The Doctrine of Paticcasamuppada

by U Than Daing | 1996 | 18,306 words

This book deals with Paticcasamuppada (‘dependent origination’): a Pali compound consisting of three words: 1) Patticca, which means “because” and “dependent upon”, 2) Sam, which means “well”, 3) and Uppada, which means “arising of effect through cause”. So dependent on ‘cause’ there arises ‘effect’; hence it is known in English as “Law of Depe...

Chapter 8 - The Doctrine Of Paticcasamuppada Shown In Direct Way (anuloma)

Reference to the Diagram is invited. This Diagram was devised, worked out and drawn by the late Maha Thera Mogok Sayadaw in accordance with the tenor of the Khandhas (aggregates or components) to show that Paticcasamuppada is nothing but the ceaseless process of (our) own Khandhas, i.e. perishing of the old one, giving place to a new, in other words, Paticcasamuppada is nothing but Causal Continuum of arising and vanishing of physical and mental phenomena.

'Anamataggo yam Bhikkhave Samsaro Pubba Koti Napannayati, Avijja Nivarananam SattanamTanha SamyojanAnam Sandharatam Samsara tam' (Anamatagga Samyutta)

It means that the beginning of Samsara is inconceivable. Being shrouded in Avijja (Ignorance) and bound up by Tanha the beginning of beings who are undergoing round of rebirths from one existence to another is incomprehensible. If the bones of a single being were preserved in heaps it will reach the height of Mount Vepunlla. The ascent to its top will take four days. This shows only the bones of a single being. Samsara is so long. When the Samsara is said to be so long, it amounts to saying that the period of suffering is long too and that the cycle of Paticcasamuppada is also long.

It is said that the beginning of Samsara is Avijja, then the question arises: What is Avijja? ( This should not be confused with the First Cause or being. )

Avijja is Ignorance of Four Noble Truths (Ariya Sacca)

  1. Ignorance of the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya Sacca)
  2. Ignorance of the Suffering or Unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha Sacca).
  3. Ignorance of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha Sacca).
  4. Ignorance of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering. (Nirodha Gaminipatipada).

To illustrate: -

1. It is inherent in every one of us to posses and crave for gold, silver and other material wealth. This craving is the root cause of Dukkha (sorrow and suffering). Lack of knowledge of this is called ignorance of Samudaya Sacca.

2. Lack of knowledge that our own Khandha (aggregates or components) are the very suffering and sorrow is called Ignorance of Dukkha Sacca.

3. Lack of knowledge that cessation of all the suffering is the Nirodha Sacca which in other words is Supreme Nibbana is called ignorance of Nirodha Sacca.

4. Lack of knowledge that the Eightfold Noble Path is the Path leading to the Supreme Nibbana is called ignorance Of Nirodha gamini patipada Sacca.

Such ignorance is Avijja and all the mental physical and verbal activities arise out of this Ignorance. Therefore the Buddha says 'Avijja Paccaya sankhara'. Not knowing the root cause of all sorrow and suffering, all sorts of activities are done or committed for the sake of oneself, one’s family, etc. employing all means of contrivances regardless of Kusala or Akusala (wholesome and unwholesome) to amass wealth, to get higher promotion and so on.

He may say that he is leading a good life as he carries on legitimate trade but from the point of view of Paticcasamuppada he is not breaking the chain of Samsara but he is doing the relinking work of Paticcasamuppada. If and when asked what offence has he done? The answer will be that it cannot be said whether he has committed an offence or not but what can definitely be said is that he has connected the cyclic order of the chain of Paticcasamuppada and is revolving.

Again in order to attain higher plane in the next existence he does alms giving. This is Kusala Kamma no doubt, nevertheless any meritorious deed done with Avijja, i.e. because it is done without the knowledge of Dukkha Sacca it becomes Punnabhisankhara: 'Avijja Paccaya Kusala Sankhara (Punnabhi).

Alms giving as well as keeping Moral Precepts (Sila) are done with a view to attaining higher planes, i.e. to become Deva or Brahma in the next existence. It is also Avijja Paccaya Kusala Sankhara. There is also usual utterance of wishes in the end saying that the wishes be fulfilled. Even if these wishes are fulfilled and they become Devas or Brahmas, the beginning of the next existence is birth (Jati). Jati is nothing but Dukkha Sacca. 'Jatipi Dukkha Sacca' (Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta).

'Sankhara Paccaya Vinnanam' means because of Sankhara (whether Kusala or Akusala) there arises the Rebirth consciousness. The beginning of every existence is Rebirth Consciousness. The very existence which we are undergoing is nothing but Dukkha (sorrow and suffering), pure and simple although we have been deceived and deluded by Avijja as Sukha (Happiness). Therefore it is up to the Yogi to ponder for a moment whether it is desirable for him to long and wish for higher position in their next existence whenever alms giving or any meritorious deeds are done.

The best advice for the Yogi is to strive for the cessation of suffering as rebirth in the form of Deva or Brahma or any form of existence is Dukkha itself and nothing but Dukkha.

'Vinnana Paccaya Namarupam'; he who begets Jati also begets Nama and Rupa. Reference to Section II is invited. Because of Vinnana there arises Nama and Rupa. It should be scrutinised if there is I, Me or Mine in the Vinnana. In the Nama and Rupa too, scrutiny must be made whether there is any element of personality as I, Me, Mine, He or She.

