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Additional Principles

Following are some additional principles of Dependent Origination. They can be used as criteria for testing one’s understanding of Dependent Origination.

  1. In the absence of Right View, Becoming and Birth are developed at the instant the Six Senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) come into Contact with the Six Objects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and idea). In other words, the process of Dependent Origination begins at the very instant Contact is established due to Ignorance.
  2. In the language of Dependent Origination, no ‘person,’ ‘ego,’ ‘us,’ or ‘them’ exists to experience suffering, the cessation of suffering, or transmigration.
  3. In the language of Dependent Origination, there is no pleasurableness; there are only suffering and the cessation of suffering. Pleasurableness is not spoken in Dependent Origination because the concept of a continuing existence is based on it. Pleasurableness readily leads to the concept of a continuing existence, whereas ‘suffering’ readily leads to nihilism. It is only in everyday language that the absence of suffering is referred to as ‘joy.’ Sayings like, “nibbāna is the utmost joy” is used for the convenience of teaching morality.
  4. There is no transmigrating consciousness (patisandhi vinnana) which connects this life to the next in the language of Dependent Origination. Therefore, the consciousness (vinnana) in Dependent Origination refers to the Six Consciousnesses arising from contacts between the Six Senses and Six Objects. The Buddha never explained consciousness as transmigrating consciousness because his purpose is to let us clearly see the Six Consciousnesses of ordinary sense organs. Transmigrating consciousness was only mentioned in essays from a latter period. These essays unconsciously introduced the concept of a continuing existence into Buddhism. They have encroached the original teaching of the Buddha like destructive insects. We already have consciousness due to ordinary sense organs, or Consciousness from Ignorance in the process of Dependent Origination, and have no need for any concept of transmigrating consciousness.
  5. In Dependent Origination, all phenomena emerge only when mutually dependent conditions exist. Furthermore, the beginning and end of each phenomenon happen in an instant, after which other phenomena continuously arise due to mutually dependent conditions. A phenomenon that arises due to mutually dependent conditions is called a Dependent Origination. There are two important principles here: (1) do not entertain the idea of a ‘self’ or ego, or embrace the concept of a continuing existence; and (2) do not entertain the idea that ‘nothing exists’ so as not to become nihilistic. As long as one stays in the Middle Path, he will not stray from the law of Dependent Origination.
  6. From viewpoint of kamma, Dependent Origination is the development and cessation of the pleasurable kammas, displeasurable kammas, and the neither-pleasurable-nor-displeasurable kammas. The meritorious kamma [punnakamma], non-meritorious kamma, and imperturbable kamma (anenja) are all considered as suffering. One must transcend the three kinds of kamma to be totally free from suffering. In this way, the kamma will not become basis for ego clinging or the concept of a continuing existence.
  7. That which conforms to the ‘principle of direct and immediate efficacy’ (sanditthika) primarily concerned with the world and present life, is in accord with Buddhist principle. The interpretation of Dependent Origination that encompasses three lifetimes does not follow the ‘principle of direct and immediate efficacy.’ The eleven states of Dependent Origination must all conform to the ‘principle of direct and immediate efficacy’ to be recognized as the Buddha’s teaching.
  8. There are many ways of interpreting Dependent Origination in the suttas. For instance, (1) from Ignorance to Aging and Death in forward order (anuloma); (2) from Aging and Death to Ignorance in reverse order (patiloma); the forward and reverse orders of interpretation also talk about the cessation of Dependent Origination; (3) from contacts between the Senses and surroundings up to emergence of Consciousness, Contact, and Feeling but without mentioning Ignorance; (4) from Feeling up to suffering in Aging and Death.
  9. Dependent origination as a phenomenon lasts an instant; it is impermanent. Therefore, Birth and Death must be explained as phenomena within the process of Dependent Origination in everyday life of ordinary people. Right Mindfulness is lost during contacts of the Senses and surroundings. Thereafter, when vexation due to greed, anger, and ignorance is experienced, the ego has already been born. It is considered as one ‘birth’ of the ego or false ‘self’. The ‘birth’ that originates from the mother’s womb used in everyday language is not the ‘birth’ meant in Dependent Origination. The meaning of birth in everyday language obstructs our understanding of Dependent Origination. We should instead direct our attention on possible ‘future births’ [emergence of the ego] at the moment.
  10. A philosophical theory of Dependent Origination is not as beneficial to us as the practice based on it; therefore, it is not essential. Dependent Origination is a kind of cultivation. It can stop the manifestation of suffering by maintaining awareness in the Six Senses when they come in contact with surroundings. Applying this principle to protect the Six Senses and stop influxes (asava)—the ‘flowing’ of the citta that perpetrates samsara—is the real end to the process of Dependent Origination. Any similar method of cultivation is correct, even if it is not referred to as Dependent Origination. This manner of ending the process of Dependent Origination is called the Right Path (sammapatipada).

Analysis of Dependent Origination ← Prev | Next → Everyday Language and Dhamma Language

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