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Dependent origination is not the only chain
July 31st, 2013 (November 21st, 2013)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Dependent origination is not the only chain.

The twelve links of "dependent origination" are a fundamental key of Buddhist psychology. The various links are themselves rich concepts, e.g. name-and-form (

A common mistake though is to reduce the chain of "dependent origination" as the only psychological chain relevant to Buddhism. Not only does this particular chain exist in multiple versions (with various lengths), but it is not the only one.

The Mahā-nidāna sutta (or "Great Causes" discourse, DN 15) explicitly details two chains:

• the classic (if shortened) dependent origination:
 name-and-form ⟹ consciousness ⟹ name-and-form ⟹ contact ⟹ feeling ⟹ craving ⟹ clinging ⟹ becoming ⟹ birth ⟹ ageing and death.

• an elaboration on craving and the origins of social problems:
 feeling ⟹ craving ⟹ seeking ⟹ acquisition / gain ⟹  ascertainment / decision-making ⟹ desire and passion ⟹ attachment ⟹ possessiveness ⟹ stinginess / avarice ⟹ defensiveness / safe-guarding ⟹ various evil, unskillful phenomena (the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies).

One should note that the "feeling ⟹ craving" link is common to the two chains.

Causality in Buddhism rejects the reification of any particular "cause ⟹ effect" relationship. Not only does neither of the two extremities ('cause' or 'effect') exist independently of context, but also what effect will arise from a cause is context-dependent.

As such, causality in Buddhism cannot be tracked easily: one can associate many causes to any specific 'effect' (not only based on what's seen as 'cause' and what's seen as its context, but also based on what's labelled as the 'cause' in the causal relationship and what's perceived as the 'context' of the causal relationship itself). One can also associate many effects to any particular 'cause' (based on what's seen as 'effect' and what's seen as its context).

Fundamentally though, a common mistake is to try and reify a unique causal relationship, even if it's a complex version with many causes, many effects and many conditions…

Causal relationships are like all other phenomena: they arise, endure and cease. Causal relationships are narratives created by a consciousness which distinguishes a pattern from a background of contingent reality which co-dependently arose with the consciousness. Causal relationships are labels put by a consciousness on what is discriminated (and easily assumed to be permanent, although even the "four fundamental forces" in physics were actually just one force soon after the big bang… ). This is why buddhists cannot find a causal 'origin' (

A classic declination of this common mistake is the faulty claims that there is a path that will (undoubtedly) lead you to nibbāna, or that there is only one path to nibbāna (

What is the cause of the 3'25'' video Estrena ALVIN AILEY American Dance Theater (2012-13) ? Religion or choreography?
What is the effect?
What is the context?

If the purpose of spirituality ( is to die in peace, what could you be mindful of in order to "be ready" at the time of death?

Feeling ⟹ craving ⟹ seeking ⟹ acquisition ⟹  ascertainment ⟹ desire and passion ⟹ attachment ⟹ possessiveness ⟹ stinginess ⟹ defensiveness ⟹ various unskillful phenomena ⟹ not peace ⟹ not ready.

What could you be mindful of in order to "be ready" at the time of death?

Name-and-form ⟹ consciousness ⟹ name-and-form ⟹ contact ⟹ feeling ⟹ craving ⟹ clinging (and  various unskillful phenomena ⟹ not ready) ⟹ becoming (and  various unskillful phenomena ⟹ not ready) ⟹ birth (and  various unskillful phenomena ⟹ not ready) ⟹ ageing and death (and  various unskillful phenomena ⟹ not ready) ⟹ not ready.

Feeling is not the issue and craving is conditioned; according to Buddhism, the easiest (neither 'easy' nor 'only') way to reclaim freedom and peace is found in "guarding the sense doors"…

Guarding the sense doors is not found in rejecting feelings though, nor in developing an aversion towards experiences.
It is found in not letting feelings enter with a cohort of ignorant projections (e.g. "what is currently pleasant will be so again in another context"), i.e. guarding the sense doors is in not letting feeling lead to craving in a context of ignorance…
Cultivate wisdom (i.e. the cessation of ignorance) and the context no longer lets the causal relationship "feeling ⟹ craving" manifest, even when feelings arise.

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
• DN 15 in English:
• DN 15 and comments in English:
• DN 15 in Spanish:
• "the early universe" and the impermanence of physical laws: