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Chain of Causation


Sanskrit, Pratītyāsamutpāda, or the doctrine of Dependent Origin, a basic tenet of Early and all Hīnayāna Buddhism. It is contained essentially in the Buddha's Second and Third Noble Truths, which explain the cause of suffering and point the way to the cessation of suffering, respectively. There are 12 links in the Chain of Causation, or 12 spokes in the Wheel of Dependent Origin, representing three consecutive existences. The first two, ignorance of the way to salvation (avidyā ) and the karmaforming forces that determine the form of the next existence (saskāra ), refer to the former life. Three to ten, namely, the initial consciousness of the embryo (vijñāna ), the psychophysical organization comprised in the five elements of existence (nāma-rūpa ), the six senses including the mind (saāyatana ), the contact of the senses with the world, beginning at birth (sparśa ), sense experience (vedanā ), thirst for things of the world (tnā ), clinging to the world of sense (upādāna ), and becoming or the will to be born (bhava )refer to the present life. Eleven and twelve, new birth (jāti ), and old age and death (jarāmarana ), refer to future life. The Chain of Causation can be destroyed only when ignorance, its initial and fundamental cause, is destroyed, and this can be accomplished only through the knowledge that gives liberation. The cause of suffering is ignorance, and the cessation of suffering is found by entering into nirvāna.

See Also: buddhism; elements of existence; nirvĀna.

Bibliography: c. sharma, Indian Philosophy: A Critical Survey (New York 1962) 6063. h. l. fries, NonChristian Religions (New York 1963) 3438. c. regamey, f. knig, ed. Christus und die Religionen der Erde (Vienna 1961) 3:229303, esp. 271274.

[m. r. p. mcguire]

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