7. No doubt more such specific inadequacies and inconsistencies in the traditional interpretation of paticcasamuppāda could be found, but since this is not a polemic we are not concerned to seek them out. There remains, however, a reason for dissatisfaction with the general manner of this interpretation.
The Buddha has said (Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,191>) that he who sees the Dhamma sees paticcasamuppāda; and he has also said that the Dhamma is sanditthika and akālika, that it is immediately visible and without involving time (see in particular Majjhima iv,8 <M.i,265>). Now it is evident that the twelve items, avijjā to jarāmarana, cannot, if the traditional interpretation is correct, all be seen at once; for they are spread over three successive existences. I may, for example, see present viññāna to vedanā, but I cannot now see the kamma of the past existence—avijjā and sankhārā—that (according to the traditional interpretation) was the cause of these present things. Or I may see tanhā and so on, but I cannot now see the jāti and jarāmarana that will result from these things in the next existence.
And the situation is no better if it is argued that since all twelve items are present in each existence it is possible to see them all at once. It is, no doubt, true that all these things can be seen at once, but the avijjā and sankhārā that I now see are the cause (says the traditional interpretation) of viññāna to vedanā in the next existence, and have no causal connexion with the viññāna to vedanā that I now see. In other words, the relation sankhārapaccayā viññānam cannot be seen in either case. The consequence of this is that the paticcasamuppāda formulation (if the traditional interpretation is correct) is something that, in part at least, must be taken on trust. And even if there is memory of the past existence the situation is still unsatisfactory, since memory is not on the same level of certainty as present reflexive experience.
Instead of imass'uppādā idam uppajjati, imassa nirodhā idam nirujjhati, 'with arising of this this arises, with cessation of this this ceases', the traditional interpretation says, in effect, imassa nirodhā idam uppajjati, 'with cessation of this, this arises'. It is needless to press this point further: either the reader will already have recognized that this is, for him, a valid objection to the traditional interpretation, or he will not. And if he has not already seen this as an objection, no amount of argument will open his eyes. It is a matter of one's fundamental attitude to one's own existence—is there, or is there not, a present
problem or, rather, anxiety
that can only be resolved in the present