Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda

Re-written May 18, 2019; May 10, 2021; revised April 15, 2023

Akusala-mūla upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda (that describes future rebirths) is the only version of Paṭicca samuppāda (PS) described in even the current Theravada texts, even though the other versions are in the Tipiṭaka. Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda is a critically important one that describes kamma accumulation in real-time.

Idappaccayātā – At a Given Moment

1. Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda is another crucial teaching that has been hidden for hundreds of years. The word “Idappaccayātā” comes from “ida” for “here,” and the closest English word for “paccayā” is “condition.” Thus Idappaccayātā implies “based on this condition at this moment.” 

  • Therefore, Idappaccayātā 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.
  • Another critical point is that “‘The first point of ignorance, bhikkhus, cannot be seen. Ignorance can arise 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)” for details.
Idappaccayātā Versus Upapatti Paṭicca samuppāda

2. As mentioned in earlier posts (see “Paṭicca Samuppāda“), Paṭicca samuppāda (PS), or “cause and effect,” can describe various stages of life in multiple ways. At a deeper level, 16 PS cycles operate inside a thought moment.

  • The Buddha said that the PS is deep as a deep ocean and can apply it 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 a thousand years while the true Dhamma remains hidden.
  • In the previous post, we discussed the upapatti PS, which describes that latter process, i.e., how the PS cycle operates between lives; see “Akusala-Mūla Upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.”
  • The other extreme of a swift 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.
  • This post will discuss the idappaccayātā PS cycle, which describes phenomena 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.
Pati+icca Leading to Sama+uppāda

3. 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, similar bhava will result: i.e., pati+icca leading to sama+uppāda or Paṭicca samuppāda (PS). Here, “icca” is pronounced “ichcha.”

  • In the most fundamental sense, a “greedy state of mind” will result when we attach via greed, i.e., one develops a habit or gati or bhava corresponding to that state of mind; a “hateful state” (habit/gati/bhava) results via hateful attachment; acts of greed and/or hate are always done with ignorance.
  • Three examples of upapatti 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 a lot of hate due to extreme suffering; animal bhava has developed with both greed and hate. Since ignorance is always there, animal bhava are cultivated with all three “sans“; this is the root of the word “tirisan = three sans” for an animal in Sinhala.
An Example of Idappaccayātā PS

4. Now, let us look at the idappaccayātā PS, which describes how we develop certain habits or gati during a given lifetime and make “kamma bhava.” That “kamma bhava” can become a “upapatti bhava” at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment of grasping new bhava. It is often easier to use an example to illustrate these PS cycles. Let us examine how a teenager becomes an alcoholic.

  • The teenager becomes friendly with 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 drinking but also of associating with such a group.

5. The PS cycle thus starts with “avijjā paccayā sankhārā” (of course triggered in a party setting). 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).

6. 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 shapes of particular alcohol bottles, the places where he usually drinks, the friends who drink with him, etc.
  • He thinks about the next “event” and visualizes the scene; all these are associated with nāmarupa. Thus, here nāmarupa are the mental images of “things” and “concepts” that one would like to enjoy.

7. Now, his six senses become “involved” to provide reality to such nāmarupa, to provide the desired sensory pleasures.

  • In Pāli, the six indriya (senses) become “āyatana.” For lack of a single English word, I will call an “āyatana” an “import/export facility” and get involved in the actions associated with drinking events.
  • His mind is often thinking about the next “event” (where, when, with whom, etc.), and he makes necessary preparations for the “event” using all six senses (now āyatanas.), That happens per 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.

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

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

10. Now comes, “taṇhā 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 to relive this experience. He gets immersed in it; when he is experiencing the event, his mind is fully absorbed; 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 new bhava as an animal via the upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda process; see “Akusala-Mūla Upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.”

11. So, the next inevitable step is “upādāna paccayā bhavo“; this particular state of getting drunk becomes increasingly ingrained in his mind. It becomes “a bhava” or “existence” or habit that is important 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 traveling, 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.

12. 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 finally ends, possibly with a big headache and a massive 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, strengthening even more if he does it repeatedly. Because each time the PS runs, the viññāna for that habit gets more fuel, and the bhava get stronger.
Uncountable Idappaccayātā PS Cycles During a Lifetime

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

  • And the way to do that is to learn Dhamma and develop good habits and become a “sampajannō“; see “Kāyānupassanā – 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., he will be drunk more frequently. When one gets 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.
  • Furthermore, such Idappaccayātā PS cycles run numerous times, even during the day, whenever we act with avijjā.
Memories Can trigger Idappaccayātā PS Cycles.

14. 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 start going through the PS cycle just by recalling a past event or a scheduled future event.

  • 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, taṇhā, upādāna, bhava, jāti (“living it”), repeatedly.
  • Thus numerous such PS cycles can run at any time, probably increasing their 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).”
Connection to Upapatti PS Cycles

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

  • Such a viññāna is likely to give rise to rebirth in the animal realm, as mentioned in # 13.

16. Details on Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda in a new subsection, “Paṭicca Samuppāda During a Lifetime.”

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