The doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda states that:

all dharmas (phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas: "if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist". The basic principle is that all things (dharmas, phenomena, principles) arise in dependence upon other things.

However, on the Wikipedia page on Nirvana, it is stated:

According to Dhammapala, nibbana is an objective reality which is the opposite of samsara. Nibbana has its own nature (sabhava) which is unlike all conditioned phenomena.

From this, I'm curious to know the following inter-related ideas: a) Is all there is to reality these conditioned Dharma and if yes, where does Dhammapala's idea of nibbana fit into this if its a non-conditioned phenomena which an intrinsic essence/nature? b) In the view of Dhammapala, are all conditioned phenomena ultimately dependent on this Absolute and Objective Reality which has an intrinsic nature? Does nibbana originate anything itself or is it merely like a principle? Just as an idea, perhaps the doctrine of the Two Truths is related to this, with nibbana belonging or being identical to the Ultimate Truth.

1 Answer 1


According to Wikipedia, Dhammapāla was a great Theravada Buddhist commentator. All I personally know about Dhammapāla is his later commentary about the finer supramundane points of DN 1 (about eternalism & annihilationism) was correct, in contrast to the earlier commentary attributed to Buddhaghosa, which was incorrect. Based on this limited evidence, my impression is Dhammapāla understood the teachings found in the Pali Suttas.

The Pali Suttas (MN 115) explicitly say there are two types of dhammas (phenomena) or elements (dhatu), namely:

  1. conditioned element (sankhata dhatu)

  2. unconditioned element (asankhata dhatu).

Therefore, in many places, such as in Ud 8.3, the Nibbana element is explicitly described as 'unconditioned'.

To the contrary, SN 12.20 explicitly says every condition of Dependent Origination is 'conditioned'. Furthermore, SN 12.3 literally says Dependent Origination is the wrong path (micchāpaṭipadā); therefore not related to Nibbana.

Therefore, in Pali Buddhism, the reality of Dependent Origination does not apply to Nibbana.

It follows, it would have been obvious for Dhammapala that all conditioned phenomena are not ultimately dependent on the absolute and objective reality of Nibbana (which has an intrinsic nature). It would have also been plainly obvious to Dhammapala that Nibbana does not originate anything itself. Nibbana is the "escape" from the conditioned rather than the creator of the conditioned. Again, Ud 8.3 says about Nibbana:

There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned. If, monks there were not that unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, you could not know an escape here from the born, become, made, and conditioned. But because there is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, therefore you do know an escape from the born, become, made, and conditioned.

In conclusion, the impression is the writer of Wikipedia pratītyasamutpāda was wrong.

  • 1
    Fantastic answer!
    – setszu
    Dec 4, 2023 at 9:44
  • 1
    You're welcome. Thank you Dec 4, 2023 at 9:45

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