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A translation of SN 12.2 says:

And what is dependent co-arising? From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media 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/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

The impression of the above text is - for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play - aging & death must occur.

I have two questions:

  1. If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; what is the cause for people having sorrow, grief & despair before death, i.e., in the present moment?

  2. If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; is sorrow, grief & despair only experienced after death?

  • Isn't the question focusing on the metaphysical aspect and ignoring the soteriological value of the text? The questions only make sense if you think that birth and death have independent and temporal existence. If you interpret the text as a mental process, the questions become less significant. – user29568 Dec 9 '18 at 13:52
  • The extract does not say suffering is dependent on ageing and death. It says that it begins at birth. If you think of suffering as 'unsatisfactoriness' then it becomes more obvious that it is present from birth. – PeterJ Dec 10 '18 at 10:29
  • Sorry but your comment is incomprehensible; particularity unsatisfactoriness. MN 141 defines what sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair are. The quote says aging, death, sorrow arise together. Best you write an answer rather than make comments. The comments section is not for answers. Thanks – Dhammadhatu Dec 10 '18 at 10:56
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If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; what is the cause for people having sorrow, grief & despair before death, i.e., in the present moment?

If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; is sorrow, grief & despair only experienced after death?

Aging & death must come together to show "if you born without unstable, it's ok. But actually, your life is unstable because it's going to be aging & death, it's not ok. Because while you are living, birth+aging+death, you are going to have sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play aging & death."

Pali context only shows birth causes "aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play". Nothing in pāli context shows aging & death cause "sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play".

jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyā sambhavanti.

So, your both questions are misunderstood pali context. There is nothing in pali context shows "death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play". Pāli only shows birth causes "aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play".

In the other hand by pāli context, the sequence of paṭiccasamuppāda is "birth >> aging&death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play". It is not "birth >> aging >> death >> sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play".

  • @TheDBSGuy In pāli context, the sequence of paṭiccasamuppāda is "birth >> aging&death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play". It is not "birth >> aging >> death >> sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play". – Bonn Dec 9 '18 at 8:48
  • Correct. Birth is a requisite condition for ageing, death, sorrow, despair, grief. Death is not a requisite condition for these. – ruben2020 Dec 9 '18 at 12:03
  • Bonn I think your answer is correct – TheDBSGuy Dec 9 '18 at 15:14
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  1. This is another problem when refusing to accept regrouping of 5 skandhas after breaking up of this body. You don't believe in reappearing after death so you have trouble understanding things like this.

If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; what is the cause for people having sorrow, grief & despair before death, i.e., in the present moment?

  1. When someone from your family die you will grieve, feel sad and cry won’t you?

  2. When you are at the moment of death you will feel sad won’t you? Other people will feel sad for you won’t they? You might have regret about a lot of things and people who care about you will have pain and sorrow.

If death must occur for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair to come into play; is sorrow, grief & despair only experienced after death?

  1. Sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair can come into play for other people who love you after you die. You can have pain, sorrow or lamentation when you are dying. If you were not dying then you wouldn’t feel sad because of it and other people who care about you wouldn’t feel sad if you were not dying. They might have pain about other things like losing their job but that’s another thing.

  2. I think becoming, birth, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation are future lives. Consciousness, name and form, six sense media, contact, feeling, craving and clinging are this present life. Ignorance and fabrication are previous life.

  3. Dependent origin cannot be understood by thinking intellectually. I think an arahant would be able to understand and contemplate it.

