Introduction

Texts and Translations

The text is based on the Burmese edition of the texts Vibhaṅgapāḷi and Dhammasaṅgaṇīpāḷi, and the Vibhaṅga commentary Sammohavinodanī, all from the Chaṭṭha Sangāyana CD-ROM, 3rd rev. ed., Igatpuri, 1999, with changes in formatting and parsing to bring it into line with the presentation adopted on this website.

The Book of Analysis, by Ven. U Thiṭṭila, translation of the Vibhaṅga, Pali Text Society, 1969, reprinted Oxford, 1988.

The Dispeller of Delusion, by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, revised by L.S. Cousins, Nyanaponika Mahāthera and C. M. M. Shaw, Pali Text Society, 1987 reprinted in Oxford, 1996.

Buddhist Psychological Ethics, by Mrs C.A.F. Rhys Davids, translation and study of Dhammasaṅgaṇī, Pali Text Society, 1900, 3rd ed. reprinted Oxford, 1993.

The Dhammasaṅgaṇī, Enumeration of Ultimate Realities, by U Kyaw Khine, DPPS, Yangon, C.E. 1996 = B.E. 2539.

 

The Doctrine of Conditional Origination

This is the second translation I have made from what is considered the earliest of the Theravāda Abhidhamma texts, the Vibhaṅga, or Analysis. The first, concerned with the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna, Vibh. 7) was originally made in 2007, and has been revised in the light of the work done here.

The doctrine of Conditional Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda) is one of the most important in the teaching of the Buddha. It deals with conditionality and how that affects the all-important cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

At one point the Buddha even stated that: MN 28: Yo paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati so Dhammaṁ passati, yo Dhammaṁ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati.01 He who sees conditional origination sees the Dhamma, and he who sees the Dhamma sees conditional origination, so central is it considered to the teaching. The subject, however, is complex and even when Ven Ānanda said he had understood it, he was rebuked by the Buddha, who told him: DN 15: Gambhīro cāyaṁ, Ānanda, paṭiccasamuppādo gambhīrāvabhāso ca. Etassa, Ānanda, Dhammassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evam-ayaṁ pajā ... apāyaṁ duggatiṁ vinipātaṁ saṁsāraṁ nātivattati.02

This conditional origination is deep, Ānanda, and it appears deep. Through not understanding and penetrating this Dhamma this generation ... he does not transcend the downfall, the bad destinations, the falling away and the cycle of birth and death.

In the coming centuries when the Abstract Teaching (Abhidhamma) was compiled, the depth and profundity of this particular teaching was worked out in detail, and in the Vibhaṅga it has been pushed to its limits.

The Analysis normally follows a scheme whereby it first examines its subject according to the way it is discussed in the discourses, and then afterwards as it is seen from the point-of-view of the Abhidhamma, and here we have the same basic scheme.

 

Derived from the Discourses

We are fortunate in having a discourse in Canon which also analyses the same material, the Discourse giving the Analysis (of Conditional Origination) (SN 12.2), which can be compared and contrasted with the presentation made here.

The relationship between them is complex, but the major difference is the more comprehensive nature of the Abhidhamma text, which tries to include every variation in the way the factor at hand has been analysed in the discourses.

The factors that are most effected by this are the (volitional) processes (saṅkhārā), where the discourse has a basic definition as being by way of the body, speech and mind; in the Vibhaṅga these are only stated after the ethically more significant analysis by way of meritorious, demeritorious, and impertubable (volitional) processes, and after these factors themselves have been analysed.

Continuation (bhava) is similarly expanded so that whereas in the discourses only the three continuations are stated: in the sense, form and formless worlds, this list is added to with further factors according to whether continuation takes place with or without perception; and with one, four or five constituents (khandha).

The Vibhaṅga also compliments this analysis of continuation by adding in once again the morally significant factors of continutation through meritorious, demeritorious, and impertubable (volitional) processes, so that this section is much longer.

And whereas the discourse doesn't analyse the final factors of grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair, these are given their own definitions here, drawing on materials from other discourses.

 

Derived from the Abstract Teaching

These, however, are minor differences and expansions in comparison to the Abhidhamma analysis itself in the second section.

One of the most important of the Buddha's discoveries, which is rarely, if ever, discussed in modern works, is his insight that the cosmological and psychological worlds reflect each other, so that for instance the higher realms of existence have their parallels in states of meditative attainment which can be experienced here and now.

This becomes a foundational insight in the Abhidhamma in general, and here in particular, because when we come to the second part of the discussion we are no longer dealing with rebirth across lives, but with psychological rebirth from moment-to-moment, and this greatly affects the factors that are involved even in the basic sequence.

The variations can probably be best shown with the use of tables. At the beginning there are four basic variations given: according to conditions, roots, associations and mutuality; and within each of these there are four different presentations of the factors.

