Hetu-Phala, Paccuppanna, and Paticca Samuppada

July 2, 2016; Revised July 5, 2016

The existence of anything in this world (i.e., a sankata) can be explained in a step-wise process with three “steps”: (i) there must be root causes, (ii) there must be suitable conditions, and (iii) whatever that arises due to those two steps will have characteristics (gathi) that can traced back to those causes and conditions.

  • The title is pronounced as :

1. Nothing happens without causes in Buddha Dhamma. This is why there CANNOT be a beginning to the rebirth process. That is a logical impossibility, and is THE main argument against creation by a “Super Being” or a Creator.

  • CAUSE AND EFFECT is the backbone of science. In order for a scientific theory to be accepted, that theory HAS TO have explanatory power to describe HOW a given effect takes place.

2. It may be hard to fathom initially, but there are only 6 primary causes (roots) that causes anything and everything in this world to arise: lobha, dosa, moha (three immoral roots or hetu), and alobha, adosa, amoha (three moral roots).

  • The word “hetu” comes from the Sinhala words, “hayen ethu” which means “wrapped with six”. Thus all causes are ultimately due to one more of the six roots mentioned above.
  • Also, “phala” in Pali and Sinhala (“pala“) means “harvest” or the “result”.
  • Thus anything and everything in this world arises due to those six root causes.
  1. The  three immoral roots mainly give rise to the four lowest realms (apayas) and the three moral roots mainly give rise to the other 27 realms.
  • When one cultivates the three moral roots, one stays away from the apayas and be able to be born in the higher 24 realms. Furthermore, one also cleanses one’s mind so that one can begin to comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta (the true nature of the world); see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“.
  • However, in most cases, we can see only the “immediate causes”. For example, a wet floor is the immediate cause for someone to slip and fall. But if one was mindful  (aware) of the wet floor, the fall could have been avoided.

4. Such immediate causes (that derive from those six) are easier to see or to deduce. The causes for a tree to come to life are embedded in a seed. When the seed is planted that causes a tree (or a plant) to grow.

  • What causes an explosion from a bomb is in the explosive material in the bomb. There will not be an explosion unless the bomb has potent explosive material in it.
  • How those are connected to the six root causes is a bit more involved, and needs a good knowledge of Abhidhamma to fully explain.

5. Now, let us analyze how causes lead to corresponding effects. Just because there are causes, corresponding effects do not necessarily appear. There must be appropriate CONDITIONS present to bring out the effects.

  • A seed has embedded in it the causes to bring about a full-grown tree. But if that seed is in a cool, dry place, no tree will come to life because of it.
  • But if the seed is planted in a good soil with exposure to sunlight, it can germinate and grow to be a healthy tree.
  • The bomb will not explode unless it is triggered but a spark. If it is laying somewhere for many, many years, the explosives may degrade and lose their explosive power.

6. This is called “paccuppanna” or “pacca” + “uppanna“, where “pacca” is for “paccaya” or conditions. “Uppanna” means to come to life or birth.

  • Anything in this world (i.e., a sankata) is a paccuppanna, i.e, is born when suitable conditions become available. But, of course, the root causes MUST also be there.
  • Thus even if there is a field out there with good soil and sunlight, nothing will grow unless some seeds are planted.
  • Thus paccuppanna means “conditional arising”. This term  “conditional arising” is used today INCORRECTLY as the translation of paticca samuppada. As we will see below, paticca samuppada also describe the nature of things that arise due to  paccuppanna.

7. You can put this “theory” to test by considering anything in this world.

  • Any given living being is born due to a kammic energy that was created in the past. And that kammic energy was created by a good act with moral roots or a bad act with immoral roots.
  • Even non-living things (vegetation, mountains, rivers, etc) are also there due to causes and conditions. The analyses are a bit deeper and we will discuss some in the future.

8. The last step (in the three-step process that we started off with) says, whatever that arises due to those two preceding steps will have corresponding characteristics (gathi). This is nothing but paticca samuppada; see, “Paticca Samuppada – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppäda”.

  • In the example that we discussed above, a given seed will not give rise to any tree or a plant. A rice seed will give rise to a rice plant. An apple seed will not give rise to a rice plant but an apple tree, etc.
  • The same is true for living beings. A chicken will be born of a chicken egg, not a turtle. Note that the other two conditions are satisfied here too: there was a being with “chicken sankhara” who came into that egg as a gandhabba, and that egg needs to be incubated correctly to be hatched and for that hatchling to come out.

9. Actually, the steps paccuppanna and paticca samuppada are not in a time sequence, but related. The necessary conditions (paccaya) in paccuppanna are analyzed in detail in the paticca samuppada steps.

  • When an animal (say a dog) is born, the conditions that led to that birth can be traced in the “Akusala-Mula Paticca Samuppada” cycle.
  • First, “bhava paccaya jathi” step says, that dog was born due to a “dog bhava“. The step, “upadana paccaya bhava” says that “dog bhava” arose due to a human grasping it at the dying (cuti-patisandhi) moment; the step, “tanha paccaya upadana” says that grasping was done due to craving for it, and so on.
  • Note above that the human did not really crave to be a dog. Rather he/she enjoyed acts that are normally done by dog. And that process started off with “avijja paccaya sankhara“, where due to ignorance of their consequences, he was cultivating “dog sankhara“: For example, thinking, speaking, and doing things that are done by dogs, for example, having indiscriminate sex (sometimes with even family members).

10. We will discuss this more depth in future posts, but I hope the main ideas can be grasped from the above description.

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