Cessation and dependent arising

I take the Noble Truths to hold that breaking the cycle of dependent arising requires an alteration to the chain otherwise the cycle continues. Often this alteration is defined as a cessation. Namely, the cessation of tanha.

Now this is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.
It’s the fading away and cessation of that very same craving with nothing left over; giving it away, letting it go, releasing it, and not clinging to it.
SN 56.11

In my relatively short time in this discussion forum I’ve noted many debates revolve around cessation and the path to liberation. Debates about whether the path is all about giving up and complete cessation with no positive locus or if there is some positive locus. I don’t wish to recount those debates here as I cannot even claim to have understood them. Rather, I wanted to point out a curiosity I noted that none of those discussions - from what I could tell - brought up the first link in the chain of dependent arising.

The first link in the chain of dependent arising is ignorance. This is the first link for a reason as it is the root of the chain. Ignorance is literally a lack of knowledge. It is my understanding that the only way to even budge the chain of dependent arising is then not with a cessation, but with an addition: knowledge.

Further, I take it that the only way to utterly break the chain of dependent arising is with the fulsome addition of that which is lacking. Such a fulsome addition can only be understood as wisdom. I bring this up as food for thought, but hopeful it might spur some reflections on the topic of cessations and dependent arising. :pray:

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I have had similar thoughts as well!

Does the breaking of dependent arising happen once craving is completely abandoned, and is the development of the path focused on the abandonment of craving?

Or,

Does the breaking of dependent arising happen once ignorance is completely abandoned, and is the development of the path focused on the abandonment of ignorance?

My current understanding is something like this:

The path is focused on the abandoning of craving. By doing this, one (gradually) learns that when craving is abandoned suffering is abandoned. This knowledge weakens ignorance. At the culminating moments of breakthroughs to one of the four stages of enlightenment, craving (at least of the respective fetters of that stage) is completely abandoned. This leads to a complete abandonment of that associated stress. The witnessing of this is such a profound moment that ignorance about the 4 Noble Truths for that particular stress/craving is destroyed and that lesson can never again be forgotten. In summary, one breaks craving, and immediately thereafter ignorance is broken.

Notice I have left unanswered whether or not this complete abandonment of craving leads to direct knowledge/witnessing of a positive locus remaining.

Hooray, then I’m not alone! :wink:

“Mendicants, I will teach you dependent origination.
Listen and apply your mind well, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied.
The Buddha said this:

“And what is dependent origination?
Ignorance is a condition for choices.

When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease.
When choices cease, consciousness ceases.
SN 12.1

Confirms that ignorance is the first link in the chain and it is also the first that ceases or breaks. What is ignorance?

And what is ignorance?
Not knowing about suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.
This is called ignorance.
SN 12.2

Ignorance of the four Noble Truths specifically is given as the definition. What is the first thing the Buddha taught to his disciples? The Four Noble truths to relieve them of their ignorance.

“And what’s the wrong practice?
Ignorance is a condition for choices.
Choices are a condition for consciousness. …
That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.
This is called the wrong practice.

And what’s the right practice?
When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease.
When choices cease, consciousness ceases. …
That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.
This is called the right practice.”
SN 12.3

Confirming again ignorance as the root of the chain and the first thing that breaks in the chain.

And so, when ignorance ceases, choices cease.
When choices cease, consciousness ceases. …
That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.
‘Cessation, cessation.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in Vipassī, the one intent on awakening, regarding teachings not learned before from another.”
SN 12.4

This time with emphasis on the cessation of ignorance. But again ignorance is literally a lack of knowledge. So for ignorance to cease a positive addition must be made: knowledge.

The rest of the chapter on the Buddhas is similar. :pray:

Venerable Yeshe. If book knowledge of Buddhism does not cause the cessation of craving, I think the chain will not budge. I think the chain can only budge with the cessation of craving. I can gain knowledge from a Youtube video about how to fell a coconut tree (which I recently did). However, the coconut tree will not budge until it starts to fall. Knowledge must result in cessation. If knowledge (such as reading sutta) does not result in cessation, the chain will not budge.