  • I marked this answer down because it was very confusing for me to read and seemed full of contradictions & speculative ideas. The answer is comprised of six paragraphs. I could make sense of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 but I could not understand how paragraphs 1, 5 and 6 were related to the other paragraphs. I agree sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair can come into play (if there is IGNORANCE) when people we love die or if we think about our "own" death'. The idea that the emotions sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair are "future lives" sounds very bizarre. – Dhammadhatu Dec 9 '18 at 9:38
  • If you don’t understand my answer then I will write a summary. If there is no birth in this world would there be aging and death? If there is no birth, aging and death then would there be suffering? If you were never born then you wouldn’t be able to age and die. If there is no birth, aging and death in this world then there wouldn’t be pain, sorrow and lamentation – TheDBSGuy Dec 9 '18 at 9:51
  • The question is about how sorrow happens after death. Also, if birth is the reason for sorrow, why does the teaching include craving before birth? Also, if birth was the condition for sorrow, Nibbana could not be found in the here & now. – Dhammadhatu Dec 9 '18 at 10:44
  • Craving is included before birth is because when we crave in this life there is a cause for birth in the next life. When we crave for things we might have the view “I am the self” or “I am the one who is enjoying sensual pleasure” or he might crave for future existence so he might do good deeds.You can’t intellectually think about Nibbana. If you are a arahant then you will not die or grow old because you won’t assume the body to be “mine” or “you”. You won’t assume consciousness to be “mine” or “you”. – TheDBSGuy Dec 9 '18 at 11:04
  • So you are saving "craving" is not related to sorrow; such as wanting something & not getting it? Have you read DN 16, which says only the monks & devas who were not free from craving had sorrow over the passing of the Buddha? The monks free from craving did not lament over the Buddha's passing. – Dhammadhatu Dec 9 '18 at 11:07
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In my Mahayana interpretation, from birth comes "this entire pile of dukkha" such as: aging, sickness, death, separation from dear, meeting with undesired, sorrow, lamentation and so on and so forth. The list in the sutta is clearly supposed to be enumerating standard examples of dukkha from 1st noble truth. In Mahayana we often read such passages not literally but as casual colloquial idiomatic approximations.

When a text is interpreted in Mahayana style, we tend to pay attention to the implied meaning and the overall message more than to the details. So in this case we would understand this passage as saying "with birth as condition there come all kinds of dukkha" and treat the examples as pointers intended to outline the category, rather than as important on their own.

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I think these riddles might be solves by examining teachings about sorrow.

SN 22.1 says sorrow only occurs when there is conceiving ideas of "self", as follows:

He is seized with the idea that 'I am consciousness' or 'Consciousness is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his consciousness changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

He is not seized with the idea that 'I am consciousness' or 'Consciousness is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his consciousness changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

The Piyavagga says where there is no love, there is no sorrow:

210. Seek no intimacy with the beloved and also not with the unloved, for not to see the beloved and to see the unloved, both are painful.

211. Therefore hold nothing dear, for separation from the dear is painful. There are no bonds for those who have nothing beloved or unloved.

212. From endearment springs grief, from endearment springs fear. For one who is wholly free from endearment there is no grief, whence then fear?

Similarly, many suttas say sorrow occurs due to loss of loved relatives, as follows:

Now at that time a certain householder's dear & beloved little son, his only child, had died. Because of his death, the father had no desire to work or to eat. He kept going to the cemetery and crying out, "Where have you gone, my only little child? Where have you gone, my only little child?" Then he went to the Blessed One, who said: "That's the way it is, householder. That's the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear." MN 87

Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother... the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. SN 15.3

In MN 26, relatives are called "acquisitions" (upadhi), i.e., things attached to with infatuation, as follows:

And what may be said to be subject to birth? Spouses & children are subject to birth. Men & women slaves... goats & sheep... fowl & pigs... elephants, cattle, horses, & mares... gold & silver are subject to birth. Subject to birth are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to birth. MN 26

SN 12.66 says "acquisitions" give birth to "death", as follows:

The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world headed by aging-and-death: this suffering has acquisition as its source, acquisition as its origin; it is born and produced from acquisition. When there is acquisition, aging-and-death comes to be; when there is no acquisition, aging-and-death does not come to be.

Therefore, it seems sorrow arises from the death of what is loved; and what is called "birth" is based on "acquisitions" of things regarded as "self".

And what may be said to be subject to birth? Spouses & children are subject to birth. Men & women slaves... goats & sheep... fowl & pigs... elephants, cattle, horses, & mares... gold & silver are subject to birth. Subject to birth are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to birth. MN 26

In summary, "birth" appears to be the production of ideas of "persons" or "beings" from mere aggregates and when the aggregates change & alter (per SN 22.1), sorrow occurs.

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