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 14 - Sakkayaditthi & How It Arises

(cula Vedalla Sutta, Mulapnasa)

While the Buddha was residing at the Veluvana monastery in the Kingdom of Rajagaraha, there was a rich man named Visakha and his wife Dhammadinna; who later became a Bhikkhuni, Visakha was in the habit of visiting the Buddha’s monastery for the purpose of hearing the Buddha’s sermons every evening.

On his return he was met at the door by his lovely wife and went into the house arm in arm. One day, as usual, Dhammadinna waited at the door but the husband with a more dignified air, did not offer his arm to his wife Dhammadinna who was ill at ease at this attitude of her husband.

She however kept silent. At bed time Dhammadinna asked Visakha whether there was any such limit on her part as to be so serious and outlandish in his demeanour. The husband replied that there was nothing wrong on his or on her part but that he had attained higher penetrative insight (Anagmi Phala) and that was the reason why his demeanour appeared to be serious.

He then told Dhammadinna that all the property can be possessed by her as he renounced all his possessions, and that she could even remarry anybody she chose.

To this Dhammadinna questioned him,

'Brother, you speak of this higher wisdom, is it only confined to men or are women excluded from that higher dhamma?'

The husband said,

'No, sister, the Buddha’s dhamma is open to all.'

'Then', said the wife,

'please allow me to go and hear the dhamma.'

After a few days Dhammadinna became a Bhikkhuni herself and entered one of the nunneries. To make a long story short, she attained Arahatship eventually.

There arose some questions and answers between Visakha and Bhikkhuni Dhammadinna.

Visakha asked.

'Madam, what is it that the Buddha teaches as Sakkaya?'

Arahat Dhammadinna replied,

'Dayaka Visakha, Five Khandhas are Sakkaya.'

'How and in what manner Sakkaya Ditthi arises?'

'Dayaka Visakha, when Pancakhandha is wrongly viewed, believed and misconstrued as personality, Ego or I, Sakkaya Ditthi arises'.

'Madam, May I ask you again why and for what reasons the Sakkaya ditthi arises?'

'Dayaka Visakha, in this holy order of the Buddha the untaught ordinary ignorant worlding (Puthujjana) who is not in the habit of approaching the Ariya (The accomplished one), is not conversant with the Ariya Dhamma and is discordant to the Ariya Doctrine (Truth); I Secondly, he does not want to approach the virtuous or Holy man, and is not conversant with his sermons, is discordant to them, and as such he looks upon, takes, and misconstrues Rupa (corporeality) as Atta or Ego, and that Atta has Rupa; there is Atta, or Ego in Rupa; Rupa has Atta or Ego.'

In the same manner Vedana is looked upon, Sanna is looked upon, Sankhara is looked upon, Vinnana is looked upon, taken for, misconstrued as Atta or Ego, etc. etc. and that Vinnana has Atta or Ego; there is Atta or Ego in Vinnana; Atta or Ego which has Vinnana.

'Dayaka Visakha, it is, just like the one who is unable to differentiate the burning fire from the flame and takes the flame for burning fire. Similarly the ignorant and untaught worldling who is not in the habit of hearing the preaching of Dhamma and not conversant with it, looks upon, takes for, believes and misconstrues Rupa (matter or corporeality) as

I or Ego,
Vedana as I or Ego,
Sanna as I or Ego,
Sankhara as I or Ego,
Vinnana as I or Ego.

This is how Sakkaya Ditthi arises.'


Yamaka Sutta
Samyutta Nikaya

While the Buddha was residing at the Jetavana monastery, it occurred to a certain monk named Yamaka that when an Arahat died nothing happened, but disappeared and sank into oblivion. He understood and believed in this way and he accordingly spread his belief among the monks.

On hearing what he said, the other monks admonished him not to tell what the Buddha did not teach and anything against the doctrine. Yamaka was stubborn and continued spreading his incongruous and profane view which is against the teaching of the Great Teacher. All the other monks being unable to stop him from spreading that blasphemous doctrine went and reported to the Maha Thera Sariputta.

