Thus, using this example, we can say that for saddha to arise, for the transcendental sequence to begin, a cognitive factor seems necessary, i.e. we come across something ‘outside’ of ourselves that touches us deeply. The affective aspect, dukkha, although a neccesary condition for this to arise, in itself is not enough. The experience of duåkha can make us dissatisfied and disillusioned with our lot, and thereby become the condition that makes us receptive to something new entering our lives, which in the Buddha-to be’s case it was seeing the mendicant.
And, excepting the juncture ‘feeling-thirstgrasping’, this is roughly how it is with all the other nidÿnas in the worldly sequence— each arises of necessity in dependence upon the preceding one. There is no choice. They are, in traditional language, karma-vipÿkas, ‘results of [previous] actions’.
Element wrote:When P.S mentions consciousness and mind-body, it is not stating how these things arise existentially. P.S is explaining how these things are conditioned by ignorance, asava and hindrances. For example, if our body, mind & consciousness spontaneously become bored, agitated, restless or horny and we then embark on a sensual quest looking for entertainment, our body, mind & consciousness is in a primed or inwardly aroused state rather than the passive state it was formerly in. This is the meaning of ignorance conditions formations which condition the mind-body. Ignorance does not create the mind-body. Ignorance conditions it, just like shampoo and conditioner condition hair.
For example, when we meditate and the hindrances are pushing up from within the body-mind or causing agitation in the breath, this is what is meant by ignorance conditioning formations conditioning the body-mind.
Transcendental dependent origination is merely an alternative description of the same process that occurs in paticca-nirodha or dependent cessation. However, transcendental dependent origination is much more practical and also demonstrates dependent origination is not about rebirth; that Nibbana is not the end of physical birth.
However, I am not sure if using the term transcendental dependent origination is accurate. In the Pali, the sutta is called the Upanisa Sutta. Upanisa means requisite conditions where as paticcasammupada specifically means the dependent origination of dukkha. In other words, the transcendent links are not dependent origination but dependent cessation (of dukkha).
There is no such thing in reality as "transcendental dependent origination". When transcendental dependent cessation occurs, dependent origination ceases.
Those who used the term dependent origination as a substitute for the general functioning of cause & effect are using the term inaccurately. Dependent origination is a specific example of a process of cause & effect and only applies to the arising of dukkha rather than it cessation.
For your consideration.
In terms of Indian causal theory, some have understood Buddhism to uphold the sat-kārya-vāda
view of things. This view states that the effect [kārya], in this case the flower, [pre-]exists [sat]
in the cause, i.e. in the seed. Here, nothing completely new can come into being: all that comes
into existence must pre-exist in some form.9 Sometimes we can see this tendency in Buddhist
karmic theory itself, especially as developed in the Abhidharma traditions, as well as the
Yogācāra. Our experience unfolds according to conditions, but the determining factors are the
‘left-overs’ from previous karmic actions, called ‘latent dispositions’ [anuśayas] or ‘karmic
dispositions’ [saṃskāras]. Saṃsāra is nothing other than the continual turning over of the same
‘stuff’: dispositions from previous grasping actions create grasping actions in the present, which
leave dispositions to grasp whenever the conditions are ‘right’ in the future. Thus the worldly
sequences certainly favour this satkāryavāda view: present grasping comes about due to a preexisting
disposition to grasp, and the Buddhist path consists in bringing this process of
conditioned-arising to an end.
In the case of a flower, the species of the flower can be said, as it were, to be contained in the
seed. And it is similar with us humans: we inherit the dispositions from our past actions; these
somewhat determine who we are and how we act in the present. The ‘seed’ here is our saṃskāric
inheritance from the past, what we might call our ‘spiritual DNA’. But this is not all there is:
precluding an accidental mutation, a rose is stuck with being a rose; but, according to Buddhism,
human beings are not stuck in being totally determined by their saṃskāric inheritances. Unlike
roses we can affect and eventually become something other than we are at present. Here
Buddhism steps outside the satkāryavāda view, which is really an ‘extreme view’, an eternalistic
view, deviating from the Middle Way of pratītya-samutpāda. But the spiritual possibilities open
to us human beings, what it is possible for us to become, do not pre-exist in our saṃskāric
inheritance. Yet that saṃskāric inheritance is a necessary condition for these possibilities to arise,
This is where the notion of ‘emergence’ comes in. In the transcendental formulations we see
transcendental factors arising, for example, śraddhā, that had no previous existence. In the
Vipassin example, it was an experience that was completely new to him. Yet, strange as it may
seem, as we see in our 23 nidāna sequence, the worldly factors were necessary conditions for the
emergence of this transcendental sequence to arise (or ‘emerge’) – śraddhā does not simply arise
fortuitously, or by means of some transcendental or divine agent or Buddha popping something
into our minds. It arose in dependence upon conditions. In our example, śraddhā arose in
dependence upon duḥkha and the Buddha-to-be seeing the mendicant.
