Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda

Re-written with a new title May 18, 2019; revised May 20, 2019

Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda is another important teaching that has been hidden for hundreds of years. The word “Idappaccayatā” comes from “ida” for “here” and the closest English word for “paccaya” is “condition”. Thus Idappaccayatā implies “based on this condition at this moment”. Therefore, Idappaccayatā Paticca Samuppāda describes how “pati icca” leads to “sama uppāda” moment by moment based on the conditions present at that moment; see, “Paticca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda””.

  • The additional “p” in “idappacayatā” comes from the combination of “ida” and “paccaya”. This is similar to “dammacakka” and “pavattana” combined to yield “dhammacakkappavattana” in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
  • Another important point is that “‘A first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, is not seen such that before this there was no ignorance and afterward it came into being. Ignorance arises at any time when the conditions are right” or “Purimā, bhikkhave, koṭi na paññāyati avijjāya: ‘ito pubbe avijjā nāhosi, atha pacchā samabhavī’ti. Evañcetaṃ, bhikkhave, vuccati, atha ca pana paññāyati: ‘idappaccayā avijjā’ti.”; see, “Avijjā Sutta (AN 10.61)“.

1. As mentioned in earlier posts (see, “Paticca Samuppāda“), paticca samuppāda (PS) or “cause and effect” can describe various stages of life in multiple ways: from a very fast 16 PS cycles operating inside a thought moment to a long-term PS process that describes how a “living being” is born in one of an uncountable number of species in the 31 realms in the rebirth process.

  • The Buddha said that the PS is deep as a deep ocean and it can be applied to any situation, because everything “in this world” obeys the basic principle of cause and effect. It is no wonder that only one PS has been studied for over thousand years while the true Dhamma remained hidden.
  • In the previous post we discussed the uppatti PS which describes that latter process, i.e., how the PS cycle operates between lives; see, “Akusala-Mūla Uppatti Paticca Samuppāda“.
  • The other extreme of a very fast PS process involved within a thought moment (citta) is very complex and we do not need to examine it right now. We can learn it, but it can be “seen” only by a Buddha.
  • In this post we will discuss the idappaccayatā PS cycle, which describes phenomena in in real time without getting into what happens within a citta (within a thought moment). This process — just like the PS cycle operates between lives — can also be easily understood by anyone.

2. As mentioned in the introduction to PS, whenever we willingly grasp something, whatever results from that action has a corresponding nature. Because one got attached willingly, a similar bhava will result: i.e., pati+icca leading to sama+uppada or paticca samuppāda (PS). Here, “icca” is pronounced “ichcha”.

  • In the most fundamental sense, a “greedy state of mind” will result when we get attach with greed, i.e., one develops a habit or gati or bhava corresponding to that state of mind; a “hateful state” (habit/gathi/bhava) results via hateful attachment; acts of greed and/or hate are always done with ignorance.
  • Three examples of uppatti bhava for those three cases illustrate the principle: An excessively greedy person is likely to get a “peta bhava” and be born as a peta (hungry ghost); a person who is often engaged in hateful actions towards other beings is likely to develop a “hateful bhava” and is likely to be born in the niraya (hell) where there is lot of hate due to extreme suffering; an animal bhava is developed with both greed and hate. Since ignorance is always there, an animal bhava is cultivated with all three “sans“; this is the root of the word “tirisan = three sans” for an animal in Sinhala.

3. Now let us look at the idappaccayatā PS, which describes how we develop certain habits or bhava or gati during a given lifetime. It is often easier to use an example to illustrate these PS cycles. Let us examine how a teenager becomes an alcoholic.

  • The teenager become friendly with a group of other teenagers who are into drinking. Initially, he may be reluctant to join in, but due to ignorance he joins them and starts drinking.
  • If a good friend or a family member came to know about the situation they could have prevented the teenager from associating with such bad company, i.e., ignorance could have been dispelled by explaining to him the adverse effects of not only drinking, but also of associating with such a group.

4. The PS cycle thus starts with “avijjā paccayā sankhārā“; due to ignorance of the adverse results, the teenager starts drinking with that group (sankhārā = “san +khāra” or actions of accumulating, in this case bad kamma).

5. When he really begins to like drinking, he starts thinking about it even while doing other things. This is “viññāna paccayā nāmarupa“.

  • In this case, nāmarupa are the mental images associated with that viññāna, i.e., the names and shape of particular alcohol bottles, the places where he normally drinks, the friends who drink with him, etc.
  • He thinks about the next “event” and visualizes the scene, all these are associated nāmarupa. Thus, here nāmarupa are the mental images of “things” and “concepts” that one would like to enjoy.

6. Now his six senses become “involved” to provide a reality to those nāmarupa; to provide the desired sense pleasures.

  • In Pāli terms, the six indriya (senses) become “āyatana“. For a lack of a single English word, I will call an “āyatana” an “import/export facility”, and really get involved in the actions associated with drinking events.
  • His mind is often thinking about the next “event” (where, when, with whom, etc), he makes necessary preparations for the “event” using all six senses (now āyatanas), that are in accordance with the nāmarupa in the previous step, i.e., “nāmarupa paccayā salāyatana“, where salāyatana means the six āyatana: the eye is now not merely for seeing, it has become an assistant in the lookout for a “good drink” or a “good friend to chat with”, etc.

