March 14, 2022; revised February 3, 2023
Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda explains the accumulation of kammic energies within the current life. One is “born” in various temporary “existences” numerous times during a lifetime. Understanding that helps clarify how future rebirths arise.
1. As I have explained in recent posts, keywords in the Tipiṭaka require detailed explanations. Many suttas (particularly those with deep insights) need detailed explanations. The practice of translating such suttas word-for-word to English has led to dangerous results, as I have explained in recent posts in “Word-for-Word Translation of the Tipiṭaka.”
- In the “Mahānidāna Sutta (DN 15),” the Buddha advised Ven. Ananda to learn how life evolves moment-to-moment based on the causes and conditions AT a given moment.
- That may not be clear from the English translation in the above link. That goes back to the problem of translating word-for-word without understanding the basic concepts.
2. Translation of the verse, “Atthi idappaccayā viññāṇan’ti iti puṭṭhena satā, ānanda, atthītissa vacanīyaṁ” in the above link is: “When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for consciousness?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’
- “Specific condition” is the English phrase used in that translation for “idappaccayā.”
- However, “idappaccayā” comes from “ida” + “paccayā,” meaning “based on the conditions at that time.“
- Thus, the correct translation should be: “When asked, ‘Is there a viññāṇa arising due to conditions at that time?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’
Idappaccayatā – At a Given Moment
3. Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda (IPS) is another essential teaching that remained hidden for hundreds of years. The word “Idappaccayatā” comes from “ida” for “here,” and the closest English word for “paccayā” is “condition.” Thus Idappaccayatā implies “based on this condition at this moment.”
- Therefore, Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda describes how “pati icca” leads to “sama uppāda” moment by moment based on the conditions present at that moment; see, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha” +” Sama+uppāda.”
- The additional “p” in “idappacayatā” comes from the combination of “ida” and “paccayā.” This is similar to “dammacakka” and “pavattana” combined to yield “dhammacakkappavattana” in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
- The following verse in “Avijjā Sutta (AN 10.61)” provides more insight.
“The first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, cannot be seen. Ignorance can arise at any time when the conditions are right.” (Pāli verse: “Purimā, bhikkhave, koṭi na paññāyati avijjāya: ‘ito pubbe avijjā nāhosi, atha pacchā samabhavī’ti. Evañcetaṃ, bhikkhave, vuccati, atha ca pana paññāyati: ‘idappaccayā avijjā’ti.”)
- In the same way, EACH TERM in Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda arises at any given moment.
4. The standard Uppatti (or Upapatti) Paṭicca Samuppāda discusses how avijjā leads to future existences (bhava) and births (jāti). These days that is the only Paṭicca Samuppāda that most people are aware of. But that version shows the cumulative effects of numerous Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles!
- As the Buddha explained to Ven. Ananda in the Mahānidāna Sutta in #1 above, it is beneficial to understand the operation of Paṭicca Samuppāda DURING a lifetime, moment-to-moment.
- Before that, we first need to realize that there are TWO main categories of viññāṇa, and only one comes to play in Paṭicca Samuppāda.
Numerous Types of Viññāṇa Arise in a Day!
5. We have numerous types of viññāṇa arising in a day! They are manily of TWO main categories: vipāka viññāṇa and kamma viññāṇa.
- Each sensory input (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, recalling) is a vipāka viññāṇa. They are cakkhu, sota, ghana, jivha, kāya, and mano viññāṇa. We don’t pay much attention to many of such vipāka viññāṇa.
- But we “attach” to some of vipāka viññāṇa we start generating kamma viññāṇa, which can be of two types: vaci and kāya viññāṇa. Even though mano viññāṇa also falls in this category, only vaci and kāya viññāṇa lead to a significant generation of kammic energies.
- Only kamma viññāṇa generating kammic energies are involved in the “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa” step in any Paṭicca Samuppāda. See “Viññāṇa – Two Critical Meanings.”
Viññāṇa in Paṭicca Samuppāda Are Kamma Viññāṇa
6. All initial steps in Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda working in real-time (moment-to-moment) provide the basis for the working of other types of Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- Accumulation of kamma bhava (kammic energy for future existences) happens over numerous Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles taking place over a lifetime and even over many lifetimes. Then birth in such an existence (uppatti bhava) can occur in the future.
- A given person has a specific set of gati (pronounced “gathi”) over a given time, and their thoughts/speech/actions lead to the accumulation of kammic energies (bhava) related to their gati.
- For example, person X with violent gati tends to think, speak, and act violently, engaging in harsh speech and violent actions. X regularly generates kammic energies through thoughts, speech, and actions. Such kammic energies lead to appropriate bhava, such as that of a vicious animal like a tiger, leading to rebirth (jāti) as such an animal in the future. That is the basic principle of Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda. That Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda is the standard Paṭicca Samuppāda in most textbooks today.
- Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda is a result of numerous Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda.
7. Therefore, it is critical is to realize the importance of understanding the working of Paṭicca Samuppāda during a lifetime, i.e., Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda.
- We also need to see that X will NOT always think, speak, or act that way. There will be times when X is interacting with his family. During such times he will think loving thoughts and speak and act with caring thoughts. Those involve “good” mano, vaci, and kāya saṅkhāra.
- It is easy to see how X will change from a “bad person” (in #6 above) to a “good person” when the conditions change.
- If X sees one of his enemies on the road, he will get into a “bad state of mind.” He will start Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles first by generating evil thoughts (mano and vaci abhisaṅkhāra) and thus “bad kammic energies.”
- But when X goes home, he will see his family and start generating opposite types of mano, vaci, and kāya saṅkhāra. They may even engage in “good activities” like participating in a volunteer project or providing meals to the hungry. During such activities, “good” Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles will operate.
