Dependent origination

Dependent origination


The reality & Dependent origination

In his first Sermon, the Buddha said following expression.

“vijja udapadi”

That means the knowing arose. What is this “vijja”. Simply, it’s meaning is the understanding gained by those who have realized enlightenment. On the other-hand the term “vijja” means science. The Buddha taught his followers as, “vijja pubbangama kusalanan dhammanan samapattiya” the science (knowing) is the forerunner to good volitions. Therefore, as the Buddha said, it emphasizes that the Buddhism is a science and increase in good volitional should do as a scientific attitude. The Buddhism as a science, it teaches the cause-effect relationship. That means, Dependent origination.

The term, “Dependent origination” forms from the Pali word, “Paticcasamuppada”. As a basic teaching of the Buddha’s, it contains the basic insight into the character and also the operating of reality. One can apply dependent origination individual path of purification. We can use its formulation to boost our mind. Among the teachings of the Buddha the concept of dependent origination has been used to clarify suffering arises and ceases, supported numerous causes and conditions, within the individual. Therefore, it is concerned as a principle that can universally applicable.


Dependent origination


The Theory

The general theoretical style of the term is given within the discourse is following formulation.  

“Asmin sati idam hoti

Imassu uppada idam uppajjati

Asmin asti idam metallic element hoti

Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati”

 Samyukta Nikaya


The which means is,

“when this is often, this is.

Form the arising of this, this arises.

When this is often not gift, this is often not gift.

With the stop of this, this ceases.”

Let’s see this as another form.

“when A is often, B is.

Form the arising of A, B arises.

When A is often not gift, B is often not gift.

With the stop of A, B ceases.”

In the first 1-2 points express about an arising, and last two ones 3-4 points express about a ceases. One can suddenly think that 1-2 is same theory, but both are different. First one says that when there is A, B too. It shows the cause and the result at once. In third and fourth points say about the cessation.

For instance; there is an example in “Nalakalapa Sutta”. There are two bundles of bamboo. Only straightened together them can be placed. If we remove one, other bundle falls down. This theory explains above 1-3 points. This is the co-relation. 


When we remove A then, B falls dawn. With the existence of A, B also existence straight. 1-3 theories are same like this co-relation.


Dependent origination

Let’s look at below simple chart for another explanation. Think that there is a vertical line as A-B. Is it tall or short? It is difficult for you to give an answer. Now think there is another line near to A-B, named C-D. Now you can come to an opinion as A-B is tall. The opinion that “A-B is tall” arises because of C-D line. Therefore, A-B line is relatively taller than C-D. Again look at the chart. Now is A-B tall. It relatively taller than C-D, but relatively A-B shorter than E-F. Therefore, tall and short are relative co-relations. Dependent origination

E-F is the highest one. But we came to that opinion with base on A-B and C-D.They are relatively short than E-F. In here, if there are no C-D and E-F, you can come in to an opinion about A-B? That is the co-relation. Everything are correlative. “When this is often, this is. Form the arising of this, this arises”. That’s the reality. That’s how the cause and effect act. There is a cause-effect relation about before and after. Like this, above sutta describes about 12 causes and how their effects arise relatively.

Therefore, Dependent Origination essentially refers to the mode of rationalization to clarify the origin and also the stop of suffering in keeping with the Buddha’s discourses.

 “Monks, what’s dependent origination? as condition with the content, willing  formations return to be, with willing  formations as condition consciousness arises, with consciousness as condition, name-and-form arises, with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases arises, with the six sense bases as condition, contact arises, with contact as condition, feeling arises, with feelings as condition desire arises, with desire as condition, clinging arises, with clinging as condition, existence return to be, with existence as condition, birth happens, with birth as condition, aging and-death , sorrow, lamentation, pain  and despair return to be. Such is that the Origin of this whole mass of suffering happens like this. it’s known as dependent origination.”

As well like dwindling away and stop of content comes stop of willing formations, ……… aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dissatisfaction and despair stop. Such is that the stop of this whole mass of suffering.”   Samyutta Nikaya-

In here, the primary a part of the statement explains however suffering arises dependently. and also the second half explains however it ceases once one link is cut. The Buddha has aforementioned in several occasions that he explains solely 2 things, as arising and also the stop of suffering. What this emphasize, the position of the development of suffering within the teaching of the Buddha. It doesn’t mean, however, that he has not aforementioned the rest. What it suggests that is that no matter he has after mentioned wouldn’t contradict this broad term which the obliteration of suffering has been his foremost concern.

