Understanding Dependent Origination

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby Aloka » Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:36 am

.

"An example of Dependent Origination in everyday life" can be found in Chapter 5 of P.A. Payutto's Dependent Origination.

http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/coarise5.htm

kind regards

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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby nowheat » Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:41 am

mikenz66 wrote:Sure. Some, such as Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Ajahn Payutto, and many other teachers talk about it working on various timescales.

I don't see "time scale" as being mentioned in what I see as the structure of this view of DA. It might be there in the original structure -- but I can't see it because I don't yet know enough about the Vedic view of atman around the time of the Buddha. Perhaps the information is available (if I were in a University, I'd be off talking to scholars studying these things to find out) and perhaps it is lost to us; at this point I can't even guess.

But I'm aware there is a 3-lives model that is more-or-less linear, and I've heard talk of a one-life model that is not conceived of as always following the precise order of twelve links, and I've read about the view of DA as being about moment-to-moment arising of feeling that results in dukkha "thousands of times in a day". And to this we can add your single-moment rendition. And then we have Thanissaro Bhikkho's "Dependent co-arising can be observed at many scales, which means that lessons drawn from observing the world can be applied..." which seems to me an attempt to say, "Everyone is right." But I think I'm inclined to agree with Nanavira Thera, that it's unlikely that the lesson the Buddha was teaching us was meant to be interpreted at several different scales. While he does talk about "untold lifetimes" in many suttas, this seems to me to be the sort of hyperbole that was popular in his day -- everyone had thousands of followers trailing them from here to there; every army was 10-fold larger than everyone else's. But he talks about "at most seven more lifetimes" with enough frequency and without the sense of wild exaggeration; this makes me think he had something definite in mind when he was speaking in that way (though I admit, as above, that I haven't found a reference for it and am not certain I ever will).

But all that's just background to what I want to say about what I'm seeing, and that is that I think I understand where the three-lives model comes from, and where the one-life model comes from also, and that's because I believe both are suggested by the underlying structure of DA. They are both *in there* and so when we're trying to sort out what's being said, we pick up echoes of the references to them in the structure, and then we mistake the structure for the version we latch onto (one life, or three lives). I'm thinking the moment-to-moment comes out of that middle section alone -- nothing else supports it, really, that I can find, but the problem I have with it is the way dukkha would need to be able to -- some fair amount of the time -- land in the moment of the feeling, if we're interpreting the reference to "lives" as "moments" then the experience of feelings that are the fruits that land within the same lifetime would have to land in the same "moment" instead; and I just don't think we usually get our dukkha quite that quickly. Seems to me the moment-to-moment (while useful as a stopgap till we understand DA better) is a bit of a Rube-Goldberg contraption trying to reconcile talk of many rebirths with the one bit of the whole thing we understand well -- the middle section about contact-feeling-craving-clinging which clearly has to be something that happens over and over.

I don't think the actual structure, though, is any of those, exactly. What it is, is a description of the Vedic worldview about the Cosmic order and how "self" comes into being, what we do to improve on that self in order to gain a better future, and where that self goes after death. This makes the initial section map onto the Prajapati myth, which describes both the coming-into-being of the First Man, and how we as individuals come into the world -- it explains how we are always seeking atman, and why; the middle section maps to the rituals based on the Prajapati myth: these are the things we do over and over again in order to increase our knowledge of self and gain a better life after death; the ending maps to what happens after the self has been perfected: it goes to birth in the world one has aimed for, after death. This is why we pick up echoes of the three lives model, because the first part is addressing who we are at our point of origin: birth from the womb; the second section is addressing the famous moment when an upper class man became "twice-born" by starting a life full of rituals (so this is his second birth and life); the third birth (and life) comes after death and it is the most important birth, into the world one has been striving for all one's life. But this is also -- if we look at it closely -- just one life being described, from birth through death.

