the sensual, form and formless realms):

(skillful root


volitional impulse)

volitional impulse








sixth sense base

sixth sense base









(or) feeling






(or) feeling














aging and death

= the arising
of the whole mass of suffering

Transcendent mental states (skillful and resultant):




volitional impulse

(or) skillful root


volitional impulse


(skillful root


volitional impulse)

volitional impulse








sixth sense base

sixth sense base




















aging and death

= the arising
of all these dhammas

Note that the transcendent
skillful mental state may begin at ignorance or a skillful root, but the
resultant transcendent mind state begins at a skillful root or, if not,
then at a volitional impulse. In addition, the final phrase “and thus is
the arising of this whole mass of suffering” becomes “and thus is the
arising of all these dhammas.”


A problem with the word “nirodha”

The word nirodha has
been translated as “cessation” for so long that it has become standard
practice, and any deviation from it leads to queries. Even in this book I
have opted for this standard translation for sake of convenience and to
avoid confusing it for other Pali terms (apart from lack of a better
word). In fact, however, this rendering of the word “nirodha” as “ceased”
can in many instances be a mis-rendering of the text.

    Generally speaking, the
word “cease” means to do away with something which has already arisen, or
the stopping of something which has already begun. However, nirodha
in the teaching of Dependent Origination (as also in dukkhanirodha,
the third of the Four Noble Truths) means the non-arising, or
non-existence, of something because the cause of its arising is done away
with. For example, the phrase “when avijja is nirodha,
sankhara are also nirodha,” which is usually taken to
mean “with the cessation of ignorance, volitional impulses cease,” in fact
means “when there is no ignorance, or no arising of ignorance, or when
there is no longer any problem with ignorance, there are no volitional
impulses, volitional impulses do not arise, or there is no longer any
problem with volitional impulses.” It does not mean that ignorance already
arisen must be done away with before the volitional impulses which have
already arisen will also be done away with.

    Where nirodha
should be rendered as cessation is when it is used in reference to the
natural way of things, or the nature of compounded things. In this sense
it is a synonym for the words bhanga, breaking up, anicca,
transient, khaya, cessation or vaya, decay. For example,
in the Pali it is given: imam kho bhikkhave tisso vedana anicca
sankhata paticcasamuppanna khayadhamma vayadhamma viragadhamma
: “Monks, these three kinds of feeling are naturally
impermanent, compounded, dependently arisen, transient, subject to decay,
dissolution, fading and cessation.”[S.IV.214] (All of the factors
occurring in the Dependent Origination cycle have the same nature.) In
this instance, the meaning is “all conditioned things (sankhara),
having arisen, must inevitably decay and fade according to supporting
factors.” There is no need to try to stop them, they cease of themselves.
Here the intention is to describe a natural condition which, in terms of
practice, simply means “that which arises can be done away with.”

    As for nirodha
in the third Noble Truth (or the Dependent Origination cycle in cessation
mode), although it also describes a natural process, its emphasis is on
practical considerations. It is translated in two ways in the
. One way traces the etymology to “ni” (without) +
“rodha” (prison, confine, obstacle, wall, impediment), thus rendering the
meaning as “without impediment,” “free of confinement.” This is explained
as “free of impediments, that is, the confinement of samsara.”
Another definition traces the origin to anuppada, meaning “not
arising”, and goes on to say “nirodha here does not mean
, breaking up and dissolution.”

    Therefore, translating
nirodha as “cessation”, although not entirely wrong, is
nevertheless not entirely accurate. On the other hand, there is no other
word which comes so close to the essential meaning as “cessation.”
However, we should understand what is meant by the term. In this context,
the Dependent Origination cycle in its cessation mode might be better
rendered as “being free of ignorance, there is freedom from volitional
impulses …” or “when ignorance is gone, volitional impulses are gone
…” or “when ignorance ceases to give fruit, volitional impulses cease to
give fruit …” or “when ignorance is no longer a problem, volitional
impulses are no longer a problem.”