Whereupon the Maha Thera out off great compassion went to Yamaka’s place and asked whether it was true that he spread such views as are against the teachings of the Buddha. When he admitted the truth of it, the Maha Thera asked, 'O Yamaka, is it true that you are harbouring the wrong view that when an Arahat died nothing happened but simply disappeared and sank into oblivion.'

Yamaka replied in the affirmative. Then Maha Thera again asked, 'O Yamaka, what do you consider this? You may give answer as you please

'Is Rupa enduring everlasting and permanent?'

No. Venerable, Sir.'

'Is Vedana enduring, everlasting and permanent?'

No. Venerable, Sir.'

'Is Sanna enduring, everlasting and permanent?'

No. Venerable, Sir.'

'Is Sankhara enduring, everlasting and permanent?'

No. Venerable, Sir.'

'Is Vinnana enduring, everlasting and permanent?'

No. Venerable, Sir.'

'Then, Yamaka, you must look upon Rupa as unenduring and impermanent.'

Similarly Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara, Vinnana must be looked upon as unenduring, impermanent and perishing at every moment.

'Now, Yamaka, I will put it to you and you may answer as you please.

'Do you look upon Rupa as an Arahat (Satta)?'

'No, Venerable Sir.

'Do you look upon Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana as an Arahat (Satta)?

'No, Venerable, Sir.'

'Do you look upon Pancakkhandha as Arahat (Satta)?

'No, Venerable, Sir'.

'And Yamaka, with the exception of Pancakkhandha do you look upon anything as an Arahat (satta)?
And Yamaka, with the exception of Rupa do you look upon anything as an Arahat?'

'No, Venerable, Sir'

'And Yamaka, with the exception of Vedana do you look upon anything as an Arahat (Satta)?'

'No Venerable, Sir'

'And Yamaka, with the exception of Sanna,Sankhara, do you look upon anything as Arahat (satta)?'

'No, Venerable, Sit'

'And Yamaka, with the exception of Vinnana do you look upon anything as an Arahat (Satta)?'

'No, Venerable, Sir.'

'If this be so, Yamaka, will it be proper and expedient for you to say that the Great Teacher taught that when an Arahat who had completely abandoned and uprooted Asavas died nothing happened but simply disappeared and sank into oblivion.'

'No, Venerable, Sir. It is not proper and expedient for me to say so.'

'Now if somebody happened to ask you what became of an Arahat who died, how will you answer?'

'Venerable, Sir.
I will answer that Rupa is unenduring transitory and liable to change and impermanent,
Vedana., Sanna, Sankhara are also unenduring transient and liable to change and impermanent.
Vinnana is unenduring, transient, liable to change and impermanent.
Pancakkhandha is unenduring, transitory and liable to change and impermanent.

Maha Thera said,

'Well and good, Yamaka. You have now obtained the right view and have seen things as they really are.

In as much as there is Miccha Ditthi there are two sided wrong views, i.e. the wrong view of taking an Arahat as personality which is Sakkaya Ditthi, and another wrong view that nothing happens at the death of an Arahat but it simply disappears, and sinks into oblivion is Uccheda Ditthi. Over and above these Yamaka looked upon Nibbana as void.

Hence it can be safely ascertained that he who has Sakkaya Ditthi is not capable of apprehending Nibbana. The view that there remains nothing or nothing happens at the death of Arahat amounts to Annihilationist Wrong View (Uccheda Ditthi) which means total annihilation and the state of void in Nibbana. It is so dreadful to have Sakkaya Ditthi because however much one endeavours and maintains strict Vipassana contemplation, the final Emancipation cannot be realised. Such wrong views are prevalent where there is lack of understanding or knowledge of the Paticcasamuppada Doctrine.


Channa Thera

Channa Thera was one of the royal attendants who followed the Prince Siddhattha when he renounced the royal palace to seek for the Truth. Channa became a monk some time after the Prince Siddhatha attained Buddhahood. It is remarkable that in spite of his ardent application in Vipassana Meditation he had not been able to attain the first stage in Magga Phala, i.e. Sotapanna.