But that structure isn't the whole of what DA is about, because it's not *endorsing* a belief in the Vedic worldview, it's *denying* that it's accurate; and so it simultaneously tells us what the Buddha sees is *actually* happening. For example, in the section that is about "Vedic rituals that create and perfect the self" the Buddha describes *our* rituals -- the things we do over and over and over again -- and of course we know, don't we, that they don't create and perfect a self that will go on to bliss in the hereafter, right?

So, in my speculations, when the Buddha talks about "at most seven more lifetimes", in making guesses about what that could connect to, I imagine that (since I'm seeing the structure as being about Vedic rituals -- samskara-type rituals, perhaps? -- that there might have been Seven Siginificant Samskaras that were used to perfect the self, and it was those he was making reference to -- significant "rebirths" within one's own lifetime. (Or maybe it just maps onto meditative achievements -- a case could be made for that, too.)

:namaste:
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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby Dmytro » Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:20 am

Hi,

Here's ane an extended Conditioned Arising chart, based on the suttas:

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:51 am

Hi nowheat,

Thanks for the interesting exposition. Your aguments are very plausible.

I just have a comment on this:
nowheat wrote:And then we have Thanissaro Bhikkho's "Dependent co-arising can be observed at many scales, which means that lessons drawn from observing the world can be applied..." which seems to me an attempt to say, "Everyone is right."

As I understand it, his argument it is more along the lines that we need a variety of timescales to make progress. We can directly observe things happening at short time-scales (particularly, of course, contact-feeling-craving) and this is used to infer the conditionality on longer timescales. And it's over the longer time-scales that we make progress.

And I'm not sure whether an "everyone is right" view would be an obstacle. (I hope not, since I find all the various interpretations reasonably plausible.) It's commonly understood that DO can be viewed as an elaboration of the Noble Truths, so presumably the key point we need to address is that (ignorant) craving leads to dukkha.

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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby nowheat » Sat Jun 09, 2012 5:44 pm

mikenz66 wrote:As I understand it, his argument it is more along the lines that we need a variety of timescales to make progress. We can directly observe things happening at short time-scales (particularly, of course, contact-feeling-craving) and this is used to infer the conditionality on longer timescales. And it's over the longer time-scales that we make progress.

And I'm not sure whether an "everyone is right" view would be an obstacle. (I hope not, since I find all the various interpretations reasonably plausible.) It's commonly understood that DO can be viewed as an elaboration of the Noble Truths, so presumably the key point we need to address is that (ignorant) craving leads to dukkha.

I also find DO maps to the eightfold path pretty well. There are many ways to express what's being said in DO -- the Buddha seems to have found hundreds of different ways to express what he was pointing out, which is a great thing.

I'm not saying that DO doesn't happen at different paces. I'm not saying that it is not true that sometimes dukkha arrives quickly, and sometimes it takes a while for our actions to ripen. What I am saying is that I don't see the Buddha as saying "See? If you look at it this way, you can see how DO is covering one lifetime, but it's not linear. And if you squint your eyes, you can see how it covers three lifetimes. And if you blink rapidly, you can see how it is moment-to-moment." I don't see the Buddha as saying "Every interpretation you folks come up with is one I intended for you to read into it."

Within DO he is definitely talking about the way we ritually do, many times, things that end in dukkha -- that's certain. But within the structure of DO itself, I don't see him as nailing down any particular time scale for "doing ritual round #2,258 will bring about dukkha-result #2,258 within X amount of time". Part of the reason I don't think he's nailing down timescales is because while he is using the structure of Vedic rituals as the model on which he is building his statement, the rituals he is actually describing aren't Vedic rituals, they are just the things we do. The model he is using to point out what gets built out of those rituals is "atta" and it generally seemed to appear around the Age of Reason (8 for Brahmins, anyway, 12 for warriors, 16 for merchant-class?) but was modified by rituals throughout a lifetime, right up to death. So we might use the Vedic ritual schedule (if there was such) to set a time scale but since (as with rituals) the thing he's saying *is* happening isn't a very good equivalent for what he's saying *isn't* happening, we probably can't use that as a precise scale either.

