Buddhist Theories of Causality (karma, pratītyasamutpāda, hetu, pratyaya)
Buddhist Theories of Causality (karma, pratityasamutpada, hetu, pratyaya)
by Tadeusz Skorupski!
This entry covers four models of causality: karma, pratityasamutpada, hetu, and pratyaya. The English terms causality and causation are used here as generic terms. As Buddhist interpretations of causality are complex and controversial, only general features of causation theories are delineated. Buddhist expositions of causality stem from and corroborate Buddhist doctrines and soteriology. In terms of doctrine, Buddhism rejects the existence of a permanent self (atman), and denies the existence of a first cause in any form. The nature of existence is interpreted in terms of the two truths: conventional and ultimate. Conventionally, there exist beings and things, but only as conceptual
entities (prajhaptisat). Ultimately, they do not exist, because they have no permanent core. So how does the inexistent world function? Conceptual entities are dissected into impersonal phenomena or dharmas as ultimate units. The dharmas are momentary, and they arise and vanish in space and time in conformity with definite principles that regulate their flow and interdependence: karma and dependent origination. The term karma, literally “action” or “deed,” as a technical concept, denotes the principle of ethical causation: there are no agents, but there are actions and their consequences. Karma as action denotes an act of mental volition (cetana), and the bodily and verbal actions that
stem from it. Volitional actions are ethically qualified, depending on whether they stem from the three wholesome roots or the three unwholesome roots. Such actions accumulate and yield their fruits: particular body-mind configurations evolving in cyclic rebirths (samsara). The principle of pratityasamutpada (dependent origination), denotes the conditionality or interdependence of existential phenomena. Essentially, it accounts for the conditioned flux of phenomenal existence, in particular the interdependent flow of the five aggregates with no ontological substratum. The terms hetu (cause) and pratyaya (condition), occur as a compound or separately. As a compound, hetupratyaya denotes the
principle of causes and conditions applicable to all aspects of existence. When included in lists of conditions, it denotes the first condition, the condition qua cause. Individually, they are virtually synonymous, or form either separate or correlated models of causality. In terms of soteriology, causality is integrated into the four noble truths. The second truth teaches the origin of suffering, identified by the Buddha as craving. Otherwise, the origin is interpreted in terms of karma and dependent origination. The third noble truth, the cessation of suffering, teaches the eradication of karma leading to rebirths, and the cessation of suffering: appeasement of dependent origination.
The citations here include thematic and general sources. Doniger O'Flaherty 1980, Newfeldt 1986, and Krishan 1997 deal with various aspects of karma theories in India. Edelglass and Garfield 2011 surveys doctrinal identities of Buddhist schools. Hirakawa 1990 treats Indian Buddhism up to the emergence of early Mahayana. Ronkin 2005 deals with Theravada doctrines, including causation. Sakamoto 1981 studies important Abhidharma concepts. Williams 2009 sketches the principal features of Mahayana doctrines. Hayes 2015 sketches the doctrinal positions of six Madhyamika masters. Kalupahana 1975 surveys pre-Buddhist and Buddhist causation theories.
Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy, ed. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
Out of the twelve contributions on karma topics, three papers focus on Buddhism: “Karma and Rebirth in Early Buddhism,” “The Medical Soteriology of Karma in the Buddhist Tantric Tradition,” and “Rebirth Eschatology and Its Transformations.”
Edelglass, William, and Jay L. Garfield. “Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy.” In The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy. Edited by Jay L. Garfield and William Edelglass. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Seven chapters deal with Buddhist schools in Indian and Tibet, including Abhidharma, Madhyamaka, and Yogacara philosophies. Hayes, Richard. “Madhyamaka.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2015. Hayes portrays six Madhyamaka thinkers: Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Candrakirti, Santideva, Jnanagarbha, and Santaraksita. Nagarjuna is portrayed by Jan Westerhoff in a separate entry.
Hirakawa, Akira. A History of Indian Buddhism from Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana. Translated by Paul Groner. Asian Studies at Hawaii 36. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1990.
Translation of Indo Bukkyo Shi, published in Tokyo in 1974. Hirakawa surveys early Buddhism in India. Chapters eleven and twelve treat the doctrines of karma and dependent origination. His main sources are Sarvastivada works. Kalupahana, David J. Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai‘i, 1975. Initially, Kalupahana sketches pre-Buddhist causation theories, and then surveys Buddhist interpretations of causality, mainly focusing on the principle of dependent origination.
Krishan, Yuvraj. The Doctrine of Karma: Its Origin and Development in Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Jaina Traditions. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997. Krishan offers a comprehensive survey of karma theories in the classical period of India. Karma in Buddhism is discussed in Section II, pages 59-90. Newfeldt, Ronald, ed. Karma and Rebirth: Post Classical Development. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986. The eighteen papers on karma are divided into three sections: Hindu, Buddhist, and Western. The Buddhist section contains five papers on karma and rebirth in Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, and Japan.
Ronkin, Noa. Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition. London: Routledge-Curzon, 2005. Chapter 5 discusses the early Buddhist notion of causation, and the Abhidhamma theory of causal conditions. See also Ronkin's “Abhidharma,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2014).
Sakamoto, Yukio. Abidatsuma no Kenkyu. Tokyo: Daito Shuppansha, 1981. In this substantial research output, Sakamoto studies Abhidharma concepts of karma, dependent origination, phenomenal existence (samsara), and defilements. Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Williams surveys the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism in India and beyond. Chapter three and four deal with Madhyamika and Yogacara schools. Revised version of the first edition, published in 1989.
Malalasekera and Weeraratne 1961-2007 provides the widest coverage of Buddhist doctrines and technical terms. Jones 2004 offers a range of updated entries on Buddhist doctrines and schools. Buswell 2003 includes fairly comprehensive entries on Buddhist schools, literature, and concepts. Buswell and Lopez 2014 contains numerous entries on texts, terminology, and schools. Nyanatiloka 1980 defines a range of seminal Pali terms. Emmanuel 2013 provides a survey of Buddhist philosophy. Potter 1995 provides an updated
Buswell, Robert E., ed. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. This encyclopedia contains approximately 470 entries, including entries on Abhidharma, karma, Sarvastivada, Theravada, Madhyamaka, and Yogacara. Buswell, Robert E., Jr., and Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014. This dictionary of over 5,000 entries covers texts and concepts, including karma, hetu, hetupratyaya, pratyaya, and pratityasamutpada.
Emmanuel, Steven, ed. A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. Blackwell Companion to Philosophy 50. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, 2013. This companion covers Buddhist philosophy in India and beyond. Chapter three deals with the notion of dependent origination as mental and bodily processes. Available online. Jones, Lindsay, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2d ed. 16 vols. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.
Volume 2 covers Buddhist history, literature, and doctrine. Entries also include Buddhist philosophy, soteriology, and pratityasamutpada. First edition published in 1987, Mircea Eliade, editor-in-chief, New York: Macmillan.
Malalasekera, G. P., and W. G. Weeraratne, eds. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 8 vols. Government of Sri Lanka, 1961-2007. This encyclopedia contains a comprehensive range of entries on Buddhist history, doctrine, and terminology; particularly strong on Theravada doctrines.
Nyanatiloka Mahathera. Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1980. This dictionary covers a fair range of Pali terms related to Buddhist doctrines and practices. First edition 1950. Potter, Karl H., comp. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. 3d ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1995. The bibliography in this volume contains sections on Theravada, Sarvastivada, Mahayana, Madhyamaka, and Y ogacara.
Causality in the Buddha's Discourses
The Buddha accepts the concept of karma current in his lifetime, but he recasts its interpretation. He denies the existence of the self, but affirms moral responsibility for human actions. He defines karma as an act of mental volition (cetana), and the bodily and verbal actions that stem from it. These three actions are integrated into the scheme of the ten unwholesome paths of karma (akusalakarmapatha), and their opposites, the ten wholesome paths of action (kusalakarmapatha). These two paths of actions broadly integrate the entire spectrum of human actions. The Buddha affirms that karma entails inevitable consequences, but denies determinism. The kernel of the Buddha's teaching is captured in a
single stanza voiced by Asvajit, one of his first five disciples: “Of all phenomena that issue from causes, the Tathagata foresaid their cause, and he also stated their cessation, the great mendicant” (Mahavagga I.39; Mahavastu III.62). There are two principal formulae of dependent origination: abstract and standard. The abstract formula: “When this is, that comes to be. From the arising of this, that arises. When this is absent, that does not arise. From the cessation of this, that ceases” (Majjhima I.262-64, II.32,
111.63; Samyutta II.28). The standard formula consists of twelve interconnected factors: ignorance, formations, consciousness, mentality-materiality, six sense-bases, contact, sensation, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, and old age and death. The Buddha does not claim the formulation of pratityasamutpada, but only its discovery. With reference to it, he maintains that the nature and stability of the causal patterning of phenomena remains constant, whether the Tathagatas appear or whether they do not appear in this world. Thus, dependent origination constitutes a kind of universal principle that regulates the flux of all phenomena: things and beings.
