A Manual of Abhidhamma

by Nārada Thera | 80,494 words | ISBN-13: 9789380336510

In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that finds no parallel in any other philosophy. Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes by Narada Maha Thera....

The Law of Dependent Arising

Patthānanayo pana āhaccapaccayatthitam ārabbha pavuccati. Ubhayam pana vomissetvā papañcenti ācariya.

Tattha avijjāpaccayā sankhārā, sankhārāpaccayā viññānam, viññāna-paccayā nāmarūpam, nāmarūpa-paccayā salāyatanam, salāyatana-paccayā phasso, phassa-paccayā vedanā, vedanā-paccayā tanhā, tanhā-paccayā upādānam, upādāna-paccayā bhavo, bhava-paccayā jāti, jāti-paccaya jarā-maranasoka-parideva-dukkha-domanass' upāyāsā sambhavanti. Evam' etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hotī' ti ayam'ettha paticcasamuppādanayo.

Tattha tayo addhā; dvādasangani; vīsatākārā; tisandhi; catusankhepo; tīni vattāni; dve mūlāni ca veditabbāni.

Katham? avijjā, sankhārā atīto addhā; jāti, jarā, maranam anāgato addhā; majjhe attha paccuppanne addhā' ti tayo addhā.

Avijjā, sankhārā, viññānam, nāmarūpam, salāyatanam, phasso, vedanā, tanhā, upādānam, bhavo, jāti, jarāmaranan'ti dvādasangāni. Sokādivacanam pan' ettha nissandaphalanidassanam.

Avijjāsankhāraggahanena pan'ettha tanhūpādānabhavā pi gahitā bhavanti. Tathā tanh' ūpādānabhavaggahanena ca avijjāsankhārā, jātijarāmaranaggahanena ca viññānādiphalapañcakam'eva gahitanti katvā,

Atīte hetavo pañca idāni phalapañcakam
Idāni hetavo pañca āyatim phalapañcakanti
Vīsatākārā, tisandhi, catusankhepā, ca bhavanti.

Avijjā tanhūpādānā ca kilesavattam; kammabhavasankhāto bhav'ekadeso; sankhārā ca kammavattam; upapattibhavasankhāto bhav' ekadeso; avasesā ca vipākavattanti tīni vattāni.

Avijjātanhāvasena dve mūlani ca veditabbāni.

1. Tesameva ca mūlānam nirodhena nirujjhati

Jārāmaranamucchāya pīlitānam abhinhaso
āsavānam samuppādā avijjā ca pavattati.

2. Vattamābandham iccevam tebhūmakam anādikam

Paticcasamuppādo'ti patthapesi mahāmuni.




Dependent on Ignorance (5 ) arise Conditioning Activities (6).
Dependent on Conditioning Activities arises (Rebirth) Consciousness (7).
Dependent on (Rebirth) Consciousness arise Mind and Matter (8).
Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the six (Sense) Bases (9).
Dependent on the six (sense) Bases arises contact (10).
Dependent on Contact arises Feeling (11).
Dependent on Feeling arises Craving (12).
Dependent on Craving arises Grasping (13).
Dependent on Grasping arises Action or Becoming (14)
Dependent on Action arises Birth (15).|
Dependent on Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair.

Thus arises the whole mass of suffering.

Herein this is the Law of the Dependent Arising.

It should be understood that there are three periods twelve factors, twenty modes, three connections, four divisions, three rounds, and two roots.

How ?

Ignorance and Conditioning Activities belong to the past; Birth, Decay, Death belong to the future; the intermediate eight to the present. Thus there are three periods.

Ignorance, (moral and immoral) Activities, (Rebirth) Consciousness, Mind and Matter, Six Sense Bases, Contact, Feeling, Craving, Grasping, Action, Birth, Decay and Death are the twelve factors. The terms Sorrow and so on are shown as incidental consequences (of Birth).

Here, by taking ignorance and activities, craving, grasping, and action are also taken. Likewise, by taking craving, grasping, and action, ignorance and activities are also taken. By taking birth, decay and death, the five effects with consciousness and so on are taken also. Thus there are:

Five causes pertaining to the past, and five effects to the present; five causes pertaining to the present, and five effects to the future.

