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We experience birth , death , cravings , feelings, contact etc.. We also 'experience' ignorance(like self). We also experience choices. We can experience the whole existence as a human or a dog or as a insect. But we do not find origination of experience in dependent origination.

My question is : Is experience dependently originated ? If yes then at what stage in dependent origination ?

  • When you say “experience” I think we have to nail down what that means and what it doesn’t mean in order to answer properly. Do you mean mere qualia? That it is something like to be? Do you mean mere awareness? That we are capable of knowing? Are you getting after that we are sentient as opposed to a rock for instance? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 11 '18 at 14:33
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    Everything is dependently originated as things don’t appear from themselves, there is always a reason for phenomena to occur. – user13383 Aug 11 '18 at 14:52
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    There’s a lot of grasping of inherent things in your statements, just because your consciousness wasn’t present doesn’t mean you didn’t exist. There isn’t you but aggregates that gathered due to proper causes. You existed in your father and mother in their dna, genes, semen and you inherited their biological characteristics along with character, it is outer phenomena origination. When you cease your energy doesn’t just disappear due to laws of preservation of energy in the universe, you just become something else; the soil, the dust, the air. But from these the aggregates may form as well. – – user13383 Aug 11 '18 at 17:33
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    DO describes experience itself. – user13579 Aug 12 '18 at 13:38
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    In case it's not clear from my answer, yes, experience is dependently originated (in multiple steps). DO describes this step-by-step emergence of experience. Ignorance and Consciousness are not experienced, they are the early stages of the emergence of experience. Feeling is experience fully matured. Birth and death is experience developed to its logical conclusion. – Andrei Volkov Aug 12 '18 at 15:17
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Yes, experience is dependently originated (in multiple steps). Dependent Origination describes this step-by-step emergence of experience. Ignorance and Consciousness are the early stages of the emergence of experience. Feeling is experience fully matured. Birth and death is experience developed to its logical conclusion.

The entire chain of dependent origination is a spiral. Its basic components are consciousness, craving, and action. It starts as vague and undifferentiated and proceeds in cycles getting more and more concrete over time.

In the beginning it is completely undifferentiated. While undifferentiated, it is still structured and active. It's called ignorance but what it really is, is the undifferentiated Ground of All.

Then, after many many cycles of activity, because similar things happen again and again, the imprints of the repetitions lead to formation of tendencies. At first these are very vague, very abstract tendencies - but after many cycles they start getting more and more specific. We call this "samskaras" - which can be translated "formations" or "imprints" or "tendencies". This is made from the same exact stuff as what we called "ignorance" - but now it is a bit more defined, it has slightly more specificity.

As more cycles pass, and things keep interacting and imprinting, imprints/tendencies/formations keep getting more and more specific, until they start resembling something like a (very-very vague) EXPERIENCE. At first, this experience is not vivid at all, rather like a vague recognition: "something like this was before". This basic recognition, the rudimentary inklings of experience, is what we call Vijnana or consciousness. This is still the same stuff as what we called Ignorance and Formations - now developed into something much more specific.

Just like this, things keep getting more and more specific. As tendencies get more and more defined, recognition grows into habit and attitude. Now it's not just "something like this was before", now it is also: "this has always been so and so" or "X always comes with Y" or "It's always A and then it's followed by B". In other words, as consciousness learns to recognize repeating patterns, it gets used to them. Whatever it gets used to, it is established in. From this it begins to form its attitudes: "This is the way it should be. This is right." and "This should not be this way. This is wrong".

And so, tendencies grow and develop, until they become several distinct things: - Consciousness, or ability to recognize patterns and situations, the basic capacity of Experiencing the world. - Habits and attitudes, aka pre-dispositions for and against certain experiences.

And then, after many, many more cycles - things get even MORE defined.

Consciousness grows into a full-blown ability to delineate and experience OBJECTS. While habits and attitudes develop into DESIRE and AVERSION towards these objects. Until this time, there was no "inside" and "outside". This point is the first inkling of the separation. The experience of recognition of objects will later develop into a full blown experience of "the world". And imprints/habits/attitudes will later develop into a full blown "psyche" or "sentient being".

All this time, activity never stopped. The Ground Of All kept moving and stirring. In fact, activity is exactly what supported formation of tendencies, consciousness, objects, and attitudes. As things were getting more and more defined, activity was getting more defined too! Influenced by habits and attitudes of attraction/aversion to objects, activity was getting increasingly more directional and purposeful, until it became full-blown KARMA -- action towards or away from the objects. Mind you, this karma always existed in rudimentary form, even since the times of Ignorance, and developed in lockstep with Consciousness and Craving (=attraction/aversion). Ignorance, Imprints, Recognition of patterns, Consciousness, Objects - is one branch. Ignorance, Tendencies, Habits, Attitudes, Attraction/Aversion (=craving) - is another branch. Ignorance, activity, attraction&avoidance, pursuing, goal-making - is third branch. They support each other and help each other grow and get more concrete.

