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 8 - Conclusion

Now we will conclude the discourse on Paticcasamuppada with a commentary on Arahant, the chief attribute of the Buddha.

The formula about the dependent origination consists of twelve links beginning with ignorance and ending in death. It has ignorance and craving as two root causes and two life cycles. The anterior cycle begins with ignorance and ends in feeling, while the posterior cycle begins with craving and ends in death and old age. Since anxiety, grief and the like do not occur in the Brahma world, they do not necessarily stem from birth (jati) and, as such, are not counted among the links of the dependent origination.

Furthermore, the anterior life cycle explicitly shows only avijja and sankhara; but avijja implies tanha upadana and sankhara implies kammabhava. So all these five links form the past causes, while vinnana, nama rupa, ayatana, phassa and vedana form the present effects. These vinnana, etc., are the wholesome or unwholesome kammic fruits that are clearly experienced at the moment of seeing, etc. The posterior life cycle directly concerns tanha, upadana and kammabhava but these three causes imply avijja and sankhara, and so as in the past avijja, tanha, upadana, sankhara and kammabhava represent the five present causes that lead to birth, old age and death in future. These effects are the same as those of vinnana, nama rupa, etc. Thus, like the present effects, the future effects are also five in number.

So there are altogether four groups of layers of five past causes, five present effects, five present causes and five effects in the future. The layers represent three causal relations viz., the relation between the past causes and the present effects; the relation between the present effects and present causes; and the conditionality of phenomenal existence is evident in these layers or the twenty links of cause and effect which are termed //akara//. These links may be grouped in terms of vatta or cycles or rounds of defilements, viz., the cycle of defilements, the cycle of kamma and the cycle of kammic fruits which we have already explained before.

Those who have done good kammas pass through human, deva or Brahma worlds while those who have done evil are doomed to rebirth in the lower worlds. Living beings confined to life cycle (samsara) get the chance to do good only when they have a good teacher. A good teacher is hard to come by and so many people are largely prone to evil deeds and subject to their kammic effects in terms of suffering. It is then said that they are overtaken by Nemesis, that they have to pay for their round of kamma. Once established on the Ariyan path, they cannot land in hell but as for the cycle of kammic fruits, even the Buddhas and Arahats are not spared kammic retribution.

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