The Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination or The doctrine of Pratityasamutpada.

It was in the Sixth Century B.C. that the world saw the light of Asia, that perfect embodiment of knowledge, courage, love and sacrifice whose heart overflowed with purest emotion. On seeing that human life was essentially fraught with misery and pain. That a shallow optimism was rooted in a deep pessimism, that behind the superficial momentary glow of sensual pleasure there lay the misery of old age, sickness and death; who moved by that spectacle to seek a remedy for men’s ills at the age of 29. Boldly left not only the material luxuries of the Shakya kingdom but also his beloved wife and more beloved now-born son, who had cemented the tie of love between his parents. He kicked away gold, women and fame the three universal fetters for man. After six years he found enlightenment as he emaciated under a tree near Gaya, dispelling the dark clouds of ignorance and conquering the prince of Evil, who then preached the truth he had discovered, without distinction of caste, creed of color.


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Prince Siddhartha has gone, but the Buddha remains. The four Noble Truth and the noble Eight fold path have a meaning for us even today. The doctrine of Pratitya Samutpada or Dependent contained in the Second Noble Truth, which gives us the cause of suffering. According to this, there is a cause of suffering. Everything has a cause. Nothing comes out of nothing – “exnihito nihil fit.” The existence of everyevent depends upon its causes and conditions. Everything is this world is conditional, relative and limited. Suffering being a fact, it must have a cause. It must depend on some conditions. This being that arises, the cause being present, the effect arises, is the causal law of Dependent Origination.

Troubled by the sight of disease, old age and death, Buddha left his home to find a solution of the misery of earthly life. Pratitya Samut Pada is the solution which he found. Why do we suffer misery and pain? Why do we suffer old age and death? Because we are born. Why are we born? Because there is a will to be born. Why should there be this will to become? Because we cling to the objects of the world. Why do we have this clinging? Because we crave to enjoy the objects of this world. Why do we have this cracking, this thirst for enjoyment? Because of sense-object contact. Why do we have this contact? Because of the six sense organs. Why do we have the six sense organ? Because of the psychophysical organism. Why do we have this organism? Because of the initial consciousness of the embryo. Why do we have this consciousness? Because of our predisposition or impressions of Karm. Why do we have these impression? Because of Ignorance. Hence Ignorance is the root cause of all suffering.


Thus we get the twelve links of the Causal wheel of Dependent Origination-

  1. Ignorance
  2. Impressions of Karmic forces
  3. Initial consciousness of the embryo
  4. Psycho-physical organism
  5. Six sense-organs including mind
  6. Sense-object-contact
  7. Sense-experiece
  8. Thirst for sense-enjoyment
  9. Clinging to this enjoyment
  10. Will to be born
  11. Birth or rebirth
  12. Old age and death

In Buddha’s teachings these lings are not always twelve, but the above description considered to be most valid. These twelve links are present in this chain from the beginning to the end. Now these twelve lings may be discussed in details.

Ignorance of Avidya:

Avidya is the basis of the Jiva hood or ego. This is the substratum of action. Together with Karma it forms the Jiva. It is due to it that the sufferings of the world are conceived. Ignorance causes ego sense and the individual thinks himself, separate from the remaining world. This results into attachment to life which is the root cause of all suffering.



Pre-disposition means a disposition preceding to or preparing for certain activity. Sanskara has been taken both in the sense of origination and the originating activity. The pre-disposition of the attachment towards riches, etc., causes birth in a rich family and the pre-disposition of getting freedom sanskara takes towards Nirvana.

Consciousness or Vijnana:

After the cessation of the body. the sense and perceptions etc., after death the consciousness remains and causes new birth unless after getting Nirvana it is completely annihilated. Thus consciousness of self is the real cause of transmigration.


Name and form (Nama Roop):

From consciousness is caused name and form. Without the subject the object is meaningless. The name and form and consciousness are mutually independent.

Sense Organs :

From the name and from and consciousness are born the six sense organs i.e., the eyes, the ears, the nose, tongue, skin and mind.


From the six sense organs are born the external organs which make for the contact with the external world. Sometimes it is said that it is not that the seeing is due to eye, but the eye is due to seeing and similarly, ears are due to hearing. Thus the external world is created by the form and the idea etc.

Felling or Vedana:

The contact with the external objects creates different feelings in the persons. Thus due to the contact with the different types of objects one has different feelings of pleasure, pain, attachment, aversion etc., which bind him with the world.


The craving born out of feeling is the root cause of suffering in this world. it is this craving which takes the Vijnana from birth. It is again due to this that the man runs after the worldly attachments like a blind person. The craving goes on ever increasing and as the craving is over-come the suffering disappears like the drops of water on the lotus of flower.

Attachment or Clinging:

The fire of the craving is due to the fuel so where there is craving there must be clinging or attachment. It is the attachment with the worldly objects that causes the bondage of the Jiva with the world. It is only after getting liberation from this clinging that Nirvana is possible.

Coming to be:

According to Chandra Kirti, Bhava includes thoughts and actions which are responsible for rebirth. coming to be is due to clinging or detachment. Bhava results into birth and birth leads to the sufferings of the old age, disease and death etc.


Bhave create re-birth and so the Jiva is caught is the wheel of the world and remains in it till he attains Nirvana.

Old age and death:

Re-birth causes the whole chain of the worldly sufferings. After the man is caught in the wheel of the world, the diseases, old age, sufferings and death etc., recur again and again.

Out of these twelve links the first two are related to past life, he last two to future life and the rest to present life. This is the cycle of birth-and-death. This is the twelve-spooked wheel of Dependent Origination. This is the vicious circle of causation. It does not end with death. Death is only a beginning of a new life. It is called Bhavachakra, Sansara-chakra, Janma-marana-chakra, Dharma chakra. Pratityasammutpada Chakra etc. it can be destroyed only when its root cause, Ignorance, is destroyed. Otherwise, Ignorance being present, impressions arise; impressions being present, initial consciousness arises and so on. And Ignorance can be destroyed only be knowledge. So knowledge is the sole means of liberation. Ignorance is bondage; knowledge is liberation. An analysis of these twelve links shows their psychological significance. According to Buddha he who sees the pratitya Samut-Pada sees the Dharma and he who sees the Dharma sees the Pratitya Samut-Pada.

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