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The Teaching From the Opening of the Maha-Vagga

At that time The Buddha, The Blessed One, was dwelling at Uruvela at the foot of the Bo-tree on the banks of the river Neranjara, having just attained the Buddhaship. Then The Blessed One sat cross-legged for seven days together at the foot of the go-tree experiencing the bliss of emancipation.

Then The Blessed One, during the first watch of the night, thought over Dependent Origination both forward and back:—

On ignorance depends karma; On karma depends consciousness; On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depend the six organs of sense; On the six organs of sense depends contact; On contact depends sensation; On sensation depends desire; On desire depends attachment; On attachment depends existence; On existence depends birth; On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.

Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise. But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance ceases karma; on the cessation of karma ceases consciousness; on the cessation of consciousness cease name and form; on the cessation of name and form cease the six organs of sense; on the cessation of the six organs of sense ceases contact; on the cessation of contact ceases sensation; on the cessation of sensation ceases desire; on the cessation of desire ceases attachment; on the cessation of attachment ceases existence; on the cessation of existence ceases birth; on the cessation of birth cease old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease.

Then the Blessed One, concerning this, on that occasion, breathed forth this solemn utterance,—

When to the strenuous, meditative Brahman There come to light the elements of being, Then vanish all his doubts and eager questions, What time he knows the elements have causes.

Then The Blessed One, during the middle watch of the night, thought over Dependent Origination both forward and back:—

On ignorance depends karma; On karma depends consciousness; On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depend the six organs of sense; On the six organs of sense depends contact; On contact depends sensation; On sensation depends desire; On desire depends attachment; On attachment depends existence; On existence depends birth; On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.

Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise. But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance ceases karma; on the cessation of karma ceases consciousness; on the cessation of consciousness cease name and form; on the cessation of name and form cease the six organs of sense; on the cessation of the six organs of sense ceases contact; on the cessation of contact ceases sensation; on the cessation of sensation ceases desire; on the cessation of desire ceases attachment; on the cessation of attachment ceases existence; on the cessation of existence ceases birth; on the cessation of birth cease old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease.

Then the Blessed One, concerning this, on that occasion, breathed forth this solemn utterance,—

When to the strenuous, meditative Brahman There come to light the elements of being, Then vanish all his doubts and eager questions, What time he knows how causes have an ending.

Then The Blessed One, during the last watch of the night, thought over Dependent Origination both forward and back:—

On ignorance depends karma; On karma depends consciousness; On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depend the six organs of sense; On the six organs of sense depends contact; On contact depends sensation; On sensation depends desire; On desire depends attachment; On attachment depends existence; On existence depends birth; On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.

Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise. But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance ceases karma; on the cessation of karma ceases consciousness; on the cessation of consciousness cease name and form; on the cessation of name and form cease the six organs of sense; on the cessation of the six organs of sense ceases contact; on the cessation of contact ceases sensation; on the cessation of sensation ceases desire; on the cessation of desire ceases attachment; on the cessation of attachment ceases existence; on the cessation of existence ceases birth; on the cessation of birth cease old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease.

Then the Blessed One, concerning this, on that occasion, breathed forth this solemn utterance,—

When to the strenuous, meditative Brahman There come to light the elements of being, Then scatters he the hordes of Mara’s army; Like to the sun that lightens all the heavens."

End of the account of what took place under the Bo tree.

The Chain of Dependent Origination I

Translated from the Maha-Nidana-Sutta of the Digha-Nikaya

Thus have I heard.

On a certain occasion The Blessed One was dwelling among the Gurus where was the Kuru-town named Kammasadhamma.

Then drew near the venerable Ananda to where The Blessed One was; and having drawn near and greeted The Blessed One, he sat down respectfully at one side. And seated respectfully at one side, the venerable Ananda spoke to The Blessed One as follows:

"O wonderful is it, Reverend Sir? O marvelous is it, Reverend Sir! How profound, Reverend Sir, is Dependent Origination, and of how profound an appearance! To me, nevertheless, it is as clear as clear can be."

"O Ananda, say not so! O Ananda, say not so! Profound, Ananda, is Dependent Origination, and profound of appearance. It is through not understanding this doctrine, Ananda, through not penetrating it, that thus mankind is like to an entangled warp, or to an ensnarled web, or to muñja-grass and pabbaja-grass, and fails to extricate itself from punishment, suffering, perdition, rebirth.

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Do old age and death depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘They do.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what do old age and death depend?’ the reply should be, ‘ Old age and death depend on birth.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does birth depend on anything? ‘ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does birth depend?’ the reply should be, Birth depends on existence.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does existence depend on anything ?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does existence depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Existence depends on attachment.’

‘‘Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does attachment depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does attachment depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Attachment depends on desire.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does desire depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does desire depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Desire depends on sensation.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does sensation depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does sensation depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Sensation depends on contact.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Does contact depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does contact depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Contact depends on name and form.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘Do name and form depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘They do.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what do name and form depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Name and form depend on consciousness.’

"Ananda, if it be asked, ‘ Does consciousness depend on anything?’ the reply should be, ‘It does.’ And if it be asked, ‘On what does consciousness depend?’ the reply should be, ‘Consciousness depends on name and form.’

"Thus, Ananda, on name and form depends consciousness;

On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depends contact; On contact depends sensation; On sensation depends desire; On desire depends attachment; On attachment depends existence; On existence depends birth; On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.

Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise.

"I have said that on birth depend old age and death. This truth, Ananda, that on birth depend old age and death, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no birth at all for any one into any world, as, namely, for gods into the world of gods; for genii into the world of genii; for ogres into the world of ogres; for demons into the world of demons; for men into the world of men; for quadrupeds into the world of quadrupeds; for winged creatures into the world of winged creatures; for creeping things into the world of creeping things;—suppose, Ananda, there were no birth for any of these beings into their several worlds: if there were nowhere any birth, pray, on the cessation of birth would there be any old age and death?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in birth the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of old age and death.

"I have said that on existence depends birth. This truth, Ananda, that on existence depends birth, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no existence at all for any one in any mode, as, namely, existence in the realm of sensual pleasure, existence in the realm of form, existence in the realm of formlessness; — if there were nowhere any existence, pray, on the cessation of existence would there be any birth?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in existence the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of birth.

"I have said that on attachment depends existence. This truth Ananda, that on attachment depends existence, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no attachment at all of any one to anything, as, namely, the attachment of sensual pleasure, the attachment of heresy, the attachment of fanatical conduct, the attachment of the assertion of a self;—if there were nowhere any attachment, pray, on the cessation of attachment would there be any existence?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in attachment the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of existence.

"I have said that on desire depends attachment. This truth, Ananda, that on desire depends attachment, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no desire at all on the part of any one for anything, as, namely, desire for forms, desire for sounds, desire for odors, desire for tastes, desire for things tangible, desire for ideas;—if there were nowhere any desire, pray, on the cessation of desire would there be any attachment?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in desire the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of attachment.

"I have said that on sensation depends desire. This truth, Ananda, that on sensation depends desire, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no sensation at all on the part of any one for anything, as, namely, sensation sprung from contact of the eye, sensation sprung from contact of the ear, sensation sprung from contact of the nose, sensation sprung from contact of the tongue, sensation sprung from contact of the body, sensation sprung from contact of the mind;—if there were nowhere any sensation, pray, on the cessation of sensation would there be any desire?"

" Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in sensation the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of desire."

[Several pages of the original text are omitted here.]

"I have said that on contact depends sensation. This truth, Ananda, that on contact depends sensation, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were utterly and completely no contact at all of any organ with any object, as, namely, contact of the eye, contact of the ear, contact of the nose, contact of the tongue, contact of the body, contact of the mind;—if there were nowhere any contact, pray, on the cessation of contact would there be any sensation ? "

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in contact the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of sensation.

"I have said that on name and form depends contact. This truth, Ananda, that on name and form depends contact, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications by which are made manifest the multitude of elements of being constituting name ¡—if there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications, pray, would there be any designative contact appearing in form?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Suppose, Ananda, there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications by which are made manifest the multitude of elements of being constituting form;— if there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications, pray, would there be any inertia-contact appearing in name?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Suppose, Ananda, there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications by which are made manifest the multitude of elements of being constituting name and the multitude of elements of being constituting form;—if there were not these different traits, peculiarities, signs, and indications, pray, would there be any contact?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

‘‘Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in name and form the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of contact.

"I have said that on consciousness depend name and form. This truth, Ananda, that on consciousness depend name and form, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, consciousness were not to descend into the maternal womb, pray, would name and form consolidate in the maternal womb?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Suppose, Ananda, consciousness, after descending into the maternal womb, were then to go away again, pray, would name and form be born to life in the world?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Suppose, Ananda, consciousness were to be severed from a child, either boy or girl, pray, would name and form attain to growth, increase, and development?"

"Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly Ananda, here we have in consciousness the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of name and form.