Karma in*the Buddha's Discourses
As the Theravada Suttapitaka is available in the original Pali and in translations, one can access all of the Buddha's discourses on karma and dependent origination. The Sanskrit Sutrapitaka survives only in fragments, and consequently fewer of his discourses are available. It exists in its Chinese version, but it is accessible only if one can read Chinese. The citations in this section include one comparative study and a selection of nine of the Buddha's discourses: eight are included in one of the Nikaya
collections, and one is published in a separate volume. Analayo 2011 compares the Buddha's discourses included in the Majjhima-nikaya with their counterparts translated into Chinese and other languages. Culakammavibhanga, Mahakammavibhanga, Kukkuravatika, and Saleyyaka Sutta are included in the Majjhima Nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (1995). They are considered to be important discourses on kamma. Bhava, Mahali, and Mula are included in the Anguttara Nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012). These three discourses
discuss particular aspects of kamma. Moliyasivaka is included in the Samyutta Nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000). This discourse deals with kamma retribution. Karmavibhanga is published in a separate volume edited by Kudo (2004). It is a rare survival from the Sanskrit literature.
Analayo. A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikaya. 2 vols. Taipei: Dharma Drum, 2011.
Analayo compares the Majjhima discourses and their Chinese counterparts. For Chinese versions of Saleyyaka, Culakammavibhanga, and Mahakammavibhanga, see pages 263-268, 767-775, and 775-781, respectively.
Bhava. In The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 309-310. Boston: Wisdom, 2012. The Buddha states that if there were no three worlds and no kamma to mature in them, existence would not become manifested. In the case of beings affected by ignorance and craving, kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed, and craving is the moisture.
Culakammavibhanga. In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1053-1057. Boston: Wisdom, 1995. The Buddha states, “Beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior” (Bodhi's translation, 1053, 1057).
Karmavibhanga. In The Karmavibhanga: Transliterations and Annotations of Original Sanskrit Manuscripts from Nepal. Edited by Noriyuki Kudo. Bibliotheca Philologica and Philosophica Buddhica 7. Tokyo: International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, 2004.
This is the Sanskrit version of the Culakammavibhanga. Kudo provides annotated transliterations of two Sanskrit manuscripts found in Nepal. French translation in Sylvain Levi, Mahakarmavibhanga (La Grande Classification des Actes) et Karmavibhangopadesa (Discussion sur le Maha Karmavibhanga), Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1932. Kukkuravatika. In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 493-497. Boston: Wisdom, 1995.
The Buddha explains four categories of action: dark action with dark result; bright action. . .; dark-bright action. . .; neither dark nor bright action. . . The fourth category destroys the preceding categories; in the Anguttara II.36 it is equated with the noble eightfold path.
Mahakammavibhanga. In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1058-1065. Boston: Wisdom, 1995.
The Buddha refutes faulty interpretations of actions and their results, and explains that good and evil actions do not automatically lead to happy and unhappy destinies. Mahali. In The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1398. Boston: Wisdom, 2012. There are ten causes and conditions of good and bad kamma: the three wholesome roots, the three unwholesome roots, careless and careful attention, and wrongly and rightly focused mind. If these ten things did not exist, there would be no right and wrong conduct.
Moliyasivaka. In The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Vol. 2. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1278-1279. Boston: Wisdom, 2000.
The Buddha refutes that all pleasant and painful experiences are results of past actions. He states that some feelings originate from bile and the other humors, some from climatic changes, and some from kamma.
Mula. In The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 292-294. Boston: Wisdom, 2012. The three unwholesome roots generate bad qualities, and the three wholesome roots generate excellent qualities. Once the bad qualities are eradicated, one attains nibbana in this very life.
Saleyyaka Sutta. In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 379-385. Boston: Wisdom, 1995. The Buddha teaches the workings of kamma by way of the ten unwholesome and the ten wholesome paths of action (kammapatha). Similar discourses in Majjhima III.45- 53; Anguttara V.263-68, 292-97; Mahavastu II.99; Dasabhumika 23-27.
Pratityasamutpada in the Buddha's Discourses
The citations listed in this section include Pali and Sanskrit discourses. The Kaccanagotta Sutta is included in the Nidanasamyutta of the Samyutta Nikaya, but it is listed here separately because of its importance. Nidadasamyutta, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000), contains a collection of discourses on dependent origination. Mahanidana Sutta, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (1984), provides an extensive treatment of dependent origination. Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (1995), discusses three models
of dependent origination. Arthaviniscaya Sutra, translated by Samtani (2002), provides an exposition of the standard formula of dependent origination. Dasabhumika Sutra, edited by Rahder (1926), teaches how the bodhisattva should understand the innate permutations of dependent origination. Mahavastu, translated by Jones (1952-1956), discusses the nature of dependent origination in three different passages. Nidanasamyukta, edited by Tripathi (1962), includes a modest collection of discourses dealing with different aspects of dependent origination. Pratityasamutpada-adi-vibhahga-nirdesa-sutra, edited by Sastri (1950), represents one of the earliest treatments of dependent origination. Salistamba Sutra, translated by Schoening (1995), appears to be a compilation based on some other discourses.
Arthaviniscaya Sutra. In Gathering the Meanings: The Arthaviniscaya Sutra and its Commentary Nibandhana. Translated by N. H. Samtani. Berkeley, CA: Dharma, 2002. Viryasridatta's Nibandhana is dated to the 8th century. Chapter 5, pages 67-106, interprets the standard formula of dependent origination. Sanskrit texts edited in N. H. Samtani, Arthaviniscaya-Sutra and its Commentary Nibandhana (Patna: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1971). Dasabhumika Sutra. In Dasabhumikasutra. Edited by Johannes Rahder, 47-52. Leuven, Belgium: J.B. Istar, 1926. Chapter 6 explains how the bodhisattva understands the forward and reverse sequences of dependent origination. Translated by Megumu Honda in Studies in South, East, and Central Asia, edited by Denis Sinor (New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1968), 185-192. Another Mahayana exposition in The Saddharmapundarika, translated by H. Kern (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989), 172173.
Kaccanagotta Sutta. In The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Vol. 1. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 544. Boston: Wisdom, 2000.
Dependent origination is taught as the Middle Way that avoids the extremes of existence and nonexistence. A similar Sanskrit text in the Nidanasamyukta, translated in Mattia Salvini, “The Nidanasamyukta and the Mulamadhyamakakarika: Understanding the Middle Way,” Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2 (2011): 57-95.
Mahanidana Sutta. In The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1984. This is the fullest exposition of dependent origination, although three links are omitted. This version is also given in the Mahapadana Sutta, Digha 14; and in the Sanskrit Mahavadana Sutra, edited by Kamichi Fukida (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003).
Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta. In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 349-361. Boston: Wisdom, 1995. The Buddha teaches three configurations of dependent origination: the process of cognition, four nutriments linked with the dependent origination, and the standard formula. Chinese version in Analayo, A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikaya (Taipei: Dharma Drum, 2011), 251-256. Mahavastu. In The Mahavastu. Translated by J. J. Jones. Vols. 2-3. London: Luzac, 1952-1956.
Two passages describe the standard version. One passage lists the factors from ignorance to craving and then states, “Because of grasping men pass from one life into another. Hence there come to be birth, old age, death and sickness” (Jones II.315). Jones: Volume II, 267-268; II, 315; Volume III, 449-450. Sanskrit text in E. Senart's edition: Volume II, 285; II, 345-346; Volume III, 448-449. Nidadasamyutta. In The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Vol. 1. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 532-620. Boston: Wisdom, 2000. This chapter includes around ninety discourses on dependent origination and its variations.
Nidanasamyukta. In Funfundzwanzig Sutras des Nidanasamyukta. Edited by Chandra Tripathr. Sanskrittexte aus den Turfanfunden 8. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1962.
This publication contains twenty-five discourses included in the Sanskrit Nidanasamyukta discovered in Turfan. Pratityasamutpada-adi-vibhanga-nirdesa-sutra. In Arya Salistamba Sutra, Pratityasamutpadavibhanga Nirdesasutra, and Pratityasamutpadagatha Sutra. Edited by N. Aiyaswami Sastri. Madras, India: Adyar Library, 1950.
Treated as one of the oldest texts on dependent origination. Studied in Marek Mejor, “On the Formulation of the Pratityasamutpada,” in Aspects of Buddhism: Proceedings of the International Seminar 1994, edited by Agata Bareja-Starzynska and Marek Meyor (Warsaw: Oriental Institute, 1997), 125-137. Salistamba Sutra. In The Salisamba Sutra and its Indian Commentaries. 2 vols. Translated by Jeffrey D. Schoening. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 35.1-2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis fur Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, 1995.
This text equates the pratityasamutpada with the Dharma, and the Dharma with the Buddha. It appears to be a digest of different discourses. This study includes an annotated translation of Salistamba and Kamalasila's commentary. Also translated in N. Ross Reat, The Salistamba Sutra (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993).
Karma and Pratityasamutpada in Abhidharma Sources
The Abhidharma is a systematization of the Buddha's teachings, but it also advances new doctrines. One of them is the analysis of all of existence in terms of dharmas as ultimate units or realities. As stated in the Introduction, conventional entities do not exist, because they depend on their components. The Sarvastivada asserts that these components, dharmas, have their inherent nature or identity (svabhava) and exist as real entities (dravyasat). Similarly, the Theravada maintains that the dharmas are the
ultimate entities (paramattha) that exist from their own side (sarupato). The implied meaning is that they are not mere concepts, but mentally discernible entities that cannot be dissected into smaller units. All dharmas are divided into conditioned (samskrta) and unconditioned (asamskrta). The conditioned dharmas make up the empirical world: matter, consciousness, and mental concomitants. The Abhidharma is mainly concerned with the human being as a complex of psychophysical stream (samtana) that evolves without any
ontological substratum. All things and beings, as complexes of conditioned dharmas, are subject to change and evolution. They are propelled by the force of karma, and coordinated by the principle of prati tyasamutpada. Thus the Abhidharma completely depersonalizes conventional entities, and treats them in terms of impersonal dharmas. The unconditioned dharmas, including nirvana, are exempt from causation; they exist but have no cause. In addition to systematic treatments of karma and dependent origination, the Abhidharma masters also formulate new models of causality, as discussed below.