Triggering of Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda
8. The starting of an Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycle ALWAYS starts with sensory input (ārammaṇa). The example in #7 above began with X seeing his enemy, say Y.
- Let us take another example, where X gets into a similar Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda (IPS) cycle triggered by an ārammaṇa coming through the ears.
- Suppose X is at home and is having a pleasant conversation with his wife. During the conversation, the wife mentions Y. Just hearing Y’s name could trigger X to recall some bad memories of Y. Thus, X may start telling his wife about his interactions with Y.
- Just hearing Y’s name made X’s mind go through numerous IPS cycles within a short time. Let us look into that.
9. Hearing of Y’s name was a sota viññāṇa. X heard Y’s name because his wife was talking about something, and she may have mentioned Y’s name, saying, “I saw Y while …”
- That was enough for X’s mind to have a flashback of prior experiences with Y. Now, if strong feelings about Y emerge, X may start describing to his wife how bad a person Y is.
- While conversing with his wife, X will recall his experiences with Y and start getting agitated. If his wife encourages that, he will get “worked up.” The two of them may even begin discussing how to hurt Y. If that happens, both will go through many IPS cycles accumulating more kammic energies!
- Even though they are not physically harming Y, just the generation of vaci abhisaṅkhāra will generate kammic energy! See “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra.”
Abhisankhara Versus Sankhara
10. Sankhara that arise via “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” are abhisaṅkhāra; see the previous post, “Niddesa (Brief Description) of Paṭicca Samuppāda.”
- Abhisaṅkhāra are saṅkhāra with lobha, dosa, moha (avijjā). Of course, these include mundane alobha, adosa, and amoha (i.e., without comprehension of the Noble Truths/PS/Tilakkhana.) See “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna).”
- For example, an Arahant speaks with vaci saṅkhāra. Such vaci saṅkhāra DO NOT have cetana with lobha, dosa, or moha.
- Cetanā WITH lobha, dosa, moha are sañcetanā (“san” + “cetanā“). Thus, abhisaṅkhāra have sañcetanā (“san” + “cetanā”) or “defiled intention.” An Arahant would not generate abhisaṅkhāra via sañcetanā; they only generate cetanā.
11. Now, let us go back to our discussion in #9. While X and his wife engage in IPS, they automatically go through all the steps in Paṭicca Samuppāda. As we see, while they discuss how to hurt Y, abhisaṅkhāra arises via avijjā! They do not realize that such abhisaṅkhāra will lead to future suffering.
- As they make plans, a future expectation of “hurting Y” is established, and that is the “kamma viññāṇa” arising via “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa” or, more precisely, “abhisaṅkhāra paccayā kamma viññāṇa” in the niddesa version.
- Their plan to hurt Y may involve telling some lies about Y to her friends. They may talk about specific friends of Y, and “mental images of friends of Y” come to the minds of the two of them. In IPS, those are the “nāmarupa” in “viññāṇa paccayā nāmarupa“. In an extreme case, they may plan to hurt Y physically, and any weapons used will be discussed, with images of such weapons going through their minds. Those are also types of “nāmarupa” in IPS. Note that “nāmarupa” in Uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda (UPS) has a different meaning; see, “Viññāna Paccayā Nāmarūpa.”
- Later, when they implement their plan, they will use other sensory faculties. For example, if they go and purchase a weapon, that involves all six faculties. That is “nāmarupa paccayā salāyatana.”
Bhava in This Life and for Future Lives
12. Since they will be using the sensory faculties with an angry mindset, all sensory contacts become “samphassa” (“san” + “phassa“) or defiled contacts with dosa (anger/hate.) Then they lead to “samphassa-jā-vedanā” or angry feelings based on hate. See “Vedanā (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways.”
- That, in turn, leads to “getting attached” to that effort even more. That attachment (via anger) is also taṇhā. See “Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance.”
- Once attached to an ārammaṇa, a mind stays on it, keeping it close. That is the “taṇhā paccayā upādāna“step. In the above example, X and his wife will now focus on ways to hurt Y. Their minds will go through numerous cycles of the above steps generating more kammic energy. That is the “upādāna paccayā bhava” step.
13. That kammic energy will produce two effects.
- Part of it will fuel an “angry bhava” in this life. Both of them have created “angry bhava” and are now “born in an “angry state.” Thus, “bhava paccayā jāti” has already taken place. That is jāti in IPS.
- The rest of the kammic energy created will be preserved in viññāṇa dhātu as “fuel for future bhava.” Such kammic energies can bring future births in matching existences. That is jāti in UPS.
- Both types of “jāti” will lead to more suffering. That is the last step in PS in both IPS and UPS cycles.
That is a brief description of Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda. It may be a good idea to go back and read the previous post, “Niddesa (Brief Description) of Paṭicca Samuppāda.” That will help solidify the understanding.
Better Not to Translate the Pāli Terms
14. Paṭicca Samuppāda is not an exotic process. While it can go to great depths, the basic principles are simple. However, one needs to truly understand the meanings of the 11 terms: avijjā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa, nāmarupa, salāyatana, phassa, vedanā, taṇhā, upādāna, bhava, and jāti.
- It is a big mistake to try to translate those terms word-for-word. There can be variations in the meaning of a word based on the situation.
- The Sinhala language does not have its own words for those 11 terms. The same words (අවිජ්ජා, සංඛාර, වින්ඥාන, නාමරූප, සලායතන, ඵස්ස, වේදනා, තන්හා, උපාදාන, භව, ජාති) are used in the Sinhala language. That has been a blessing because it leads to less confusion, even among those who may not fully understand the concepts.
- That is why I have tried to use the original Pāli words as much as possible in my posts. In discussing Paṭicca Samuppāda, it is almost impossible to use English words to convey the actual concepts. That is why I try to use the Pāli words wherever possible.