DN 15: Mahanidanda Sutta: The Great Discourse on Origination
Thus have i heard. (This sutta is a conversation between Venerable Ananda and Buddha)
Once the Buddha was staying among the Kurus. Venerable Ananda came to the Buddha, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said: 'It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvelous how profound this dependent origination is, and how profound it appears! And yet it appears to me as clear as clear!' (Venerable Ananda is clearly very pleased with himself for he thinks that he has comprehended the dependent origination totally).
Buddha replied: 'Do not say that Ananda, do not say that! This dependent origination is profound and appears profound. It is through not understanding, not penetrating this doctrine that this generation has become like a tangled ball of string (everything is infinitely inter-linked), covered as with a blight, tangled with like coarse grass, unable to pass beyond states of woe (unable to reach cessation of suffering), the ill destiny, ruin and the round of birth-and-death (samsaric rebirth). '
If , Ananda, you are asked: "Has ageing-and-death a condition for its existence?" you should answer: "Yes." If asked : "What conditions ageing-and-death?" you should answer: "Ageing-and-death is conditioned by birth" - "What conditions birth?"..."Becoming conditions birth"... - " What conditions Birth" ..."Clinging conditions becoming"... - "What conditions clinging" ....."Craving conditions clinging"... " What conditions craving"....."Feeling conditions craving"... " What conditions feelings"...."Contact conditions feeling"... " What conditions contact"...."Mind-and-body conditions contact"... " What conditions Mind and body"......"Consciousness conditions mind-and-body"... If asked: "Has consciousness a condition for its existence?" you should answer: "Yes." If asked: "What conditions consciousness?" you should answer: "Mind-and-body conditions consciousness."
Buddha:'Thus Ananda, mind-and-body conditions consciousness and consciousness conditions mind-and-body, mind-and-body conditions contact, contact conditions feeling, feeling conditions craving, craving conditions clinging, clinging conditions becoming, becoming conditions birth, birth conditions ageing-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair (suffering in general). Thus this whole cycle and ass of suffering comes into existence'
(Buddha starts talking about the 12 links of dependent origination in the reverse manner)
Buddha: "Birth conditions ageing-and-death". If, Ananda, there were no birth at all, anywhere, of anybody or anything: of any beings in any realms, if there were absolutely no birth at all of all these beings, then, with the absence of all birth, the cessation of birth, could ageing-and-death appear?' Ananda: 'No Lord.' Buddha: 'Therefore, Ananda, just this is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition, for ageing-and-death - namely birth.' (Birth is the cause and origin of ageing and death).
Buddha: "Becoming conditions birth." If there were absolutely no becoming: in the realm of Sense-Desires, in the realm of Form or in the realm of Formless…could birth appear?' Ananda: 'No, Lord.' Buddha: 'Therefore just this is the condition of birth - namely becoming.'
Buddha : " Clinging conditions becoming.' If there were absolutely no clinging: clinging to sensual desires, clinging to views, clinging to to rite-and-ritual, clinging to personality-belief (self), there will be no becoming. " "Craving conditions clinging." If there were absolutely no craving: craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles, mind-objects, there will be no clinging. (if we can let go of our cravings, there's nothing we will cling to)
Buddha: "Feeling conditions craving." If there were absolutely no feeling: feeling born of eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact ; in the absence of all feelings, with the cessation of feeling, then there will be no cravings. Therefore Ananda, just this is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition for craving - namely feeling. (If one does not have feelings for what he sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes and thoughts then there will be no cravings). Buddha: "And so, Ananda, feeling conditions craving, craving conditions seeking, seeking conditions acquisition, acquisition conditions decision-making, decision-making conditions lustful desire, lustful desire conditions attachment, attachment conditions appropriation, appropriation conditions avarice, avarice conditions guarding of possessions, and because of the guarding of possessions there arise the taking up of sticks and swords (fights), quarrels, disputes, arguments, strife, abuse, lying and other evil unskillful states. (Because of attachments to our possessions that unwholesome states of minds and actions erupted. Buddha analysed that property, war and money are inter-connected to craving which leads to bondage to samsara).
Buddha: I have said that craving conditions seeking. So if there were no craving then there would be no seeking. Hence, Ananda, craving is the root, the cause , the origin, the condition for all seeking. And feeling leads to cravings, whereas contact with our sense spheres conditions feeling. Hence contact is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition for feeling.
