On the Principle of Idappaccayata

Fundamental of Dependent Origination: Conditions
or the Elements of Reality

by Johnson Sumpio

This is how I understand the principle of conditions.

The law of causality (), which is often times mistaken for the "karmic law,"1 in effect:

A true practitioner of the Dharma () would, however, embrace the principle of conditions (; idappaccayata), which is fundamental to the principle of dependent origination (; paticcasamupada). The principle of conditions states:

Imasmim sati idam hoti
Imasuppada idam upajjati
Imasmim asati idam na hoti
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati

When there is this, that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases.

The following illustrates the principle of conditions:

When C, D, E, F, G, and H are, A is.
    C, D, E, F, G, and H are favorable or supporting conditions     of A.
When G, F, I, J, K, and L are, B is.
    G, F, I, J, K, and L are favorable or supporting conditions     of B.
When H, A, F, B, L, and M are, G is.
    H, A, F, B, L, and M are favorable or supporting     conditions of G.

The elements A, B, and G here can refer to entities, such as things or persons, or events.

An everyday case by synthesis:   A tree needs favorable conditions (climate, soil, humidity, etc.) to live. Any change in these conditions can affect the products (flowers, fruits) or even survival of the tree. Therefore, if the climate or soil quality becomes bad, so will the flowers and fruits of the tree. Or worse, the tree might even die.

So, effectively, conditions C, D, E, F, G, and H sustain the being-ness2 and perception of A. Likewise, conditions G, F, I, J, K, and L sustain the being-ness and perception of B. The same goes for the composition and perception of G and the rest. Refer to illustrations below:



the application of the principle of conditions in the chain of suffering of dependent arising

The being-ness of A, B, G, and all the elements is dependent on the conditions (); whereas, A, B, and G are themselves conditions to the being-ness of other elements.

Conditions are not necessarily local (as in "local" and "non-local" in quantum mechanics) or limited to a three-dimensional world.  A cluster of conditions is a tendency, and forecasting (or foretelling) is the attempt to read tendencies and predict their outcome.

Because A, B, G, and all the elements change when any of the conditions sustaining their being-ness changes, they are considered impermanent (). In essence, they are devoid of a self-sustaining ego () and are therefore considered "void" or "empty" (; sunyata) by the practitioner of the Dharma.

An everyday case by analysis:   If you disassemble a car and move all its components elsewhere one item at a time, you will come to a point when you can no longer refer to what is left as a "car." So what has happened to the "car?" Was there even a "car" to begin with?  The components were in a certain condition, so the car was. Now, the components are not, so the car is not.

Imasmim sati idam hoti
Imasuppada idam upajjati
Imasmim asati idam na hoti
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati

When there is this, that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases.

As the illustration above shows, although the conditions change over time, the perception of A by an observer (another entity or the mind of A) remains the same. In everyday sense, although there is continuing metabolism and one's body ages, one's ego (or the A) remains the same to observers. Strictly speaking, however, because the conditions continue to change, A cannot be the same A relative to any initial perception.

The illustration above shows the perception of life, death, and rebirth of A by a practitioner of the Dharma. When the conditions sustaining the existence (life) of A no longer exist, A ceases to exist (death). When essential conditions that are related to A sustain a new existence (the perception of the R in this illustration), there is rebirth of A - in a sense. Strictly speaking, because the conditions now sustaining R are quite different from those sustaining A, R is not A.

An everyday case: The seed of a mango is planted in the soil and it grows into a tree. The tree bears new mangoes. Are these new mangoes the original mango? No.  But are they related to the original mango? Yes.  In this sense, the original mango is not "reborn" as its original self.  The original mango does not have an eternal soul moving from one lifetime to the next.  Neither do sentient beings.

Furthermore, to a practitioner of the Dharma, the life and death of A and its rebirth to R are fundamentally transformational processes, which are part of the continuum. Thus, there is essentially no life, death, or rebirth.

For that reason, there are no lifetimes. There is only a continuing process of change that is sustained by conditions3, and Time is meaning given to the perception of changeT. That meaning is needed by the mind to rationalize what are perceived.

Imasmim sati idam hoti
Imasuppada idam upajjati
Imasmim asati idam na hoti
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati

When there is this, that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases.

By understanding the principle of conditions, a practitioner of the Dharma is then able to comprehend the void, impermanence, or absence of an eternal existence spoken of in the Heart Sutra (;  Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra), the Diamond Sutra (;  Vajracchedika Prajna Paramita Sutra), and perhaps, by extension, the philosophy of the "one in many and many in one."

Based on the above principle also, a practitioner of the Dharma knows that no soul or consciousness passes to another entity, lifetime, or moment, when the original entity ceases to exist because such view of an eternal existence contradicts the principles of the Dharma. Buddhists who disagree with this are advised to study what Gotama the Buddha said about Bhikkhu Sati's view of a reincarnating soul.

The Buddha discovered that everything is an ongoing process. Based on the Dharma, there are neither entities nor events; there are only ongoing processes. Consequently, suffering, in the Buddhist sense, results from clinging on to a part of the ongoing process; and much of Buddhism (the religion part) deals with the deliverance from this suffering.

Buddahood is liberation from samsara (), the cessation of rebirths by conditions. Therefore, the Path is not exactly about becoming the Buddha but liberation from samsara, which was what Gotama the Buddha sought when he was living.