There are twenty, modes, three connections and four divisions.

The three Rounds:

  1. Ignorance, craving, and grasping belong to the Round of Passions;
  2. One part of becoming (bhava) known as action and (moral and immoral) activities belongs to the Round of Kamma.
  3. One part of becoming known as renewed existence (upapattibhava) and the rest belong to the Round of Effects.

Ignorance and craving should be understood as the two roots (10) (see diagrams XVI and XVII).


By the destruction of these roots does the Round cease.

The ignorance, originating from defilements (17), increases in the constantly oppressed who faint by decay and death.

The Great Sage has thus expounded this entangled, beginningless existence in the triple sphere as the 'Law of Dependent Arising'.



1. Sankhatadhammānam - To the conditioned nāma and rūpa described in the previous chapters.

2. Paticcasamuppāda - Paticca = because of, on account of; samuppāda = arising, origination. Although the literal meaning of the term is 'arising because of' or dependent arising or origination, it is applied to the whole causal formula which consists of twelve interdependent causes and effects, technically called paccaya and paccayuppanna.

S. Z. Aung renders paticcasamuppādanaya by 'The Law of happening by way of cause'.

In this chapter the Law of Dependent Arising is not mixed up with the Patthānanaya as in the Visuddhi-Magga.

3. Patthānanaya - According to the Ceylon Commentary here the prefix 'pa' means 'various' (nānappakāra). Ledi Sayadaw says 'principal' (padhāna). Thāna (lit. station) signifies 'cause' (paccaya) which is paraphrased by 'upakārakadhamma' - aiding or supportive conditions. These various or principal causes are described in detail in the Patthānapakarana, the seventh book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The system expounded in this treatise is called Patthānanaya.

The difference between the two understood as follows:

  1. Because of A arises B. Because of B arises C. When there is no A there is no B. When there is no B there is no C. In other words 'this being so, that is; this not being so, that is not' (imasmim sati, idam hoti; imasmim asati, idam na hoti). This is the paticcasamuppādanaya.
  2. When we say that A is related to B in the way of 'coexistence', 'interdependence', we get an illustration of patthānanaya.

See Journal of the Pāli Text Society, 1915-l916, pp. 21-53.

4. Tabbhāvabhāvībhāvākāramatta; bhāvākāramatta = the simple happening of a state; tabbhāvabhāvī = dependent on its antecedent state.

5. Avijjā, lit., not-knowingness, i.e., of the four Noble Truths. It is also explained as 'that which causes beings to run in the endless Samsāra' (antavirahite samsāre satte javāpeti). 'Whereby the fruit is produced' is termed 'paccaya', which is the cause. When ignorance is destroyed and turned into knowingness, all causality is shattered as in the case of Buddhas and Arahats.

6. Sankhāra - This is a multisignificant term which should be understood according to the context. Here the term signifies immoral (akusala), moral (kusala), and unshakable (āneñjā) volitions (cetanā) which constitute Kamma that produces rebirth. The first embraces all volitions in the 12 types of immoral consciousness; the second, all volitions in the 8 types of Beautiful (kusala) consciousness and the 5 types of kusala rūpa-jhāna consciousness; the third, all volitions in the 4 types of kusala arūpa-jhānas. Where is no proper English equivalent which gives the exact connotation of this Pāli term. Sankhārā, as one of the five aggregates, implies the 50 mental states excluding feeling and perception.

The volitions of the four supramundane Path consciousnesses (lokuttara-magga-citta) are not regarded as sankhārā because they tend to eradicate ignorance. Wisdom (paññā) is predominant in Supramundane types of consciousness, while volition (cetanā) is predominant in the mundane types of consciousness.

Ignorance is predominant in immoral activities, while it is latent in moral activities. Hence both moral and immoral actions are regarded as caused by ignorance.

7. Viññāna - strictly denotes the 19 types of rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi viññāna) described in chapter V. All the 32 types of resultant consciousness (vipāka-citta) experienced during lifetime, are also implied by the term.

