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In SN 22.82 Buddha says Name and Form is the cause and condition for the manifestation of Consciousness aggregate.

“The four great elements, bhikkhu, are the cause and condition for the manifestation of the form aggregate. Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the feeling aggregate. Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the perception aggregate. Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the volitional formations aggregate. Name-and-form is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the consciousness aggregate.

However while elucidating dependent origination Buddha says Consciousness is the cause and condition for Name and form.

This being so that is, beginning with the arising of this that arises, thus: because of ignorance there are volitional processes, because of volitional processes: consciousness, because of consciousness: mind and body, because of mind and body: the six sense-spheres, because of the six sense-spheres: contact, because of contact: feeling, because of feeling: craving, because of craving: attachment, because of attachment: continuation, because of continuation: birth, because of birth: old age, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair all arise, and so there is an origination of this whole great mass of suffering.

My question is : Is this a contradiction ? If not then please explain how?

  • Where in dependant origination it says "Volitional formations as the cause and condition for Contact "? – Sankha Kulathantille May 25 '18 at 4:53
  • @SankhaKulathantille volitional processes leads to consciousness leads to mind and body which leads to six-sense sphere which leads to contact. Therefore volitional formations are cause and condition for contact. Another apparent contradiction appears when Buddha says consciousness as the cause and condition for name and form. In dependent origination consciousness leads to mind and body. – Dheeraj Verma May 25 '18 at 4:59
  • In dependant origination, when we talk about the cause, we talk about the proximate cause. If you are going to skip steps and compare to suttas, it might appear confusing. – Sankha Kulathantille May 25 '18 at 6:29
  • The second example doesn't skip step. According to dependent origination consciousness is the cause and condition for mind("because of consciousness: mind and body") and body whereas in the sutta 22.82 ,which I have mentioned above, Buddha says "Name-and-form is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the consciousness aggregate." The only difference I see is in the naming of consciousness as consciousness aggregate. – Dheeraj Verma May 25 '18 at 6:35
  • If you edit the question to focus on that, it can be answered. – Sankha Kulathantille May 25 '18 at 6:58
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From the Mahanidana Sutta (DN15):

"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does contact come?' one should say, 'Contact comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.'

"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does name-and-form come?' one should say, 'Name-and-form comes from consciousness as its requisite condition.'

"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does consciousness come?' one should say, 'Consciousness comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.'

"Thus, Ananda, from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress.

Did you notice the loop?

Piya Tan in his commentary on Dependent Origination, talks about five versions of Dependent Origination in the Pali suttas:

Roderick S Bucknell (1999) identifies five main variations or versions of dependent arising: the standard version(s), the branched version, the looped version, the Sn (Sutta nipāta) version and the ancestor of the standard version.

The looped version is so called because it represents consciousness and name-and-form as mutually conditioning each other, and "this causal loop is confirmed when the series is reiterated in summary in the "normal" or forward direction," thus:

Conditioned by name-and-form is consciousness.
Conditioned by consciousness is name-and-form.
Conditioned by name-and-form is contact

The most famous example of the looped version is found in the Mahā Nidāna Sutta ; other examples are found in the Nala, kalapiya Sutta and the Mahâpadāna Sutta.

The Mahanidana Sutta (DN15) continues in its explanation:

Name-and-form

"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"

"No, lord."

"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?"

"No, lord."

"If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-and-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-and-form, i.e., consciousness."

Consciousness

"'From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for consciousness, i.e., name-and-form.

"This is the extent to which there is birth, aging, death, passing away, and re-arising. This is the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation. This is the extent to which the sphere of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting (discernibility) of this world — i.e., name-and-form together with consciousness.

Piya Tan explains this in his same commentary on Dependent Origination:

However, in the looped versions of Diagram 5b, the nāma-rūpa that feeds viññāṇa is what, in Abhidhamma, is called the bhav’aṅga, the “birth continuum.” At the moment of dying, this bhav’aṅga is the cuti-citta, “death-consciousness,” and is also the paṭisandhi citta, “rebirth-consciousness” of the next life. The modern term for this is the existential consciousness .

So, DN15 says that name-and-form is the condition for consciousness, which is the condition for name-and-form, which is the condition for contact. This is in the looped version of Dependent Origination.

Based on Piya Tan's explanation, the first name-and-form is from the previous life, which is the condition for consciousness. This consciousness, at death, is what the Abhidhamma calls cuti-citta or the "death consciousness" of the previous life, and is the same patisandhi citta or "rebirth consciousness" of the new life. This consciousness, is the requisite condition for the name-and-form of the next life. The second name-and-form is therefore the name-and-form of the next life. This is very clearly proven by the DN15 quote:

"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"

"'From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?