Vinnana is the Patisandhi Vinnana and is the beginning of the present existence and in that Vinnana there is no Ego, Self, I, He or You. It is only the outcome of Sankhara.

In the Namarupa too, careful examination and thorough scrutiny will reveal that there is no element of any personality as Ego, I, Mine Me or He. Neither is there mine nor any possesor. It is only the Resultant Continum of Causal Continuum or Paticcasamuppada.

'Namarupa Paccaya Salayatanam'. Where there is Nama and Rupa, the phenomenon does not end then and there. Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body and Mind arise because of Nama and Rupa.

Eye is the Resultant phenomenon of the Causal Phenomenon in which there is nothing which can be claimed as Ego, I, Mine or Me. It is the Resultant Continuum of the Causal Continuum. It is not I, or My Eye nor my Atta nor Mine.

Nose. Similarly nose is the Resultant phenomenon of the Causal Phenomenon in which there is nothing which can claim any element of personality, Ego or I, Mine or Atta.

Tongue and Body and Mind can also be implied and under stood as the foregoing.

These sense Bases (Salayatana) are six Dhammas which widen the scope of Samsara or in other words they spread out and lengthen the Cyclic Chain Of Paticcasamuppada.

Eye widens the scope of the Samsara, also Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body and Mind widen the scope of the Samsara. Reference should be made to the Chapter III and check your own self and see for your own self whether or not do you stop just at the sight or at the sound or the smell or the taste, touch or the thought.

To illustrate: If you happen to see a beautiful object, do you stop at the sight or do you go a step further and say I like it or I want to have it? You do not stop then and there but will try to have it by one way or the other. This is called the linking of Samsara or elongating the chain of Paticcasamuppada or widening the scope of Samsara. Similarly the remaining five Salayatana may be implied and understood in the same manner.

'Salayatana paccaya Phasso' means because of the eye, there arises eye contact. Because of the ear, there arises ear contact: because of the nose there arises nose contact; because of the tongue there arises tongue contact; because of the body there arises touch contact; because of the mind thought contact arises.

'Phassa paccaya Vedana' means because of contact there arises feeling. Because of eye contact there arises Vedana depending on the eye. In Pali, it is called Cakkhusamphassaja Vedana. Feeling depending on the eye is called “Cakkhusamphassaja Vedana”[1] In the same way feelings depending on other sense bases are respectively called Sotasamphassaja Vedana, Ghanasamphassaja vedana, Jivasamphassaja Vedana, Kayasamphassaja Vedana and Manosamphassaja Vedana.

Vedana is divided into three kinds, i.e.

  1. Sukha,
  2. Dukkha
  3. and Uppekkha

or it is divided into five, i.e.

  1. Sukha,
  2. Dukkha,
  3. Somanassa,
  4. Domanassa
  5. and Uppekkha Vedana

or if again it is subdivided, it will cover a considerable field. However the intending Yogi has to bear in mind that whenever there is contact or impact on six sense bases or doors (Dvara) there appears Vedana of some sort, so it goes without saying that Vedana is not to be sought after purposely, for Vedana of one kind or another is always appearing or prevalent on six sense bases whenever there is Phassa (contact).

'Vedana paccaya Tanha;' Dependent on Vedana there arises Tanha. If it arises depending on visible object, it is called Rupa Tanha, similarly Sadda Tanha on sound, Gandha Tanha on odour or smell; Rasa Tanha or taste; Photthabba Tanha on contact; and Dhamma Tanha on thought.

'Tanha Paccaya Upadana' means depending on Tanha there arises grasping, clinging or overwhelming desire or Tanha of greater magnitude. There are four Upadana - Kamupadana (overwhelming sensual desire); Ditthupadana (overwhelming desire for wrong view); Silabba-tupadana (overwhelming desire for wrong practices and observances) and Attavadupadana (overwhelming Egoistic desire).

“Upadana paccaya Kamma Bhavo” depending on overwhelming desire or grasping there arises Kaya-Kamma (Physical activities); Vavi Kamma (verbal activities) and Mano-Kamma (mental activities). Any of these three activities is called Kamma Bhava which is the last factor in Section III. In the first section, Past Causal Continuum, it is to be understood as Sankhara. According to Abhidhammattha Sangaha it consists of Loki Kusala and Akusala Citta numbering twenty nine.

'Kammabhava paccaya Jati' means due to Physical, verbal and mental activities there arises Jati (Rebirth consciousness) which is the beginning of the next existence (Patisandhi Vinnana) be it whatever Jati, the beginning is Patisandhi Vinnana (Rebirht consciousness).

The Buddha said, 'Jatipi Dukkha' It means jati is Dukkha Sacca whether it is Jati of man, Deva or Brahma. It is for the Yogis to decide at this juncture whether it is worth while to wish and long for the Jati in their next existence. When Jati is begotten what are its implications? What will be the eventual prize? The answer is 'Jati paccaya Jara Marana'. It is obvious that because of Jati, Jara and Marana are begotten or in other words Jati is inevitably followed by old age and death.

To be more lucid, when one begets Jati, he is followed by old age, disease, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief despair and the whole mass of Dukkha. Reference may be made to the Diagram .

This is the circumgyration of Paticcasamuppada shown in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching.

Footnotes and references:


Vedana must not be confused with illness or disease. Feeling is vedana of whatever kind. i.e. Sukha, Dukkha, Somanassa, Domanassa or Upekkha.

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