Causal condition and Three Proofs of Hinayana Sutra

Update: 23/03/2022

Causal condition and Three Proofs of Hinayana Sutra


Causal condition theory is one of the most important theories which have been preached by the Buddha for 45 years. Causal conditions and Patthanapaccayo explain the nature of the flow of rebirth. When we know certainty about the spirit of Dependent Origination, we will see the nature of all beings and The four marvelous truths. Because suffering (dukkha), impermanence (annica) and no-self (anatta) are common in multiple Dharmas, each part of the Causal condition is the same kind of nature. There is a story in Maha-Nidana Sutta of Digha-Nikaya Sutta which can prove that it is not easy to understand the Dependent Origination clearly. One day, after finishing samadhi meditation, Ven. Ananda considered the Causal condition Theory and came to say to the Buddha: “It's amazing, lord, it's astounding, how deep this dependent co-arising is, and how deep its appearance, and yet to me it seems as clear as clear can be.” The Buddha said: “Don’t say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Deep is this dependent co-arising, and deep its appearance. It's because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma that this generation is like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, and bad destinations.”)


(As the explanation, the case that Ven. Ananda wanted to express to the Buddha one of the impossible actions such as touching the highest level of the Brahma world, digging a mountain with bare hand nails or cutting the earth into two pieces. Everyone has had differences in their understanding of the doctrines due to their acknowledgement, their depth of paramita and their enlightenment. While writing about Causal condition Theory in Pasadika Sutta, Buddhaghosa said that he dared to present only commentaries with the aid of ancient commentaries and dared not to teach this doctrine on the basis of his own abilities. That shows us the importance of learning Causal condition Theory. When Ven. Silananda, a Master Zen and an erudite scholar of Mianma, presented about Causal condition, he gave a comment: “If we can not understand the Dependent Origination (Paṭicca-samuppāda) properly and appropriately, it is impossible to get out of the cycle of death and rebirth. 


Causal condition is the circle of birth and death of all beings. However, the Causal condition is interpreted as a spiral instead of a circle because it should be identified three times (kāla) as past, present and future. The most common definition of Causal condition is:

 Ignorance as condition to volitional processes; volitional formations as condition, consciousness; consciousness as condition, name and form; name and form as condition, the six sense bases; the six sense bases as condition, contact; contact as condition, feeling; feeling as condition, craving; craving as condition, clinging; clinging as condition, existence; existence as condition, birth; birth as condition, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be.  We wander in the cycle of death and rebirth and our liberation is cutting off, ending and getting out of it.   


Ignorance as condition to volitional processes

It does not mean Ignorance is the first condition when saying “Ignorance as condition to volitional processes”. As the Buddha’s Dharma, there is no first condition. The Buddha just started to explain Dependent Origination from Ignorance. So, where was the Ignorance from? What caused Ignorance?  The annotation of Dhammasaṅganī and some other Sutras such as The Right View sutra point out clearly that: “Ignorance was born and also was eliminated by the defilements; the 8 ways of holy lifestyle are the ways that destroy Ignorance consist of right view (Samyagdrsti), right thought (Samyaksamkalpa), right speech (Samyagvak), right action (Samyakkarmanta), right livelihood (Samyakajiva), right effort (Samyagvyayama), right mindfulness (Sammasati), right concentration (Samyaksamadhi). So, Ignorance derived from 4 defilements consist of Lust (Kāmāsava), Greed (bhavāsava), Vagueness (diṭṭāsava) and Ignorance (avijjāsava)


 What is Ignorance? That is nescience, a state of sin that is the opposite of wisdom. As The Wonderful Dharma, the root of Ignorance is Moha cetasika which connects to 12 unkind minds consisting of 8 greedy minds, 2 angry minds, ignorant minds with doubt and ignorant minds with neglect of practice. Ignorance does not only support immorality but also the good deeds. Ignorance still exists in a good action without wisdom and makes the action gain a good result. However, the result is just a cling on to a new existence, wishing for good effect and rebirth in a good realm. Ignorance in connection with Desire of beauty, Desire of living and Desire of happy afterlife create an endless circle of birth and death. So, It is so hard to realise Ignorance. However, Ignorance is not permanent; it can be affected by the nature of birth and extinction. So, Ignorance has 3 elements consisting of suffering, impermanence and no-self. 