Buddha: "Mind-and-body conditions contact." By whatever properties, features, signs or indications of the mind-factor is conceived of, would there in the absence of those properties . . . pertaining to the mind-factor, be manifest any grasping at the idea of the body-factor? Ananda: 'No, Lord.' Buddha: 'Or in the absence of any such properties pertaining to the body-factor, would there be any grasping at sensory reaction on the part of the mind-factor?' Ananda: 'No, Lord.' (Mind-Body are inter-connected)
Buddha: "By whatever properties the mind-factor and the body-factor are designated - in their absence is there manifested any grasping at the idea, or at sensory reaction?' Ananda: 'No Lord.' Buddha: 'By whatever properties, features, signs or indications the mind-factor is conceived of, in the absence of these is there any contact to be found?' Ananda: 'No Lord.' Buddha: 'Then, Ananda, just this, namely mind-and-body, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition for all contact.
Buddha: As i have said earlier "Consciousness conditions mind-and-body."If consciousness were not to come into the mother's womb, would mind-and-body develop there?' Ananda: 'No, lord.' (If there's no mind, there's no body. There's nothing there) Buddha: 'Or if consciousness, having entered the mother's womb, were to be deflected ..would mind-and-body come to birth in this life?' Ananda: 'No, Lord.' Buddha: 'And if consciousness of such a tender young being, boy or girl, were thus cut off, would mind-and-body grow, develop and mature?' Ananda: 'No, Lord.' Buddha: 'Therefore Ananda, just this, namely consciousness, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition of mind-and-body.
Buddha: As I have said: "Mind-and-body conditions consciousness." . . . If consciousness did not find a resting-place in mind-and-body, would there subsequently be an arising and coming to be of birth, ageing, death and suffering?' Buddha: 'No, Lord. ' Buddha: 'Therefore, Ananda, just this, namely mind-and-body, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition of consciousness. Thus far then, Ananda, we can trace birth and decay, death and falling into other states and being reborn, thus far extends the way of designation, of concepts, thus far is the sphere of understanding, thus far the round goes as far as can be discerned in this life, namely to mind-and-body together with consciousness. (If we can cut off the links in dependent origination then there will not be birth, death and rebirth cycle)
The self (Atta)
Buddha: 'In what ways, Ananda, do people explain the nature of the self? Some declare the self to be material and limited, saying: "My self is material and limited"; some declare it to be material and unlimited (a permanent "soul") . . . Some declare it to be immaterial and limited . . . ; some declare it to be immaterial and unlimited, saying: "My self is immaterial and unlimited." (Now Buddha is talking on the concept of self). Buddha: 'Whoever declares the self to be material and limited, considers it to be so either now, or in the next world, thinking: "Though it is not so now, I shall acquire it there." That being so, that is all we need say about the view that the self is material and limited, and the same applies to the other theories. So much, Ananda, for those who proffer an explanation of the self. (The theories of self have been discussed in Digha Nikaya Sutta 1 whereby Buddha talked about the concept of self in the discussion of 62 wrong views).
Buddha: 'How is it with those who do not explain the nature of the self? In what ways, Ananda, do people regard the self? They equate the self with feeling: "Feeling is my self", or: "Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient" or they may say : "Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, it is of a nature to feel."
Now, Ananda, for those who say: "Feeling is my self" should be told: "There are three kinds of feelings namely: pleasant, painful, and neutral. Which of the three do you consider to be your self?" When a pleasant feeling is felt, no painful or neutral feeling is felt, but only pleasant feeling. When a painful feeling is felt, no pleasant or neutral feeling is felt, but only painful feeling, And when a neutral feeling is felt, no pleasant or painful feeling is felt, but only neutral feeling. Pleasant feeling is impermanent, conditioned, dependently-arisen, bound to decay, to vanish, to fade away, to cease - and so too are painful feeling and neutral feeling. So anyone who, on experiencing a pleasant feeling, thinks: "This is my self", must at the cessation of that pleasant fleeing, think: "My self has gone!" The same applies to painful and neutral feelings.Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: "Feeling is my self." (Buddha is elaborating how everything is impermanent including our feelings hence he made a joke saying for those who associate feelings as self then when these feelings vanish, their self ceases too).
But those who say: "Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient" should be asked: "Friend, if no feelings at all were to be experienced, then would there be the thought: 'I am'?" Then they may reply "No, Lord." Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: "Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient." And to those who say: "Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, my self is of a nature to feel" should be asked: "Friend, if all feelings have absolutely and totally ceased, could there be the thought: 'I am this?' " Then they will reply: "No, Lord." Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: "Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, my self is of a nature to feel."