    Even in the forward mode,
there are some problems with definitions. The meaning of many of the Pali
terms are too broad to be translated into any single English words. For
instance, avijja paccaya sankhara also means “When ignorance is
like this, volitional impulses are like this; volitional impulses being
this way, consciousness is like this; consciousness being this way, body
and mind are like this; …”




Abhidhammabhajaniya of the Paccayakara-vibhanga: Vbh.138ff. [Back
to text

See Visuddhimagga, Vism.517-586; Vbh.A.130-213 (approx.) (pp. 199-213
(approx.) describe the one-mind-moment process). [Back
to text

See Paccayakara-vibhanga, Vbh.135ff.; Vism.517-586; Vbh.A.130-213;
Abhidhammattha-sangaha, Chapter 8. [Back
to text

For a reference to the descriptions given below, see S.II.2-4; Vbh.135;
for commentary, see Vism.517-586; Vbh.A.130-213. [Back
to text

Pubbanta-aparanta-pubbantaparanta: the past, the future, both the
past and the future. [Back
to text

Phassa is the contact between sense organ, sense object and
consciousness. [Back to

Vedana can also be classified as three kinds: pleasant,
unpleasant and neither pleasant nor unpleasant; or as five kinds: pleasant
bodily feeling, unpleasant bodily feeling, pleasant mental feeling,
unpleasant mental feeling, and neutral or indifferent feeling. [Back
to text

Craving can also be classified as of three kinds: sensual craving, craving
for being and craving for annihilation. When these three are multiplied by
the number of sense doors, six , there are eighteen; when again multiplied
by two (internal and external) there are thirty-six; when this is again
multiplied by three (past, present and future) the result is a total of
108 kinds of craving: A.II.212. [Back
to text

Vbh.145,159,191. This latter interpretation is used to explain
the Dependent Origination cycle in one mind moment. [Back
to text

Ditto. [Back to text]

The three vatta are from the Commentaries. They explain the
principle of Dependent Origination in a very simplified form: when there
is kilesa, such as a desire to obtain something, it is followed
by kamma, action to obtain it, and vipaka, the pleasant
feeling that results on obtaining it or the unpleasant feeling that
results from not obtaining it. These pleasant and unpleasant feelings
cause the arising of more kilesa, more desire and aversion, which
in turn generate more actions, kamma, leading to a different kind
of vipaka, and so on. [Back
to text

A.V.113; Vism.525; according to this Sutta, ignorance is nurtured
by the five hindrances. [Back
to text

A.V.116; Vism.525; craving for being is said to be nurtured by ignorance.
[Back to text]

The term upapattibhava comes from the Abhidhamma. In the later
Suttas, the term is patisandhipunnabhava (see Nd2 569). [Back
to text

Scholars are divided over interpretations of bhavatanha and
. Two or three groups of definitions of the term are
given in the Tipitaka and Comentaries (Vbh.365; Vism.567) Some scholars
compare bhavatanha with Freud’s life instinct or life wish, and
vibhavatanha to the death instinct or death wish. (See M. O’c.
Walshe, Buddhism for Today, Allen and Unwin, London, 1962, pp.
37-40.) There is a particularly lucid definition in the Itivuttaka
(It.43-44). [Back to

Asava: three outflows — kamasava, bhavasava, avijjasava
— are given in D.II.81; S.IV.256; etc. Four outflows — kamasava,
bhavasava, ditthasava
and avijjasava — are given in the
Abhidhamma, see Vbh.373. In M.A.I.56 it is said that ditthasava,
the outflow of views, can be included within bhavasava, the
outflow of becoming, because the desire for being and attachment to
states are linked with either the eternalist or annihilationist
views. For a general explanation, see Nd2.274; D.A.III.989 (approx);
Vin.Tika (Thai edition) 1/476 (unpublished in Romanized Pali). [Back
to text

17. Phra
Ariyanandamuni, Luk Phra Buddhasasana (Suvijahn, 1956), p. 60. [Back
to text

The four bases of clinging occur in D.III.230; Vbh.375 and elsewhere.
, clinging to [the notion of] self, is essentially
clinging to one or another of the five khandhas, as is said in
the Tipitaka, “The unenlightened being perceives that form (body) is self,
or that self has form, or that form is within self, or that self is within
form. He perceives that feeling … perception … volitional impulses …
consciousness is the self, or that self has consciousness, or that
consciousness is within the self or that self is within consciousness.” [Back
to text