Kamma and Paticcasamuppada in Theravada Abhidhamma
One of the salient features of the Theravada interpretation of kamma is the assertion that all bodily, verbal, and mental actions are essentially volitions. The exposition of dependent origination largely focuses on explaining the causal structure of cyclic rebirths, and on detailing the conditions that regulate the process of birth and death. The Theravada masters postulate a type of consciousness called life-continuum (bhavanga), which is interpreted as the continuity of the individual from birth to death. According to
Theravada sources, in its cognitive aspect (vithicitta), the stream of consciousness apprehends and interacts with the surrounding world, and in its latent aspect (vithimuttacitta), it performs the functions of rebirth consciousness, lifecontinuum consciousness, and death consciousness. The citations include Abhidhamma books and authored treatises. Anuruddha 1993, translated by Bodhi, Buddhaghosa 1956, translated by Nanamoli, and Upatissa 1961, translated by Ehara, constitute seminal Abhidhamma manuals. Buddhaghosa 1921, translated by Tin, contains a detailed exposition of kamma. Dhammasangani, translated by Rhys Davids (1900), methodically classifies and defines mental and physical phenomena. Kathavatthu, translated by Aung and Rhys Davids (1915), treats a wide range of controversies. Buddhaghosa 1987-1991, translated by Nyanaponika, treats the nature of dependent origination. Vibhanga, translated by Thittila (1969), analyzes the nature of dependent origination as taught by the Buddha and as interpreted in Abhidhamma. Anuruddha. Abhidhammattha-sangaha. In A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acarya Anuruddha. Revised translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1993.
Chapter 5, pages 185-233, deals with the nature and categories of kamma. Chapter 8, pages 292-324, explains the nature of dependent origination. Buddhaghosa. Atthasalini. In The Expositor. Translated by Pe Maung Tin. 2 vols in one. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1921. This is Buddhaghosa's commentary on the Dhammasangani. Part Three, pages 109140, provides a detailed exposition of kamma.
Buddhaghosa. Visuddhimagga. In The Path of Purification. Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1956. This text was composed in the 5th century. Chapter 17 provides a detailed exposition of dependent origination. The nature of kamma is explained in connection with specific links of dependent origination.
Buddhaghosa. Sammohavinodani. In The Dispeller of Delusion. 2 vols. Translated by Nyanaponika and revised by Lance Cousins. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1987-1991. This is Buddhaghosa's commentary on the Vibhangha. In this text Buddhaghosa provides a detailed exposition of dependent origination. Dhammasangani. In Buddhist Psychological Ethics. Translated by C. A. F. Rhys Davids. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1900.
This is the first book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It classifies mental and physical phenomena, in terms of their ethical qualities: good, bad, and undetermined. Kathavatthu. In Points of Controversy. Translated by S. Z. Aung and C. A. F. Rhys Davids. London: Pali Text Society, 1915.
This book includes debates on kamma and paticcasamuppada. See James McDermott, “The Kathavattu Kamma Debates,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 95.3 (1975): 424-433. Upatissa (or Upatisya). Vimuttimagga. In The Path of Freedom by the Arahant Upatissa. Translated by N. R. M. Ehara, et al. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Saman, 1961. This text is dated to the 5th century. Chapter 11, pages 259-267, explains two kinds of conditioned origination: mundane and transcendent.
Vibhanga. In The Book of Analysis. Translated by Ashin Thittila. London: Pali Text Society, 1969. This is the second Abhidhamma book. Chapter 6 treats the dependent origination as taught in the Buddha's discourses, and as treated in the Abhidhamma.
Karma and Pratityasamutpada in Sarvastivada Abhidharma
The Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas maintain that everything exists in all three times: past, present, and future. Karma by its nature exists in all times, but its mode of existence varies. They further maintain that mental actions are mental volitions, and that bodily and verbal actions stem from mental volitions, but otherwise appertain to the material aggregate. In this context they formulated a particular interpretation of the concepts of vijhapti (intimation) and avijhapti (non-intimation). Bodily and verbal actions are
manifested intimations of mental volitions. Mental, bodily, and verbal actions produce non-intimations, understood as their karmic potentialities that have an impact on the ethical character of the performer's consciousness. The Vaibhasikas maintain that the actions of individual beings lead to their individual rebirths, and that the combined
actions of all beings regenerate and maintain the physical world. Like the Theravada, the Sarvastivada largely interprets the dependent origination in terms of the processes of birth and death. Cox 1993 studies the concept of pratityasamutpda. Dharmasri 2006, Dharmatrata 1999, Ghosaka 1977, and V asubandhu 1923-1931 are comprehensive manuals of Abhidharma doctrines and practices. Skandhila 2008 treats the classification of dharmas.
Cox, Collett. “Dependent Origination: Its Elaboration in Early Sarvastivadin Abhidharma Texts.” In Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Professor Alex Wayman. Edited by Ram Karan Sharma, 119-141. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993.
Cox surveys the interpretative evolution of the concept of dependent origination. This volume also includes two other papers on dependent origination: “Dependent Origination and Elements,” and “Dependent Origination in the Buddhist Tantra.” Dharmasri. Abhidharmahrdaya. In The Essence of Scholasticism:
Abhidharmahrdaya T1550. Translated by Charles Willemen. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2006. Dharmasri's treatise is viewed as one of the earliest expositions of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma. Chapter 3 treats the theory of karma. Chapter 8, verses 179-181, encapsulates the nature of dependent origination. French translation by I. Armelin, Le Coeur de la Loi Supreme: Abhidharmahrdayasastra (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1978). First edition 1975. Dharmatrata. Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya. In Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya: Heart of Scholasticism with Miscellaneous Additions. 3 vols. Translated by Bart Dessein. Buddhist Tradition Series 33-35. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.
Dharmatrata is dated to the 4th century. Chapter 3, pages 149-237, contains a detailed exposition of karma: categories of moral and immoral conduct, and the ten paths of action.
Ghosaka. Abhidharmamrtarasa. In La Savour de l'immortel (A-p'i-t-an Kan Lu Wei Lun): La Version Chinoise de l'Amrtarasa de Ghosaka (T. 1553). Translated by Jose van den Broeck. Publications de l‘Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 15. Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1977. Ghosaka is tentatively dated to the 2nd century. Chapter 4 deals with the nature of actions and their results. Chapter 7 explains the mechanism of dependent origination. English translation from the French by Migme Chodron. Downloadable from Dharma Wheel, Sarvastivada Abhidharma: Translations & Studies.
Skandhila. Abhdharmavatara. In Entrance into the Supreme Doctrine: Skandhila's Abhidharmavatara. Translated by Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2008.
Translated from the Chinese. Skandhila's work treats the Sarvastivada theory of conditioned and unconditioned phenomena. Tibetan version translated in Marcel van Velthem, La Traite de la Descente dans la Profonde Loi: Abhidharmavatarasastra (Publications de l'Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 16; Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 1977).
Vasubandhu. Abhidharmakosabhasya. In L’Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu: Traduction et Annotations. 6 vols. Translated by Louis de La Vallee Poussin. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1923-1931.
This treatise constitutes the pinnacle of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma developments in India. The Vaibhasika interpretation of dependent origination is in chapter 3, verses 20-44, pages 60-138. Chapter 4 details the Vaibhasika theory of karma and its critique. Translated from the French in Leo M. Pruden, Abhidharmakosabhasyam (4 vols., Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1988-1990).
Hetu and Pratyaya in Abhidharma Sources
The Abhidharma analysis of existence into dharmas as ultimate realities and the Buddhist notion of impermanence are deeply incompatible. If all phenomena are impermanent and evolve in momentary events, then dharmas cannot exist and endure for any period of time. If they are momentary events, evolving in phases of origination, duration, and cessation, it is a challenge to account for the continuity of physical and mental processes. The coordinated flow of such processes is subjected to causes and conditions. But as
causes and conditions are equally momentary events, it is difficult to demonstrate how they generate fruits the very moment they vanish. Then again, as phenomena evolve in momentary flashes, it is difficult to account for their causal capacity and efficacy. Faced with such problems, the Abhidharma masters formulated theories of causal contiguity and efficacy in terms of coordinated sets of causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya).
Hetu and Paccaya in Theravada Abhidhamma
The Theravada theory of conditionality, as detailed in the Patthana, postulates a set of twenty-four conditions that embrace all possible configurations in which phenomena may function and interact. Among these conditions, the first one, hetupaccaya (condition qua cause), includes the primary roots or causes: the three unwholesome and the three wholesome roots. The existence of all conditioned phenomena depends on these six roots. The twenty-four conditions are not mutually exclusive, and their number can be reduced to
four. Patthana (Narada 1969) constitutes the primary source for the study of the twenty-four conditions. Dhammasangani, translated by Rhys Davids (1900), provides definitions of the root causes. Nyanaponika 2010 deals with mental phenomena. Buddhaghosa 1956, Sayadaw 1986, Narada 1969, and Nyanatiloka 2008 explain the twenty-four conditions largely on the basis of the Patthana. Van Gorkom 2010 offers an insightful sketch of the twenty-four conditions. Buddhaghosa. Visuddhimagga. In The Path of Purification. Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1956.
Buddhaghosa incorporates the twenty-four conditions into his treatment of dependent origination (chapter 17, paragraphs 66-104). Dhammasangani. In Buddhist Psychological Ethics. Translated by C. A. F. Rhys Davids. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1900. Paragraphs 1053-1071 define the unwholesome and wholesome roots (mula, hetu). van Gorkom, Nina. The Conditionality of Life: An Outline of the Twenty-Four Conditions as Taught in the Abhidhamma. London: Zolag, 2010.
Van Gorkom provides a narrative exposition of the twenty-four conditions.
Narada, U. Conditional Relations (Patthana). Part 1. London: Pali Text Society, 1969.
Part 1 and 2 cover only the initial 141 pages of the Patthana, which in some editions spreads over 2,500 pages. Part 2 published in Rangoon: Religious Affairs Department, 1986.
Nyanaponika, Thera. Adhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Exploration of Consciousness and Time. Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Boston: Wisdom, 2010. Nyanaponika discusses Abhidhamma tenets, and analyzes the Abhidhamma treatment of mental phenomena. Bodhi provides an instructive introduction.
Nyanatiloka, Mahathera. Guide through the Abhidhamma Pitaka; A Synopsis of the Philosophical Collection of the Buddhist Pali Canon. 5th rev. ed. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 2008.
An analysis of the twenty-four conditions as taught in the Patthana is given on pages 152-206. Contains an essay on the dependent origination. First published in 1938. Patthana. In Conditional Relations (Patthana). Translated by U. Narada. 2 vols. London: Pali Text Society, 1969-1981. This is the seventh book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, and the seminal source of the twenty-four conditions.
Sayadaw, Ledi. Mahathera. Patthanuddesa Dipani. In The Buddhist Philisophy of Relations. Translated by Sayadaw U. Nyana. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1986. Ledi provides a detailed resume of the twenty-four conditions as taught in the Patthana.
Hetu and Pratyaya in Sarvastivada Abhidharma
The Sarvastivada school interprets the causal contiguity and efficacy in terms of four conditions (pratyaya), and six causes (hetu). These conditions and causes form two models of causality and account for all phenomenal experiences. All conditioned dharmas are momentary, yet they perdure in all three times but in different capacities, and evolve in causal relations in conformity with the four conditions and the six causes. None of these conditions and causes entails a direct impact or collision between different dharmas,
but only determines a particular aspect of their causal relationship. For instance, the first of the six causes, the efficient cause, is characterized as presence or non-obstruction: all dharmas are efficient cause with regard to all other dharmas, because no dharma constitutes an obstacle to the arising of the dharmas susceptible of arising. In addition to causal relationships determined by the above causes and conditions, the Sarvastivada-Vaibhasikas postulate that the momentary dharmas have four characteristics:
origination, duration, decay, and evanescence. The Sarvastivada adepts also assert that no conditioned dharma arises from one single cause or condition, but from a complex or combination of causes. The above conditions and causes produce five specific types of fruition, which are resultant outcomes of different causal interactions and processes. Among them, the retributive fruition denotes the maturation of past actions, and the disconnection fruition (nirvana) stands for the attainment of disconnection from all defilements through the practice of the path, although ultimately it is causeless. As the four conditions are included in the Pali list of conditions, it is postulated that they
predate the formulation of the six causes. The set of the six causes is a Sarvastivada innovation, which is inaugurated in the Jhanaprasthana. Some masters say that there is no difference between the six causes and the four conditions, and some say that the four conditions have a wider scope. Cox 1999 summarizes Sanghabhadra's defense of the Sarvastivada exposition of the six causes and the four conditions. Dhammajoti 2009 surveys the Sarvastivada interpretation of causality. Dharmasri 2006 provides one of the earliest Sarvastivada expositions of the four conditions. Dharmatrata 1999 provides an elaborate exposition of the six causes, the four conditions, and their fruits. Ghosaka 1977 makes an original contribution to the interpretation of causality. Lamotte 1980 translates a treatise that assesses the six causes and the four conditions. Vasubandhu 1923-1931 is a repository of Sarvastivada doctrines.
Cox, Collett. “Nyayanusara.” In Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 8, Buddhist Philosophy From 100 to 350 A.D. Edited by Karl H. Potter, 650-716. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999. Cox provides summaries of the first two chapters of Sanghabhadra's Nyayanusara. In this work, Sanghabahdra reinstates the Sarvastivada Vaibhasika Abhidharma tenets, and debunks their Sautrantika criticism as recorded in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosabhasya. Chapter 2 sums up the debates about the six causes and the four conditions. It also discusses the controversy over the seed theory.
Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur. “Theory of Causality.” In Sarvastivada Abhidhamma. Authored by Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti, 143-185. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2009.
Chapter six and seven detail the Sarvastivada theory of causality: the six causes, the four conditions, and the five fruits. First published in 2002. Dharmasrr. Abhidharmahrdaya. In The Essence of Scholasticism: Abhidharmahrdaya T1550. Translated by Charles Willemen. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2006. The six causes and the four conditions are explained in chapter 2, verses 25-32 and their commentaries.
Dharmatrata. Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya. In Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya: Heart of Scholasticism with Miscellaneous Additions. 3 vols. Translated by Bart Dessein. Buddhist Tradition Series 33-35. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.
The six causes, the four conditions, and their fruits are explained in chapter 2, stanzas 68-88, pages 109-138. Ghosaka. Abhidharmamrtarasa. In La Savour de l'immortel (A-p'i-t-an Kan Lu Wei Lun): La Version Chinoise de l'Amrtarasa de Ghosaka (T. 1553). Translated and annotated by Jose van den Broeck. Publications de l‘Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 15. Louvain-La-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 1977. The six causes and four conditions are explained in chapter 6. English translation from the French by Migme Chodron.
Lamotte, Etienne, trans. La Traite de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse de Nagarjuna: Mahaprajhaparamitasastra. Vol. 5. Louvain, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1980.
Chapter 69 of this treatise, pages 2163-2230, provides an exposition of the four conditions and the six causes according to the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, and their critique from the position of this treatise. In a preliminary note, Lamotte gives an overview of the treatment of the four conditions in the canonical texts, Abhidharma, and Madhyamika. Vasubandhu. Abhidharmakosabhasya. In L'Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu: Traduction et Annotations. French translation by Louis de La Vallee Poussin. 6 vols. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1923-1931.
Chapter 2 includes a comprehensive treatment of the causes, conditions, and their fruits: verses 49-73, pages 244-331. Translated from the French by Gelong Lodro Sangpo, Abhidharmakosa-Bhasya of Vasubandhu: The Treasury of the Abhidharma and Its Commentary (4 vols., Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012).
Sautrantika Theory of Seeds (bija)
The seminal formulation and conceptual development of the theory of seeds are obscure prior to its exposition by Vasubandhu. In his Abhidharmakosa, Vasubandhu attributes the theory of seeds to the Sautrantikas—first a branch of the Sarvastivada school, and later viewed as independent. In terms of causality, Vasubandhu (Vasubandhu 1935-1936) refutes the Vaibhasika and some other Abhidharma theories of causality. Instead, he postulates the theory of seeds as a more viable alternative to explain the constantly evolving stream of consciousness. The seeds are identified with mentality and materiality: the five aggregates having the capacity to produce effects. The seeds are not entities but denote the mental and physical complex that forms the stream of conscious life. In their latent state, the seeds are transmitted as potentialities that flow within the stream of consciousness. When appropriate causes and conditions occur, the seeds mature by way of transformation within the stream of consciousness. Vasubandhu postulates that the process
of seeds and fruits explains the causal capacity and efficacy of karma and other varieties of causality, as well as the continuity of the life-stream. This theory is viewed as the precursor of the Yogacara theories of subliminal consciousness and of buddha-nature. Cox 1995 sums up Vasubandhu's seed theory. Jaini 1959 assesses a controversy about the seed theory. Park 2014 traces the historical and doctrinal development of the bija theory. Vasubandhu 1935-1936 favors the seed theory in preference to other early Buddhist theories of karma. Yamabe 1989 traces the source of the seed theory.
Cox, Collett. “Theory of Seeds.” In The Disputed Dharmas: Early Buddhist Theories on Existence. Authored by Collett Cox, 93-97. Studia Philologica Buddhica 11. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1995.
Cox encapsulates Vasubandhu's theory of seeds, and its refutation by Sanghabhadra. Jaini, Padmanabh. “The Sautrantika Theory of Bija.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 22.1-3 (1959): 236-249.
Jaini assesses Vasubandhu's seed theory and its critique by a Vaibhasika master. Park, Changhwan. Vasubandhu, Srilata, and the Sautrantika Theory of Seeds. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, Heft 84. Vienna: Arbeitskreis fur Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universitat Wien, 2014. This is a published version of Park's PhD thesis submitted at the University of California at Berkeley in 2007. He investigates the historical and conceptual stages of the theory of seeds. He also endeavors to establish possible affinities between different masters who contributed to the formulation of this theory.
Vasubandhu. “Le Traite de L'Acte de Vasubandhu: Karmasiddhiprakarana.” Translated by Etienne Lamotte. Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 4 (1935-1936): 151-287. Vasubandhu critiques the Vaibhasika and other Abhidharma interpretations of karma. In contrast, he introduces the seed theory and the concept of the subliminal consciousness as a more effective way of explaining the mechanism of karma. Translated from the French by Leo M. Pruden, in Karmasiddhi Prakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu (Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1987).
Yamabe, Nobuyoshi. “Brja Theory in Viniscayasamgrahani.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies 38.2 (1989): 931-935. Yamabe attempts to show that Vasubandhu's seed theory can be traced to the Viniscayasamgrahani, a Y ogacara work.
Causality in the Mahayana
Some five hundred years after the Buddha's demise, there emerged a body of scriptures proclaiming new doctrines, jointly known under the name of Mahayana Buddhism. In distinction to Abhidharma doctrines formulated by the early Buddhist schools, the Mahayana sets forth new doctrinal and soteriological horizons. While the Abhidharma affirms the nonexistence of the self, the Prajnaparamita texts propound both the nonexistence of the self, and the nonexistence of dharmas. This nonexistence of the self, and of the
dharmas, having no inherent nature (svabhava), is articulated in the notion of emptiness (sunyata). Pahcavimsati (46.10-47.7) teaches that sunyata does not arise and does not subside. It does not become defiled or purified. It does not decrease or increase. It is neither past, present, or future. Having this particular character, sunyata has no form, sensation, perception, formation, or consciousness. There is no arising and no cessation of ignorance. There is no arising and no cessation of the twelve links of dependent origination. There is no suffering, origin, cessation, or path. There is no spiritual realization (abhisamaya), no arhatship or its fruit, no Buddha and no enlightenment (bodhi). Since all phenomena are empty and have no inherent nature, the texts assert that empty phenomena arise from empty phenomena, and that ultimately phenomena have no origination and no cessation. Some texts teach that the seed of buddha-nature abides in all sentient beings, and some teach about pure lands. In terms of soteriology, the
Mahayana texts advocate the bodhisattva ideal. In contrast to the arhat, who strives to abandon samsara and to realize nirvana, the Bodhisattva strives to gain enlightenment, and to aid other living beings, without ever abandoning samsara. He practices the six perfections in order to attain an enlightened- body (dharmakaya) that comprehends all intricacies of emptiness, and to acquire a buddha-body (rupakaya) that conveys the Dharma to other beings. The diverse Mahayana doctrines, interspersed in different texts, are
eventually systemized by the adepts of two major Mahayana schools: Madhyamaka and Yogacara. Emulating the Prajnaparamita texts, Madhyamaka formulates its interpretation of karma and dependent origination in the context of emptiness. Ultimately, karma and dependent origination are inoperative because of being empty of ontological bases (svabhava), but conventionally they do exist and function. Yogacara accepts the notion of emptiness, and interprets it as an elimination of an erroneously asserted duality of perceiving subjects and perceived objects. Karma seeds sown by ignorance must be eliminated, and dependent origination, the hub of phenomenal existence, must be understood.
Causality in the Madhyamaka
Nagarjuna is viewed as the founder of the Madhyamaka school. In his works he asserts that he is only reestablishing the Buddha's teaching on the Middle Way. In terms of causality, he examines the existing metaphysical theories of causality, and concludes that nothing can arise from itself, from another, from both, or from no cause. Essentially, he demonstrates that no sound metaphysical theory of causation can be formulated, because all such theories can be deconstructed. Thus he does not reject causation, but only its metaphysical interpretations. He affirms the principle of dependent origination, liberates it from the (Abhidharma) interpretations, and equates it with emptiness. In terms of
the two truths, conventionally, the empirical reality as everyday experiences evolves within the nexus of dependent origination. Ultimately, all phenomena within the causal nexus are empty of inherent nature or existence (svabhava). Nagarjuna identifies dependent origination with emptiness: phenomena arise in dependence because they are empty, and they are empty because they are interdependent. Since there are no phenomena that are not dependently arisen, there are no phenomena that are not empty. Since everything is
dependently arisen, the extreme of annihilation is avoided. Since everything is empty, the extreme of permanence is avoided. Thus the empirical world is simultaneously interdependent and empty: one reality having two aspects. Emptiness is the true nature of things: not produced and not destroyed. Emptiness itself is also empty, and ultimately it is the appeasement of all verbal proliferations and the dualistic mind.
Nagarjuna's Seminal Works on Causality
This subsection lists Nagarjuna's works that encapsulate the notion of emptiness, and demonstrate its centrality for understanding and interpreting the nature and function of karma and dependent origination. Nagarjuna 1995 and Nagarjuna 2013 constitute the seminal or root text, which covers the entire spectrum of Buddhist teachings. Nagarjuna claims doing no more than restating the Middle Way taught by the Buddha. Nagarjuna 2002 demonstrates the emptiness of dependent origination. Nagarjuna 1987 shows how pratityasamutpada is empty of ontologically existent entities.
Nagarjuna. “Sunyatasaptati: The Seventy Karikas on Voidness.” Translated by Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti. Journal of Indian Philosophy 15.1 (1987): 1-55. The twelve factors of dependent origination are explained as being empty of real entities. All things are impermanent, but this does not presuppose any entities as being impermanent.
Nagarjuna. Mulamadhyamakakarika. In The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Translated by Jay L. Garfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
This translation is based on the Tibetan version, and is provided with commentary rooted in Tibetan sources. Nagarjuna. Prafityasamutpadahrdayakdrikd. In Causality and Emptiness: The Wisdom of Nagarjuna. Translated by Peter Della Santina, 58-64. Singapore: Buddhist Research Society, 2002. This text declares dependent origination to be empty of inherent nature, and hence in reality there are no beings (sattva). Nagarjuna. Mulamadhyamakakdrikd. In Ndgdrjuna's Middle Way: Mulamadhyamakakarika. Translated by Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura. Boston: Wisdom, 2013. Nagarjuna is dated to the 2nd century. In this seminal treatise, Nagarjuna formulates a new vision of the Buddha's teaching. The verses are translated from the Sanskrit, and the commentary is distilled from Indian commentaries. Chapter 1 examines the four alternative modes of causation, and the four conditions. Chapter 26 treats the character of dependent origination. Chapter 24.18 equates dependent origination with emptiness.
Commentaries and Studies on Nagarjuna
This subsection includes the commentaries on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika and related studies. Saito 1984 and Bhavaviveka 1993 are important commentaries on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, respectively composed in the 4th and the 6th centuries. Candrakirti 1959 and Candrakirti 1979 form the most important and comprehensive commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Candrakirti 1991 is a commentary on Nagarjuna's Yuktisastika. Lamotte 1976 surveys the concept of emptiness. Ruegg 1981 offers a philosophical analysis of the principal Madhyamaka texts. Sprung 1973 contains five papers on the two truths. Westerhoff 2009 analyses Nagarjuna's philosophy. Bhavaviveka. “Bhavaviveka's Prajnapradipa: A Translation of Chapter One: ‘Examination of Causal Conditions' (Pratyaya).” Translated by William L. Ames. Journal of Indian Philosophy 21.3 (1993): 209-259.
Continued in Journal of Indian Philosophy 22.2 (1994): 93-135. Bhavavika lived in the 6th century. His Prajnapradipa comments on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamaka- karika. Chapter 2 is also translated in the Journal of Indian Philosophy 23.3 (1995): 295-365. Several subsequent chapters are translated in the Journal of Buddhist Literature 1 (1999) and Journal of Buddhist Literature 2 (2000). Candrakrrti. Prasannapada Madhyamakavrtti. In Candrakirti: Prasannapada Madhyamakavrtti. Translated by Jacques May. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1959. May provides a French translation of twelve chapters of Candrakirti's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Candrakirti. Prasannapada Madhyamakavrtti. In Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way: The Essential Chapters from the Prasannapada of Candrakirti. Translated by Mervyn Sprung. Boulder, CO: Prajna, 1979.
Sprung provides an English translation of seventeen chapters of the Prasannapada. Candrakirti. “Yuktisastikavrtti: ‘Commentaire a La Soixantaine Sur Le Raisonnement' ou ‘du Vrai Enseignement de la Causalite' par le Maitre Indien Candrakirti.” Translated by Cristina Anna Scherrer-Schaub. Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 25 (1991).
Nagarjuna's Yuktisastika interprets the pratityasamutpada as being free from the extremes of existence and nonexistence. Candrakirti's commentary demonstrates the incompatibility between permanent entities and dependent origination. English translation of Yuktisastika in Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom: Writings of the Buddhist Master Nagarjuna (Berkeley, CA: Dharma, 1986). Lamotte, Etienne. “Les Dix-huit Vacuites.” In La Traite de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse de Nagarjuna: Mahaprajnaparamitasastra. Vol. 4. Translated by Etienne Lamotte, 1995-2151. Louvain, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1976. In the introduction to chapter 48, pages 1995-2042, Lamotte surveys the interpretation of emptiness in the canonical and other texts. The Sastra's exposition of the eighteen kinds of emptiness is given on pages 2033-2151.
Ruegg, David Seyfort. The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India. A History of Indian Literature 7.1. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1981. Ruegg covers the entire spectrum of the texts of the Indian Madhyamaka. It is largely a textual and philosophical analysis. Saito, Akira. “A Study of the Buddhapalita-Mulamadhyamaka-vrtti.” PhD diss., Australian National University, 1984.