From the time, Ananda, when a monk no longer regards feeling as the self, or the self as being impercipient, or as being percipient and of a nature to feel, then he clings to nothing in the world. With no more clinging, he is not excited by anything, and not being excited he gains personal liberation and he knows: "Birth is finished, the holy life has been led, done was what had to be done, there is nothing more here anymore. (A fully enlightened arahant is someone that no longer has craving or ignorance in his mind)
The Post-mortem Status of the Tathagata Thus if anyone were to say to a monk whose mind was thus freed (an arahant):' "The Tathagata exists after death", or "The Tathagata does not exist or "The Tathagatha both exists and does not exist" or "The Tathagatha neither exists nor does not exist after death.": all these will be seen by the fully enlightened arahant as wrong views and will be unfitting. Why so? Ananda, as far as designation and the range of designation reaches, as far as language and the range of language reaches, as far as concepts and the range of concepts reaches, as far as understanding and the range of understanding reaches, as far as the cycle reaches and revolves - that monk that is liberated from all that by super-knowledge, and to maintain those claims that such a liberated monk does not know and see would be regarded as a wrong view and incorrect.
The seven stations of consciousness
Buddha: 'Ananda, there are seven stations of consciousness and two realms. Which are the seven? There are beings different in body and different in perception, such as human beings, some devas and some in states of woe. That is the first station of consciousness. There are beings different in body and alike in perception, such as the devas of Brahma's retinue, born there on account of having attained the first jhana. That is the second station. There are beings alike in body and different in perception, such as the Abhassara devas. That is the third station. There are beings alike in body and alike in perception, such as the Subhakinna devas. That is the fourth station.
There are beings who have completely transcended all perception of matter, by the vanishing of the perception of sense-reactions and by non-attention to the perception of variety; thinking: "Space is infinite", they have attained to the Sphere of Infinite Space. That is the fifth station. There are beings who, by transcending the Sphere of Infinite Space, thinking: "Consciousness is infinite", have attained to the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness. That is the sixth station. There are beings who, having transcended the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, thinking: "There is no thing", have attained to the Sphere of Nothingness. That is the seventh station of consciousness. Then the two realms are: The Realm of Unconscious Beings (to be reborn here, one must achieve very high meditative states) and secondly, the Realm of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception.
Buddha: 'Now Ananda, with regards to the first station of consciousness, with difference of body and difference of perception, as in the case of human beings and so on; if one were to understand it, its origin, its cessation, its attraction and its peril, and the deliverance from it, would it be fitting for him to take pleasure in it?' Ananda: "No, Lord." Buddha: 'And as regards the other stations, and the two spheres likewise?' Ananda: 'No, Lord.' (If one sees the four noble truths and the cessation of suffering , the one will not enjoy going through this samsara. Thus they will not be attached to any cravings.) Buddha: 'Ananda, if a monk knows these seven stations of consciousness and these two spheres, their origin and cessation, their attraction and peril, is freed without attachment, that monk, Ananda, is called one who is liberated by wisdom.' Eight Liberations
Buddha: 'There are, Ananda, these eight liberations. What are they? (1) Possessing form, one sees forms. That is the first liberation. (32 parts of the body = forms) (2) Not perceiving material forms in oneself, one sees them outside. That is the second liberation. (Meditating on kasina which is a disc that's about nine inches in diameter and made up of different colors. ) (3) Thinking: "It is beautiful", one becomes intent on it. That is the third liberation. (When you look at the kasina, you relax then you close your eyes and you try to see it. And when you're good at that, it becomes very beautiful. ) (4) By completely transcending all perception of matter, by the vanishing of the perception of sense-reactions and my non-attention to the perception of variety, thinking: "Space is infinite", one enters and abides in the Sphere of Infinite Space. That is the fourth liberation. (5) By transcending the Sphere of Infinite Space, thinking: "Consciousness is infinite", one enters and abides in the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness. That is the fifth liberation. (6) By transcending the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, thinking: "There is nothing", on enters and abides in the Sphere of Nothingness. That is the sixth liberation. (7) By transcending the Sphere of Nothingness, one reaches and abides in the Sphere of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception. That is the seventh liberation. (8) By transcending the Sphere of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception one enters and abides in the Cessation of Perception and Feeling. That is the eighth liberation. (Here Buddha is talking about Jhana levels)
'So Ananda, once a monk attains these eight liberations in forward order, in reverse order, and in foreword-and-reverse order, entering them and emerging from them; also when for as long as he wishes, he has gained by his own super-knowledge here and now both the destruction of the corruptions (craving for sensual desires, craving for existence and ignorance) and the un-corrupted liberation of heart and liberation by wisdom, that monk is called "both-ways-liberated", and Ananda, there is no other way of "both-ways-liberation" that is more excellent or perfect than this.'
After hearing Buddha's explanation, Venerable Ananda rejoiced and was delighted at his words.
Moral of story, this is a conversation between Venerable Ananda and Buddha. When Venerable Ananda told Buddha that actually dependent origination is very simple, Buddha said it has deeper meaning and explained further. Buddha also explained about "self", consciousness, Jhanas and final liberation.
References: 1. www.accesstoinsight.org 2. https://suttacentral.net/ 3. The long discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Bodhi)