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The Buddhist Philosophy of Relations


The meaning of the term 'Patthana' also will now be explained. "Padhanam thanam ti Patthanam": Patthana is the pre-eminent or principal cause. In this definition 'Padhana' means 'pre-eminent' and the word 'thana' means 'condition' or 'cause'. Hence the whole expression means the "pre-eminent cause", "the actual cause" or "the ineluctable cause". This is said having reference to its ineluctable effect or result.[1] There are two kinds of effect, namely the direct and the indirect. By "the direct" is meant the primary or actual effect, and by "the indirect" is meant the consequent or incidental effect. Of these two kinds, only the direct effect is here referred to as ineluctable, and for this reason: that it never fails to arise when its proper cause is established or brought into play. And the indirect effect is to be understood as "eluctable", since it may or may not arise even though its cause is fully established. Thus the ineluctable cause is so named with reference to the ineluctable effect. Hence the ineluctable or principal cause alone is meant to be expounded in this "Great Treatise". For this reason the name 'Patthana' is assigned to the entire collection of the twenty-four relations, and also to the "Great Treatise".

And now, to make the matter more clear and simple.

Say that greed springs into being within a man who desires to get money and grain. Under the influence of greed, he goes to a forest where he clears a piece of land and establishes fields, yards and gardens, and starts to work very hard. Eventually he obtains plenty of money and grain by reason of his strenuous labors. So he takes his gains, looks after his family, and performs many virtuous deeds, from which also he will reap rewards in his future existences, In this illustration, all the mental and material states coexisting with greed, are called direct effects. Apart from these, all the outcomes, results and rewards, which are to be enjoyed later on in his future existences, are called indirect effects. Of these two kinds of effects, only the former is dealt with in the Patthana. However, the latter kind finds its place in the Suttanta discourses. If this exists, then that happens; or, because of the occurrence of this, that also takes place. Such an exposition is called "expounding by way of Suttanta". In fact, the three states (greed, hate, and ignorance) are called the hetus or conditions, because they are the roots whence spring the defilements of the whole animate world, of the whole inanimate world and of the world of space. The three other opposite states (disinterestedness, amity, and knowledge) are also called hetus or conditions, since they are the roots whence springs purification. In the same manner the remainder of the Patthana relations are to be understood in their various senses. Thus must we understand that all things that happen, occur, take place, or produce changes, are solely the direct and indirect effects, results, outcomes, or products of these twenty-four Patthana relations or causes.

Thus ends the Patthanuddesa-dipani, or The Concise Exposition of the Patthana Relations, in these three sections: The Paccayatthadipani (The Analytical Exposition of Relations), the Paccayasabhaga-sangaha (The Synthesis of Relations), and the Paccayaghatananaya (The Synchrony of Relations).

This concise exposition of relations, "The Patthanuddesa Dipani", was written by The Most Venerable Ledi Arannaviharavasi Maha Thera of Monywa, Burma.

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Footnotes / commentary:


Elsewhere I have rendered the word "paccayuppana" as "related things."

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