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October 13th, 2008


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07:21 pm - Paticca Samuppada



"The Buddhist vision of interdependence, presenting reality as a dynamic interaction of mutually conditioning events, posits no prime cause or unconditioned absolute to which occurrences can be traced in a linear fashion.

This causal vision, known as paticca samuppada, or "dependent co-arising", underlies the Buddhist perception of the human predicament, and of the liberation that is possible. It constitutes the intellectual content of the Buddha's enlightenment- that part of his transforming, intuitive realization that can be expressed in conceptual terms. It represents that character of reality, the truth about the universe, to which Gotama awoke. It is, therefore, accorded paramount importance in the scripture; its understanding considered requisite to release from suffering and basic to the moral and meditative practices which the Buddhist Path upholds. Upon occasion it was identified with the Dharma itself, the order of things, the saving truth. The scriptures say "Whoever sees paticca samuppada sees the dhamma, whoever sees the dhamma sees paticca samuppada." It is hard to find another faith or value system where a doctrine of causality holds so explicit and central a position.

In this doctrine, reality appears as a dynamically interdependent process. All factors, mental and physical, subsist in a web of mutual causal interaction, with no element or essence held to be immutable or autonomous. Understanding this is important because, it is held, our suffering is caused by the interplay of these factors, and particularly by the delusion, craving, and aversion that arise from our misapprehension of them. We fabricate our bondage by hypostatizing and clinging to what is by nature contingent and transient. The reifications we construct falsify experience, imprison us in egos of our own making, and doom our lives to rounds of endless acquisition and anxiety. Being so caused, our suffering is not endemic; it is not inevitable. It can cease, the causal play reversed.

This cessation is not effected by unity with or obedience to an immutable being aloof from space-time, nor by the power of any metaphysical substance or entity. Our hope hinges on no external agency, but derives rather from the causal order itself where self and act, project and perception are mutually determining. Hence, liberation entails a vision of the dependently co-arising nature of all phenomena. This vision, which amounts to a reorganization of the personality, is made possible by the cleansing of perception through meditation and through moral conduct."

-Joanna Macy, "Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems."


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[User Picture]
From:dharma_ben
Date:October 14th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
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Yeah. So few pop-Buddhism books touch upon the subject, and where they do, they rarely connect it to the other teachings. Paticca-samuppada underlies every single teaching the Buddha ever gave. It is the thread that connects them all and the schema with which to interpret them. Shame.
[User Picture]
From:stardustweare
Date:October 14th, 2008 08:29 am (UTC)
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I agree - it is the single most important concept in buddhism, the realization that led to it all - and the most lightly touched upon, because it is a concept that is so difficult to teach - like most buddhist concepts, it has to be experienced to be truly understood.
[User Picture]
From:dwaleberry
Date:October 14th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I recently got the book and am immensely enjoying it. Thanks for the pointer.
Someday I gotta buy you a beer.

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