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Vedana In Paticcasamuppada

The Vipassana Research Institute


Paticcasamuppada (The Law Of Dependent Origination) is fundamental to the teaching of the Buddha. Emphasizing its importance, the Buddha said:

One who sees the the Law Of Dependent Origination
sees the Dhamma.
One who sees the Dhamma
sees the Law Of Dependent Origination
-- Majjhima-nikaya I, Nal. 241, PTS 191.

The Law Of Dependent Origination explains that the samsara, the process of repeated suffering and existences, is perpetuated by a chain of interconnected links of cause and effect; it also reveals the method of breaking this chain and putting an end to the process. The Buddha said:

The man with craving as his companion has
been flowing in the stream of repeated
existences from time immemorial. He comes
into being, experiences various types of miseries,
dies again and again, and does not put an end to this
unbroken process of becoming.
-- Suttanipata, verse 339, Nal. 383, PTS 139.

This is the world of suffering, as explained by the Buddha. He further said:

Rightly understanding the perils of this process,
realizing fully craving as its cause,
becoming free from craving and attachment, one
should mindfully lead the life of detachment.
-- Ibid., verse 340, Nal. 383, PTS 140.

Such an approach, he said, will have great benefit:

Pleasure is the binding force in the world.
Rolling thought processes are its ever changing base.
With the complete eradication of craving,
The state called nibbana is attained.
-- Samyutta-nikaya I, Nal. 37, PTS 39; Suttanipata verse 134, Nal. 436, PTS 202.

These statements made by the Buddha describe the nature of samsara, the state of suffering, and the nature of nibbana, the state of final emancipation. But how can detachment be developed, and craving eradicated?

This is the practical aspect of Dhamma discovered by Siddhattha Gotama, the realization that made him a Buddha (enlightened one), and that he in turn revealed to the world by the doctrine of the Law Of Depenent Origination.

According to this doctrine, twelve links form the wheel of becoming (bhava-cakka). They are:

1. Ignorance (avijja)
2. Volitional Activities (sankhara)
3. Consciousness (vinnana)
4. Mind & Matter (nama-rupa)
5. Six Sense Doors (salayatana)
6. Contact (phassa)
7. Sensation (vedana)
8. Craving (tanha)
9. Clinging (upadana)
10. Becoming (bhava)
11. Birth (jati)
12. Decay And Death (jara-marana)

Dependent on ignorance, volitional activities arise. Dependent on volitional activities, consciousness arises. Dependent on consciousness, mind and matter arises. Dependent on mind and matter, the 6 sense doors arise. Dependent on 6 sense doors, contact with sense objects arise. Dependent on contact with sense objects, sensations arise. Dependent on sensations, cravings arise. Dependent on cravings, clinging arises.

Thus the vicious circle of misery rotates on and on.In other words, the origin of each link depends upon the preceding one. As long as this chain of twelve causal relations operates, the wheel of becoming (bhava-cakka) keeps turning, bringing nothing but suffering. This process of cause and effect is called The Law Of Dependent Origination (anuloma-paticcasamuppada).

Our task is to emerge from this bhava-cakka of dukkha (sorrow). Explaining how to do so, the Buddha said that when any one of the links of the chain is broken, the wheel of becoming comes to an end, resulting in the cessation suffering.

Through deep insight, the Buddha discovered that the crucial link is sensation (vedana). The Buddha said that with the base of sensation craving and aversion arise. Sensation is the cause of desire (craving/aversion)...which causes suffering. In order to remove the cause of suffering (craving/aversion), therefore, one must not allow sensation to generate cravings/aversions. One must practice Insight Meditation (Vipassana) at this juncture so that ignorance (avijja) becomes wisdom (panna). One has to observe sensations, and to experientially comprehend the truth of its arising and passing away, ie "impermanence" (anicca).

Through Insight Meditation as one experiences sensations properly, one comes out of the delusion of the "perception of permanence" (nicca-sanna) by the development of the "wisdom of impermanence" (anicca-vijja) towards experienced sensations. This is done by observing with equanimity the arising and passing away of sensations.

With anicca-vijja (wisdom of impermanence) the habit pattern of the mind changes. Instead of the earlier pattern vedana-paccaya tanha, through the wisdom of impermanence it becomes vedana paccaya panna (with the base of sensation wisdom arises). As wisdom becomes stronger naturally sanna and with it craving/aversion becomes weaker. The process of the multiplication of suffering with the base of ignorance then becomes the process of cessation of suffering, with wisdom as its base. As this process continues, a time comes where there is the complete cessation of sensation as well as craving/aversion.

This state of emancipation is a state beyond mind and matter, where both sensation and perception cease. One can experience this for a few seconds, minutes, hours, or days when, according to one's own capacity, one becomes established in nirodha-samapatti (right cessation/nibbana) by practicing Vipassana. After the period of nirodha-samapatti when one comes back to the sensual field of mind and matter, one again experiences sensation. But now the whole habit pattern of the mind has been changed, and continued practice leads to the stage where one does not generate aversion or craving at all because the deep rooted mental impurities are eradicated. In this way by the breaking of one link, sensation, the whole process is shattered and the wheel of repeated existence is broken completely.

If we want to advance on the path of liberation, we have to work at the level of sensation because it is here that the rotation of the wheel of misery can be arrested. With sensation starts the turning of the wheel of becoming, leading to desire (aversion/craving), which causes suffering. This is the path which ignorant people follow, since they react to sensations and generate desires based on these sensations. And from here also the wheel of Dhamma, or the wheel of cessation of suffering can start to rotate, leading to the end of craving as the result of the perception / wisdom of impermanence. This is the path the wise follow, by not reacting to sensations, because they have developed the wisdom/perception of impermanence through the practice of Vipassana.

Many of the contemporaries of the Buddha held the view that craving causes and that to remove suffering one has to abstain from the objects of craving. In order to develop detachment, the Buddha tackled the problem in a different way. Having learned to examine the depths of his own mind, he realized that between the external object and the mental reflex of craving is a missing link: sensation. Whenever we encounter an object through the five physical senses or the mind, a sensation arises; and based on the sensation, desire arises. If the sensation is pleasant we crave to prolong it, and if it is unpleasant we crave to be read of it. It is in the chain of Dependent Origination that the Buddha expressed his profound discovery:

Dependent on contact, sensation arises.
Dependent on sensation, craving arises.
-- Vinaya, Mahavagga, Nal.3, PTS 2.

The immediate cause for the arising of craving and of suffering is, therefore, not something outside of us but rather the sensations that occur within us. To be free ourselves from craving and suffering we must deal with this inner reality of sensations. Doing so is the practical way to emerge from suffering. By developing the wisdom of impermanence we learn to cut the knots of our misery and witness the true nature of Dhamma. Sensation then is the cause of our bondage when not properly observed, as well as the means of our liberation when properly observed by understanding the Dhamma, the law of Dependent Origination.

Source: Vipassana Research Institute, http://www.tipitaka.org/vri.htm

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