7. Thus we have “salāyatana paccayā phassa“, i.e., all six āyatana become actively engaged making contact with relevant sense objects. His eyes are on the lookout for a favorite drink or a favorite person to chat with, etc.

  • However, “salāyatana paccayā phassa” is just the “uddesa” or short version given in the standard PS steps. As in many cases, it needs to be explained in detail; see, “Sutta – Introduction“.
  • Here instead of phassa, it is really called “samphassa” (= “san” + “phassa“), where “san” implies it not just contact, but a “san” contact; see, “What is “San”? – Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)“.

8. Such “samphassa” lead to vedanā, i.e., “(san)phassa paccayā vedanā“. He experiences “good (but immoral) feelings” with all those sense contacts.

9. Now comes, “tanhā paccayā upādāna“. Upadana means “grabbing or pulling it close” like an octopus grabbing its prey with all its eight legs.

  • In the present case, the teenager wants very much to re-live this experience, and he gets immersed in it; when he is experiencing the event his mind is totally absorbed in it; he does not think, and does not have the mindset to think about, any adverse consequences.
  • This is the critical “habit forming” or “bhava forming” step.
  • If this habit becomes very strong, it could lead to a new bhava as an animal via the uppatti paticca samuppāda process;see,”Akusala-Mūla Uppatti Paticca Samuppāda“.

10. So, the next inevitable step is, “upādāna paccayā bhavo“; this particular state of getting drunk becomes more and more ingrained in his mind. It becomes “a bhava” or “existence” or habit that is of importance to him. He very much wants to re-live that experience.

  • And that is exactly what he gets: “bhava paccayā jāti“. This “bhava” or the kamma seed is now well established, and he can be born in that “drunken state” quite easily. All he needs is an invitation from a friend, or even a sight of a bar while travelling, for example.
  • It is natural to get into that state, or be “born” in that state. So, he gets drunk at every opportunity. See, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein” for more details.

11. However, like everything else, any birth is subjected to decay and suffering: “jāti paccayā jarā, marana,…  dukkhakkhanda samudhayō hōti“. This happens in many stages as we describe below.

  • But in the case of a single drinking event, that state of intoxication comes to an end, possibly with a big headache and a huge hangover. That episode ends with nothing to show for it, but a hangover.
  • Even worse, now he is “hooked’; he has formed a bad habit, which only strengthens even more if he does it again and again. Because each time, the PS runs, the viññāna for that habit gets more fuel, and the bhava gets stronger.

14. It is important to realize that the above PS cycle does not run to its conclusion when the drinking “event” is over. Rather the cycle can occur repeatedly unless it is stopped willfully, deliberately.

  • And the way to do that is to learn Dhamma and develop good habits and become a “sampajannō“; see, “Kayanupassana – The Section on Habits (Sampajanapabba)“.
  • However, if the teenager keeps his bad habit, he gets trapped in that bhava, the more jāti that occurs, i.e., more frequently he will be drunk. When one gets really drunk, one tends to behave like an animal without any sense of decency, and the long-term consequences could be rebirth as an animal; see below.

15. And it is not even necessary to participate in a “drinking event” to run another PS cycle. He may be sitting at a desk trying to study, and may start going through the PS cycle MENTALLY.

  • He would start with mano sankhārā and vaci sankhārā (vitakka/vicara or planning), thus generating (and strengthening) the viññāna for drinking, generating nāmarupa (visuals of places, friends, alcohol bottles, etc), and thus going through the rest of the cycle: salāyatana, samphassa, vedanā, tanhā, upādāna, bhava, jāti (“living it”), repeatedly.
  • Thus numerous such PS cycles can run at any time, probably increasing its frequency as the bhava or the habit builds up.
  • The stronger the bhava or habit is, it will be harder to break it. This is why meditation together with another good habit to work on should be undertaken to replace a bad habit. While in meditation, one can contemplate the adverse consequences of the bad habit. Developing a good habit will keep the mind away from the bad habit. See, “Habits and Goals” and also “Bhavana (Meditation)“.

16. if the teenager keeps his bad habit, that “viññāna of a drunkard” will only grow with time. If it stays strong at the cuti-patisandhi moment (at the end of his human bhava), it could lead to a new uppatti bhava via the uppatti Paticca Samuppāda process mentioned in #1 above: Akusala-Mūla Uppatti Paticca Samuppāda“.

  • Such a viññāna is likely to give rise to rebirth in the animal realm, as mentioned in # 14.

Note: This post was re-written to replace an early post, “Akusala-Mula Pavutti (or Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppāda”. I had not realized at that time that what the Waharaka Thero had described in Sinhala as “Pavutti (or Pravurthi) Paticca Samuppāda” is really the idappaccayata Paticca Samuppāda in the Tipitaka.

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