Ah, this is a good point! Nevertheless, without the knowledge of how to go about felling the coconut tree you will not be able to accomplish the task. It is the knowledge which will come first. To your point that knowledge not acted upon cannot accomplish the task; this is well stated by you. However, I would note that knowledge is not always acted upon right away especially when it is corrupted or incorrectly understood. One could say that knowledge incorrectly understood does not support direct accomplishment of the task. :pray:

Yes, I agree, but I had the addition.

To be ignorant is to not know about 4NTs. But what does it mean to know the 4NTs? I think in order to deeply know them to the core one has to witness firsthand how when craving is absent suffering completely ceases.

There is a reason, I believe, why the second noble truth singles out craving specifically.

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Thank you for this. I misunderstood your earlier post with emphasis on the gradual learning and then the flash of insight at the end after following the path. One might even say that the links in the chain are co-dependent! :pray:

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From “A NOTE ON PAṬICCASAMUPPĀDA” by Ven. Nanavira:

  1. The faculty of self-observation or reflexion is inherent in the structure of our experience. Some degree of reflexion is almost never entirely absent in our waking life, and in the practice of mindfulness it is deliberately cultivated. To describe it simply, we may say that one part of our experience is immediately concerned with the world as its object, while at the same time another part of our experience is concerned with the immediate experience as its object. This second part we may call reflexive experience. (Reflexion is discussed in greater detail in Shorter Notes & FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.) It will be clear that when there is avijjā there is avijjā in both parts of our experience, the immediate and the reflexive; for though, in reflexion, experience is divided within itself, it is still one single, even if complex, structure. The effect of this may be seen from the Sabbāsavasutta (Majjhima i,2 <M.i,8>) wherein certain wrong views are spoken of. Three of them are: Attanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti; Attanā va anattānam sañjānāmī ti; and Anattanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti. (‘With self I perceive self; With self I perceive not-self; With not-self I perceive self.’) A man with avijjā, practising reflexion, may identify ‘self’ with both reflexive and immediate experience, or with reflexive experience alone, or with immediate experience alone. He does not conclude that neither is ‘self’, and the reason is clear: it is not possible to get outside avijjā by means of reflexion alone; for however much a man may ‘step back’ from himself to observe himself he cannot help taking avijjā with him. There is just as much avijjā in the self-observer as there is in the self-observed. (See CETANĀ [b].) And this is the very reason why avijjā is so stable in spite of its being sankhatā.[m] Simply by reflexion the puthujjana can never observe avijjā and at the same time recognize it as avijjā; for in reflexion avijjā is the Judge as well as the Accused, and the verdict is always ‘Not Guilty’. In order to put an end to avijjā, which is a matter of recognizing avijjā as avijjā, it is necessary to accept on trust from the Buddha a Teaching that contradicts the direct evidence of the puthujjana’s reflexion. This is why the Dhamma is patisotagāmī (Majjhima iii,6 <M.i,168>), or ‘going against the stream’. The Dhamma gives the puthujjana the outside view of avijjā, which is inherently unobtainable for him by unaided reflexion (in the ariyasāvaka this view has, as it were, ‘taken’ like a graft, and is perpetually available). Thus it will be seen that avijjā in reflexive experience (actual or potential) is the condition for avijjā in immediate experience. It is possible, also, to take a second step back and reflect upon reflexion; but there is still avijjā in this self-observation of self-observation, and we have a third layer of avijjā protecting the first two. And there is no reason in theory why we should stop here; but however far we go we shall not get beyond avijjā.

    Avijjā is non-knowledge of the four noble truths. Sammāditthi is knowledge of the four noble truths. But sammāditthi is part of the four noble truths. Thus avijjā is non-knowledge of sammāditthi ; that is to say, non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. But since sammāditthi , which is knowledge of the four noble truths, is part of the four noble truths, so avijjā is non-knowledge of knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. And so we can go on indefinitely. But the point to be noted is that each of these successive stages represents an additional layer of (potentially) reflexive avijjā . Non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths is non-knowledge of vijjā , and non-knowledge of vijjā is failure to recognize avijjā as avijjā . Conversely, it is evident that when avijjā is once recognized anywhere in this structure it must vanish everywhere; for knowledge of the four noble truths entails knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths, and vijjā (‘science’) replaces avijjā (‘nescience’) throughout.[n]

I think one of the most important questions are ‘How to know for myself that there is certainly cannot not be avijja in regard to my presently enduring experience?’ and ‘Where is my avijja right here and now in my present experience?’ - in other words: ‘How to recognize the presence of avijja and how to find avijja itself in myself for myself?’

