Mar 30 2010 in Buddhism Basics by littlebuddha
The doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit; Pali: paticcasamuppāda; Tibetan: rten.cing.’brel.bar.’byung.ba; Chinese: 緣起), often translated as “Dependent Arising,” is an important part of Buddhist metaphysics. It states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect. It is variously rendered into English as “dependent origination”, “conditioned genesis”, “dependent co-arising”, “interdependent arising”, or “contingency”.
The best-known application of the concept of Pratītyasamutpāda is the scheme of Twelve Nidānas (from Pali nidāna “cause, foundation, source or origin”), which explain the continuation of the cycle of suffering and rebirth (Samsara) in detail.
The Twelve Nidānas describe a causal connection between the subsequent characteristics/conditions of cyclic existence, each giving rise to the next:
- Avidyā: ignorance, specifically spiritual
- Saṃskāras: literally formations, explained as referring to Karma.
- Vijñāna: consciousness, specifically discriminative
- Nāmarūpa: literally name and form, referring to mind and body
- Ṣaḍāyatana: the six sense bases: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind-organ
- Sparśa: variously translated contact, impression, stimulation (by a sense object)
- Vedanā: usually translated feeling: this is the “hedonic tone”, i.e. whether something is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
- Tṛṣṇā: literally thirst, but in Buddhism nearly always used to mean craving
- Upādāna: clinging or grasping; the word also means fuel, which feeds the continuing cycle of rebirth
- Bhava: literally being (existence) or becoming. (The Theravada explains this as having two meanings: karma, which produces a new existence, and the existence itself.)
- Jāti: literally birth, but life is understood as starting at conception
- Jarāmaraṇa (old age and death) and also śokaparidevaduḥkhadaurmanasyopāyāsa (sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and misery)
Sentient beings always suffer throughout samsara, until they free themselves from this suffering by attaining Nirvana. Then the absence of the first Nidāna, ignorance, leads to the absence of the others.