Buddhapalita is dated to the 5th century, and his work is a commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Saito translates the first sixteen chapters. For a study of this commentary, see William L. Ames, “Buddhapalita's Exposition of the Madhyamaka,” Journal of Indian Philosophy 14 (1986): 313-48. Sprung, Mervyn, ed. The Problem of the Two Truths in Buddhism and Vedanta. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1973. Five papers deal with Buddhist interpretations of the two truths. They aim to establish the relationship between the two truths, and to determine whether they represent two levels of awareness or two realities.
Westerhoff, Jan. Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Chapter 2 discusses the concept of inherent nature, and chapter 5 assesses the permutations of causality.
Causality in the Yogacara
Some Yogacara texts interpret the principle of dependent origination in modified Abhidharma terms. In the mature Yogacara, causality is integrated into the theories of consciousness and the three natures. A subliminal consciousness (alayavijhana) underpins the experiences of samsaric existence. It serves as a repository of karmic seeds or potentialities deposited in it by the cognitive and conditioned complex of conscious experiences. When the appropriate causes and conditions occur, the seeds in the subliminal
consciousness mature as experiences, producing the evolving consciousness and its objects. In terms of the three natures, they subsume all phenomena of existence. The constructed nature denotes the world of imagined objects as if existent apart from consciousness. The dependent nature encompasses all phenomena arising in dependence on causes and conditions: the subjective flow of karma-generated and karma-generative experiences. The perfected nature denotes the absence of the constructed nature in the dependent nature: suchness, or emptiness. The acquisition of liberation postulates the elimination of the duality of consciousness bifurcated into subject and object: the dependent and
constructed natures. This is done through the correct understanding of the emptiness of the constructed nature, and of the conditioned arising of the dependent nature. Alternatively, it is the elimination of the constructed nature in the dependent nature, and the transmutation of the dependent nature into the perfected nature. Considered as truths, the perfected nature reflects the absolute truth. The interactive dependent and constructed natures reflect the conventional truth. The dependent nature is the phenomenal propensity of the perfected nature, and the constructed nature is mere imagination.
Selected Yogacara Texts
This subsection includes a selection of works attributed to Maitreyanatha, Asanga, and Vasubandhu, the champions of Yogacara doctrines and practices. Asanga 1971 and Asanga 2001 represent unique specimens of Mahayana Abhidharma. Asanga 1938 provides a comprehensive and systematic exposition of Yogacara system. Anacker 2005 translates seven important works of Vasubandhu. Kochumuttom 1984 studies Vasubandhu's philosophy on the basis of four texts. Levi 1932 translates two seminal texts of Vasubandhu. Maitreyanatha 2012 provides a particular exposition of Yogacara system. Vasubandhu 1983 treats the Yogacara theory of the three natures.
Anacker, Stefan. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2005. Anacker sketches Vasubandhu's philosophy and translates seven of his works. The texts that are important for understanding the nature of causality are Vimsatika, Trimsika, Madhyantavibhaga, and Trisvabhavanirdesa.
Asanga. Mahayanasamgraha. In La Somme du Grand Vehicule d'Asanga: Mahayanasamgraha. 2 vols. Translated by Etienne Lamotte. Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium: Universite de Louvain, Institut Orientaliste, 1938.
Translated from the Tibetan. This text details Yogacara philosophy and practice. The first two chapters encapsulate the Yogacara exposition of causality. Translated from the Chinese in John P. Keenan, The Summary of the Great Vehicle (Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Translation and Research, 1992).
Asanga. Abhidharmasamuccaya. In Le Compendium de la Super-Doctrine (Philosophie): Abhidharmasaumccaya d'Asanga. French translation by Walpola Rahula. Publicatons de l'Ecole Fran^aise d'Extreme-Orient 78. Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1971. This compendium is a rare example of a Mahayana Abhidharma. The nature of karma is explained in the context of the second noble truth; pages 82-98. Dependent origination and the four conditions are explained in the section on the aspects of the aggregates; page 42-47.
Asanga. Abhidharmasamuccaya: The Compendium of the Higher Teaching. Translated from the French by Sara Boin-Webb. Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 2001. Asanga explains the nature and working of karma in the context of the second noble truth. The origin of suffering consists of defilements and the actions dominated by defilements; pages 94-132. The nature of dependent origination is explained from ten perspectives; pages 55-59. After explaining the twelve links of dependent origination, Asanga ascertains the four conditions; pages 59-63.
Kochumuttom, Thomas A. A Buddhist Doctrine of Experience: A New Translation and Interpretation of the Works of Vasubandhu the Yogacarin. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982. Revised edition of 1984.
Originally a PhD thesis submitted in 1978 at the University of Lancaster, United Kingdom. Essentially, this publication includes translations of four texts, along with their philosophical analysis and interpretation. The overall aim is to formulate a portrayal of the Yogacara system. The translated texts include the first chapter of Madhyantavibhaga, Trisvabhavanirdesa, Vimsatika, and Trimsika.
Levi, Sylvain. Materiaux pour VEtude du Systeme Vijnaptimatra. Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes 260. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honore Champion, 1932. French translation of Vasubandhu's Twenty Verses and Thirty Verses, and Sthiramati's commentary on the latter. The Sanskrit texts in Sylvain Levi, Vijhapti- matratasiddhi: Deux Traites de Vasubandhu: Vimsatika Accompagnee d’une Explication en Prose et Trimsika avec le Commentaire de Sthiramati (Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes 245; Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honore Champion, 1925).
Maitreyanatha. Madhyantavibhaga. In Maitreya's Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes: A Study and Annotated Translation of the Madhyantavibhaga, Along with Its Commentary, the Madhyantavibhaga-bhasya. Translated by Mario D'Amato. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2012.
This seminal treatise propounds the nature of existence and the path of liberation. The first two chapters are central to Yogacara interpretation of causality. Vasubandhu. “The Trisvabhavakarika of Vasubandhu.” Translated by Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti. Journal of Indian Philosophy 11.3 (1983): 225-266. This text focuses on the dependent arising of consciousness. Variant interpretations of trisvabhava in Alan Sponberg, “The Trisvabhava Doctrine in India and China: A Study of Three Exegetical Models,” Bukkyo Bunka Kenkyu-jo Kiyo 21 (1982): 97119.
Selected Studies on Yogacara
This subsection includes a handful of studies on Yogacara doctrines, including the interpretation of karma and dependent origination. Chatterjee 1975 provides an overview of the main tenets of the Yogacara system. Gold 2014 depicts causality in Vasubandhu's philosophy. Hsuan-tsang 1928-1929 details the Vijnaptimatrata system. Lusthaus 2002 studies Yogacara Buddhism. Urban and Griffiths 1994 analyzes selected Yogacara terms. Waldron 2003 traces the formulation of alayavijhana. Chatterjee, Ashok Kumar. The Yogacara Idealism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
This book, in eleven chapters, sketches the main doctrinal features of the Yogacara system. Chatterjee's interpretation of Yogacara theory of different types of consciousness, and of phenomena, provides a good intellectual background to Yogacara exposition of karma and dependent origination. Gold, Jonathan C. Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu's Unifying Buddhist Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.
Gold demonstrates the conceptual continuity between Vasubandhu's Abhidharma and Yogacara texts. Causality issues stand at the heart of this study. Hsuan-tsang. Ch’eng Wei -shih Lun. In Vijnaptimatratasiddhi: La Siddhi de Hiuan-tsang. 2 vols. Translated by Louis de La Vallee Poussin. Buddhica 1 and 5. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1928-1929.
This text, composed in the 7th century, ascertains several models of causation, including the four conditions, the seed theory, and dependent origination. English translation in Francis Cook, Three Texts on Consciousness-Only (Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 1999).
Lusthaus, Dan. Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogacara Buddhism and the Ch'en Wei-shih lun. London: Routledge-Curzon, 2002. The major sections of this rich and diversified study cover Buddhism and phenomenology, models of Indian Buddhist thought, and karma and epistemology. Urban, Hugh, and Paul Griffiths. “What Else Remains in Sunyata? An Investigation of Terms for Mental Imagery in the Madhyantavibhaga-Corpus.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17.1 (1994): 1-25.
The authors study Yogacara terms expressive of the nature of consciousness, such as kalpana and abhutaparikalpa. The concept of vijhaptimatrata is studied in Bruce Cameron Hall, “The Meaning of Vijnapti in Vasubandhu's Concept of Mind,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 9.1 (1986): 7-23. Waldron, William. The Buddhist Unconscious: The Alaya-vijnana in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought. London: Routledge-Curzon, 2003. Waldron studies the evolution and character of the concept of alayavijnana.