The Buddha's message is direct and without ornamentation.  The knowledge is not a mystery that is passed through esoteric teachings4.  It is not found in the teachings schools ().  The core of the Dharma is the principle of dependent origination, whereas the fundamental of dependent origination is the principle of conditions. The Path is in the comprehension and application of such in everyday living: the spiritual practice, which is not the same as religious practice5.

That is how I understand the principle of conditions.

- o -

On a separate note, I believe this concept of conditions can be applied in the study of the market and other economic as well as social phenomena6.

A practitioner () who understands the "mechanics of the system" described here might want to apply the knowledge, but how?  The Heart Sutra indicates that the mind itself is conditioned.  In this sense, an ego (the practitioner) cannot transcend the system to manipulate the latter with autonomy. So what now?  At this point, I direct the practitioner to contemplate on an idea in quantum mechanics: there are no disengaged observers, only participants all.

Furthermore, condition can be treated as a form of information. So depending on the practitioner's perspective or level of cultivation, an entity or event can simply be perceived as fundamentally information. For instance, an incident can be causal information, a virus is biological information, while a meme is viral information. This means that living - as well as thinking - can essentially be information-processing. And with some imagination, the realms of samsara can even be seen as analogous to Neo's Matrix. At this point, strings, branes, and loops also come to mind. Then, conditions and samsara would be explained using mathematical equations.

By comprehending the aforementioned principle and being able to fashion information7, a practitioner does not only experience synchronicities, but will also be able to bring them about in everyday life. Exercising that ability is cultivation; power comes with long-term cultivation.

In Ancient China, such knowledge could be part of the education of emperors or principal statesmen (); easily perceived as an ability to coordinate the heaven, earth, and people to achieve one's goal (e.g. the study of ).

By comparison, the actual major animators in the world today - the people in suit8 - may not be so apparent to all, because they appear to be common members of the herd, of lemmings and marionettes9. These people in suit will nonetheless need to become "super humans" to be able to stay in the game longer and, perhaps, even enjoy it.

I believe that the demise of human civilization will likely be due to its embracing a monetary-based economy, whereas its hopes for survival and prosperity may lie with a resource-based economy.

I also believe that, to develop human society, our main focus should not be on the economy but on the quality of life of the people.

But what do I know about the world?



1 Based on my understanding of the Buddhist philosophy as discussed here, karma () or kamma is essentially condition (or conditioning).

2 Being-ness as in emergence in complexity theory, manifestation in magick, or collapse of a wave in quantum physics.

3 The belief in birth and death, the beginning and end of an entity, an event, or the world, gives rise to mind-boggling philosophical questions; for example, on an origin or nothingness. Its view is limiting.

T Time is directional, whereas conditions are not. Time becomes relevant in life because it gives form to the "slices" of conditions that the mind strings together and perceives as reality.

Imagine a fish living in an aquarium of water (water being an analogy of conditions according to our discussion). If the fish has a mind, it would perceive a reality in its water world by becoming aware of the flow of its thoughts (thus establishing the ego) and changes in the surrounding. The flow and changes exist because of its mind's predisposition to cut the water (conditions; here also meaning the thusness ) into "slices," which become "thought forms" when prescribed with units of time. With Time comes the meaning of a direction in the mind, and consequently, a sense of causality.

We know the limitation of the fish's perception of truth of reality because we can see the water (conditions or the thusness), whereas it is unable to; but are we able to see through our own perception of reality? Perhaps, when we are rid of the predisposition.

4 The knowledge itself is exoteric, but the spiritual practice of individuals forms the esoteric.

5 Religious practice here refers to one's activities in temples or personal places; such as, lighting an incense, praying, meditating, chanting, reading sutras, and similar activities. On the other hand, spiritual practice refers to the formulation of a personal discourse (personal meaning not repeating as a parrot the words of others, whether these belong to one's teacher or recognized personalities in Buddhism) based on the practitioner's own interpretation and understanding of the principles of the Dharma, and applying such in everyday living.

The outcome of this spiritual practice will confirm () the practitioner's cultivation and mastery of the principles with time - but not according to the opinions of other people. THIS is the esoteric part mentioned in the previous footnote.

6 People who deal with complex systems should be familiar with some of its characteristics: non-linearity, multiplicity, interdependence, diversity, and unpredictability. Likewise, recognize chaos at work in it.

7 Redefining the nature (e.g., is or is not), classification (e.g., neutral to viral), or number of the information, and making use of the result to serve one's purpose.

8 If they want to keep playing the game, as well as relish its rewards, then they will have to live longer. As in forever. Hmm.

9 These servitors in flesh will be used many times over to breed, produce, and fight in the clash between neoliberal globalization and true democracy, in battles for the dwindling supplies of fossil fuel and potable water, and possibly, a global war of religious idealisms.


April 2015

I wrote before that "The Heart Sutra indicates that the mind itself is conditioned.  In this sense, an ego (the practitioner) cannot transcend the system to manipulate the latter with autonomy."

Now, based on my understanding of the first chapter of the Mahavairocana Sutra, the mind () is not conditioned; therefore, it is not impermanent.  In the Heart Sutra, what are conditioned are the thoughts, the mental consciousness (), not the mind.

The practitioner transcends by seeing the mind.

This is a continuing project.  It is my lifelong undertaking.

Visit my other pages:

The Impermanence of Dharma

Paticcasamuppada: Practical Dependent Origination in Everyday Life

Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra (The Heart Sutra)  

My Mission in Life