The Twelve Nidanas state the cause for coming into birth.

Suppose we take a look at a being with the name Robert.

If we look at Robert and rewind time backwards to the time when Robert has not yet come into his first birth, can't we see how Robert came into his first birth?

As I see it, the twelve nidanas state that the cause Robert came into his first birth was because he started doing volitional activities because of his ignorance. The first time he did a volitional activity he basically stepped in the circle of the twelve nidanas and destined himself to "never ending" births and deaths. Is this correct?

  • In absolute sense, there is no "being with the name Robert" as a standalone (svabhava) entity. Twelve Nidanas explain how the false context of "my birth" arises by implication from (false) identification with a (incorrectly posited) living being.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jul 3, 2015 at 3:09
  • I understand there is no Robert as a standalone entity. I understand that the Twelve Nidanas explain how the false birth of Robert arises. But do the Twelve Nidanas show us why the false births of Robert arise in the first place? The cause of Roberts first birth arising?
    – beginner
    Jul 3, 2015 at 6:37
  • Thanks for the answers. I think I got it. The Buddha never said "there was no first birth" or "there was first birth". What he usually answered when asked similar questions is "the answer is in the middle" and explained a few links in the Twelve Nidanas. This is what he taught. Why? Because he knew that no human mind could comprehend what he knew about the first coming into birth or that details about the first time coming into birth are just speculations, thus poisoning the mind with clinging or aversion and leading the aspirant away from liberation.
    – beginner
    Jul 3, 2015 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


If we look at Robert and rewind time backwards to the time when Robert has not yet come into his first birth, can't we see how Robert came into his first birth?

There is no first birth. Samsara is beginningless. But you can end it. Robert is a concept. There's no Robert existing in reality even from this moment to the next, let alone from life to life.

  • Do you have any sources that say that there is no first birth? Preferably from the original Pali Canon?
    – beginner
    Jul 3, 2015 at 6:32
  • "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident" -Assu Sutta Jul 3, 2015 at 6:47
  • If this is the case, why is there time given to how long a Buddha has to spend practicing perfections to become a Buddha? Is this just the time passed once a being has taken the Boddhisatva vow?
    – Ryan
    Jul 3, 2015 at 11:44
  • Yes, usually it is the time passed since the time the Bodhisatta gets confirmation from another Buddha. But he aspires to be a Buddha way before that. Jul 3, 2015 at 12:06

Haha yep!

Robert is fundamentally ignorant (does not know his True Nature) and unintentionally stirred up his volition aggregate.

It is said that transforming this aggregate is the work of a bodhisattva and Buddha and this work comes much after transforming form, sensation, conception skandhas which includes the totality of ones body, chakras, emotions, poisons, and attachments to thought.

Robert reincarnates because of the latter part of the chain and creates endless seeds in the process--seeds which he desires to try to satisfy, there by producing more seeds--making himself trapped in the latter stages of the nidanas.

The Twelve Nidana wikipedia entry is explanatory but for a thorough, friendly discussion of the skandhas as a measurement system in parallel the process of becoming, see "How to Measure" by Bill Bodri.

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