"I have said that on name and form depends consciousness. This truth, Ananda, that on name and form depends consciousness, is to be understood in this way. Suppose, Ananda, that name and form were not to become established, pray, would there, in the future, be birth, old age and death, and the coming into existence of misery’s host?"

" Nay, verily, Reverend Sir."

"Accordingly, Ananda, here we have in name and form the cause, the occasion, the origin, and the dependence of consciousness.

" Verily, Ananda, this name and form coupled with consciousness is all there is to be born, or to grow old, or to die, or to leave one existence, or to spring up in another. It is all that is meant by any affirmation, predication, or declaration we may make concerning anybody. It constitutes knowledge’s field of action. And it is all that is reborn to appear in its present shape."

The Chain of Dependent Origination II

Translated from the Samyutta-Nikaya

The world, for the most part, O Kacchana, holds either to a belief in being or to a belief in non-being. But for one who in the light of the highest knowledge, O Kacchana, considers how the world arises, belief in the non-being of the world passes away. And for one who in the light of the highest knowledge, O Kacchana, considers how the world ceases, belief in the being of the world passes away. The world, O Kacchana, is for the most part bound up in a seeking, attachment, and proclivity [for the groups], but a monk does not sympathize with this seeking and attachment, nor with the mental affirmation, proclivity, and prejudice which affirms a self. He does not doubt or question that it is only evil that springs into existence, and only evil that ceases from existence, and his conviction of this fact is dependent on no one besides himself. This, O Kacchana, is what constitutes Right Belief.

That things have being, O Kacchana, constitutes one extreme of doctrine ¡ that things have no being is the other extreme. These extremes, O Kacchana, have been avoided by The Tathagata, and it is a middle doctrine he teaches:—

On ignorance depends karma; On karma depends consciousness; On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depend the six organs of sense; On the six organs of sense depends contact; On contact depends sensation; On sensation depends desire; On desire depends attachment; On attachment depends existence; On existence depends birth; On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise.

But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance ceases karma;

On the cessation of karma ceases consciousness; On the cessation of consciousness cease name and form; On the cessation of name and form cease the six organs of sense; On the cessation of the six organs of sense ceases contact; On the cessation of contact ceases sensation; On the cessation of sensation ceases desire; On the cessation of desire ceases attachment; On the cessation of attachment ceases existence; On the cessation of existence ceases birth; On the cessation of birth cease old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease.

The Chain of Dependent Origination III

Translated from the Samyutta-Nikaya

Thus have I heard.

On a certain occasion The Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi in Jetavana monastery in Anathapindika’s Park. And there The Blessed One addressed the monks.

"Monks," said he.

"Lord," said the monks to The Blessed One in reply.

And The Blessed One spoke as follows:

"O monks, on ignorance depends karma.... Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise."

"Reverend Sir, what are old age and death? and what is it has old age and death?"

"The question is not rightly put," said The Blessed One. "O monk, to say: ‘What are old age and death? and what is it has old age and death?’ and to say: ‘Old age and death are one thing, but it is another thing which has old age and death,’ is to say the same thing in different ways. If, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul and the body are identical, then there is no religious life; or if, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul is one thing and the body another, then also there is no religious life. Both these extremes, O monk, have been avoided by The Tathagata, and it is a middle doctrine he teaches: ‘On birth depend old age and death.’"

"Reverend Sir, what is birth? and what is it has birth?"

"The question is not rightly put," said The Blessed One. "O monk, to say: ‘What is birth? and what is it has birth?’ and to say: ‘Birth is one thing, but it is another thing which has birth,’ is to say the same thing in different ways. If, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul and the body are identical, then there is no religious life; or if, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul is one thing and the body another, then also there is no religious life. Both these extremes, O monk, have been avoided by The Tathagata, and it is a middle doctrine he teaches: ‘On existence depends birth."’

‘Reverend Sir, what is existence ? . . . attachment ? . . . desire? . . . sensation? . . . contact? . . . the six organs of sense? . . . name and form? . . . consciousness? . . . karma? and what is it has karma?"

"The question is not rightly put," said The Blessed One. "O monk, to say: ‘What is karma? and what is it has karma?’ and to say: ‘Karma is one thing, but it is another thing which has karma,’ is to say the same thing in different ways. If, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul and the body are identical, then there is no religious life; or if, O monk, the dogma obtain that the soul is one thing and the body another, then also there is no religious life. Both these extremes, O monk, have been avoided by The Tathagata, and it is a middle doctrine he teaches: ion ignorance depends karma.’

