The Conditioned Co-arising (Paṭiccasamuppāda): A Simplified Version

1 October 2519

The Conditioned Co-arising (Paṭiccasamuppāda): A Simplified Version

The Momentary Twelve-Conditioned Vicious-Cycle Process

 

Meaning Illustration
1. Ignorance (avijjā): Lack of knowledge or understanding; non-application of wisdom or intelligence in a particular case at a particular moment. 1. (On seeing B, his friend, A smiles to him and greets him but with no response except a frowning face.) A does not know the reasons and does not apply his thought to probe the causes and circumstances for B’s behavior.
2. Formations (saṅkhāra): Being subject to the habitual selforiented way of thinking, one develops good or evil thoughts and emotions out of one’s accumulated tendencies, dispositions, attitudes, aptitudes, beliefs, interests and prejudices. 2. Taking B’s behavior as directed toward him, A develops hostile images of B, fanciful ideas and emotions based on his accumulated mental qualities and habitual patterns of thought. He may feel hurt, angry, depressed or hostile against B.
3. Consciousness (viññāṇa): To perceive something is to be conscious of some of its aspects so as to get some specific meanings that are relevant, whether positively or negatively, to the current train of thought and emotions. 3. A sees all expressions and behavior of B as meant against him, affirming his current thought and emotions. The more he fancies, the more things appear so to him.
4. Psycho-physical qualities (nāmarūpa): The states of mind and body that accord with the state of consciousness. 4. A’s mental and physical conditions such as countenance and gestures accord with, follow, or function in such a way that is favorable to, the current state of consciousness.
5. Six sense-bases (saḷāyatana): The senses involved in the situation become alert and/or function in accord with other mental and physical conditions to supply the process with new relevant data. 5. The eyes, the ears and other senses of A, the services of which are needed in that situation, become active in function. (Other senses become insensitive or as if temporarily inoperative.)
6. Contact or impression (phassa): Mental contact with (=the experiencing of) concepts, ideas or images derived from or formed around the obtained data such as a beautiful hand, an ugly face, a harsh manner, a vulgar word, and a sweet voice. 6. A experienced out of the newly obtained and conceived data B’s unfriendly or unpleasant manners and appearances such as a rough manner, an unfriendly look, and a disparaging gesture.
7. Feeling (vedanā): The feeling of pleasure, displeasure or indifference that arises on experiencing agreeable or disagreeable objects. 7. A feels unhappy, displeased or painful because of the disagreeable and unpleasant experiences.
8. Craving (taṇhā): Being for one kind of feeling and against another, craving ensues manifesting itself under three aspects, viz.,

  1. Craving for sensual pleasures, i.e., the desire to enjoy the pleasures of the senses.
  2. Craving for existence, i.e., the desire for a state of existence in which the self can enjoy itself, be satisfied, be asserted or be preserved.
  3. Craving for non-existence, i.e., the desire to escape from things, states, conditions or situations which are disagreeable; or the desire for the passing away or annihilation of unpleasant states or things in the presence of oneself.
8. Craving for sensual pleasures not being satisfied, craving for existence being frustrated, the craving for non-existence is developed, repelling against displeasure. A desires for the disappearance or the destruction of B or to rid himself of the unpleasant figure of the latter such as by having him defeated.
9. Clinging or attachment (upādāna): Becoming preoccupied with the object of craving, fixing it as the target to which to direct one’s activities, either positively, to associate oneself with it, or negatively, to separate oneself from it, one becomes attached or clings to the objects of pleasure, the views and theories, the means to get and avoid, and the concepts of the self, that are to be in favor of oneself. (These attachments will influence, set the direction of, impose limitations on, or even distort one’s further interpretations, decisions and activities in general). 9. A assumes the whole of B’s behavior as his direct concern, and clings and resorts to the objects of pleasure, to the views and theories, to the means and methods and to the ideas of his self that will be in favor of himself in his concern with, or in his response to, B’s behavior.
10. Becoming (bhava): A specific state of being or existence that comes to be as the totality of one’s behavioral process going on under the influence or direction of one’s attachments. 10. A’s behavior that is to follow takes a specific pattern as to meet, or be under the influence of, his attachments, causing him to be in a specific state of existence, probably, that of being an adversary or one striving to overcome.
11. Birth (jāti): The springing up or appearance of the individual into that state of existence; the assumed self enters into conscious possession of that state of existence. There comes to be the ‘I’ who is in, or is possessed of, that state of existence. 11. A, by way of consciousness, assumes, or takes the conscious possession of, the state of being the adversary of or one striving to overcome B. There is A, who is the adversary or is striving to overcome B.
12. Decay and death (jarāmaraṇa): The springing of the individuality of ‘I’ renders it subject to the experience of decay (receding from perfection) and final perishing (being deprived of the perfection), and thus to the pressure of threatening separation, unpleasant association, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair, frustrated desires and all kinds of unwelcome states of insecurity.

These symptomatic states become accumulated as a suffering complex which influences one’s personality and further behavior. They themselves condition ignorance which runs on the vicious cycle. All human problems. Both individual and social, can be traced to, or have much to do with, this suffering complex. Not finding a right outlet or a way to root it out, one accumulates it to the detriment of oneself or bursts it out into problematic behavior affecting both oneself and others. For example, a man who is jealous of his power, for fear of losing the power, may become suspicious of all others and can do anything no matter how disastrous only to keep his power.

12. Once in the assumed state of the adversary or one striving to overcome, A becomes subject to the threatening and oppression of lacking the fulfillment of that state, receding from it, losing it, not being able to fulfill or to maintain it, struggling to keep it with himself and parting from it. In this process, he develops fear, anxiety, depression, frustration, pain, grief, despair or regret as the case may be, alone or in alternation with satisfaction, gladdening, joy, delight and cheerfulness. Here, the point is that, in case of such a birth-of-self process, the disagreeable feelings can develop alone in the absence of the agreeable ones, while the arising of the latter entails the developing of the former, and even the heightening of the degree of their strength, intensity and severity, thus redounding or lending themselves to the ongoing process in either case.

In order to cure personal suffering and prevent problematic behavior, one must cut apart the vicious cycle, not letting the suffering complex develop or accumulate. This can be achieved by dealing with the cycle at various links, especially at Nos.6 and 7. What are needed to destroy the vicious cycle are only mindfulness (“sati” for stopping the turbid or poisoned process) and understanding or insight (for rooting out the suffering complex and starting a purified process).

It should be noted that the process goes on rapidly and the whole cycle can be passed in the interval of a moment. Besides, strictly speaking, it is not a cycle as such; all conditions are interlinked.

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