The Pali words here are: pariyesana, labha,
, chandaraga, ajjhosana, pariggaha,
macchariya and arakkha respectively. [Back
to text

D.II.58; these nine conditions occur elsewhere under the title of the nine
conditions rooted in craving (tanhamulakadhamma), such as in
D.III.289; A.IV.400; Vbh.390. [Back
to text

D.III.289; Ps.I.187; the word “elements” (dhatu) here refers to
the eighteen elements: six internal sense bases (sense organs), six
external sense bases (sense objects) and six consciousnesses. [Back
to text

S.II.39; for further study, see D.I.53; S.I.134; D.III.137. [Back
to text

The Three Characteristics: aniccam, dukkham, and
. [Back to

S.IV.395; the reasons that the Buddha refused to answer questions
dealing with metaphysics are many. Most importantly, such questions are
based on wrong assumptions, such as the concept of self. They do not
correlate with reality. As the Buddha would say, “You have asked the
question wrongly.” Another reason for his silence is that the truths these
questions seek are not accessible to logical thinking and cannot be
answered in words. Like trying to look at a picture with one’s ears, such
indulgences are a waste of time. Another reason is that, since such
questions are inaccessible to rational thinking, debating them would yield
no practical results. The Buddha’s main interest was in giving teachings
that would yield results on a practical basis, so he swept aside the
questions of metaphysics and instead guided his questioners to more
practical concerns. If the question was one which could be answered by
personal experience, the Buddha, rather than prolonging the conjecture or
debate, would show how the questioner could realize it for himself.
Lastly, the Buddha was born at a time when metaphysical questions
generated intense interest, and teachers and philosophers were debating
them heatedly all over the country. Whenever people approached religious
teachers or philosophers they would tend to ask these questions. The
questions had become so much of an obsession that people had gotten out of
touch with practical reality; that is why the Buddha would remain silent
on them. His silence was not only a check on metaphysical discussions, but
also a powerful jolt to the listener to take heed of what it was the
Buddha did have to teach. For references to these reasons for not
answering, see M.I.426, 484; S.II.222-3; S.IV.375; A.IV.68; A.V.193. [Back
to text

The phrase majjhena dhammadesana, or Middle Teaching, comes from
the Pali sentence “majjhena dhammam deseti,” which occurs
frequently throughout the Nidanavagga of the Samyutta Nikaya, from S.II.17
to S.II.77. [Back to text]

Ñanamoli, The Guide, Pali Text Society, 1962, p.97. [Back
to text

A.V.311. In A.V.1, the same passage occurs, except that it puts
and viraga together as one. cf A.III.19. [Back
to text

Suttantabhajaniya Vbh.135-138; Abhidhammabhajaniya Vbh.138-191. [Back
to text

Suttantabhajaniya Vbh.A.130-198 (approx.); Abhidhammabhajaniya Vbh.A.
199-213 (approx.). [Back to

M.III.246; see also M.III.225; S.III.228; S.IV.14; (old age = degeneration
or loss); Thag.247. [Back
to text

More Footnotes:

Chatthayatana: the sixth sense base, which is mano,
mind. [Back to text]

b. Patigha: aversion. [Back
to text

Adhimokkha: conviction. [Back
to text

Kusalamula: roots of skill; i.e., non-greed. non-aversion,
non-delusion. [Back to

Pasada: inspiration, faith. [Back
to text



A. = Anguttara Nikaya

D. = Digha Nikaya

D.A. = Digha Nikaya

It. = Itivuttaka

J. = Jataka

M. = Majjhima Nikaya

M.A. Majjhima Nikaya

Nd1 = Maha Niddesa

Nd2 = Cula Niddesa

S. = Samyutta Nikaya

Thag. = Theragata

Vbh. = Vibhanga

Vbh.A. = Vibhanga

Vin. = Vinaya Pitaka

Vism. = Visuddhimagga


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