- What Is Dependent Origination?jh
- Everything Leansjh
- Retreats with Nathan and Zoharjh
Members of Rob Burbea's teacher training group will be offering an online meeting exploring Emptiness, Dependent Origination, and any Samadhi and Insight practices based on Rob Burbea's teachings. For more information head to DependentOrigination.org/group
Dependent Origination, as the name suggests, is a teaching that points out how all things come into being reliant on other causes and conditions. The origin of 'this' is dependent on 'that': "if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist"
This teaching opens us to the liberating nature of interdependencies; a practical exploration of how everything leans. The Buddha’s liberation is dependent of the often unseen potential regarding dependencies; they work both ways––constructive and destructive. If one knows a necessary condition for 'building up' a certain experience, a ‘dependency’ so to speak, one can work on lessening such a dependency gaining freedom from that experience.
When we follow this exploration of dependencies we go beyond the relative truth of cause and effect, or deep feelings of interconnectedness (both of which are invaluable for a healthy and happy heart-mind), towards the 'empty' origin of all experience.
The Buddha's teaching is aimed at profound release from stress. Although it is radical and deep it meets us wherever we are.
When we know what our stress depends on we have a key to unlock freedom. The Buddha’s second noble truth states that 'dukkha’––stress––is dependent on ‘tanha’––thirst––just as a lamp's flame is dependent on fuel. ‘Tanha’ is a requisite of ‘dukkha’ in an interdependent (increasing and decreasing, building and collapsing) way: the more we are 'distressed', the more we must be 'thirsting' after or rejecting experience; and the less we 'thirst' the less 'stressed' we will feel. Just as more or less fuel supports a greater or lesser flame respectively.
The co-arising of stress with the push and pull on life (AKA 'tanha'––thirsting) is something we can experiment with in our own experience. Naturally it’s not that easy to do, which is the very reason there is a path of practice. A path built on the freedom of seeing dependencies and finding skilful means to reduce stress and induce freedom. This path is deeply supported by the other benefits of meditation ('bhāvanā'––cultivation): calming, steadying, and cultivating wellbeing.
The map of dependent origination has evolved overtime to the list of 12 items detailed below as a cycle. The Buddha's liberation was supported by inquiry into the links of dependencies, and manifested in turning the circle back by releasing the prior dependencies towards a particular sense of freedom.
Prior to the Buddha's conception of dependent origination the names of the links in the map were being used to explain how a conscious living being comes out of the world. The Buddha took these terms from this Vedic hymn of creation and used them to pragmatically explain the arising of dukkha in the present human experience.
Regardless of the dependent origins of the map, and potential additional baggage it therefore carries, the schema of dependent origination can be applied to the present moment in verifiable and effective ways: We can immediately agree that 'contact' with the world is not possible without 'a sense organ' present to feel it; and that a 'sense organ' in turn needs a 'mind and body'––'namarupa'; likewise, overtime it will be evident that 'vedana'––the reactive classification of phenomena according to the pleasure and pain they could give––is seen to be a necessary condition for 'tanha'––the 'thirsting' for pleasure, and 'distaste' for pain––from which 'dukkha'––'stress'––dependently arises; furthermore with sustained investigation borne of steadiness, the subtleties of underlying 'sankhara'––subtle mental activities involved in the fabrication of experience––can be understood and shaped towards truly profound freedom.
The whole process is represented quite impersonally by this map, aiding us to investigate experience and cut through various levels of ignorance, such as our habitual self-cherishing perspective, bringing more space, clarity, and wisdom to our life and way of living in this moment. Counter-intuitively more spaciousness engenders more intimacy than is available in being identified with or as the phenomena of life. This allows us to uncover real lasting wellbeing and freedom. All borne by understanding dependent origination, and developed into skilful involvement with life.
Visit The Map of Dependent Origination to learn more about the links in the chain.
Dependent Origination is just one possible translation for the Pali word Paticcasamuppada (Pratityasamutpada in Sanskrit)––a word that suggests an active sense of seeing into and understanding. Let's take each part of the compounded terms that 'make up' Pratityasamutpada separately: 'pratitya' can mean "based on" and 'samutpada', "coming into being".
To give more shape to the meaning of this potentially complex phrase here are a few other common interpretations:
It is also synonymous with Śūnyatā––Emptiness or Corelessness––and is related to the concept of 'Anattā'––Not-Self––because the sense of self dependently arises.
All beings consist of causes and effects,
In which there is no ‘sentient being’ at all.
From phenomena which are exclusively empty,
There arise only empty phenomena.
All things are devoid of any ‘I’ or ‘mine’.
In this, there is not a thing to be removed,
Nor the slightest thing to be added.
It is looking perfectly into reality itself,
And when reality is seen, complete liberation.
Read the rest of this sublime poem, and other wise quotations at Words of the Awake.