Dependent Origin or Pratītyasamutpāda is defined as

It states that all dharmas (phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas

And then there are these 12 causes one after another, each depending on the next one starting from Aging or decay, and death (Jarāmaraṇa) which depends on Birth, Rebirth (Jāti) and so on, which finally ends in Ignorance, nescience (Avidyā).

But notice Avidya seems to be not depending on anything. But as a rule all dharmas should be dependent on another dharma. How is this contradiction reconciled?


  • 1
    This is a very good question. What does ignorance depend on? What is the condition for ignorance?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


There is a cyclic dependency between ignorance and defilements (also called taints or fermentation).

Ignorance originates from defilement. Ignorance ceases when defilement ceases.
Āsavasamudayā avijjāsamudayo, āsavanirodhā avijjānirodho

Defilement originates from ignorance. Defilement ceases when ignorance ceases.
Avijjāsamudayā āsavasamudayo, avijjānirodhā āsavanirodho

MN 9

Why is there such a cyclic dependency? This is amply discussed in "Does MN9 imply a cyclic causation? How does it work?"

I quote from the best answer there:

It is like being born in a poor uneducated family: because you are poor, you can't get education, and because you can't get education you are poor.

  • Excellent, just some small clarifications. Why is Defilement not present in the 12 dharmas listed in the chain. Is it the same as Sankhara or Samskara. What is the Sanskrit equivalent of Asava.
    – user20787
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 15:42
  • 1
    @MrGreenGold In Sanskrit, it's Āsrava.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 15:44
  • thanks, but is Āsava same as Sankhara or equivalent to it, as Āsava is not present in the traditional chain of 12 causes.
    – user20787
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 16:02

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