He went around and told the other monks that although he had gained the insight into Anicca and Dukkha, he had never been able to attain Magga Phala. Yes, he endeavoured for over forty years, yet he failed to realise even the first stage in spite of his insight into the arising and passing away of Khandhas.

He knew that Rupa was unenduring so were Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana. When it came to Anatta he said he felt as if he were at the edge of a deep precipice and ready to fall at any moment. He went further and said if all five Khandhas were Anatta whom had he to look upon and depend on as a refuge.

It is obvious that he relied too much upon Atta, and therefore whenever Anatta was contemplated he became thrilled as if he were on an edge of a precipice. Thus the time went on more than forty years when the Buddha entered into the state of Parinibbanna.

Dejected and remorseful, monk Channa went from monastery to monastery imploring other monks to admonish and counsel him, but to no avail.

At last, it occurred to him that Ananda Thera would be the right person to approach and could lead him to the right path, so he closed his monastery and went to Kosambhi where Ananda Thera resided. On arrival be explained all about himself whereupon Ananda at once understood that it was due to lack of the knowledge of Paticcasamuppada which deterred him, and as such consoled him and taught him the Doctrine of Paticcasamuppada in the same manner as the Buddha taught Kaccayana, son of Mantani.

After being well conversant with the doctrine, monk Channa was able to exterminate and uproot Sakkaya, Sassata and Uccheda ditthis. Thereupon the first Magga and Phala dawned upon him.

It is quite obvious that it was the ignorance of this doctrine which delayed monk Channa for forty years to attain and realise even the first stage.

Needless to say that this doctrine is indispensable to those Yogis who are intent on the Vipassana contemplation. Unless the Yogi is well conversant with this doctrine he will never be able to get the true knowledge of Khandhas (five components) and in the absence of the knowledge of Khandhas, i.e. arising of Khandha and cessation of Khandha the Yogi would not be able to eliminate or exterminate Ditthi which dwells in and is attached to the Khandhas, and where there persists Ditthi, the inevitable and inseparable companions, Avijja and Tanha, will arise and dominate.

Miccha Ditthi, as has been mentioned before, is more harmful and deleterious than Avijja and Tanha because it stands in the way of the first step Sotapanna from which all the higher Magga and Phala will have to start. Moreover Miccha Ditthi is the veritable seed bed for Apaya Bhumi (woeful existence, whereas Tanha does not hinder the ascent to Sugati Bhumi.)

Ditthi is more dreadful and dangerous than Avijja and Tanha because all modes of Avijja and Tanha do not fall under the category which is liable to the danger of falling into the Apaya Bhumi. This Avijja can be uprooted and exterminated only on the attainment of the Arahatta Magga while Tanha can be uprooted in the next lower stage.

Even with the presence of Avijja the lower three Maggaphalas can be attained.

Dayika Visakha, well known donor of Puppharama monastery, was said to have burst into tears at the death of her beloved grandchild, although she was said to have attained Sotapanna Maggaphala, however such Domanassa and Upayasa as occurred to Visakha were not Apayagamaniya i.e., these Domanassa and Upayasa were not liable to fall into Apaya Bhumi.


Sati Monk and how He harboured the wrong views

This is the story of a certain monk named Sati who was attached to the wrong view that Vinnana (consciousness) was enduring, unchanged and permanent but is was only the body which changed. He told the other monks that was exactly what the Buddha taught.

On hearing Buddha’s discourse on Ten Jatakas, i.e.

  1. Temiya,
  2. Janaka,
  3. Suvannasama,
  4. Bhurida,
  5. Campeya,
  6. Vidhura,
  7. Mahosadha,
  8. Nemiya,
  9. Narada
  10. and Vessantara,

he steadfastly held the view that the long line of existences from Temiya to Vessantara was one and the same with the exception of change in the bodies and the Vinnana (consciousness) was one and the same, enduring, changeless and permanent.

He spread his wrong view among the monks who enjoined him that it was not good to abuse the true Dhamma expounded by the Great Teacher. He was stubborn and continued spreading his wrong belief; whereupon the monks, being unable to prevent him, went and reported the whole matter to the Buddha.

