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Namo Buddhaya. I am learning dependent origination.

If we follow the dependent origination strictly then by cutting off craving , the attachment ceases to be and with cessation of attachment, continuation ceases to be and with cessation of continuation , birth ceases to be and with cessation of birth , the suffering ceases to be. As the suffering ceases, Nirvana is attained.

In the above sequence of happenings we do not need to mention Ignorance. However we know that dependent origination begins with Ignorance.

My question is : can we reach to Nirvana ,without removing ignorance and just by cutting off craving ? Or is cutting off of the craving is same as removing the ignorance?

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Maybe you've heard of the old South Indian Monkey Trap (from this article):

In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig’s bonkers-but-brilliant philosophical novel that turns 40 this year, he describes “the old South Indian Monkey Trap”. ... The trap “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole”. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped.” But not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal.

The monkey needs to let go of the rice in order to free himself from his suffering. The way to end his suffering, is to end his craving for rice.

But in order to end his craving for rice, he must first understand how his hand is stuck inside the coconut. When the monkey overcomes his ignorance about how the trap works, he would let go of his craving for rice, and release his clenched fist. With this, he would be free from his suffering.

Also you can say that the monkey's suffering originated with his ignorance of the trap.

The old South Indian Monkey Trap (Illustration above: Paul Thurlby for the Guardian)

  • It seems dependent origination begins at ignorance and then immediately goes to the next step of removing craving. We don't need volitional formations as the result of ignorance. We need craving as a result of ignorance. – Dheeraj Verma Apr 19 '18 at 3:57
  • @DheerajVerma The old South Indian Monkey Trap is a simplified analogy that I used to explain the relationship between ignorance, craving and suffering. It's not a complete explanation of dependent origination. – ruben2020 Apr 19 '18 at 23:17
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The reason why you crave is because of ignorance. When you have a pleasurable experience, you like it because you do not see the Dukkha(suffering) nature of it. Without getting rid of ignorance, you cannot get rid of craving.

  • Ok. But since we can only "practically" break the origination of suffering by cutting off craving , why do we need to begin with Ignorance then Volitional formations then consciousness etc in dependent origination. We can simply say with origin of craving comes origin of attachement,continuation , birth and suffering and with cessation of craving comes cessation of attachement , continuation ,birth and suffering.. I don't see any need for a beginning from Ignorance leading to volitional formations , consciousness , name-form etc... – Dheeraj Verma Apr 18 '18 at 14:53
  • Without working on ignorance, how would you work on cutting off craving? – Sankha Kulathantille Apr 18 '18 at 15:00
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    Ignorance really means the lack of wisdom. So you need to cultivate wisdom using right mindfulness. – Sankha Kulathantille Apr 18 '18 at 16:40
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    Realizing the four noble truths with direct knowledge is the wisdom required to cut off craving and end suffering. – Sankha Kulathantille Apr 19 '18 at 4:07
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    The standard explanation of Dependant Origination is spanned over 3 lives. Past, present and future. The volitional formation there refers to your birth karma. It explains how one keeps on extending Samsara. If we skip the steps in between, it wouldn't make sense in that way. – Sankha Kulathantille Apr 19 '18 at 4:55
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If you want go for Nirvana, you have to ignore happiness and sad situations. Need to think in middle position.Otherwise without removing ignorance, you should trap into normal life style of human.

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Craving is cut because of the knowledge that craving is a primary cause of suffering. Such knowledge is the cutting of ignorance.

Not knowing about suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance.

SN 12.2; MN 9.

  • How is it possible that cutting off of craving results in cessation of ignorance? – Dheeraj Verma Apr 20 '18 at 12:41
  • I didn't post the cutting off of craving results in cessation of ignorance. I posted the cutting of craving depends on the knowledge (non-ignorance) that the cutting of craving brings peace. – Dhammadhatu Apr 20 '18 at 19:55
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Ignorance (avijjā) can be understood as ignorance about the Four Noble Truths, which indirectly includes ignorance about the three marks of existence: impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and non-self (anattā). If you manage to get rid of craving, that probably means that you have removed your ignorance about dukkha, but not necessarily about the other two.

Dependent origination is a difficult topic with a lot of different interpretations. The way I see it, I think it's helpful to look at it from the perspective of removing ignorance about anattā, and not about dukkha. If it was about dukkha, removing the link between sensation (vedana) and craving (taṇhā) would indeed make more sense as the starting point.

  • While this answer is actually very thoughtful, i marked it down because dependent origination teaches ignorance is not seeing the four noble truths and does not mention anatta at all. Not knowing about suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance. SN 12.2; MN 9. – Dhammadhatu Apr 20 '18 at 12:16
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    @Dhammadhatu Removing ignorance about the four noble truths implies removing ignorance about the noble eightfold path, which implies removing ignorance about the right view and the right mindfulness, which implies removing ignorance about anattā. I'm not saying dependent origination is only about anattā, I'm just saying that it makes most sense, at least to me, when you look at it from the perspective of removing ignorance about anattā. – michau Apr 20 '18 at 12:48
  • @Dhammadhatu But in any case, thanks for pointing out the exact meaning of ignorance in this context; I updated my answer to be more explicit. – michau Apr 20 '18 at 12:55
  • It does change your answer. Your answer remains incorrect doctrinally. The word 'dukkha' in the four noble truths does not have the same meaning as the word 'dukkha' in the three characteristics. If you read SN 22.59, the last part says the realisation of the three characteristics results in the destruction of craving. Therefore, the important thing is to end craving; as the 3rd noble truth says. – Dhammadhatu Apr 20 '18 at 19:51
  • @Dhammadhatu In my answer I use the word dukkha only in the context of the three characteristics. Perhaps it has another meaning in the 3rd noble truth, but what does it change here? Also note that “craving”, both in the question and my answer, specifically means taṇhā, one of the twelve nidānas. SN 22.59 doesn't mention taṇhā at all, so I cannot see how it is relevant. – michau Apr 20 '18 at 21:12

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