(3) Pratitya Samutpada

Theory of Dependent Organization/Theory of Causation (“This being, that arises”)
This theory is logically coming from second noble truth. This is the cornerstone or foundation of Buddhism. It is the causal law of both individual lives as well as laws of the Universe. It explains :
a) That all phenomena are interdependent and conditional
b) Shows how birth, old age, death are all dependent upon conditions and thus that the suffering of life can cease if these conditions are removed. (Dvadasa-nidana)
c) Law of Karma : Every result or fruit depends on prior action performed.
Nothing is spontaneous and everything that happens in the physical and mental world is dependent on something. The existence of everything is conditional, dependent on some cause. When the condition disappears, the effect disappears.
P.S is the middle path between two extreme view points : Saswatvada or Eternalism and Ucchedavada or Nihilism.
Satkaryavad and Asatkaryavad. (Thus, everything is not destroyed after death, some elements remain)
Interpretations of PSP :
  • Hinayani : Realism. Thus PSP describes temporal sequence, i.e real relation between external objects and internal.
  • Yogacara Vignanavadin : Subjective Idealism like Berkeley. Explains the causal dependence of idea on other ideas. Since external objects depend on ideas which in turn depends on Consciousness, Consciousness is real. External objects are nothing but mere mental constructs. No difference between blue and consciousness of blue.
  • Sunyavadin : Everything is relative and interdependent. Empirical world has all the things with forms and names dependent on Pratitya Samutpada while Pramartha-Satya has an indescribable permanent truth which can be known only through direct intuitive insight into Prajna.
Depending on the cause (complement of cause and conditions), effect is produced/arises if the cause is removed, effect does not arise.
Nothing is spontaneous, everything that happens is dependent on something. The Shunyavadins take this further to conclude that everything is not only dependent but also relative to everything else. Example : Lamp-flame when oil is extinguished.
According to Buddha, life is suffering which is called “jara-marana”. This is because there is birth (jati). Birth is due to the will to be born (Bhava). Bhava is the cause of life after death. The cause of this tendency is our mental clinging (upadana) to the objects of the world. This mental cligning is owing to out thirst (trsna) to enjoy objects. Previous sense experience (vedana) is the cause of our thirst. But the question arises, why do we have sense experience? It is because of sense-object contact (sparsa). This contact arises due to six sense organs (Sadayatana). These six sense organs depend for their existence on psychological organism (nama-rupa). Why do we have this organism? Because of initial consciousness of embryo (vijnanana). This consciousness of the embryo is because of our impressions of Karma (Samskara) from our past experience. The impressions which make our rebirth are owing to ignorance (avidya) about truth. Hence, ignorance is the root cause of all our suffering.
Out of the 12 links, last two are related to the past life, the first two to the future and the rest to the present. So the 12 links cover the past, present and future life which is causally connected.
Criticism :
  • Origin of Avidya is not explained
  • Sometimes, it is said that it is an imitation of Brahmachakra of Upanishad.
  • If everything is dependent on cause for origin, what is the original cause?
Importance : PsP is considered base of all other Buddhist philosophical doctrines :
  • Theory of Karma
  • Theory of Momentariness (Ksanikvada)
  • Theory of no-ego (Nairatmavada)
  • Theory of aggregates (Sanghatavada)
  • Theory of causal efficieny (artha-kriya-karitva)
Thus, in order to end suffering in this cycle, clinging to desires, or pleasure, or thirst, any of these can be broken. Once this cycle is broken, the effort also ceases to be produced, as suffering is dependent on the other factors. Once tendency to take birth is also eliminated, Nirvana may be attained. This requires following the eight fold path.