Karma in the Mahayana
The Mahayana schools affirm the Buddha's teaching on karma, but undermine its Abhidharma interpretations and formulate their own. Madhyamaka explains the nature of karma in the context of the two truths. From the perspective of the ultimate truth, all beings and their actions are empty of any ontological basis (svabhava). Being empty, they are inoperative and lack inherent capacity to act. Due to such factors, Madhyamaka asserts that all phenomena are without origination and cessation. Since it is impossible to
formulate a sound metaphysical interpretation of the agent and his actions, without postulating some kind of entity, and since any such interpretation would undermine the notion of emptiness, Madhyamaka postulates the nonexistence and inefficacy of the agent and actions. On the level of the conventional truth, Madhyamaka affirms the existence of the
agent and actions. There are agents and their ethically qualified actions, and the conditional relations that moderate all existential experiences. In contrast to Madhyamaka's somewhat negative stance Yogacara formulates a positive exposition of karma. The notion of emptiness is accepted, but the consciousness is attributed an existential status, but not permanent. Karma as existential experiences is explained as being embedded in the activities of consciousness. All beings and their activities are in fact particular
modifications of consciousness. The consciousness that undergoes modifications consists of three strata: (1) the subliminal consciousness that is the repository of the impregnations (vasana) of past existential experiences in the form of the seeds (bija) of future experiences, (2) the subjective or tainted consciousness that is entangled in existential activities, and (3) the six kinds of consciousness that cognize objects. While the subliminal consciousness is latent, the subjective and cognitive strata of
consciousness, being involved in manifest activities, are jointly called the active consciousness. The subliminal and active levels of consciousness interact and depend on each other. The active consciousness arises from the seeds stored in the latent consciousness. Then, in turn, it deposits its karmic impregnations in the subliminal consciousness.
Another Yogacara theory of karma is integrated into the Yogacara theory of the three natures, briefly explained in the section on Causality in the Yogacara. Bayer 2010 studies karma's exposition in Abhidharmasamuccaya. Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2006 translates Madhyantavibhaga and two commentaries. Garfield 1995 translates Nagarjuna's seminal work. Kragh 2006 studies Candrakirti's treatment of karma. Lamotte 1935-1936 translates Vasubandhu's important work on karma. Lamotte 1974 and Lamotte 1976 study karmic permeations. Nagao 1991 discusses the doctrinal character of Madhyamika and Yogacara.
Bayer, Achim. The Theory of Karma in the Abhidharmasamuccaya. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 2010. This is a textual study of the section on karma in Asanga's work. Bayer offers editions of Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit texts, a translation of the text and one of its commentaries, and a broad survey of issues relating to the text and its doctrinal configuration.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Middle beyond Extremes: Maitreya's Madhyantavibhaga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006. Madhyantavibhaga is in five chapters. Chapter 1 expounds the nature of false ideation and emptiness. Chapter 2 deals with the categories of obstacles (avarana) that impede on the Bodhisattva's progress. Chapter 3 discusses the three natures and the truths of suffering and origination. Chapter 4 deals with the antidotes that eliminate defilements, and the last chapter treats the supreme vehicle.
Garfield, Jay L., trans. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Chapters 3 and 17, respectively, examine the agent and action, and actions and their fruits. Nagarjuna refutes the inherent existence of the agent and action, but affirms their conventional interdependence and function. If there are no actions and no effects, then the practice of morality and the Buddhist path make no sense. Translated from the Tibetan and provided with a commentary rooted in Tibetan sources.
Kragh, Ulrich Timme. Early Buddhist Theories of Action and Result: A Study of Karmaphalasambandha Candrakirti's Prasannapada, Verses 17.1-20. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, Heft 64. Vienna: Arbeitskreis fur Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universitat Wien, 2006.
Kragh provides editions and translations of Sanskrit and Tibetan texts of chapter 17 of Candrakirti's Prasannapada, a commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakarika. In addition he also provides an extensive commentary on a range of relevant issues. Essentially, Candrakirti critiques two theories on karma and its fruit on the basis of Nagarjuna's seminal text. Originally a PhD dissertation submitted at the University of Copenhagen in 2003.
Lamotte, Etienne. “Le Traite de l'Acte de Vasubandhu Karmasiddhiprakarana.” Melanges Chinois etBouddhiques 4 (1935-1936): 151-288. Vasubandhu critically assesses a number of early Buddhist theories of karma, and then introduces the theory of seeds, and the concept of subliminal consciousness. Lamotte's introduction encapsulates different theories of karma, including those of the Vaibhasika, Sautrantika, Yogacara, and Madhyamika schools. Translated from the French by Leo M. Pruden, Karmasiddhi Prakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu (Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1987). Lamotte, Etienne. “Passions and Impregnations of the Passions in Buddhism.” In Buddhist Studies in Honour of I. B. Horner. Edited by L. Cousins, A. Kunst, and K. R. Norman, 91-104. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1974.
Lamotte discusses the distinction between the nature and function of the klesas (defilements), and the character of the vasanas (latent impregnations of defilements). While the sravakas gain the state of liberation through the elimination of the klesas but retain their vasanas, the buddhas eliminate both the klesas and their vasanas, and thus gain omniscience.
Lamotte, Etienne, trans. Le Traite de la Grante Vertu de Sagesse: Mahdprajndpdramitdsastra de Nagarjuna. Vol. 4. Louvain, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1976. In chapter 52, pages 1755-1783, this treatise discusses the nature of the vasanas, and explains their elimination in the context of the Bodhisattva's ten stages. It also demonstrates that the elimination of vasanas is crucial for the attainment of omniscience. In a preliminary section, Lamotte provides an overview along with important references.
Nagao, Gadjin M. Madhyamika and Yogacara: A Study of Mahayana Philosophies. Edited and translated by Leslie S. Kawamura. New York: State University of New York Press, 1991. This publication contains sixteen of Nagao's articles. Taken together they cover the crucial theoretical configurations of the Madhyamika and Yogacara schools: ontology, emptiness, three natures, and several other technical terms. Nagao also discusses the doctrinal relationship between these two schools, and postulates that while Madhyamika philosophy represents one of the highest attainments of Buddhist thought, Yogacara philosophy brings the Madhyamika system to completion.
Academic Papers on Karma
Bronkhorst 2011 discusses the origin and nature of karma. Dhammajoti 2009 details the Sarvastivada interpretation of karma. Fujita 1982 studies the critique of heretical theories of karma. Keyes and Daniel 1983 contains ten papers on karma. McDermott 2003 studies karma in canonical and other sources. Ryose 1987 interprets the Sarvastivada theory of karma.
Bronkhorst, Johannes. Karma: Dimensions of Asian Spirituality. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011. Bronkhorst ascertains the origin and interpretation of karma in Indian traditions. In his previous book he discusses teleological explanations of karma: Karma and Teleology: A problem and its Solutions in Indian Philosophy (Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 2000). Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur. “The Doctrine of Karma.” In Sarvdstivdda Abhidharma. Authored by Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti, 369-431. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong, 2009.
Chapters 13 and 14 detail the Sarvastivada doctrine of karma. Fujita, K. “The Doctrinal Characteristics of Karman in Early Buddhism.” In Indological and Buddhist Studies: Volume in Honour of Prof. J. W. de Jong on His Sixtieth Birthday. Edited by L. A. Hercus, F. B. J. Kuiper, T. Rajapatirana, E. R. Skrzypczak, 149-159. Canberra, Australia: Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1982. Fujita studies the Buddha's constructive criticism of heretical theories of karma held in his lifetime.
Keyes, Charles F., and E. Valentine Daniel, eds. Karma: An Anthropological Inquiry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Comprises ten papers dealing with karma in present-day Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Topics include karma and moral responsibility, destiny and responsibility, and merit transfer.
McDermott, James Paul. Development in the Early Buddhist Concept of Kamma/Karma. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2003. McDermott studies karma in the Theravada Tipitaka, Milindapahha, and Abhidharmakosa. Originally a PhD thesis examined in 1971. Ryose, Wataru. “A Study of the Abhidharmahrdaya: The Historical Development of the Concept of Karma in the Sarvastivada Thought.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987.
Part 1 surveys the conceptual development of karma. Part 2 provides an annotated translation of two texts.
Academic Papers on Pratityasamutpada
Bucknell 1999 traces the formation of the paticcasamuppada formula. La Vallee Poussin 1913 studies the nature of pratityasamutpada. Nakamura 1980 searches for the origin of pratityasamutpada. Payutto 1994 details the Theravada interpretation of dependent origination. Shulman 2008 proposes a corrected interpretation of dependent origination. Sopa
1986 studies the Indo-Tibetan interpretation of dependent origination. Wayman 1980 also studies the Indo-Tibetan interpretation but uses different sources. Garfield 1994
ascertains Nagarjuna's insights into causality. Kritzer 1999 studies causation in selected Yogacara texts. Lai 1977 sketches the Buddhist perceptions of causality in China. Bucknell, Roderick S. “Conditioned Arising Evolves: Variation and Change in Textual Accounts of the Paficca-samuppada Doctrine.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 22.2 (1999): 311-342.
Bucknell studies four versions of dependent origination, and attempts to establish the formative phases of the standard formula. Garfield, Jay L. “Dependent Arising and the Emptiness of Emptiness: Why did Nagarjuna Start with Causation?” Philosophy East and West 44.2 (1994): 219250.Garfield analyzes
Nagarjuna's treatment of the relationship between dependent origination and emptiness, and their status in the context of the two truths. Kritzer, Robert. Rebirth and Causation in the Yogacara Abhidharma. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 44. Vienna: Arbeitskreis fur Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universitat Wien, 1999.
Kritzer studies rebirth and pratityasamutpada in selected Yogacara texts, and in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa.
Lai, Whalen. “Chinese Buddhist Causation Theories: An Analysis of the Sinitic Mahayana Understanding of Pratityasamutpada.” Philosophy East and West 27.3 (July 1977): 241-264. Lai discusses four causation theories that the Buddhist thinkers in China correlated in an ascending order: karma, store-consciousness, buddha-womb, universal principle. La Vallee Poussin, Louis de. Theorie des Douze Causes. Gand, Belgium: Librairie Scientifique E. van Goethem, 1913.