 It is said that Ignorance is not aware of 3 things: The four noble truths (Suffering, cause of suffering, end of suffering and enlightened path), 3 moments (past, present and future) and Causal condition Theory. Ignorance creates Good Karmas, Bad Karmas or Motionless Karmas. The life of sentient beings is a cycle of good, evil, sadness, and happiness. “Good Karmas” is the search for happiness in the good realms with the mind of goodness and the meditated mind of the realm of material. “Bad Karmas” is living with an unwholesome mind and that beings will suffer from a miserable realm. “Motionless Karmas” is attaining the Non-perception meditation levels and passing on the peaceful realm. Beings who have not yet ended the Ignorance should drift from the lowest realm (the hell) until the time they are born to the highest realm neither consciousness or unconsciousness. When blessing is over, sentient beings at the highest level still live and die; that is the potential of suffering, impermanence and no-self.


 Word “Volition” (Saṅkhāra) is a term with many different meanings, depending on the case to understand. For example “Volitions are impermanence” (sabbe Saṅkhāra aniccāti); at the moment, Volitions mean all the laws with their own nature and limits included Name and Form. In Chaotic Volition term (Saṅkhārakkhandha), the word “Volition” shows the psychological elements which are fifty mental factors except feeling, perception. In Causal condition Theory, the word “Volition” in Ignorance as condition to volitional processes (Avijjāpaccaya Saṅkhāra) means volitional formation with generation, motivation and stimulation.


Volitional formations as condition, consciousness

Consciousness is a reincarnated mind when reborn in realms. Any good or bad action we did has consequences; that is the rule of life. We can say that each person lives a life as a farmer sowing seeds in the field of life and death. Every thought of good and evil leaves a result. Karmas created by good and evil causes have two times: Present life and reincarnated life. At present life, the effects happen rightly when people are living: beautifully, uglily, luxuriously, cowardly, richly, poorly, luckily, unluckily, etc... In reincarnated life, the effects happen when we are reborn after death and take us to different realms. Reincarnation form which is controlled by own volition (cetanā) or karmas gathers energy at the end of previous life to form the rebirth at the next life.


Consciousness - Causal Condition, Name and Form

At the beginning of life, the mind of consciousness arises together with other mental factors and forms to create a being. Now, science has only discovered that there is a combination of the chromatic substances between father and mother to form an embryo at the time of conception. But the scientists could not realise that there is an existence of a spiritual element which can not be seen by naked eyes or the most advanced scientific tools but the wisdom of Bhagavan and Holy Majesties. Here, Name is the co-born mental factors and Form is a group of forms created by karmas at the reincarnated moment. Name and Form have differences due to the different realms. Consciousness is not the cause of name and form, all of them Consciousness, Name and Form initialize at the same time. Their relationship is co-born and coborn and recourse.


Name - Form - Causal Condition - The Six Entrances (Sadayatana)


The Six Entrances are The six internal sense locations and The six external sense locations. The six internal sense bases are the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. The six external senses are visible forms, sound, odor, flavors, touch & mental objects.

After being reborn, there is a being with a clear body, the six sense bases were created by Name and Form at the beginning of life. The subject of six senses is the six external locations. It causes realization and mental processes (Route of mind)


The six-sense entrances as condition, touching

The contact of eyes, sights and visual objects creates eye contact. The same thing happens to other senses. Our lives pass the confluence of three things: Sense, Realm, and Consciousness. Sometimes we look, sometimes we hear, and the collision between the skin and the external environment is almost consecutive. So when talking about contact, in the Buddha sutras, sentient beings are like a cow which was skinned by other beings and bitten by insects. Beings have senses which were invaded by worldly circumstances; Since then, contact has always been present.


