Dependent arising is often explained in three different levels, from the coarse to the depest.

On the first level dependent arising is explained according to causes and conditions. That is, things arise dependently on causes. This is referring to nonstatic phenomena – phenomena that change from moment to moment and are affected by things, namely causes and conditions.

And then the second level of understanding dependent arising is that things arise dependently on parts. And that refers to everything, both static and nonstatic; in other words, things that don’t change from moment to moment and things that do change from moment to moment.

The third level of dependent arising is things arise dependently in terms of or in relation to mental labeling. And this deals with the deepest truth about things: how they exist.

I sometimes feel that the first level is deeper than the second. If i meditate on causes on coniditions there is no end to it. There's no end to it regarding dependence on parts either, but the time aspect seems to be different.

  1. Are there any Buddhist philosophies that put special emphasis on the first level of dependent arising as perhaps even more suptle than the second?

  2. About the third level. Is this mainly a Mahayana/Madhyamka idea? I'm not asking if it's a good or bad/ right or wrong idea. (It seems to me that some of the discussions here are from such different perspective according to what tenet system the writer writes from) But is there a very generally accepted answer to this?

  • I am putting great effort to understanding your Question, you seem to ask some very subtle ones... I wish to answer, but 1) I do not have the references that you seek 2) I see (what I think you are asking about) very differently. It is good to meditate on something to get understanding. My experience has been that what often happens is that the concepts fall apart and the question is no longer there. "To comprehend a nectar requires sorest need." If you look at all of your uses of the word "Things" I think you will see what I mean. Good Hunting!
    – user2341
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 0:15
  • things that don’t change from moment to moment ? For example? Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 3:19
  • I think, f.ex mathematihical axioms don't change from moment to moment Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 5:37
  • That's a concept. Not a thing. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 5:51
  • Axioms are not concepts, they consist of concepts. "Thing" was not a good word here, sorry. But axioms and tautologies don't change, but are dependent on parts was my point. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 6:03

1 Answer 1


First, not that I know of.

Second, the third type of dependent-arising is a unique tenet of the Middle-Way Consequence School (Madhyamika Prasangika). Other schools posit that phenomena exist by way of their own characteristics/from their own side/inherently. For instance, Madhyamika-Svatantrika posit that an existent is empty of true existence (because it appears to exist from its own side without being imputed by mind) but exists inherently (for it exists from its own side indeed, although it is also imputed by mind). So, as they posit inherent existence, they do not posit the third type of dependent arising, dependence on name.

Moreover, although permanent phenomena are dependent-arisings, I would say that 'they exist in dependence on parts, and so forth' rather than 'they arise in dependence'. Although Yogacara and Madhyamika are Mahayana tenets, there are four possibilities between 'being a proponent of Mahayana tenets' and 'being Mahayana by practice'. A practitioner could be Mahayana by practice and Hinayana by tenets, such as Hinayana foe destroyers according to Khedrup Je, and vice versa.

Daniel Cozort's Unique Tenets Of The Middle Way Consequence School elaborates on the topic (and what distingues Prasangika from other schools). It is valuable but few of his assertions do not accord with the intent of the Geluk tradition. Generally, you will find distinctions between all schools of thoughts in Tenets.

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