The foetus in the mother's womb is formed by the combination of this relinking-consciousness with the sperm and ovum cells of the parents. In this consciousness are latent all the past impressions, characteristics and tendencies of that particular individual life-flux.

This relinking-consciousness is regarded as "radiant" (pabhassara) as it is either devoid of immoral roots of lust, hatred and delusion (as in the case of rootless resultants - ahetuka-vipāka), or accompanied by moral roots (as in the case of resultants with roots).

8. Nāma-rūpa - This compound should be understood as nāma alone, rūpa alone, and nāmarūpa together. In the case of arūpa planes there arises only mind; in the case of mindless (asañña) planes, only matter; in the case of kāma and rūpa planes, both mind and matter.

By nāma are here meant the three aggregates - feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā) and sankhārā - that arise simultaneous with rebirth-consciousness. By rūpa are meant the three decads[1] kāya, bhāva-vatthu - that also arise simultaneous with rebirth-consciousness conditioned by past kamma. The second and third factors pertain to the past and present. The third and fourth factors, on the contrary, are contemporaneous.

9. Salāyatana - During the embryonic period the six sense-bases gradually evolve from the psycho physical phenomena in which are latent infinite potentialities. The insignificant, infinitesimally small speck now develops into a complex six-sense-machine which now operates almost mechanically without any agent like a soul to act as the operator. The six sense-bases are eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The first five refer to the sensitive organs that evolve by degrees. Mind-base has already been explained.

10. Phassa - See Chapters 1 and 2.

11. Vedanā - Ibid.

12. Tanhā (Craving) is threefold, namely, craving for sensual pleasures (kāma-tanhā), craving for sensual pleasures associated with the view of eternalism (bhava-tanhā) i.e., enjoying, pleasures thinking that they are imperishable, and craving for sensual pleasures associated with the view of nihilism (vibhava-tanhā) i.e., enjoying pleasures thinking that everything perishes after death. The last is the materialistic point of view.

Bhava-tanhā and vibhava-tanhā are also interpreted as attachment to rūpa and arūpa Planes respectively. Usually these two terms are rendered by craving for existence and non-existence.

There are six kinds of craving corresponding to the six sense-objects such as form, sound, and so on. They become 12 when they are treated as internal and external. They are reckoned as 36 when past, present and future are taken into consideration. When multiplied by the foregoing three kinds of craving they amount to 108.

13. Upādāna, derived from upa + ā + Ö da, to give, is intense craving or firm grasping. Tanhā is like groping in the dark to steal an object. Upādāna corresponds to the actual stealing. Grasping results with attachment and error. It gives rise to the false notions of 'I' and 'mine'.

14. Bhava, lit., becoming, is explained as both moral and immoral action which constitute Kamma (kamma-bhava) - active process of becoming - and the different planes of existence (upapattibhava) - passive process of becoming. The only difference between sankhāra and kammabhava is that the former pertains to the past and the latter to the present. It is only the (kamma) bhava that conditions the future birth.

15. Jāti, strictly speaking, is the arising of the aggregates (khandhānam pātubhāvo). Ignorance is shown as the past cause that conditions the present, and Craving as the present cause that conditions the future.

17. āsavas or Defilements, latent in all worldlings, are cited as the cause of ignorance.

Footnotes and references:


The body decad (kāyadasaka) is composed of tbe four elements, namely,

  1. the element of extension (pathavi),
  2. the element of cohesion (āpo),
  3. the element of heat (tejo),
  4. the element of motion (vāyo);

its four derivatives (upūdārūpa) - namely,

  1. colour (vanna),
  2. odour (gandha),
  3. taste (rasa),
  4. nutritive essence (oja),
  5. with vitality (jīvitindriya),
  6. and body (kāya).

Sex-decad (bhavadasaka) and base-decad (vatthudasaka) also consist of the first nine and sex and seat of consciousness respectively.

From this it is evident that sex is determined by past Kamma at the very conception of the being.

Here kāya means the sensitive part of the body. Sex is not developed at the moment of conception but the potentiality is latent. Neither the heart nor the brain, the supposed seat of consciousness, is developed but the potentiality of the seat is latent.

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