Touching as condition of feeling

When the collision between Sense and Realm, Feeling appears. It is a negative or positive feeling towards the object. Sometimes, Feeling is splitted into 5 parts: suffering, happiness, sorrow, joy, equanimity. But in summary, Feeling has 3 parts or just one part due to the situation. The word “Felling” (Vedanā) means experience. The Mind of Feeling is one of the minds which is present in all minds and it is also the Feeling Skandhas of Five Skandhas. Every moment passing in life gives us experience.  Causal condition Theory shows that when senses contact gunas, Feeling shows up and leads craving.


Feeling causing love

It is easy to see that we always feel happy with good feelings and angry with bad feelings. We also want to get rid of bad feelings and catch good feelings. So, love exists in both of them. We are also attracted by the neutral feeling so that we want to cling on. Therefore, in any moment of life, craving is ready to be present. Vipassanā Bhavana or Meditating the fourfold stages of mindfulness is the journey of stopping and watching the real progress of Feeling. From there, we can escape the suffering of greed and hatred.


Love as condition of attaching

Love is just wondering when experiencing the realm; when it reaches a higher level, it becomes attached. Attaching exists when love and false notion become strong, attaching is heavy, passionate, clingy.


Attachment causing possession

There are two Exists, Karma Existence and Birth Existence. When attachment is strong enough, it will put sentient beings in the cycle of reincarnation. Volition creates consciousness, name and form in the past and Karma Existence at the present creates Birth Existence in the future. Good Karma Existence creates good Birth Existence and rebirth in a good condition. Bad Karma Existence creates bad Birth Existence and rebirth in a depraved condition.


Possession as condition of birth

The appearance of Birth Existence is birth that is the consequence of Karma Existence. The birth consists of Consciousness, Name, Form, The six sense bases, Contact and Feeling of the future life. In the future, Consciousness, Name, Form, The six-sense entrances, Touching and Feeling are the effects of Love, Attachment, Possession are the causes that create life at present.


Birth as a condition of aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be.

When a being appears, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair will show up, sooner or later.  That is an unbreakable destiny because life and samsara are full of uncertainties.


 There is non-ego or any intervention of any master through every part or chain of Causal condition Theory; that is just a process of Cause – Condition – Effect. We can see the selfless spirit element in karmic theory. Every chain can not exist long, they always live and die, transforming from state to state; That is the impermanent characteristic of Variety of Dharma.


Finally, we can see that parts of the Causal condition show a state of being motivated and transformed constantly; that is the hiddenness of suffering theory (dukkha). The commentary records that while sitting under the Bodhi tree, on the basis of concentration of the fourth jhana, the Buddha attained Celestial eye and Knowledge of life. He saw sentinel beings submerge in life and death and found the reason for it. So, by his enlightening wisdom, the Buddha reflected three characteristics consisting of suffering, impermanence and no-self on twelve elements of karmic more than a trillion times. Since, the Buddha attained supreme Buddha fruit. The first part of Big Chapter sutra in Vinaya recounted that right after being enlightened, the Buddha realised Causal condition Theory and uttered inspirational words. We can see the importance of the Theory. We can see Causal conditions in the Three Canons of Sutra, Vinaya and Abhidhamma. The part of Causal condition and the part of Patthana Paccayo are explained in great detail in the Abhidhamma. The scope of Causal condition is so great just to aim at the only purpose helping sentient beings understand the truth of the characteristics: suffering, impermanence and no-self and attaining Path, Effect, Nirvara.



Basic Buddhism, Ven. Minh Duc Trieu Tam Anh.

Dìgha Nikàya, Mahànidàna sutta, translated by Most Venerable Minh Chau.

Handbook of Abhidhamma Studies, Volume Three, U. Silananda, translated by Phap Trieu.

The Analytical Study of Dependent Origination, Dr Nandamālābhivaṁsa, translated by Phap Trieu.

Explanation of Digha Nikàya, Monk Giac Nguyen.

Buddha Abhidhamma Ultimate Science, Mehm Tin Mon, translated by Monk Giac Nguyen

Paticcasamuppàda, Mahasi Sayadaw, translated by Monk Minh Hue.

Paticca-samuppàda and Anatta, the Most Venerable Thich Chon Thien.

Mahāvagga, translated by Indacanda


Tâm Biện

Translated into English by Nguyen Khanh Hoa

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