So if one reflects on this, one is left with the impression that conditioned-arising is a rather
mysterious process, in the sense that something can come to be that did not exist before – for
example, there was a time when there were no flowers or rocks or any of the other familiar
objects around us, including us humans. And these things did not pre-exist in some ‘seed’ form
in some metaphysical realm, waiting for the right conditions to ‘germinate’. Also, when
whatever comes to be ceases, it does not actually go anywhere, yet somehow flowers can pass on
the conditions for a similar flower to emerge through producing a seed, and humans somehow
pass on their saṃskāric imprint to another life. We have continuity, but no unchanging ‘thing’
continues, which is also rather mysterious.
What we are dealing with is the theory of emergence: qualities that did not exist before can
emerge under certain conditions. But this theory is more radical than the rose and seed example,
as it also accounts for the emergence of the ‘first’ rose ever to appear. The important point about
emergent qualities is that they cannot be reduced to the conditions that collectively give rise to
them. Emergent qualities are new. They did not have to pre-exist even as ‘seeds’ in order to come
into existence in the present.11 When the conditions are appropriate, they simply appear: we
cannot see where they come from because they don’t really come from anywhere.
So when we say that things arise in dependence upon conditions, we have to remember that there
is also the perpetual possibility that some things may arise that are not simply accountable in
terms of ‘similar’ pre-existing seeds: something new can come to be that cannot be reduced to the
conditions that gave rise to them.
Applying this notion of emergence to the doctrine of pratītya-samutpāda, we can say that the
doctrine of conditioned-arising reveals an immense scope of possibilities, both skilful and
unskilful, to emerge. It can account for both the arising of a Hitler as well as the arising of a
Buddha. Pratītya-samutpāda does not just account for what actually exists now (corresponding
roughly to the worldly sequences, which can get worse), but also the possibilities that can come to
be in the future (corresponding roughly to the transcendental sequences). Thus, for something
new to arise in the present it is not necessary for that thing to have existed in the past.12 For the
possibility of something new to come into existence, according to the doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda,
all that is required are the right conditions.
The transcendental sequence of nidānas can be understood as a series of conditionally arisen
emergent states, each representing a greater degree of human development and freedom,
culminating in a state of complele freedom from all those conditions that create saṃsāric
existence, which, relative to this freedom, now appears unattractive, constrained, extremely
limited, and very unsatisfactory.
Another transcendental formulation that is has something interesting and different is:
Bhikkhus, for one who is virtuous [sīlavant] and possessed of virtue [sīla], there is no need for
the act of will [cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ], ‘may freedom from remorse arise in me’. Bhikkhus, for
one who is virtuous and possessed of virtue, freedom from remorse [just naturally] arises. This
is in accordance with the way things naturally are [dhammatā esā]. [And so on with freedom
from remorse and joy [pāmujjaṃ], joy and rapture [pīti] ... passaddha ... sukhaṃ ... samādhi ...
yathābhūtaṃ jānāmi passāmi [‘I know and see things as they really are’] ... nibbindo [a ppr. =
nibbidā] and viratto [a ppr. = virāgo] ... vimutti-ñāṇa-dassanaṃ. [A v 2-4; also in Bodhi’s
Here it seems to be saying that one cannot simply bring about the arising of the next stage
through an act of will. In other words, with conditioned-arising there are many other factors
involved in giving rise to the next stage – it is not just a matter of our consciously willing it to
arise. For example, there is one’s whole past history, one’s past actions and experiences,
understanding, etc. All these will have a part to play in what arises. So ‘X’ is not going to arise
here and now simply because we sit down to meditate and apply our conscious minds to some
practice. Applying our minds in this way, whether in meditation or in other practices, is a
necessary condition for the next stage to arise. But all we can do is to keep doing the practices,
studying, being mindful, etc. – i.e. set up the right conditions – and in time states, such as those
listed in these transcendental formulations, will naturally arise when all the necessary conditions
are there. As this formulations tells us, it is all according to dhammatā [dharmatā in Sanskrit],
which here I translate as ‘in accordance with to the way things naturally are’.
Another take on this is to see it in the light of a significant episode in the Buddha’s life when he
was still a boy, although what follows is not traditional, but my own speculation!
In the The Mahāsaccaka Sutta,13 the Buddha recalls a time when he was sitting in the shade under
a rose-apple tree, watching his father ploughing a field, when he quite spontaneously entered the
first dhyāna. Later, after he had gone forth and had practiced with and left his previous teachers,
and had seen the pointlessness of his ascetic practices, he remembered this event under the roseapple
tree. And reflecting on this event seems to have given him a clue to a new way of
practicing that eventually led to his Awakening.
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