As an example we will look at the first of these complex teachings, the Conditions Tetrad (differences from the basic pattern are italicised for ready identification):

Conditions Tetrad

1: The Twelvefold Section With Two Parts Incomplete

 

Basic Pattern

Abstract Teaching

1

ignorance

ignorance

2

(volitional) processes

(volitional) process

3

consciousness

consciousness

4

mind and bodily form

mind

5

six sense spheres

sixth sense sphere

6

contact

contact

7

feeling

feeling

8

craving

craving

9

attachment

attachment

10

continuation

continuation

11

birth

birth

12

ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair

ageing, death

The first thing to notice here is that the second factor is now not (volitional) processes in the plural, but a single (volitional) process, because we are only dealing now with a single mind moment.

The two parts that are incomplete are the 4th and 5th, namely mind only, and the sixth sense sphere only. One of the reasons for this given in the commentary is that in this and the following section we are dealing with life in the formless realms, where bodily form and therefore the other sense spheres do not exist.

Notice that grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair are also omitted as they cannot be said to exist in every mind moment.

2: The Elevenfold Section With One Part Incomplete

Basic Pattern

Abstract Teaching

1

ignorance

ignorance

2

(volitional) processes

(volitional) process

3

consciousness

consciousness

4

mind and bodily form

mind

5

six sense spheres

 

6

contact

contact

7

feeling

feeling

8

craving

craving

9

attachment

attachment

10

continuation

continuation

11

birth

birth

12

ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair

ageing, death

This section is similar to the first, but seems to follow the schedule as it was given in the Great Discourse on Causation (DN 15, Mahānidānasutta), which likewise omits the intermediate factor of the sense spheres.

Here again the analysis is concerned with the formless realms, so bodily form is omitted.

3: The Twelvefold Section With One Part Incomplete

 

Basic Pattern

Abstract Teaching

1

ignorance

ignorance

2

(volitional) processes

(volitional) process

3

consciousness

consciousness

4

mind and bodily form

mind and bodily form

5

six sense spheres

sixth sense sphere

6

contact

contact

7

feeling

feeling

8

craving

craving

9

attachment

attachment

10

continuation

continuation

11

birth

birth

12

ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair

ageing, death

Now in this section the analysis is concerned with the form realms, where fine material form exists, so mind and bodily form are complete here, but still it is only the sixth sense sphere with acts as a condition for contact.

4: The Complete Twelvefold Section

 

Basic Pattern

Abstract Teaching

1

ignorance

ignorance

2

(volitional) processes

(volitional) process

3

consciousness

consciousness

4

mind and bodily form

mind and bodily form

5

six sense spheres

six sense spheres

6

contact

contact

7

feeling

feeling

8

craving

craving

9

attachment

attachment

10

continuation

continuation

11

birth

birth

12

ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair

ageing, death

Here we are contemplating the arising of mind states in the sense worlds, so mind and bodily form and the six sense spheres are all complete, but still, it differs from the normal analysis because in a single mind moment only the sixth sense sphere acts as a condition for contact.

This is one of the short sections in this work but it will give some idea of the depth of the analysis which was pursued by the abstract philosophers of the Abhidhamma.

In the following sections more and more complexities are invoked, with certain factors being said to be rooted in or associated with their conditions, while others do not have the same rootedness or association because of the absence of the non-disappearance condition (avigatapaccaya) or the arising together condition (sahajātapaccaya).

In the fourth basic section concerned with mutuality we see the mutual relations that prevail between the condition and its result, and how each of them conditions the other, both forwards and backwards.

The fifth section, the Matrix (Mātika), shows how different factors can condition the initial ignorance, listing: a (volitional) process, consciousness, mind, the sixth sense sphere, contact, feeling, craving and attachment.

The analysis then repeats the initial four sections, but this time looking at how they appear when having an unwholesome mind, connected with happiness, and analyses all the factors in that particular context.

The following sections then consider what factors are present when various ethical states of mind are established: the unwholesome, the wholesome and those without consequences; the wholesome with a root of ignorance, and results having wholesome and unwholesome roots.

There is an immense complexity involved in working out all these factors and analyses and it would hardly be possible to generate a work of such refined and subtle analysis of mental factors even with the aid of a computer, so how it was made when all the texts were being passed on in the oral tradition, and at the beginning of reflection on the Teaching, is nothing less than astonishing.

* * *

In preparing this edition I have made some translations from the commentary where it seemed to me it would be difficult to understand the text without such a help as the commentary provides. I have tried not to overburden the text in this way though.

As in the earlier work I have taken the trouble to fill in the repetition passages which are normally indicated with ...pe... in the texts. This was very difficult in this case, as the indications are not always clear, and in at least one case the instruction in the texts is insufficient. See the first note to 09: The Explanation of the Unwholesome. 03

The difference this makes can be seen in the size of the text: without the repetition the translation alone is approx. 25,000 words, but when the peyyāla is added in the size increases to around 51,000 words, therefore we can say that at least half the text is missing in the printed editions and previous translation, and for normal students inferring what is missing is impossible in many cases.

I might add that in certain ways omitting repetition can be useful as it allows for a better overview of the subject, and in the html version of this text it is possible to toggle the view to either read it with or without the repetitions.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
April 1014