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pratītya-samutpāda


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(Skt; Pāli, paṭicca-samuppāda).

The doctrine of Dependent Origination, a fundamental Buddhist teaching on causation and the ontological status of phenomena. The doctrine teaches that all phenomena arise in dependence on causes and conditions and lack intrinsic being. The doctrine is expressed in its simplest form in the phrase ‘idaṃ sati ayaṃ bhavati’ (Skt., when this exists, that arises), which can be expressed in the logical form A → B (when condition A exists, effect B arises), or as its negation -A → -B (where condition A does not exist, effect B does not arise). The important corollary of this teaching is that there is nothing that comes into being through its own power or volition, and there are therefore no entities or metaphysical realities such as God or a soul, (ātman) that transcend the causal nexus. In this respect the doctrine dovetails with the teaching of no self (anātman). Early sources indicate that the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi Tree when he fully realized the profound truth of Dependent Origination, namely that all phenomena are conditioned (saṃskṛta) and arise and cease in a determinate series.

There are various formulations of the doctrine in early sources, but the most common one illustrates the soteriological implications of causality in a series of twelve stages or links (nidāna) showing how the problem of suffering (duḥkha) and entrapment in saṃsāra arises due to craving (tṛṣṇā) and ignorance (avidyā). The twelve links in the process (often depicted around the rim of the ‘wheel of life’ or bhavacakra) are: (1) Ignorance (avidyā); (2) Compositional Factors (saṃskāra); (3) Consciousness (vijñāna); (4) Name and Form (nāma-rūpa); (5) Six Sense Spheres (ṣad-āyatana); (6) Contact (sparśa); (7) Feelings (vedanā); (8) Craving (tṛṣṇā); (9) Grasping (upādāna); (10) Becoming (bhava); (11) Birth (jāti); (12) Old Age and Death (jarā-maraṇa). The significance of the links is open to interpretation, but one popular understanding is that of Buddhaghoṣa in terms of which the series extends over three lives. Thus (1)–(2) relate to the previous life, (3)–(7) to the conditioning of the present existence, (8)–(10) to the fruits of the present existence, and (11)–(12) to the life to come. Various later schools came to their own, sometimes radical, understanding of the doctrine. Chief among these is that of the Madhyamaka.for whom Dependent Origination came to be synonymous with emptiness (śūnyatā). According to Nāgārjuna, the doctrine of Dependent Origination could only be coherent if phenomena were devoid of self-essence (svabhāva). If they enjoyed a more permanent mode of being, he argued, it would be impossible for them to be originated and cease to be in the way the doctrine describes.

(1) Ignorance (avidyā); (2) Compositional Factors (saṃskāra); (3) Consciousness (vijñāna); (4) Name and Form (nāma-rūpa); (5) Six Sense Spheres (ṣad-āyatana); (6) Contact (sparśa); (7) Feelings (vedanā); (8) Craving (tṛṣṇā); (9) Grasping (upādāna); (10) Becoming (bhava); (11) Birth (jāti); (12) Old Age and Death (jarā-maraṇa).

Subjects: Buddhism.


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