A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw | 62,614 words

The Paticcasamuppada refers to “The Doctrine of Dependent Origination”. This is the English translation done by U Aye Maung Published by U Min Swe Buddhasasana Nuggaha Organization Rangoon, Burma....

Chapter 6 - Knowledge For Vipassana Practice

Those who have a smattering of Paticcasamuppada or Abhidhamma say that it is impossible to practise meditation without a knowledge of these teachings. But, in fact the yogi who practises under the guidance of a learned teacher need not bother about higher Buddhist philosophy for he can follow the teachers instructions if he knows only that life is a mental and physical process characterized by impermanence, suffering and insubstantiality. The adequacy of this simple knowledge to meet the intellectual need of the yogi who is bent on Arahatship is borne out by the Buddha in Culatanha sankhaya sutta. There the Lord goes on to talk about vipassana practice. In the sutta, the yogis understanding of nama rupa is termed “abhijanati” which, says the commentary, means full comprehension and refers to nama rupa paricchedanana and paccayapariggahanana.

Through contemplation, the yogi knows all phenomena analytically as anicca, dukkha and anatta (parijanati). Here, the Pali terms refer to sammasananana and other vipassana insights.

As regards Paticcasamuppada, a knowledge of the conditionality and cause effect relationship in life that rules out a being ego or self is sufficient. It is not necessary to know the twelve links or the twenty main points of the doctrine thoroughly. If the practice of vipassana presupposes such a comprehensive knowledge, it would be unthinkable for a man of low intelligence like, say, thera Culapanna. The theras memory was so poor that he could not remember a few gathas that he had learnt for four months. Nevertheless, he attained Arahatship in a few hours when he practised contemplation as instructed by the Buddha.

Another laywoman, Matikamata by name, attained the third stage (anagami) on the holy path in advance of some bhikkhus who were her meditation teachers. She did not know much about Abhidhamma and Paticcasamuppada. There were many other yogis like this woman and Culapanna thera. So it is possible for a yogi to attain the holy path if he contemplates even though he may not have thoroughly learnt the higher teachings of the Buddha.

Not to know the real nature of pleasant or unpleasant feeling is avijja (ignorance). It is tanha to like a sense object and it is upadana to have craving for it. To seek the object of ones desire, to do good or evil for ones happiness or welfare in the present life or hereafter means sankhara and kammabhava. These five factors are the present causes and they give rise to rebirth after death. The doctrine of Paticcasamuppada mentions only three causes, viz., vedana, tanha and upadana but in reality these three factors imply two other causes, viz., avijja and sankhara since these two are the mainsprings of tanha and kammabhava respectively. So Patisambhidamagga describes all these five factors as causes of rebirth in future.

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