Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Patricia-Samuppada (Dependent Origination)


Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

Patricia-Samuppada aka the chain of causation - The idea of interdependence is a fundamental concept of Buddhism describing the causes of suffering. Patricia-Samuppada is a detailed analysis of suffering, it's arising, its ceasing, and the way leading to its ceasing (Bhikkhu Buddhadāsa, 2020).  It is the causal chain of causation. Patricia-Samuppada has dependent origination which is a system of causality. (everything exists because of a prior cause). This is the Buddhistic explanation of the rising nature of the objective world (with our thoughts we make the world) and this cycle ends with Enlightenment (Ricketts. 2020).


The entire edifice of the Buddhist religion is established on Patricia-Samuppada and it explains the origin of greed (Kumar, 2019) and how attachment to sensory pleasures leads to suffering. According to Patricia-Samuppada Karmic activity is the condition for consciousness and grasping is the condition for existing. The absence of suffering causes spiritual happiness.


 Patricia-Samuppada describes the root of all suffering

1. Ignorance ( Avijja )

2. Impression ( Samkhara )

3.. Consciousness ( Vinnana )

4 Mind and Matter ( Nama-rupa )

5. Six organs of sense ( Salayatana )

6. Contact ( Phassa )

7. Feeling ( Vedana )

8. Desire (Tanha )

9. Attachment ( Upadana )

10. Existence ( Bhava )

11. Birth ( Jati )

12. Old age and death ( Jaramarana )


The complete casual formula specifies that


Ignorance conditions impressions

Impression conditions consciousness

Consciousness conditions mind and matter

Mind and matter condition the six senses

The six senses condition contact

Contact conditions feeling

Feeling conditions craving or desire

Desire conditions attachment

Attachment conditions existence

Existence conditions birth

Birth conditions old age and death.   (Bhattacharya,  1982)


However, there are numerous misunderstandings and distortions associated with the original notion of the chain of causation. Some scholars indicate that the Ven Buddhagosa misunderstood the concept of Patricia-Samuppada and included some erroneous ideas in the original philosophy. Nandamālābhivaṃsa (2019) elucidates that Ven Buddhaghosa could not comprehend the profundity of Patricia-Samuppada.


Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic but realistic. Buddhism denies an everlasting “self” like a “soul” Being said naturally, a question arises- what migrates from life to life? In Buddhism, there is no permanent self and only the ‘self’ idea exists. The self-idea leads to the illusion of a permanent self. ‘self’ is due to a temporary combination of many factors; it is essentially just an ‘imaginary’ belief. In this context, there is no ‘person’ who has suffered or extinguishes suffering. Also, there is no permanent entity (nothing is permanent), including an eternal ego or soul. There is no internal, immutable self and it is constantly changing according to the laws of birth, aging, illness, and death (Quyet et al., 2022). Buddhism further explains that rebirth occurs without a fixed self or soul.  


Western thought derives mainly from the Platonic-Aristotelian system (Zalta, 2016). The Western concept of causation describes where the cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is partly dependent on the cause. Aristotle described the first formal theory of causality in his Physics and Metaphysics and after several centuries David Hume profoundly discussed it.   The concept of causality has grown from a nebulous concept into a mathematical theory. According to Buddhism, nothing exists independently, and everything is conditioned. This is the metaphysical concept about the nature of existence.


Hunter (2012) highlights that dependent origination is not nihilism and within dependent origination, there is the inherent meaning of co-arising or co-dependence which is the very basis of our existence. According to Bhikkhu Buddhadāsa  (2007), the world is a perpetual flow of natural forces incessantly interacting and changing. Liberation can be achieved only when the ignorance about self is eliminated, thereby eliminating greed, hatred, and delusion.

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