This study still commands authority. It interprets the standard formula, and reproduces five texts.
Nakamura, Hajime. “The Theory of ‘Dependent Origination' in its Incipient Stage.” In Buddhist Studies in Honor of Walpola Rahula. Edited by Somaratana Balasooriya, Andre Bareau, Richard Gombrich, Siri Gunasingha, Udaya Mallawarachchi, Edmund Perry, 166-172. London: Gordon Frazer Gallery, 1980. Nakamura analyses cryptic formulas that embody the notion of dependent origination. Payutto, Prayudh. Dependent Origination: The Buddhist Law of Conditionality. Translated from the Thai by Bruce Evans. Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1994.
Chapter four deals with the Theravada interpretation of the standard formula, and chapter five with alternative interpretations. Shulman, Eviatar. “Early Meanings of Dependent-Origination.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 36.2 (2008): 297-317. Shulman argues that initially the dependent origination was understood as applicable only to mental conditionality. Sopa, Geshe Lhundub. “The Special Theory of Pratityasamutpada: The Cycle of Dependent Origination.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 9.1 (1986): 105-119.
Sopa explains the standard formula on the basis of Indian and Tibetan sources. He studies the wheel of life in “The Tibetan Wheel of Life: Iconography and Doxography,” in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7.1 (1984): 125-45.
Wayman, Alex. “Dependent Origination: The Indo-Tibetan Tradition.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 7 (1980): 275-300.
Wayman interprets the standard formula as a fundamental doctrine, and as applicable to rebirths of living beings. See also his earlier study, “Buddhist Dependent Origination,” History of Religions 10.3 (1971): 185-203.
Academic Papers on Selected Topics
The listed citations address specific topics that enrich the treatment of causality. Boucher 1991 studies the cultic function of dependent origination. Gomez 1975 discusses the free-will problem. Hayes 1993 sketches Dharmakirti's defense of rebirth. Khantipalo 1970 portrays the wheel of life. Sayadaw 2004 treats the five niyamas. Streng 1975 ascertains the centrality of the mind in causality. Walters 1990 discusses the Buddha's bad karma. Watts 1982 elucidates the inner permutations of the dependent origination.
Boucher, Daniel. “The Pratityasamupadagatha and its Role in the Medieval Cult of the Relics.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 14.1 (1991): 1-27. Boucher studies the cultic role and interpretation of the versified formula of dependent origination (ye dharma hetuprabhava. . .). This formula was placed inside images and stupas in order to endow them with the Buddha's presence.
Gomez, Luis O. “Some Aspects of the Free-Will Question in the Nikayas.” Philosophy East and West 25.1 (1975): 81-90. The author interprets the free-will question in the context of the Buddha's teaching on karma and dependent origination.
Hayes, Richard P. “Dharmakirti on Punarbhava.” In Studies in Original Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Vol. 1. Edited by Egaku Maeda, 111-130. Kyoto: Nagata Bunshodo, 1993. Dharmakirti flourished in the 7th century. Hayes studies his defense of rebirth against the materialists who deny it. The focus is on the causal relationship between bodily and mental events, and on the question of whether death has a cause.
Khantipalo, Bhikkhu. The Wheel of Birth and Death. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1970. The wheel of life (bhavacakra) is an iconographic depiction of the standard formula of dependent origination. Kantipalo studies its history, symbolism, and interpretation. Meyers, Karin. “Freedom and Self-Control: Free Will in South Asian Buddhism.” PhD diss. University of Chicago, 2010.
The thesis is based on two works of Vasubandhu and on the Theravada Abhidhamma. Meyers argues that Western notions of free will cannot be readily imposed on Buddhist theories of karma and soteriology. Her sources admit that persons have the ability to choose their actions, but they deny personal causation, and explain the control of actions by way of impersonal mental events that stem from actions.
Sayadaw, Ledi. “Niyama-Dipani.” Translated by C. A. F. Rhys Davids. In The Manuals of Buddhism. Edited by Mother Ayeyarwaddy, 177-248. Yangon, Myanmar: Mother Ayeyarwaddy, 2004. The Pali commentaries formulate a list of five cosmic principles (niyama) operative in the physical and mental realms: seasons, seed-germination, karma, mind, and nature. Sayadaw interprets their character in the context of dependent origination and other related teachings.
Streng, Frederick. “Reflections on the Attention Given to Mental Construction in the Indian Buddhist Analysis of Causality.” Philosophy East and West 25.1 (1975): 71-80. Streng demonstrates the centrality of consciousness in the Buddhist treatment of causality. To perceive causality, one must realize that all thought is participation in, and construction of, interrelated arising of phenomena.
Walters, Jonathan S. “The Buddha's Bad Karma: A Problem in the History of Theravada Buddhism.” Numen 37.1 (1990): 70-95. Walters studies the tradition that speaks of twelve wicked actions committed by the Buddha in his previous existences. The Buddha suffered due to these actions, despite the fact that he was enlightened.
Watts, Jeffrey D. “Necessity and Sufficiency in the Buddha's Causal Schema.” Philosophy East and West 32.4 (1982): 407-423. Watts postulates that the relevant texts are ambiguous in their interpretations of the relations between the twelve factors of dependent origination. He analyzes the functions of the twelve factors, and ascertains their real relations.
Causality and Soteriology (Marga)
The early Buddhist path essentially consists in eradication of defilements, and in understanding, through wisdom (prajha), the nature of phenomena as they really are (yathabhuta). The wisdom that grasps the nature of karma and pratityasamutpada is equated with the attainment of enlightenment. Briefly, karma that leads to rebirths must be
eliminated, and pratityasamutpada must be understood and appeased. Nirvana is the cessation of suffering: stoppage of causality, namely of existence. Mahayana sources postulate the realization of apratisthita-nirvana (interpreted as elimination of defilements, but not as abandonment of phenomenal existence), of buddha-nature (inherent in all beings), or of buddha-bodies (three aspects of buddhahood). In these cases the defiled form of existence is discarded, but existence as such is not rejected. Bodhi 1995 details
transcendent dependent origination. Lamotte 1980 discusses the pratityasamutpada in the context of the Buddha's enlightenment. Cox 1992 summarizes the Sarvastivada path. Candrakirti 1989 details the Madhyamika interpretation of the bodhisattva career. Griffiths and Hakamaya 1989 studies the fruition of the Yogacara path. Hakamaya 1980 portrays the categories of Yogacara purity. Grosnick 1981 evaluates the central concepts of the tathagatagarbha theory. Takasaki 1966 contains an exposition of the tathagatagarbha doctrine.
Bodhi, Bhikkhu. Transcendental Dependent Arising: A Translation and Exposition of the Upanisa Sutta. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1995. The Upanisa Sutta is included in the Samyutta Nikaya. The members of the transcendent origination start with faith and conclude with the knowledge of the destruction of the influxes.
Candrakirti. Madhyamakavatara. In The Emptiness of Emptiness: An Introduction to Early Indian Madhyamika. Translated by C. W. Huntington and Namgyal Wangchen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1989.
This is a philosophical treatise that explains the Madhyamika tenets within the framework of the ten bodhisattva stages. Cox, Collett. “Attainment through Abandonment: The Sarvastivadin Path of Removing Defilements.” In Paths to Liberation: The Marga and its Transformations in Buddhist Thought. Edited by Robert E. Buswell and Robert M. Gimello, 63-105. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 7. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1992.
Cox details the Sarvastivada phases of the path. The full treatment of the Sarvastivada path is given in the Abhidharmakosa, chapter 6. Griffiths, Paul, and Noriaki Hakamaya, trans. The Realm of Awakening: A Translation and Study of the Tenth Chapter of Asanga's Mahayanasamgraha. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
This chapter provides the Yogacara exposition of the three Buddha-bodies: absolute, celestial, and manifested bodies. Grosnick, William. “Nonorigination and Nirvana in the Early Tathagatagarbha Literature.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 4.2 (1981): 33-43. Grosnick studies the notions of buddhahood and nirvana, and their correlation. He also discusses the concepts of cessation and non-origination.
Hakamaya, Noriaki. “The realm of Enlightenment in Vijnaptimatrata: The Formulation of the Four Kinds of Pure Dharmas.” Translated from the Japanese by John Keenan. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 3.2 (1980): 21-41.
Hakamaya discusses the Yogacara process of purification that leads to the attainment of the ultimate purity. This is explained in terms of four pure dharmas. Lamotte, Etienne. “Conditioned Co-production and Supreme Enlightenment.” In Buddhist Studies in Honor of Walpola Rahula. Edited by Somaratana Balasooriya, Andre Bareau, Richard Gombrich, Siri Gunasingha, Udaya Mallawarachchi, Edmund Perry, 118-132. London: Gordon Frazer Gallery, 1980.
Lamotte postulates that the Buddha formulated the pratityasamutpada doctrine in his previous existences, and that his experience under the bodhi tree was the acme of his progress toward enlightenment.
Takasaki, Jikido. A Study of the Ratnagotra-vibhaga (Uttraratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathagatagarbha Theory of Mahayana Buddhism. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1966. Takasaki provides an annotated translation of the Ratnagotravibhaga, and a philosophical study of the tathagatagarbha theory.