Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha” + “Sama+uppāda”

Revised November 3, 2018; July 29, 2019

“Yō Paṭiccasamuppādam passati,
so Dhammam passati.
Yō Dhammam passati,
so Paṭiccasamuppādam passati.”

One who sees Paṭiccasamuppāda
sees the Dhamma.
One who sees the Dhamma
sees Paṭiccasamuppāda.

(Mahā­hatthi­pa­dopa­ma Sutta (MN 28); at the end)

Therefore, it is critical to understand what Paṭicca Samuppāda is. It explains how causes lead to effects. NOTHING in this world happens without reason; see the next post for details: “Paṭicca samuppāda – Overview.”

  • Here is the pronunciation of Paṭicca Samuppāda:

Paṭicca samuppāda translated into English as “Dependent Origination” does not convey the phrase’s true, complete meaning. It is better to keep the same name and understand what it means.

  • The closest English translation is “Willful attachment leading to the existence of similar kind.”

1. Paṭicca = paṭi + icca;  here, “paṭi” is bonding, and “icca”  is liking.

  • Thus Paṭicca is “bonding to something willingly” or “get attached to something through a liking for it.”
  • This bonding depends on one’s gati (habits and likings), which in turn are due to deep-seated āsavas (cravings).
  • There are many posts on the website on this key Pāli term: “gati.” One can get a list of relevant posts by typing “gati” in the “Search” box at the top right.

2. Samuppāda = “sama” (same or similar) + “uppāda” (generation), i.e.,  an existence (bhava) of similar quality or kind.

3. For example, when we generate potent hateful thoughts about a person, we could be in the mindset of an animal. At that moment, we may even act like an animal, hitting and clawing at that person if things get out of hand. Even if we may not act physically, we will have that mindset.

  • At that moment, we generate a gati corresponding to “bhava” or existence similar to an animal in our mind. That, in turn, leads to grasping a corresponding “bhava.” Then “bhava paccayā jāti” leads to a similar “jāti” or birth.
  • Because we got “bonded” to that situation via hateful thoughtful thoughts, we generated a corresponding “bhava” in our minds. Results correspond to causes: cause and effect. As we keep creating the same kind of “bhava,” that leads to forming “gati” or habits. They are all interconnected. 

4. Now, if we keep incurring such situations frequently, i.e., get into fights with that person (or with others) similarly, we will be building up that “bhava,” and this could lead to the formation of very potent kamma seeds; see, “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipaka.”

  • Furthermore, it becomes a “gati” as well (see, “Saṃsāric Habits and Āsavas“). Then it is easier to get into such situations, and a vicious cycle starts leading to that gati to take hold.
  • Here, it is critical to understand that “uppāda” or “birth” is according to the “bonding with liking” (pati icca) for CAUSES, not the birth itself. For example, no one wants to be born a dog. But a birth as a dog CANNOT be avoided if one willingly does “lowly things” appropriate for dogs and thus cultivates “dog gati.

5. Now we combine the two terms: Paṭicca Samuppāda” means “attachment to something leading to the generation of corresponding “bhava” (and thus gati).

  • The establishment of a bhava, in turn, leads to a corresponding jāti or birth: “when one gets attached, it sets up the likelihood of a new birth of similar characteristics.”
  • For example, when someone acts with greed out of habit, he/she is prone to behave that way during a lifetime. Furthermore, it could be manifested more powerfully in a future birth by being born as a  Peta (hungry ghost).

6. Therefore, the establishment of an “existence” (bhava) could be two ways:

  • Even during the current lifetime, a similar situation can arise. For example, the “gati” formed via above mentioned “fights” with other people will tend to draw oneself to a similar outcome even with the slightest provocation. That is a “pavutti bhava” (and jāti) that lasts for a short time during current life; see, “Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.”
  • If this hateful “gati” becomes profoundly ingrained and becomes a potent kamma seed, that could come to the mind at the dying moment. That could lead to a hateful “uppatti bhava” in the next existence, as an animal or even in the niraya (hell); see, “Akusala-Mūla Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.”

7. Here, one should also be able to make a distinction between “bhava” (existence) and “jāti” (birth). For example, a uppatti bhava may give rise to many births until the kammic energy in that kamma seed wears out; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”

  • That is why, even though the human bhava is RARE, one may be reborn a human many times at a stretch. Only those born human in a previous life (or a few lives) may be able to remember those lives; see, “Evidence for Rebirth.”
  • Different types of Paṭicca samuppāda cycles discussed at: “Paṭicca Samuppāda Cycles.”

8. By perceiving illusory happiness, we get ourselves willingly attach to pleasurable things. We also get attached to stuff via hate, and the root cause for that is an attachment to something related.

  • For example, we get “attached” to a person with hate if that person is blocking our access to something that we like: We keep thinking about how bad he is, etc.
  • Thus attachment is possible with greed or hate. That is what “taṇhā” (in Sinhala, “තැනට හාවීම” or “get fused or attached to” in English) means; see, “Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance.”
  • Therefore, it is essential to realize that “taṇhā” does not mean just greed. It could also be due to hate or dislike.

9. Ultimately, both desire and hatred arise due to ignorance. Ignorance of not knowing the unfruitful nature of “this world” of 31 realms, i.e., “anicca, dukkha, anatta.”

10. There is no one, or no external force, keeping us bound to “this world” of 31 realms; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”   Just like an octopus grabbing its prey with all eight legs, we willingly cling to things in “this world” of 31 realms filled with suffering.

  • Unless we see the true unfruitful and even dreadful (in the lower four realms) nature of ‘this world” by comprehending “anicca, dukkha, anatta,” we will not let go of it.

11. That is an excellent example of the confusion caused by translating Pāli to Sanskrit and then back to English or Sinhala. See the explanation of Pratittyasamutpada (the Sanskrit word for Paṭicca Samuppāda) on Wikipedia:


  • I think you will agree that it is confusing at best, with multiple possible meanings.
  • On the other hand, for someone knowledgeable in Pāli or Sinhala, the meaning is evident in the name itself: paṭi + icca sama+uppāda.

12. Please read “Habits and Goals,” “Saṃsāric Habits and āsavas,” and “The Way to Nibbāna – Removal of Āsavā,” before reading further postings as they appear below. One should also analyze one’s own life experiences to see whether they are compatible with this explanation. That is part of the vipassanā (insight) meditation.

  • If one is genuinely interested in Buddha Dhamma, it is critical to understand Paṭicca samuppāda.
  • How our thoughts arise AUTOMATICALLY due to gati is discussed in the post, “How Are Gati and Kilesa Incorporated into Thoughts?“.
  • Even though the underlying concept seems to be simple, Paṭicca Samuppāda can run very deep. In the “Mahā­nidāna Sutta (DN 15)“, the Buddha admonished Ven Ananda not to take it lightly.

Next, “Paṭicca samuppāda – Overview“, ………….

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