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Buddhist law of conditioned co-genesis

Nalluruwe  Ranjith Fernando

The Buddha has expounded the Law of Conditioned Co-genesis, Paticca Samuppada, in his sermons, contained in Sutta Pitaka, Abhisamaya Samyukthaya, Nidhana collection, in the first sermons under the Buddha category. These could be referred to for first hand acquaintance of the Law as stated by The Buddha.

Lord Buddha himself has stated that conviction (comprehending fully), of the law, is not an easy task. When Reverand Ananda, a chief disciple, stated that the law is easily understood, the Buddha countered, “Say not so, Ananda, say not so, it is really difficult to understand. And therefore, humans do not see the way to liberation from the bondage of the cycle of birth.” This confirms the difficulty of fully comprehending this Law in all its ramifications.

In this matter, the difference or the distinction between knowledge of the Law and conviction or comprehension of the law should be properly perceived. Mere knowledge, is not conviction.

The law minutely clarifies the manner, in which the mind behaves as well as the manner in which, the material world evolves. Persons who develop the understanding and complete conviction of the operation of the laws, get a penetrating vision of the world as it is, and its evolution through a process of flux. Such a person could see and comprehend how the material world and the world of mentality gestates, evolves and ultimately disappears in disintegration. The mental processes have been analysed and categorised into compartments, like frames of a motion picture. In real swift motion, these separate frames produces a moving picture. But, when the process is desconstructed, in analysis, the separate components that produced the motion is clearly seen. The law of conditioned co-genesis explains the mechanism at play in the functioning of the mind and the evolution of worldly phenomena.

It is a common practice for both Bhikkhus and learned lay persons to directly expound what is stated in the relevant Sutras, word by word, relating to the psychological processes, but it is seldom that a clear analysis is made of how, the law governs material and social evolutionary processes of the world and the universe. The non-explanation of this latter part is unfortunate. This has been commented upon also by two eminent research scholars of Buddhism, Vishvanath Prasad Varma of India (Early Buddhism and its Origins) and Sri Lankan Dr. Nalin Swaris (The Buddha’s Way to Human Liberation).

Psychological processes

This exposition describes how sorrow is birthed (in the mind) through 12 links of thought processes which is like an interlinked chain of conditions. The 12 links are as follows:

1. Ignorance Avijja, 2. Mental constructs, Sankara, 3. Consciousness, Vinnana, 4. Name form Nama Rupa, 5. Six sense organs, salayathana, 6. Contact, Phassa, 7. Feeling, Vedana, 8. Desire/Craving, Tanha, 9. Clinging, Upadana, 10. Being, Bhava, 11. Birth, 12. Sorrow, Lamentation, Old age, Death, Dukka, Jathi, Jara, Marana.

The birth of sorrow in the human mind is directly linked to this 12 processes which are both mental and material and are conditioned.

These 12 thought processes which are constructs of the mind are linked one giving rise to the other, when the conditions are fulfilled. The process is inter-linked in the following manner.

Avijja is ignorance. It is explained that when one is ignorant of objective reality, especially the four-fold Aryan Truths, sorrow, cause of sorrow, elimination of sorrow and the path leading to elimination of sorrow, then this ignorance gives rise to mental formations, Sankara, mostly delusory mental constructs. Sankhara means mental formation. These are volitional mental activity, habitual dispositions, and Karmic formations. It has also been described as sendimentations of past experiences. These mental formations give rise to consciousness Vinnana.

Vinnana is consciousness - capacity to know and the ability to acquire knowledge is Vinnana. This consciousness pertains to the six senses, one different to the other. Accordingly consciousness of the eye, the consciousness of the ear, the consciousness of the nose, the consciousness of the tongue, the consciousness of the body and the consciousness of the mind, are an amalgam of the human consciousness. This consciousness gives rise to Name-Form, Nama, Rupa.

Nama-Rupa or name-form denotes the mental component and the physical component in the human body. The mental component, Nama, enables a person to Feel, Vedana, Identify or Distinguish, Sanna, Motivate Volitional activity, Chethana, Touch/Contact, Phassa all of which are mentally generated activity. The material component, Rupa is the physical body comprising of Water, Fire, Air and Earth, Apo, Thejo, Vayo, Patavi and explained in modern terms as fluidity, heat, air and material grossness, four qualities which are present in the human body.

