Monday, September 8, 2014

How things arise/cease: Dependent Origination

Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly, Wiki edit D.O.
Theravada novice monastics studying in school, Southeast Asia (Teeradejtdl/flickr)
The 12 Links of the Chain
"Who sees D.O. sees the Buddha."
The 12 Nidānas are a series of causal links that explain the process of rebirth and the arising of suffering -- of samsara (endless cycling) and dukkha (constant disappointment) -- as well as the possibility of undoing this impersonal process to liberate oneself from the Wheel of Life and Death.
Within the ancient living Theravada Buddhist tradition preserved in Southeast Asia, the twelve nidanas are considered to be the most significant application of the principle of Dependent Origination.
The relationship between the links is not a linear causal process, each link giving rise to the next link. Instead, each link in the process arises in dependence upon multiple "causes and conditions" (Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha's Words, 2005, p.316).

D.O.: Bhavachakra, "Wheel of Life"
For example, whenever there is ignorance, craving-and-clinging invariably follow. Craving and clinging themselves indicate ignorance (Ibid., p.314).

The thrust of the formula is such that when certain conditions are present, they give rise to subsequent conditions, which in turn give rise to other conditions, and the cyclical nature of life within the Wheel of Life and Death (through countless worlds within the 31 Planes of Existence) can be seen.
This is graphically illustrated in the Bhavacakra (Wheel of Life and Suffering), artistic depictions of the cycle we are trapped within.
The 12 links and their causal relationships can be expressed as follows:

Ignorance conditions Formations Avidyā/Saṃskāra Avijjā/Saṅkhāra
Formations c's Consciousness Saṃskāra/Vijñāna Saṅkhāra/Viññāṇa
Consciousness c's Mind-Matter Vijñāna/Nāma-rūpa Viññāṇa/Nāmarūpa
Mind-Matter c's Sense Gates Nāmarūpa/Ṣaḍāyatana Nāmarūpa/Saḷāyatana
Sense Gates c Contact Ṣaḍāyatana/Sparśa Saḷāyatana/Phassa
Contact c's Feeling Sparśa/Vedanā Phassa/Vedanā
Feeling c's Craving Vedanā/Tṛṣṇā Vedanā/Taṇhā
Craving c's Clinging Tṛṣṇā/Upādāna Taṇhā/Upādāna
Clinging c's Becoming Upādāna/Bhava Upādāna/Bhava
Becoming c's Birth Bhava/Jāti Bhava/Jāti
Birth c's Aging+Dying Jāti/Jarāmaraṇa Jāti/Jarāmaraṇa

The Links
Tibetan lamas trainees, Lamayuru gompa, Ladakh, India (Dietmar Temps/flickr)
Theravada (Sasin Tipchai/Bugphai/flickr)
In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, these 12 links are considered the most significant application of the principle of Dependent Origination -- the explanation of how all things come into existence and depend on conditions for their continued existence.

The following key teachings on this principle regarding the arising of suffering/disappointment are found in the Pali language sutras (Rupert Gethin, Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford U. Press):
  • Śāriputra’s introduction to the teaching of the Buddha was in the form of the following summary verse recited to him by the wandering ascetic Ven. Aśvajit (Assaji): "Of those dharmas/phenomena which arise from a cause, the Tathāgata (Buddha) has stated the cause, and also the cessation; such is the teaching of the Great Ascetic."
  • Idappaccayatā (translated as specific conditionality, this/that conditionality, etc.) is identified as a key expression of the doctrine of Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda). It is expressed through this formula: ‘This existing, that exists; this arising, that arises; this not existing, that does not exist; this ceasing, that ceases’ [‘With the coming to be of this, that comes to be; without this, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.’] (MN 115, SN 55.27 or Dutiyānāthapiṇḍika Sutra, etc.) More

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