  • This answer is wrong because SN 22.82 says the four elements are the cause (hetu) of "rupa" where as Dependent Origination says consciousness is the condition (paccaya) for "rupa" (and "nama"). The paragraph in the question from SN 22.82 is not about dependent origination, which is why the same paragraph says contact is the cause of feeling, the cause of perception and the cause of sankhara (where as Dependent Origination says ignorance is the cause of sankhara and where Dependent Origination does mention perception, except in the nama link, which is conditioned by consciousness). – Dhammadhatu May 26 '18 at 13:37
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In dependant origination, Vinnana refers to the Patisandhi Citta. In other words, the first Bhavaanga citta in your current life. This is way before the senses are developed.

Consciousness aggregate refers to awareness aspect of the sensory experiences. In other words; the eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness etc. The mind and body cause the six senses and the six senses cause contact(Passa). Consciousness aggregate is a part of contact. Ex: Eye contact is simply form, eye and eye-consciousness.

Even when the senses are not fully developed, the union of name and form allows for the arising of the mind-consciousness. Hence the name-and-form is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the consciousness aggregate.

  • Patisandhi Citta is not mentioned in the suttas – Dhammadhatu May 25 '18 at 21:27
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    @Dhammadhatu The term "patisandhi citta" may be found only in the Abhidhamma. But the Pali suttas, while not using this term, have definitely defined the concept. DN15 states "And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?" – ruben2020 May 26 '18 at 10:15
  • No. Nama-rupa in DN 15 refers to permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of name-group and form-group. Therefore, if the mother's consciousness does not descend into the womb, the mother cannot impute permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of her child. Please read the sutta. While the Buddha probably did not speak DN 15 due to its many contradictions with the main body of the suttas, regardless, DN 15 does not say what you are saying. – Dhammadhatu May 26 '18 at 13:22
  • @ruben2020 is right. And if you notice your quote from mahānidānasutta is using "okkama"-word, which I quoted in the 2nd example of this answer: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/26519/10100 – Bonn May 26 '18 at 14:16
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The Buddhist scholar commits a serious blunder by placing the Theravadin concept of causality on the same level as the modern scientific concept of causality. From a modern point of view, an event (especially in physiology, psychology, and medicine) is generally understood to have a multitude of contributing causes based upon hundreds of years of scientific research. In modern science, very few events have a single necessary and sufficient cause, except for trivial examples. Hence, when the Buddha said “X is the cause and condition for the manifestation of Y,” a scientist would read “X is a contributing cause of the manifestation of Y.” In other words, when the Buddha was speaking to an uneducated audience, he referred to a concept of causality that lacked complexity and sophistication. The concept of causality that arises from the practice of vipassana is far more sophisticated and far more challenging to articulate. The practice of vipassana generates psychological insight into both the causes of and the influence of personal examples of sankhara (so-called “karmic formations”). For example, through vipassana, we may gain psychological insight into how our early experiences of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse caused us to develop a very specific mental disorder that, in turn, caused us a lot of suffering. The concept of dependent origination does not come close to explaining such complex causality. Consider, for example, the notion that “From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming.” From this, we conclude clinging to be the cause of suffering. This is nonsense. The reality is that (1) contact causally contributes to feelings only under special circumstances and there are many causes of feeling, (2) feelings causally contribute to craving only under special circumstances and there are many causes of craving, (3) craving causally contributes to clinging only under special circumstances and there are many causes of clinging, and (4) clinging causally contributes to becoming (the formation of unwholesome sankhara) only under special circumstances and there are many causes of sankhara. In my view, anyone who advocates the concept of dependent origination to be an adequate substitute for a modern scientific understanding of the causes of suffering performs a profound disservice to the Buddhist community. It is nonetheless true that vipassana can lead to psychological insights that are more profound than those provided by modern psychology, but these insights are extremely difficult to acquire and even more difficult to articulate. A very advanced state of vipassana consists of the fourth level of mindfulness meditation in which a person becomes directly aware of both physical and mental causality. It was from this state of mind that Sariputra was able to write the Theravadin Abhidharma. This state of meditation opens a window to a vast exploration of how the mental and physical universe unfolds in great detail. Eventually, scientists will gain access to this state of awareness and physics and psychology will undergo great expansion. It is important to understand that this expansion will engage an extremely challenging process of articulation and explanation. Question: How can name and form be the cause and condition for the manifestation of the consciousness aggregate? Answer: In the cycle of rebirth, the content (form) of experience in a lifetime and how we understand that experience (how we “name” it) has a causal influence (through learning) on the consciousness (awareness) of future lifetimes (along with a great multitude of other causal factors).

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