These two components Nama-Rupa, mental and material continue to exist, one sustained by the other interdependent and inseparable, under normal circumstances.

This Nama-Rupa gives rise to the six Sense-Organs, Salayatana.

Salayatana - are, the six sense bases or organs, Eye, Nose, Ear, Tongue, Body and mind.

These six sense bases give rise to contact, Phassa.

Phassa is, contact or touch, which could be achieved through all six sense bases. Contact is completed when any external object or stimuli comes into contact with any of the sense bases.

Phassa or contact gives rise to feeling.

Vedana or Feeling is described as pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant, being the three characteristics of feeling.

Tanha is, feeling that gives to Tanha desire or craving. It has a positive and negative character. Pleasant feelings generate desire, unpleasant feelings generate repulsion which is the negative aspect.

Tanha gives rise to Upadana, clinging.

Upadana is, clinging. Clinging to pleasant feelings happens in various degrees of intensity.

Upadana gives rise to Bhava - being

Bhava or Being, is the conditions completed to come into existence, as a person. According to this explanation, the possibility of coming into existence, Bhava is only when the clinging characteristic is strong.

When the possibility of coming into existence matures to its full form, birth occurs.

Birth is coming into physical existence. Birth gives rise to sorrow.

Dukka means sorrow or unsatisfactoriness. Birth invariably gives rise to or is followed inevitably by sorrow, degeneration, dissatisfaction and death which are part and parcel of life.

This is a cyclic process, one leading to the other, and for clarity it has been deconstructed into 12 different components to explain the process.

This explains the basic premise that when conditions are appropriate, a combination of conditions gives rise to another, combination in a process. This applies both to the mental as well as the material spheres. And, an inherent characteristic of this process is birth, existence and death.

Lord Buddha pointed out, that if a person could discipline his mind to a higher level, where this samsaric cycle is clearly observed and the transient nature of all living things is realised, then such a person could put an end to this cyclic existence. That is, by intense endeavour, reverse the process of paticca samuppada.

The path discovered by the Buddha to eliminate suffering was through minute examination of the origin of suffering. Having identified how suffering originates, he formulated the path to end suffering. The radical path, to eliminate suffering, he named, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Arya Ashtangika Marga. This consists of a system of training, described as Patisothagami - a going against the current - based on reaching higher levels of Discipline, (Seela), concentration of mind, (Samadhi) and moving towards - wisdom (Pragna). The ascendant path consists of four stages, Sovan, Sacrudagami, Anagami and Arahath, which is the final enlightenement.

The Law of Conditioned Co-genesis itself is not the way to the elimination of suffering. It is only an exposition of how suffering originates in the mind.

Cosmic procession of events

Lord Buddha has pointed out in his discourses that the cosmic procession of events both material constructions and the evolution of social conditions are all subject to this Universal Law of Conditioned Co-genesis. All phenomena are in a continuous evolving situation where birth, existence and death continues unabated. Certain conditions when created give rise to certain effects. The conditioning of these effects again give rise to other effects in a non-stop evolving process of mutatis mutandis.

Nothing remains in the cosmos alone or separately. There is a continuous flux, different materials and situations that interact and produce new mutations and new situations. The processes are inter-connected things co-producing others. The Buddha applied the method of deconstruction (to break into the elemental components and then examine) to examine this process.

The following are a few examples, cited by Lord Buddha in explaining the Law of Conditioned Co-genesis to his followers, pertaining to the material world and social conditions.

To be Continued


ඉල් පුර අටවක පෝය

ඉල් පුර අටවක පෝය ඔක්තෝබර් 25 වනදා ඉරිදා අපර භාග 4.54 ට ලබයි. 26 වනදා සඳුදා අපර භාග 7.32 දක්වා පෝය පවතී. සිල් සමාදන්වීම 25 වනදා ඉරිදාය.

මීළඟ පෝය නොවැම්බර් මස 2 වනදා සඳුදාය.

පොහෝ දින දර්ශනය

First Quarterපුර අටවක

ඔක්තෝබර් 25

Full Moonපසෙලාස්වක

නොවැම්බර් 02

Second Quarterඅව අටවක

නොවැම්බර් 09

New Moonඅමාවක

නොවැම්බර් 16

2009 පෝය ලබන ගෙවෙන වේලා සහ සිල් සමාදන් විය යුතු දවස

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