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pratitya-samutpada (Sanskrit: pratītya-samutpāda)

The most important conceptual formulation of the Buddha's insight into how things really are, or the nature of existence. This teaching is common to all schools of Buddhist thought - that all phenomena are the result of mutually dependent existence. Rendered in English as "dependent origination," "conditioned genesis," "dependent co-arising," "interdependent arising," etc.; (Pali paṭicca-samuppāda; Tib. rten cing 'brel bar 'byung ba).

Table of contents
1 General formulations
2 Applications
3 Transcendental Dependent Arising
4 External links

General formulations

The most general formulation of this concept goes:

This being, that becomes
With the arising of this, that arises
This not being, that does not become
With the ceasing of this, that ceases.

This draws attention to the constant flux of coming into being, and going out of being that is happening all the time. All phenomena are subject to this. And since all phenomena are dependent on other phenomena, then all phenomena are transient and unstable.


The general formulation has two very well known applications.

Four Noble Truths

The first application is to suffering, and is known as the Four Noble Truths:

Twelve Nidanas

The other application is to the rebirth process and is known as the Twelve Nidana's or the Twelve Links of Conditioned Existence. In this application of pratitya-samutpada, each link is conditioned by the preceeding one, and itself conditions the succeeding one. These cover three lives:

Former Life

Current Life Future Life And then because in this life one has been ignorant, and acted in such a way as to produce karma, the cycle continues round again.

Nibbana (Skt Nirvana) is often conceive of as stopping this cycle. By removing the causes for craving, craving ceases. So with the ceasing of birth, death ceases. With the ceasing of becoming, birth ceases... and so on until with the ceasing of ignorance no karma is produced, and the whole process of death and rebirth ceases. In fact the opportunity for change comes between the stages of perception and desire, since as we saw above it is craving that drives the whole process. If one can simply perceive without desiring, then craving will not arise, and one can begin to be free from the cycle of birth and death.

Transcendental Dependent Arising

However the Buddha taught two kinds of Dependent Arising. One which we have alreay seen, that cycles around and another which is progressive. The other, called Transcendental Dependent Arising, is far less well known and is progressive and goes from positive state to positive state, each one a quantum leap above the preceeding one, until finally at the stage of knowledge and vision of things as they really are it is no longer possible to fall back. Final liberation in this model is the stage of knowledge of destruction of the poisons (the poisons being greed, hatred and ignorance).

The main source for this model of Transcendental Dependent Arising, is the Upanisa Sutta.

External links