Dependent Co-Arising: A Study Guide
Let's start with an extract of the Digha Nikaya, where the Buddha stress the depth of Dependent co-arising (Paticca-samuppada):
"It's amazing, lord, it's astounding, how deep this Dependent co-arising is, and how deep its appearance, and yet to me it seems as clear as clear can be."
[The Buddha:] "Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Deep is this Dependent Co-arising, and deep it appears. It's because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma that this generation is like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, and bad destinations.''
Also the importance of dependent co-arising has been stressed:
"Whoever sees Dependent Co-Arising sees the Dhamma, whoever sees the Dhamma sees Dependent Co-Arising"
Now what is Dependent Co-Arising? The general formula is:
"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones notices:
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that. "
In more specific terms, Dependent Co-Arising has been summarized as the 12 links :
"With ignorance as condition, formations [come to be];
with formations as condition, consciousness ;
with consciousness as condition, name-and-form ;
with name-and-form as condition, the sixfold sense-basis;
with the sixfold sense-basis as condition, contact ;
with contact as condition, feeling ;
with feeling as condition, craving ;
with craving as condition, clinging ;
with clinging as condition, existence ;
with existence as condition, birth ;
with birth as condition, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair .
Such is the origin to this whole mass of suffering. "
Now let's study the 12 links in detail:
I. With Ignorance as condition Formations come to be
"And what is ignorance? Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called ignorance."
Where does Ignorance originate?
"There are these three taints: the taint of Sensuality, the taint of Existence, the taint of Ignorance. This is called taint.
From the origination of taints comes the origination of Ignorance. From cessation of taints comes the cessation of Ignorance."
"And what are formations? These three are formations: bodily formations, verbal formations, mental formations. These are called formations.”
"And why do you call them 'formations'? Because they form formed things, thus they are called 'formations.' What do they form as a formed thing? For the sake of form-ness, they form form as a formed thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they form feeling as a formed thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of formation-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they form consciousness as a formed thing. Because they form formed things, they are called formations. “
Formations mean intention:
"And what are formations? These six classes of intention — intention with regard to form, intention with regard to sound, intention with regard to smell, intention with regard to taste, intention with regard to tactile sensation,
intention with regard to mental phenomena : these are called formations."
What is the link with the doctrine of kamma? Intention actually means kamma.
''Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, and mind.”
C- Ignorance as a condition for the taints
"From the origination of ignorance comes the origination of taints. From the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of taints.”
II- From Formations as a requisite condition comes Consciousness.
"And what is consciousness? These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue- consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. This is called consciousness."
A functional definition also says:
"And why do you call it 'consciousness'? Because it cognizes, thus it is called consciousness. What does it cognize? It cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline, non-alkaline, salty, and unsalty. Because it cognizes, it is called consciousness."
B- What is the link between formations and consciousness?
"What one intends, what one plans, and what one obsesses about:This is a support for the stationing of consciousness. There being a support, there is an establishing of consciousness. “
The link can also be explained as threefold:
"Three kinds of fabrications: meritorious formations [ripening in pleasure], demeritorious formations[ripening in pain], and imperturbable formations[the formless states of jhana]."
Or as fivefold:
"And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in kamma."
Or again as threefold:
"And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here and now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma."
Now from a different angle:
" Where there is the growth of formations, there is the production of renewed becoming in the future. "
III- From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.
A- Name and Form
"And"What is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention: This is called name.
The four great elements, and the form derived from the four great elements: This is called form. This name and this form are called name-and-form.”
1) First, what is name?
Feeling, perception, intention, contact.
a) What is feeling?
Feeling is the second aggregate:
"And why do you call it 'feeling'? Because it feels, thus it is called 'feeling.' What does it feel? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither- pleasure-nor-pain. Because it feels, it is called feeling. "
Now a second definition which breaks up feeling according to the six senses:
"And what is feeling? These six classes of feeling — feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of mind-contact: this is called feeling."
b) What is perception?
Perception is the 3rd aggregate:
"And why do you call it 'perception'? Because it perceives, thus it is called 'perception.' What does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. Because it perceives, it is called perception."
"And what is perception? These six classes of perception — perception of form, perception of sound, perception of smell, perception of taste, perception of tactile sensation, perception of mental phenomena: this is called perception."
c) Intention, Contact, Attention
Intention, Contact, and Attention are actually only three factors of the aggregate called formations, which is the 4th aggregate. The aggregate of 'Formations' has already been described above.
2) What is form?
"And why do you call it 'form'? Because it is afflicted,thus it is called 'form.' Afflicted with what? With cold and heat, hunger and thirst, with the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles. Because it is afflicted, it is called form. "
"And what is form? The four great elements and the form derived from them: this is called form.”
What are the great elements?
" And what are the four great elements? They are the earth element, the liquid element, the fire element, and the wind element ".
"And what is the earth element? The earth element can be either internal or external. What is the internal earth element? Whatever internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, and clung-o: head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, and clung to: This is called the internal earth element (...)"