The Buddha sent for him and asked whether it was true that he held such wrong views steadfastly. The monk admitted that he held such perverted wrong views.

The Buddha said,

'you stupid man, from whom do you ever hear that I have taught such a doctrine?
Have I not in diverse ways made clear the conditioned nature of all consciousness?
Have I not shown repeatedly that without sufficient cause no consciousness can ever arise?
Have I not taught that Vinnana like all other Dhammas is unenduring, transitory, impermanent, ever changing and cannot continue for two successive moments the same.'

The Buddha turning to the monks said,

'Monks whatever consciousness arises, it is only due to a cause. Depending on two things sense door and Aramana (object) consciousness arises. When there is contact of Eye and visible object there arises Eye consciousness. Similarly depending on Ear and sound, nose and smell, tongue and taste, body and touch, mind and idea, there arises Ear consciousness, Nose consciousness, Tongue consciousness, Body consciousness, Mind consciousness, respectively.

It is just like the fire burning because of the fuel. It is only through this cause that effect comes to be; if it burns wood it is called wood fire, if it burns cow dung it is called cow dung fire; if it burns bamboo, grass, etc. it will be called accordingly.

In the same way, consciousness arises according to its Aramana (object) and Dvara (sense door). Therefore when this exists that comes to be, with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist that does not come to be. This is the causally relative series of events according to the Paticcasamuppada.

The consciousness of the present life ceases as Cuti Vinnana (Death consciousness)
and new consciousness arises in the next existence as Patisandhi Vinnana (Rebirth consciousness).

The consciousness of Prince Temiya ceased as Death consciousness at his death
and a new consciousness arose and appeared in the following existence as Patisandhi Vinnana.

Similarly the consciousness of Prince Janaka, Vidhura, Suvannasama and Vessantara ceased in their respective existences as Cuti Vinnana and new consciousness arose again as Patisandhi Vinnana (Rebirth consciousness) in their respective new existences.

If you refer to the Diagram you will see the first link in Section II.

For example, a frog in a story not knowing it was the sermon of the Buddha listened to it because it was clear and pleasant to hear and accidentally met its death under the pointed stick of the cowherd. He became a Devaputta in Tavatimsa devaloka. It must be clearly understood that the consciousness of the frog did not follow to the body of the Devaputta, neither did that consciousness enter his body. It is only the Casual Law. There is no transmigration of soul in Buddhism, neither is there reincarnation which are totally refuted by Buddhism.

What actually took place was the Patisandhi Vinnana (Rebirth consciousness) of the Devaputta which was the Effect of the preceding cause that was Cuti Vinnana (Death consciousness) of the past life of the frog. In other words the Patisandhi Vinnana (Rebirth consciousness) of the Devaputta arose depending on the Cuti Vinnana of the frog. It must be fully noted that the Vinnana of the Devaputta and the frog were not one and the same because no soul or Vinnana unites one existence to another.

No soul or consciousness passes on to the other consciousness as already mentioned is transitory, impermanent, unenduring and cannot remain for two successive moments the same.

In the same way the most celebrated donor of the Puppharama monastery, Visakha, when died, became Sunimmita, the Queen of Tussita Deva King. Here mention must also be made in the same way as the above cited anecdote that the consciousness of the Dayika Visakha never followed the body of Sunimmita the Queen of Tussita Deva King, nevertheless the Patisandhi Vinnana arose in the new existence because of the preceding Cuti Vinnana (Death consciousness) of Visakha of which Jati is the effect. It must be reiterated that nothing passes from one existence to the other. It is only the function of the Law of Cause and Effect.

Therefore if and when it is wrongly believed, viewed, or mistaken that the consciousness of the present life and the one in the next existence are one and the same, it amounts to Sassata Ditthi; whereas if and when one holds the wrong view that nothing comes to be after the death of a being it amounts to Uccheda Ditthi. It is only the Middle Way which is free from two extremes and can lead to Magga and Phala. When there are obstacles and hindrances in the form of Ditthi, Magga Phala could never be attained, nay, not even the first stage in Magga Phala could be realised in spite of strenuous efforts on Vipassana Contemplation.

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