"But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance, O monk, all these refuges, puppet-shows, resorts, and writhings,—to wit: What are old age and death? and what is it has old age and death? or, old age and death are one thing, but it is another thing which has old age and death; or, the soul and the body are identical, or the soul is one thing, and the body another,—all such refuges of whatever kind are abandoned, uprooted pulled out of the ground like a palmyra-tree, and become non-existent and not liable to spring up again in the future.

"But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance, O monk, all these refuges, puppet-shows, resorts, and writhings,—to wit: What is birth? . . . existence? . . . attachment? . . . desire? . . . sensation? . . . contact? . . . the six organs of sense? . . . name and form ? . . . consciousness ? . . . karma ? and what is it has karma? or, karma is one thing, but it is another thing which has karma; or, the soul and the body are identical, or the soul is one thing and the body another,—all such refuges are abandoned, uprooted, pulled out of the ground like a palmyra-tree, and become non-existent and not liable to spring up again in the future."

The Chain of Dependent Origination: Consciousness I Translated from the Milinda-pañha

"Bhante Nagasena, what is consciousness?"

"Your majesty, consciousness is the act of being conscious.

"Give an illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, the city watchman were to take his seat at the cross-roads in the middle of the city and were to behold every man who approached from the eastern quarter, were to behold every man who approached from the southern quarter, were to behold every man who approached from the western quarter, were to behold every man who approached from the northern quarter: in exactly the same way, your majesty, whatever form a man beholds with the eye, of that he is conscious with the consciousness; whatever sound he hears with the ear, of that he is conscious with the consciousness; whatever odor he smells with the nose, of that he is conscious with the consciousness; whatever taste he tastes with the tongue, of that he is conscious with the consciousness; whatever tangible thing he touches with the body, of that he is conscious with the consciousness; whatever idea he is conscious of with the mind, of that he is conscious with the consciousness. Thus, your majesty, is consciousness the act of being conscious."

"You are an able man, bhante Nagasena."

The Chain of Dependent Origination: Consciousness II Translated from the Majjhima-Nikaya

O monks, consciousness is named from that in dependence on which it comes into being. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of forms in dependence on the eye is called eye-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of sounds in dependence on the ear is called ear-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of odors in dependence on the nose is called nose-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of tastes in dependence on the tongue is called tongue-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of things tangible in dependence on the body is called body-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of ideas in dependence on the mind is called mind-consciousness.

Just as, O monks, fire is named from that in dependence on which it burns. The fire which burns in dependence on logs of wood is called a log-fire. The fire which burns in dependence on chips is called a chip-fire. The fire which burns in dependence on grass is called a grass-fire. The fire which burns in dependence on cow-dung is galled a cow-dung fire. The fire which burns in dependence on husks is called a husk-fire. The fire which burns in dependence on rubbish is called a rubbish-fire. In exactly the same way, O monks, consciousness is named from that in dependence on which it comes into being. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of forms in dependence on the eye is called eye-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of sounds in dependence on the ear is called ear-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of odors in dependence on the nose is called nose-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of tastes in dependence on the tongue is called tongue-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of things tangible in dependence on the body is called body-consciousness. The consciousness which comes into being in respect of ideas in dependence on the mind is called mind-consciousness.

The Chain of Dependent Origination: Six Organs of Sense Translated from the Samyutta-Nikaya

And what, O monks, are the six organs of sense ?

Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind—these, O monks, are called the six organs of sense.

The Chain of Dependent Origination: Sense Contact Translated from the Milindapañha

"Bhante Nagasena, what is contact?"

"Your majesty, contact is the act of coming in contact."

"Give an illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, two rams were to fight one another. The eye is comparable to one of these rams, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."

"Give another illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, the two hands were to be clapped together. The eye is comparable to one hand, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."

"Give another illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, two cymbals were to be clapped together. The eye is comparable to one cymbal, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."

"You are an able man, bhante Nagasena."

The Chain of Dependent Origination: Sensation Translated from the Majjhima-Nikaya

" My lady [Dhammadinna], how many sensations are there?"

"Brother Visakha, there are three sensations: the pleasant sensation, the unpleasant sensation, and the indifferent sensation."

"But what, my lady, is the pleasant sensation, what the unpleasant sensation, and what the indifferent sensation?"

"Brother Visakha, whatever pleasant or joyous sensation is felt by the body or by the mind, that is pleasant sensation. Brother Visakha, whatever unpleasant or joyless sensation is felt by the body or by the mind, that is unpleasant sensation. Brother Visakha, whatever sensation that is neither joyous nor joyless is felt by the body or by the mind, that is indifferent sensation."