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Namo Buddhaya!

Here an excerpt from the Canki Sutta abbreviated

"If a person likes something… holds an unbroken tradition… has something reasoned through analogy… has something he agrees to, having pondered views, his statement, ‘This is what I agree to, having pondered views,’ safeguards the truth. But he doesn’t yet come to the definite conclusion that ‘Only this is true; anything else is worthless.’ To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

“Yes, Master Gotama, to this extent there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. We regard this as the safeguarding of the truth. But to what extent is there an awakening to the truth? To what extent does one awaken to the truth? We ask Master Gotama about awakening to the truth.”

"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder’s son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion […]

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.

"To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. I describe this as an awakening to the truth. But it is not yet the final attainment of the truth.

“Yes, Master Gotama, to this extent there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. We regard this as an awakening to the truth. But to what extent is there the final attainment of the truth? To what extent does one finally attain the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the final attainment of the truth.”

“The cultivation, development, & pursuit of those very same qualities: to this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the final attainment of the truth. To this extent one finally attains the truth. I describe this as the final attainment of the truth.” Canki Sutta: With Canki

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See e.g. AN 10.61:

“I say, bhikkhus, that ignorance has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for ignorance? It should be said: the five hindrances. The five hindrances, too, I say, have a nutriment; …
[…]
“I say, bhikkhus, that (1) true knowledge and liberation have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for true knowledge and liberation? It should be said: (2) the seven factors of enlightenment. […]

You could say you are starving ignorance, or feeding ‘true knowledge and liberation’.

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Venerable. I recall your original post was on the subject of making the chain “budge”.

Yes, and I still believe that is the case. It is with the glimmer of wisdom upon hearing the 4NTs for the first time that the chain is budged, right? It does not break, but it shudders. When the Buddha arose from his night of enlightenment and spoke to his five previous companions and declared the 4NTs for the first time, he turned the Wheel of Dhamma and depending on this ignorance was shaken in the dependent arisings of those five disciples. The chain of dependent arisings of those disciples budged as the noble truths were revealed to the world, right? In the words of dependent arising: depending upon the lessening of ignorance, the lessening of unskillful choices arises …

Just as @Soren has said and others have attested - for most of us at least - it is a gradual process of ignorance dissipating, choices slackening, … craving lessening, etc as these are codependent links. Wisdom comes to replace ignorance, skillful choices replace unskillful choices, etc and the path is traveled.

That said, I wonder what is like for solitary realizers? I wonder how knowledge of the 4NTs arises in them especially given @Sasha_A’s answer? :pray:

Gautama, even though he had no knowledge of 4NT, nevertheless had unshakable unwarranted beliefs that were close enough to the truth, and his actions were in alignment with N8P. There is simply no other way.

This is a repost of my own work on another post in this forum:

The common wheel we see is the ‘negative wheel of dependent origination’. At the heart is ‘with this, comes that, or when this is, that is also’.

With ignorance as root,
We come to give rise to mental fabrications (sometimes mistaking map for territory, finger for moon, or the name of a thing for the thing in itself).
This is enabled by consciousness (aliveness).
Aliveness enables/is name and form.
Name and form comes with the sixth sense spheres (mind being one that is tended to or not - 'mindfulness is the path to the Deathless…).
Contact of the myriad elements and aggregate factors enabling aliveness gives rise to the prior senses. With this come sensing and feeling born of contact.
Because of such there is sensing through the five sense gateways with the 6th (mind) not yet cultivated.
With the sense gateways comes the capacity for craving(and notice how these links may not be linear).
With craving comes clinging to that which one craves.
Thus with habitual compulsion of craving and clinging is becoming. With becoming comes birth, aging, and death.

Now one has gone full circle. Now for the positive side.