He seems to be saying, "Over the course of a lifetime*, you create and modify what you think of as 'self'" and he says that we are mistaken about what we're doing, but he isn't making definitive statements about three lifetimes, or one lifetime, or moment-to-moment, or a still snapshot. We can see it as being over one lifetime because the model uses one lifetime, but I'm not seeing him making hard-and-fast statements about what he's describing happening only once over a lifetime.

Maybe it's not an obstacle to gaining insight into our behavior, to have all these different models; they all seem to have interesting and useful things to say. So do philosophers and so do psychologists, and scientists, and doctors. But I'm particularly interested in what the Buddha was actually trying to convey because he seems to me to have had a better-than-average understanding of how we operate, and perceiving that all the models out there are what he intended us to believe is, I think, an obstacle to understanding what the man was saying and why he said things the way he did.

:namaste:
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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:27 am

Hi,

polarbuddha101 wrote:Do you believe in moment to moment D.O. along with 1 life, 2 lives, 3 lives/ some other model or just the latter options?


Paticca-samuppada does not have a time variable. "Paticca" means "conditioned by".

It's like a fire having fuel as a necessary condition. There's fire only as long as there's fuel. No fuel - no fire.
Knowing this, we know how to put out and prevent the fire - by depriving it of fuel.

But aeons or moments may pass between the supply of fuel and ignition of fire.

Two links are directly connected with the transition from one lifetime to another, 2-3 sankhara-vinnana, and 10-11 bhava-jati, as explained in Mahanidana sutta (DN 15). Otherwise any link can be explored in present life.

Remember Sati, the monk who thought that it was "just this consciousness" that travels from life to life and how he was rebuked because consciousness only arises dependent on conditions.

How does the Sati story mesh with the fact that when the body dies buddha said that consciousness is craving/clinging driven until it (or the process I'll call, it) finds a new body/realm to inhabit like fire blown by wind until it finds more brush to burn?


Where did Buddha say such a thing?

Also, let's remember that Kamma is like a field, consciousness is the seed for future birth, and craving/clinging is the sustenance/nutriment

Now, how do you explain that?


You probably meant Bija sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
It states that consciousness, having a footing, and being attached, proliferates - that's an observable fact.
It's useless to explain until you observe it.
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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:39 am

Dmytro wrote:
Remember Sati, the monk who thought that it was "just this consciousness" that travels from life to life and how he was rebuked because consciousness only arises dependent on conditions.

How does the Sati story mesh with the fact that when the body dies buddha said that consciousness is craving/clinging driven until it (or the process I'll call, it) finds a new body/realm to inhabit like fire blown by wind until it finds more brush to burn?


Where did Buddha say such a thing?.

Perhaps he means:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html
SN 12.11 Ahara Sutta: Nutriment
"There are, O monks, four nutriments for the sustenance of beings born, and for the support of beings seeking birth. What are the four?

"Edible food, coarse and fine; secondly, sense-impression; thirdly, volitional thought; fourthly, consciousness.

See also: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=10845

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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:13 am

"There are, O monks, four nutriments for the sustenance of beings born, and for the support of beings seeking birth. What are the four?

"Edible food, coarse and fine; secondly, sense-impression; thirdly, volitional thought; fourthly, consciousness.


That's a completely different thing. The beings seeking birth are those still in the mother's womb, or in the egg, etc.

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Re: Understanding Dependent Origination

Postby nowheat » Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:18 pm

Dmytro wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:Remember Sati, the monk who thought that it was "just this consciousness" that travels from life to life and how he was rebuked because consciousness only arises dependent on conditions.

How does the Sati story mesh with the fact that when the body dies buddha said that consciousness is craving/clinging driven until it (or the process I'll call, it) finds a new body/realm to inhabit like fire blown by wind until it finds more brush to burn?
Where did Buddha say such a thing?

MN 44.9 wrote:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn44/sn44.009.than.html
"But, Master Gotama, at the moment a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, I designate it as wind-sustained, for the wind is its sustenance at that time."

"And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."
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