As we study dependent origination in the direct order, we should study it as reverse order.

With the stop of ignorance, willing formations cessation.

With the cessations of willing formations, consciousness cessations.

With the cessation of consciousness, name and form cessation.

With the cessation of name and form, six sense bases cessation.

With the cessation of six sense bases, contact cessation.

With the cessation of contact, feeling cessation.

With the cessation of feeling, desire cessation.

With the cessation of cessation desire, clinging cessation.

With the cessation of clinging, existence cessation.

With the cessation of the existence, birth stop.

With the cessation of the birth, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation and pain stop.

This is the cessation of suffering!

The “suffering”?

Buddhism has always understood individual essentially as a part of a society. Society ultimately being a combination of different configurations of human beings.  As well as social problems are nothing other than human problems in which each individual player may not be considered very important.

Buddhism understands various forms of social unrest and formation as manifestation of human suffering affecting, ultimately, individual human beings.

There were two popular religious trends in Buddha’s same period. The Buddha dissociated such trend with his scientifically teaching of dependent origination.  He explained the origin of suffering as dependently originated. Therefore, the he was first and foremost, dissociated himself from that two religious trends. The first one was Eternalism (Savasta vada). This means the view that human being lasts forever in some form or other. Second one is Annihilationism (Uccheda vada). This means the view that human being does not survive death but is totally annihilated. Avoiding these two extremes, the Buddha describes the human predicament as originated dependent on various causes and conditions which are interlinked. As has been explained by the Buddha to the ascetic named Acela Kassapa, this way of explanation avoids as follow.

“suffering is created by oneself

Suffering is created by another

Suffering is created by both oneself and another

Suffering arises for no reason and is accidental

Suffering creates not exists.”

According to above explanation, the first view amounts to Eternalism, the second to Annihilationism. And third is a combination of the two wrong views. The fourth is a denial of causation characterized, according to Buddhist conditionality. That the rejection of these views does not amount to rejecting the existence of suffering is indicated by the denial of the last position.

The essence of this explanation cannot be over-estimated. By rejecting the first two positions Buddhism rejects not only metaphysical explanations but also it rejects, perhaps more importantly, any explanation of absolutist nature.

The point that suffering is created by one’s own self attributes the origin of suffering to a metaphysical cause. Such as soul believed to last forever. In this matter, which at the same time is one single and absolute cause. The key point in the teaching of Dependent Origination is that reality is an inter dependent and inter-related complex of events. According to this explanation, there cannot be any unconnected phenomenon in reality. There is no phenomenon can stand on its own.

Dependent origination


This is the reality

The dependent and inter-connected nature of reality is not an invention or creation by the Buddha. As the Buddha himself if has claimed,  

“Whether the Buddha’s were to exist or to not exist this nature of reality is there, namely, the conditionality”  

The role of the Buddha in this point is nothing but that of guide who has a pioneering experience. What this means, in other words, is that Dependent origination represents a natural character of reality, which we need to comprehend for the sake of right understanding.

when we consider the understanding reality, we cannot forget that human being is a very important and decisive aspect of it. It is very important. Therefore, that the nature and its relation to reality are understood as essential aspects of dependent origination. Unlike some other traditions, Buddhism understands human being as a dynamic interaction of five Skhandhas or aggregates. Namely they are form, feelings, perception, formations and consciousness. These five are not static entities but are processes that undergo constant change. This means human being is not a permanent or an absolute entity but a dynamic and causally conditioned phenomenon.

The point of Impermanence

In this point both reality and human beings are causally conditioned phenomena and are subject to the same characteristics if existence. In Buddhism, these characteristics are described as tri-lakshana(You can refer our The Three Characteristics of existence). They are, impermanence (anicca), satisfactoriness (dukkha), and non-self (anatta). Impermanence refers to the reality of changing of all phenomenon. Nothing in the world or in human being remains unchanged. This is the cause of the unsatisfactory feeling experienced by all Samsaric beings. That’s why we called it as “suffering”.

