II. Nidāna Vagga
12. Nidāna Saɱyutta
II. Āhāra Vagga
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Copyright Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2000)
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On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's Park ...
"Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.
The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness.
These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.
"Bhikkhus, these four kinds of nutriment have what as their source, what as their origin, from what are they born and produced?
These four kinds of nutriment have craving as their source, craving as their origin; they are born and produced from craving.
"And this cravig has what as its source, what as its origin, from what is it born and produced?
This craving has feeling as its source, feeling as its origin; it is born and produced from feeeling.
"And this feeling has what as its source...?
Feeling has contact as its source ...
And this contact has what as its source ...?
Contact has the six sense bases as its source ...
And these six sense bases have what as their source ...?
The six sense bases have name-and-form as their source ...
And this name-and-form has what as its source ...?
Name-and-form has consciousness as its source ...
And this consciousness has what as its source ..?
Consciousness has volitional formations as its source ...
And these volitional formations have what as their source, what as their origin, from what are they born and produced?
Volitional formations have ignorance as their source, ignorance as their origin; they are born and produced from ignorance.
"Thus, bhikkhus, with ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness ... Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness ...
Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
 Bhūtānaɱ vā sattānaɱ ṭhitiyā sambhavesīnaɱ vā anuggahāya. On sambhavesin as a future active participle formed from -esi(n), see Geiger, Pāli Grammar, §193A, EV I, n. to 527, and CPD, s.v. -esi(n) (2). The commentators apparently were not acquainted with this grammatical form (of which only very few instances exist in Pāli) and hence explain sambhavesin as if it was a bahubbihi compound made up of the noun sambhava and the adjectival termination -esin. Thus Spk coments on the above line: "Beings who have already come to be are those who have been born, been produced. Those about to come to be (or, on Spk's interpretation, 'seekers of new existence') are those seeking, searching for, a new existence, birth, production (sambhavesino ti ye sambhavaɱ jātiɱ nibbattiɱ esanti gavesanti)."
 Spk: The nutriments are conditions (paccayā), for conditins are called nutriments (āhārā) because they nourish (or bring forth, āharanti) their own effects. Although there are other conditions for beings, these four alone are called nutriments because they serve as special conditions for the personal life-continuity (ajjhattikasantatiyā visesapaccayattā). For edible food (kabaliºkāra āhārā) is a special condition for the physical body of those beings who subsist on edible food. In the mental body, contact is the special condition for feeling, mental volition for consciousness, and consciousness for name-and-form. As to what they bring forth (or nourish): Edible food, as soon as it is placed in the mouth, brings forth the groups of form with nutritive essence as the eighth (ojaṭṭhamakarūpāni; an Abhidhamma term for the simplest cluster of material phenomena); the nutriment contact brings forth the three kinds of feeling; the nutriment mental volition brings forth the three kinds of existence; and the nutriment consciousness brings forth name-and-form on the occasion of rebirth.
In SN, nutriment is further discussed at 12:12, 31, 63, and 64. For general remarks on the four nutriments, see too Vism 341, 7-18 (Ppn 11:1-3). Nyanaponika Thera, The Four Nutriments of Life, offers a collection of relevant suttas with commentaries. Āhāra is also used in a broader sense of "special condition," without reference to the four nutriments, at 46:51 and 55:31.
 These four kinds of nutriment have craving as their source. Spk: Begnning with the moment of rebirth, these kinds of nutriment comprised in the individual existence (attabhāva, the sentient organism) should be understood to originate by way of prior craving (purimataṇhā; the craving of the previous life that generated rebirth). How? At the moment of rebirth, firstly, there exists nutritive essence (ojā) produced within the arisen (bodily) form; this is the kammically acquired edible food originating from prior craving. Then the contact and volition associated with the rebirth-consciousness, and that consciousness itself, are respectively the kammically acquired nutriments of contact, mental volition, and consciousness originating from (prior) craving. Thus at rebirth the nutriments have their source in prior craving. And as at rebirth, so those produced subsequently at the moment of the first bhavaºgacitta should be similarly understood.
On the conditioning role of the nutriments, see CMA 8:23. The commentarial explanation of how craving is the cause of the four nutriments seems roundabout. A simpler explanation, more consonant with the spirit of the suttas, might be that it is craving which impels beings into the perpetual struggle to obtain physical and mental nutriment, both in the present life and in future lives.