"And what is the water element? The water element may be either internal or external. What is the internal water element? Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is liquid, watery, and sustained: bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is liquid, watery, and clung-to: This is called the internal water element.
"And what is the fire element? The fire element may be either internal or external. What is the internal fire element? Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, and clung-to: that by which [the body] is warmed, aged, and consumed with fever; and that by which what is eaten, drunk, chewed, and savored gets properly digested, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is fire, fiery, and sustained: This is called the internal fire element (...)
"And what is the wind element? The wind element may be either internal or external. What is the internal wind element? Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is wind, windy, and clung-to: up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the stomach, winds in the intestines, winds that course through the body, in-and-out breathing, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is wind, windy, and clung-to: This is called the internal wind element."
B- The link betwenn consciousness and name-and-form
''Where consciousness lands and grows, name-and-form alights.''
IV- From Name-and-Form as a requisite condition come the six Sense Bases.
A-The six sense bases
"And what are the six sense bases? These six are sense bases: the eye-base, the ear-base, the nose-base, the tongue-base, the body-base, the mind-base. These are called the six sense bases.''
B- Name-and-form as a condion for consciousness, formations and form
1) Name and form condition consciousness
a- Name and Form as a condition
''From the origination of name-and-form comes the origination of consciousness. From the cessation of name-and-form comes the cessation of
''From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.’ Thus it
has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-and-form as a
requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a
foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and suffering in the future be discerned?”
“Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite
condition for consciousness, i.e., name-and-form.''
b- The 4 nutriments in particular
''There are these four nutriments for the establishing of beings who have taken birth or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.
Physical food, gross or refined;
contact as the second,
consciousness the third,
and mind intention the fourth.
These are the four nutriments for the establishing of beings or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.
Where there is passion, delight, and craving for the nutriment of physical
food, ...contact... consciousness,...mind intention...consciousness lands there and grows.”
2) Name and form condition formations
'' Where name-and-form alights, there is the growth of formations.''
3) Form conditions form
a) The four great elements as condition
"Monk, the four great elements [earth, water, fire, and wind] are the cause, the four great elements are the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form."
"From the origination of nutriment the origination of form. From the cessation of nutriment comes the cessation of form.''
V- From the six sense bases as a requisite condition comes contact.
B- The link:
"Dependent on the eye and forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. "
VI- From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
Feeling, as the second aggregate, has been explained above.
B- The Link
" From the origination of contact comes the origination of feeling. From
the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling."
C- Contact condition for perception and formations also
" From the origination of contact comes the origination of perception. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of perception.…From the origination of contact comes the origination of formations. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of formations"
VII- From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
"And what is craving? These six are classes of craving: craving for forms, craving for sounds, craving for smells, craving for tastes, craving for tactile objects, craving for mental phenomena. This is called craving."
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of suffering: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion and delight, seeking delight here and there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for existence, craving for non-existence."
B- The link
"If, when touched by a feeling of pleasure, one relishes it, welcomes it, or remains fastened to it, then one's passion-obsession gets obsessed."
C- Other conditionality
1) For the other two roots
"If, when touched by a feeling of pain, one sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats one's breast, becomes distraught, then one's resistance-obsession gets obsessed. If, when touched by a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one does not discern, as it actually is present, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, or escape from that feeling, then one's ignorance-obsession gets obsessed"
VIII- From Craving as a requisite condition comes clinging
"And what is clinging? These four are clingings: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self. This is called clinging. SN12.2
Though clinging to sensual pleasures doesn't need much commentary, the three other terms should be defined:
1) What is clinging to views?
Though there are many views the two main are either those of existence, or those of those existence which can also be called eternalist or nihilist:
''Overcome by two viewpoints, some human and devas adhere, other human and divine beings slip right past, while those with vision see.
And how do some adhere? Human and devas enjoy existence, delight in existence, are satisfied with existence. When the Dhamma is being taught for the sake of the cessation of existence, their minds do not take to it, are not calmed by it, do not settle on it or become resolved on it. This is how some
And how do some slip right past? Some, feeling horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with that very existence, relish non-existence: ‘When this self, at the
break-up of the body, after death, perishes and is destroyed, and does not exist
after death, that is peaceful, that is excellent, that is just so!’ This is how some
slip right past.''
''For the most part, Kaccyana, this world is supported by a duality, that of existence and non-existence. (…)
‘All exists’: That is one extreme. ‘All doesn’t exist’: That is the second extreme.
Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathâgata teaches the Dhamma by the
middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come formations…Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.''
''And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous brahmins or contemplatives who proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves.' ''
What is clinging to rules and observances?
That means clinging to behaviours which are wrongly believed to bring liberation.
"Here, Punna, someone develops the dog duty fully and uniterruptedly, he develops the dog-habit fully and uninterruptedly, he develops the dog mind fully and uninterruptedly, he develops dog behavior fully and uninterruptedly. Having done that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company o