Therefore, this means that there is nothing that we can grasp within or without oneself as “it is me” and “it is mine”. That’s why the Buddha said as his last words to us,

“sabbe sankara anicca”  -Dhammapada-

This means,

all conditioned phenomena are transient”. The term “sankhara” I this context has a very broad meaning. This emphasizes that everything, animate and inanimate, share certain fundamental characteristics.

There are significant ethical implications in this position. The view on human being in nature is an area religions do not see eye-to-eye. Buddhism considers that to be born a human being is noble and rare opportunity be born as a human being is precious. Why such a view in Buddhism. with the rare opportunity, human being has a capacity to determine his own destiny.

An opportunity as human

Buddhism does not say that man is nothing more than any other aspect of reality by characterizing human being in this manner. On the other hand, Buddhism holds that to be born as a human being is a rare opportunity. Further human life is something of great value. This basically means that human being has the capacity fir sharping one’s own destiny. This view is based on human being’s developed physical and psychological aspects with potentiality for attaining higher states of development. We can see that, human being are same with all the other animate and inanimate beings and objects. For instance, like all beings, man is subject to the natural and moral laws, and subject to impermanence, sorrowfulness and non-self. Likely all beings, man is deciders of pleasure and happiness and works for that end all through his existence and finally succumbs to death like all beings. The morality of all this is that human beings is no extraordinary and part and particle of nature as a whole.

The above explanation of reality is based on Dependent Origination has a very significant ethical lesson in it. There is a powerful expression included in the story of Ratthapala. He was a young and rich householder who renounced this worldly life on seeing the reality of life. On being questioned by the ruler of his country Ratthapala explains the reason behind his act of renunciation.

“great king, there are four characteristics of Nature.  They have been taught by the blessed one who knows and sees. Life is unstable and it is swept away. In the world, there is no shelter in it without overload. The world has nothing of its own. One has to leave everything and passion and the world is incomplete, aggrieved and the slave of craving. -Ratthapala Sutta- Majjhima Nikaya-

Of the four characteristics described by Ratthapala, the first three basically natural results of reality characterized by dependent existence. The fourth describes how an uninstructed world would react to such reality. The aim of the teaching of the Buddha is to guide one to develop strong attitude towards reality. In the dependently arisen there is no wonder phenomena being impermanent. Everything including various situations involving human beings is subject to change. We should search the roots, from this understanding of reality may well be called ethics of impermanence. Religiously, it reminds us that we as human beings are only a part of a wider reality. It shares lot of characteristics together. It not only makes us humble but also it puts us in the right perspective.

Dependency and impermanence may give some of us a negative sense of life as a part of our lived experience. This, however, is to take these universal phenomena in a wrong manner, impermanence also gives us hope for the change for better.

Like this manner, the changing and dependent character of reality provides the basis for solutions to problems with which we are entangled.


Another phenomenon  related to Dependent Origination theory

The Buddhist tradition refers to five areas of reality that come under the operation of Paticcasamuppada. They are given as the following,

  • Utu Niyama- climatic and seasonal changes in the world
  • Bija Niyama- genetic formations of the world
  • Dhamma Niyama- every phenomena of universe are impermanence
  • Kamma Niyama- the moral sphere of moral action
  • Citta Niyama- the nature of mental activity

In this context, Niyama means the nature of things or natural principles. The first category is the inorganic natural aspects such as weather, climate and changes in seasons. The second refers the organic matters of Nature such as plant life. Both aspects of nature function as casually conditioned phenomena. Therefore, it is clear that, there is no doer or regulator within or behind these phenomena. The third is about the changing. Every universally phenomena are subject to changing. In fourth, it’s about one’s own deeds, actions and their results according to good and evil. In fifth, moral or immoral action, covered by the fourth aspect

The mysterious one has been taken away from the moral action by including under this classification. The last refers to the spiritual sphere and highlight the fact that it too has to be understood as an interdependent web of conditions. Further, according to Buddhism, this classification shows that, nature with its all aspects including human beings, is considered to a phenomenon governed by one universal principle. it is Dependent Origination, includes dependent arising, coexistence and dissolution. As is clear form, the Agganna Sutta of the Diga Nikaya, the Buddha explains the evolution of the world and human and their institutions, in accordance with this theory. As a result, it does not talk of a first, because which causes everything else. In this manner, as we saw earlier the Buddha has explained how problems in society arise as Causley conditioned phenomena.


