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Paticca-Samuppada Home

Introduction to
PATICCA-SAMUPPADA

"Dependent Co-origination" is truly the "Heart of Buddha-Dhamma."
Right Understanding of Not-Self & Voidness depends on understanding Dependent Co-origination
Cultivating this understanding is invaluable for wise Dhamma practice.
In the Buddha's words:

"Whoever sees the Dhamma, sees me; whoever sees me, see the Dhamma."

"Whoever sees paticca-samuppada, sees the Dhamma;
whoever sees the Dhamma, sees paticca-samuppada."

THE LAW OF IDAPPACCAYATA:
The Heart of
PATICCA-SAMUPPADA

    (the fundamental principle)

    Imasmim sati idam hoti
    When this exists, this naturally exists;

    Imassuppada idam uppajjati
    Due to the arising of this, this consequently arises.

    Imasmim asati idam na hoti
    When this does not exist, this naturally does not exist;

    Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati
    Due to the quenching of this, this consequently quenches.

    [Maj. Maj. 13/355/371; Sam. Nidana. 16/84/154; and a dozen others.]

The Core Teaching on PATICCA-SAMUPPADA

    Depending on the eyes (cakkhu) and form (rupa), eye-consciousness (cakkhuvinyana) arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa).

With contact as condition, there is feeling (vedana);

with feeling as condition, there is craving (tanha);

with craving as condition, there is attachment (upadana);

with attachment as condition, there is becoming (bhava);

with becoming as condition, there is birth (jati);

with birth as condition, old age and death (jaramarana), sorrow, grief, pain, lamentation, and despair arise completely. The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way.

    Depending on the ears (sota) and sound, ear-consciousness (sotavinyana) arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa). ... (and so on) ... The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way. 

    Depending on the nose and odor, nose-consciousness arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa). ... (and so on) ... The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way.

    Depending on the tongue and flavor, tongue-consciousness arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa). ... (and so on) ... The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way.

    Depending on the body (kaya) and physical sensation, body-consciousness (kayavinyana) arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa). ... (and so on) ... The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way.

    Depending on the mind (mano) and an "idea" (dhammaramana), mind-consciousness (manovinyana) arises. The meeting together of these three dhammas is contact (phassa).

With contact as condition, there is feeling (vedana);

with feeling as condition, there is craving (tanha);

with craving as condition, there is attachment (upadana);

with attachment as condition, there is becoming (bhava);

with becoming as condition, there is birth (jati);

with birth as condition, old age and death (jaramarana), sorrow, grief, pain, lamentation, and despair arise completely. The dependent co-origination of the entire mass of dukkha happens in just this way.

[This passage appears a number of times in the Pali Suttas, for example, Samyutta-nikaya,
Salayatana-vagga, Salayatana-samyutta, Yogakkhemi-vagga, Sutta #10 (18/111/163),
when the Buddha spoke these words to himself while alone in the forest.]

HEY! WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
(some guide questions for introspection)

An easy way to begin studying Paticca-samuppada is to reflect on some on-going issue or problem in your life. It need not be a big deal; any petty old problem will do for a start. It's best to focus on particular instances or situations in which the "problem" has manifested. (The following guide questions are derived from the above "short form" teaching on paticca-samuppada.)

  1. What's the problem? What about it really bugs me, hurts me, or feels most burdensome? 
  2. How do I relate to it emotionally (fear, resentment, anger, boredom, lust, greed, worry, guilt, pride, )?
  3. Who do you think you are in this situation ("I am this," "I am not that")? Who's got the problem? What are the particular identities, personas, masks, self-images, roles involved in this problem?
  4. What is mind/thought stuck on & trying to control? To what idea or memory or experience does it keep coming back? What is it hanging on to? How?
  5. What does it want?
  6. Which experiences & events connected with the "problem" feel negative (unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful) and which feel positive (pleasant, nice, convenient, happy) and which are somewhere in between?
  7. Which experiences & events of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, remembering, imagining, and thinking trigger these cycles (the above aspects of the problem)?

These questions are intended to aid introspection and reflection. They may have multiple answers and varying layers of subtlety. They may require time and further observation -- not just thinking -- to go deeper. They may be investigated repeatedly. Go into specifics and real-life detail. Notice how things interdependently co-originate and proliferate. Have fun!

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Updated 08 September 1999 Evolution/Liberation