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Saŋyutta Nikaya
2. Nidāna Vagga
12. Nidāna Saŋyutta
4. Kaḷarakhattiyo Vagga

Sutta 35

Paṭhama Avijjā-Paccayā Desanā Suttaɱ

From Ignorance as a Requisite Condition

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Provenance, terms and conditons

 


 

Translator's note

In this discourse, the Buddha refuses to answer the question of whether there is anyone or anything lying behind the processes described in dependent origination. When his interlocutor asks, for each factor in the causal process, "Which is the X, and whose is the X?" the Buddha equates this with the assumption that "X is one thing, and it is the X of someone/something else." He then equates this with the proposition, which he has rejected many times elsewhere in the discourses, that the life-principle is one thing, and the body is something else, i.e., that there is something unseen lying behind the visible processes of life. However, the Buddha has also rejected, in as many times, the proposition that the life-principle is the same as the body, i.e., that there is nothing unseen lying behind the visible processes of life. Avoiding these two extremes, he simply drops the question and focuses attention on what is directly perceivable — the way one factor in dependent co-arising functions as a prerequisite for the next. If one were to focus on what might or might not lie behind these factors, one would be tied up in speculations about what, by definition, can never be experienced. But by focusing on the interplay of the factors that are directly perceivable, and — by so doing — developing dispassion for them, one can overcome the craving and ignorance that keep producing stress and suffering, and in that way gain release.

 


 

[1][pts][wrrn][bodh] Staying at Savatthi... [the Blessed One said,] "From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications... From birth as a requisite condition, then aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress and suffering."

When this was said, a certain monk said to the Blessed One:

"Which is the aging and death, lord, and whose is the aging and death?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said.

"If one were to ask,

'Which is the aging and death, and whose is the aging-and-death?'

and if one were to say,

'Aging and death are one thing, and the aging and death are something/someone else's,'

both of them would have the same meaning, even though their words would differ.

When one is of the view that the life-principle is the same as the body, there is no leading the holy life.

And when one is of the view that the life-principle is one thing and the body another, there is no leading the holy life.

Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle:

From birth as a requisite condition comes aging and death."

"Which is the birth, lord, and whose is the birth?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth."

"Which is the becoming, lord, and whose is the becoming?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming."

"Which is the clinging, lord, and whose is the clinging?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging."

"Which is the craving, lord, and whose is the craving?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving."

"Which is the feeling, lord, and whose is the feeling?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling."

"Which is the contact, lord, and whose is the contact?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact."

"Which are the six sense media, lord, and whose are the six sense media?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From name-and-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media."

"Which is the name-and-form, lord, and whose is the name-and-form?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form."

"Which is the consciousness, lord, and whose is the consciousness?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said... "From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness."

"Which are the fabrications, lord, and whose are the fabrications?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said. "If one were to ask, 'Which are the fabrications, and whose are the fabrications?' and if one were to say, 'Fabrications are one thing, and these fabrications are something/someone else's,' both of them would have the same meaning, even though their words would differ. When one is of the view that the life-principle is the same as the body, there is no leading the holy life. And when one is of the view that the life-principle is one thing and the body another, there is no leading the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

"Now from the remainderless fading and cessation of that very ignorance, every one of these writhings and wrigglings and wigglings — 'Which aging and death, and whose aging and death?' or 'Aging and death are one thing, and this aging and death are something/someone else's' or 'The life-principle is the same as the body,' or 'The life-principle is one thing and the body another' — are abandoned, their root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising.

"From the remainderless fading and cessation of that very ignorance, every one of these writhings and wrigglings and wigglings — 'Which is the birth... Which is the becoming... Which is the clinging... Which is the craving... Which is the feeling... Which is the contact... Which are the six sense media... Which is the name-and-form... Which is the consciousness... Which are the fabrications, and whose are the fabrications?' or 'Fabrications are one thing, and these fabrications are something/someone else's' or 'The life-principle is the same as the body,' or 'The life-principle is one thing and the body another' — are abandoned, their root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising."

 


 

See also:
SN XII.17

 


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