The analysis of the social suffering

Everything from simple events in human life to more complicated events is explained in Buddhism as caused by factors within human experience. Social manifestation if human suffering has been dealt with in the same manner. The Cakavatti Sihanada Sutta describes how deterioration in society takes place in a causally conditioned type.

“adananan dane anuppadiyamane

Dalidyan wepullagamasi

Dalidye wepullan ghate

Adinnadanan wepullagamasi

Adinnadane wepullan ghate

Satve wepullaghamasi

Satve wepullan ghate

Panatipatho wepullaghamasi………….”

“when a king does not give property to the needy, poverty became rife, from the growth of poverty, the taking of what was not given increased, from the increase of theft, the use of weapons increased, from the increase use of weapons, the taking of life increased, and from the increase in the taking of life, people’s lifespan decreased…. “                              -Cakkavatti Sihanada Suta-

According to this explanation, human being and his multiform suffering is also a part of this.

The Buddhist view of human being the resultant attitude are basically in conformity worth the understanding of reality as dependent originated. there is no place for a transcendent reality staying over and above what is ordinary according to dependently arisen reality. This view points out the possibility that human being is a creation by such transcendent. It shows the reality representing itself in a manner. So, in the Buddhist understanding marked by Dependent origination, human being too is dependently originated and hence a part of the overall reality which constitute one’s lived experience.

The modern scientific concept vs Buddhist scientific concept

The Buddhist Dependent origination theory and Modern scientific concept are don’t same. The modern scientific concept is enable to lead man to the emancipation. It cannot analyze regarding a person who lives according Samsaric journey as well as karma or rebirth. The Physical equipments which are made by human intelligence are changing day by day. Sometimes there are no selection of good and bad in science. Therefore, it leads man to prosperous as well as evil. Modern world has many examples for this. Therefore, we should understand that, the modern science and the Buddhism philosophy are two types. 

Sometimes, morality and spiritual development eliminate from modern Science. It limits just only physical world. When we consider about the concept of the physical world, both Buddhism’s and modern science are more same. But, Dependent Origination describes scientifically, a man as a person, as a member of a society as well as Samsaric being, his suffering and the path leading to cessation the suffering named Nibbana. As well as it shows the existence of a society and how its problems arise and the path leading to solve problems. All beings as well as the world, existence and cessation coherently describes by this theory. That’s how the “vijja” the science aroused by the Dhamma. That’s how the Buddhist’s scientific concept aroused.

There is a message for you

It is clear that, the characterization of reality in this manner has very important message for the modern world. It has an increasing tendency to perceive itself (one’s organization, society or country or one’s oneself) as the, “center of the universe”. In a dependently arisen incident, we cannot recognize any center as such occupying the supreme position. One’s existence is dependent on other as much as that of the other’s is dependent on oneself. This means that we cannot solve our own problems by forgetting totally those of others. In trying to do so either we solve our problems inadequately, or we create fresh problems for ourselves and others or both.

We cannot really ignore other’s problems. In the final analysis, there is no such thing as others problems to which one is totally immune. The other in this context is not merely the human beings but it means the animal life as well as inanimate aspects of nature such as trees and plants, rivers and mountains, oceans and environment. The Buddhist tradition has always upheld an all-inclusive attitude package towards Nature. That’s why Karaniya Metta Sutta in Sutta Nipata says “Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta” (may all beings be well and happy).

It is true that we are concerning of environmental factor today much more than past. But still it is difficult to say that we have learnt the lesson. For instance; most of the developed countries do is to find places elsewhere in other countries, which cannot afford the luxury of caring for nature to carry out their hazardous research or dump their dangerous waste materials. Driven by poverty most of these less developed countries do not find an alternative to letting themselves becoming the garbage dumps of their more developed counterparts. By behaving in this manner the capable countries are only passing their problems to someone else. But this is quite a temporary measure. The dependently arisen character highlighted by Dependent Origination shows that none is immune to the problems that others face. One cannot do harm to someone else without causing harm to oneself in the process. Therefore, this point should provide us with an opportunity and a need to be generous and also to adopt a broader perspective of life in which both oneself and the other are included in a meaningful manner.

Get in touch. Stay safe. May triple gems bless you..!

Dependent origination

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