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Buddhism: The Problem With Pratityasamutpada. Essay

3107 words - 12 pages

In this essay I'll expound Pratityasamutpada as I understand it in the Madhyamika Karika and establish its significance in Buddhism. This will follow my speculation as to whether free will has any scope in this deterministic view of causation. Can man follow his duties without an individualistic aim? I'll like to refer to the butterfly effect, a hypothesis of the chaotic theory in order to present my case. Also if shunyata is tautologous with the Pratitya samutpada, then is human existence in a race without a finishing line?

The problem of causation has invaded human psyche since time immemorial and still remains persistent but in Buddhism it has provided a solution to many philosophical truths. Among the four Noble truths enumerated by Buddha, causation finds its place in the second noble truth ?of there being a cause of suffering. As a solution it is also present in the third noble truth which shows the cessation of suffering. The first and the last noble truth of suffering and Nirvana present the tension which has to be resolved through the dhamma. Buddha identified pratityasamutpada with the Dhamma. ?He who sees Dhammas sees Pratityasamutpada, and he who sees pratityasamutpada sees the Dhamma.? However within Buddhism itself different views have been developed regarding the nature of Pratitya samutpada which is ironical considering that in a dialogue between Buddha and an ascetic Vaccha it is revealed The tathagat is free from all theories.? This affirmation, a perfect example of self referential paradox, and in my opinion (I am no tathagat) it can be resolved if we consider the literal meaning of pratityasamutpada before we investigate the various interpretation of it which leads the different sects of Buddhism to see the Dhamma differently.

The term Pratityasamutpada is composed of two words pratitya and samutpada. The former word has the root in connating motion with the prefixes prati (getting) and the suffix vyap(after). With the prefix Prati the root connates the idea of ?getting? and with the suffix vyap it means ?after getting?. The word samutpada is composed of the root pad connating ?going? or ?getting? with the prefixes sam and ut (to originate) and the suffix ghan, making the word an abstract noun. The prefixes sam and ut make the meaning of the root ?to originate? and the meaning of the word is thus origination. The total meaning of the word is thus origination after getting (the causes) i.e., ?there being cause, there is effect.? Stcherbasky, however interprets the prefix sam to mean ?combined? and, thus, samutpada to mean ?combined origination?. The term pratityasamutpada for him means ?combined origination(sam-utpada) of some elements with regard (pratitya) to other elements, or ?combined dependent origination?. The concerted life of elements (dharmas) is called samsrtatva which is but another name of pratitya-samutpada. However in the sutras of the Hinayana the term applied to the doctrine about the 12 consecutive degrees...

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