Interaction feeds imprints, imprints feed recognition, recognition feeds habit, habit feeds attitude, attitude feeds interaction. It's a cycle that perpetuates itself, propelling itself forward, helping things get more and more concrete.

When we say "things get more concrete" we mean the Experience of The Outside and Experience of The Inside gets more concrete.

First, there is only recognition of "this was before", then it's "this has always been like this", then "when this is so - it's right and when it's not so - it's wrong", then it gets to the level of objects and feelings. "When this object is here - it feels good", "When this object is here - it feels bad". Things get more concrete like that, consciousness gets more concrete, experience gets more concrete, the attitude towards things get more concrete, and action towards things gets more concrete. And along with all this, our sense of SELF gets more and more concrete.

This is called "Dependent Origination". It's a self perpetuating cycle that proceeds from complete vagueness to increasingly more and more concrete EXPERIENCE of the inside and outside, experience of objects and the world, sense of self, attitude towards things, and intentional action towards things.

  • What was present when there was Nothing to Experience? – Dheeraj Verma Aug 12 '18 at 15:46
  • The undifferentiated ground of all, hiding in itself the potential for differentiation. – Andrei Volkov Aug 12 '18 at 15:51
  • Can you quote Buddha on that ? When there was nothing to experience there was craving. A potential desire for experience. A craving for existence. – Dheeraj Verma Aug 12 '18 at 16:08
  • Even in Theravada they have commentaries and explanations, not everything is a quote. Here I'm commenting on DO and explaining its meaning to you. First there is Ignorance, then Consciousness, Craving, Action develop and take shape, until it becomes "sentient being" and "the world". Before Craving there was Ignorance, which serves as the Ground (base, foundation) for all that follows. In Ignorance there's no discernment and discrimination, hence it can be described as undifferentiated. Craving was not there right away, it developed along with Consciousness, from Tendencies. – Andrei Volkov Aug 12 '18 at 16:29
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Experience, to my understanding is the link in dependent origination known as feeling or vedana.

From MN 44:

"Now, lady, how many kinds of feeling are there?"

"These three kinds of feeling: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, & neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling."

"What is pleasant feeling? What is painful feeling? What is neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling?"

"Whatever is experienced physically or mentally as pleasant & gratifying is pleasant feeling. Whatever is experienced physically or mentally as painful & hurting is painful feeling. Whatever is experienced physically or mentally as neither gratifying nor hurting is neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling."

"In what way is pleasant feeling pleasant, lady, and in what way painful?"

"Pleasant feeling is pleasant in remaining, & painful in changing, friend Visakha. Painful feeling is painful in remaining & pleasant in changing. Neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling is pleasant in occurring together with knowledge, and painful in occurring without knowledge."

"What obsession gets obsessed with pleasant feeling? What obsession gets obsessed with painful feeling? What obsession gets obsessed with neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling?"

"Passion-obsession gets obsessed with pleasant feeling. Resistance-obsession gets obsessed with painful feeling. Ignorance-obsession gets obsessed with neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling."

How does feeling arise?

According to MN 18:

"Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye.

"Dependent on ear & sounds, ear-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on nose & aromas, nose-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on tongue & flavors, tongue-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on body & tactile sensations, body-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

  • What is Consciousness then ? Is it not experience ? – Dheeraj Verma Aug 11 '18 at 16:40
  • Consciousness is not an experience. Consciousness arises from the mind, and cognizes or is aware of its specific sense base (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, intellect or thoughts) – ruben2020 Aug 11 '18 at 17:22
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The most important & crucial reality is suffering is Dependently Originated, as follows:

And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination? With ignorance as condition, formations come to be; with formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called dependent origination.

SN 12.2

To say conscious experience is "Dependently Originated" does not sound correct because Arahants have conscious experience without ignorance; even though some suttas loosely say conscious experience in general is Dependently Originated; as follows:

Haven’t I said in many ways that consciousness is dependently originated, since consciousness does not arise without a condition?

Nanu mayā, moghapurisa, anekapariyāyena paṭiccasamuppannaṃ viññāṇaṃ vuttaṃ, aññatra paccayā natthi viññāṇassa sambhavoti?

MN 38

All experience happens to consciousness & nama-rupa, as follows:

There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness.

Feeling, perception, volition, contact and attention — these are called mentality.

MN 9


The eye is burning, forms are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

SN 35.28


When one abides inflamed by lust, fettered, infatuated, contemplating gratification, then the five aggregates affected by clinging are built up for oneself in the future; and one’s craving—which brings renewal of being, is accompanied by delight and lust, and delights in this and that—increases. One’s bodily and mental troubles increase, one’s bodily and mental torments increase, one’s bodily and mental fevers increase, and one experiences bodily and mental suffering.

MN 149

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