Through birth, aging and death as well as inspecting this process: one arrives at knowledge of the cycles of birth and death as well as the nature of suffering. This leads to the fruition of wisdom. One now sees thoughts as thoughts or fabrications as fabrications: having awakened, one utilises such to convey the path to other living beings as Siddhartha and the Noble Ones have done. This arises because of consciousness I.e. the fact of aliveness. One now sees the function of name and form from a position of wisdom, knowing/gnosis. The five sense gateways serve as a means to cultivate wisdom and discern wisdom. The contact of such has given rise to the capacity to make sense, I.e. the 6th sense (mind). Contact of prior aggregates and senses enables us to make sense through and of sensing/feeling. With such comes the capacity to let go to that which is unhelpful or gives rise to further pain, stress, dissatisfaction and suffering. With this comes neither clinging nor aversion. Witn this there is total freedom: to be or not to be, that is the answer. Birth, old age, sickness and death is seen for what it is and now one apprehends the Deathless.

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Shakyamuni stated in another sutta that he became a bodhisattva destined for full awakening in a past life by making an especially auspicious resolution in the company of a Buddha of a past aeon. It is inconceivable that he did not hear about the 4NT from that past Buddha. Similarly, I question the supposition that it is possible some solitary realizer discovered the 4NT and the Dhamma independent of ever hearing about it or learning/familiarizing themself with it in some inscrutable past life in the company of a fully awakened one. :pray:

There is one problem here:
MN9:

Not knowing about suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance. Ignorance originates from defilement. Ignorance ceases when defilement ceases. The practice that leads to the cessation of ignorance is simply this noble eightfold path…

But what is defilement? What is its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation? There are these three defilements. The defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. Defilement originates from ignorance. Defilement ceases when ignorance ceases. The practice that leads to the cessation of defilement is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.

In other words, as long as ignorance exists, it will continue to perpetuate itself. The only way out of this vicious circle is through sadha, through trust - by receiving the right views as knowledge from someone else and following that knowledge as truth, even if it is not seen as truth by you while you are still an ordinary person and not an arya. And here is another problem: the presence of correct theoretical knowledge does not mean that there is no ignorance until the truth of that knowledge is realised for oneself as factual truth - until there is factual experience of the elimination of ignorance, at least until one enters the stream.

The experience of an ordinary person is permeated with ignorance from top to bottom.

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Gotama had no knowledge of 4NT before his awakening, even though such knowledge may have been available in past lives.

And it doesn’t matter what happened in past lives, because the past cannot be changed, and the only time when changes and choices are possible is now - actions are being created right now, and only now is there a possibility of doing skilful actions and not doing unskilful actions.

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This is incoherent, if the only way to be freed from ignorance is by hearing from someone else, then there is an infinite regress, as that someone else must in turn have heard from someone else and so on, sans a first mover who somehow starts without ignorance to begin with there is no way this can work.

This reads as though consciousness is the cause for mental fabrications instead of mental fabrications is the cause for consciousness.

This reads as though consciousness is a life-force instead of six sense awareness operating through six sense organs.

The suttas I read say birth, old age, sickness and death cease. How can there be Deathless realisation if death does not cease? Deathless is an absence of death instead of seeing death for what it is.

Venerable Yeshe. The suttas I read (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta & others) say Shakyamuni awakened to things never heard before. It cannot be Shakyamuni came into the world with Right View. If Shakyamuni had Right View, why did he do the arduous search?

MN43:

“There are two conditions for the arising of right view: the words of another and rational application of mind. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.”

The main point here is that the right (to a some degree} view have to be present first either in a form of personal believes of whatever origin, like in the case of buddhas, or become known from other. Because the right view is in direct contradiction with factual experience of beings - the 4NT are not a factual truth for an ordinary person, for the ordinary person the whole his or her experience is inherently appropriated and personal.

The rarity of such beliefs arising in a person and then being followed uncompromisingly to awakening is why Buddhas are so rare.

Greed, aversion, delusion, hatred, cruelty, lying, stealing, and so on, are so natural because they are all absolutely reasonable and logical ways of solving the problem of suffering for an ordinary person and his factual understanding of his personal situation: the factual understanding of the problem of suffering, the cause of the problem, and the way to eliminate that problem.

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