Dependent arising or dependent CO-arising? [on the translation]

Hi all, :slightly_smiling_face: another topic on a minor translation matter,

Paṭiccasamuppādaṃ is most often translated as ‘dependent arising/origination’. But it is also translated as ‘dependent CO-arising’, more and more often nowadays, it seems. But I dont’ think there is there any justification for the latter.

First, I think everybody will agree ‘co-arising’ is stylistically not preferable. My dictionary does not mention the word either, and if you google just the word ‘coarising’ only articles on dependent arising come up. So it’s an artificial term. Still, sometimes there are good reasons to put style aside and introduce neologisms. When is a matter of preference, but at least there would have to be some reasons.

But this is not the case here. The prefix saṃ in samuppāda is just a “repetition”, a redundancy for the following prefix up (=ud). As the PTS Pali-English Dictionary says under saṃ: “Very often merely pleonastic, esp. in comb[inatio]n with other prefixes.” Therefore, under samuppajjati it simply has, “to arise, to be produced”. To give some examples in a daily-life context:

  • SN3.25 mentions the arising (samuppanne) of a great peril, namely a mountain that crushes everything;
  • AN8.54 speaks of wealth that has arisen (samuppannānaṁ);
  • Thag1.30 speaks of the arising (samuppanno) of sickness;
  • Iti43 uses ‘arisen’ (samuppannaṃ) as a synonym for ‘born’ (jātaṃ) and ‘came to be’ (bhūtaṃ).

Now, no-one would speak of a “coarising” of wealth and sickness, of course. And neither does there seem to be any justification to speak of a “coarising of death”, say, in context of Dependent Arising.

Samupajjati is just a synonym for upajjati, including in the context of Dependent Arising. Upajjati is regularly used in this context, even in the description of the underlying logical principle itself—imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati, “This arises, because that arises.” There is of course also no such thing as “co-cessation”.

Therefore, the translation ‘dependent co-arising’ implies more than the original Pali, and I would even be tempted to say it is just wrong.

Many might not care about these minor details, but such translations I think can be problematic because they complicate even further a topic that, in my opinion, often gets overly complicated already.

Any thoughts, comments? :upside_down_face:

With metta,


:grimacing: Together with (in relation to) your post, I disagree. :smile:

Together with when illness arose in me in the past,
“Ābādhe me samuppanne,
mindfulness co-arose in me.
sati me udapajjatha;
Now I am ill once more—
Ābādho me samuppanno,
it’s time for me to be heedful [together with the arisen illness].
kālo me nappamajjitun”ti.

Thag 1.30

There I saw a huge mountain that reached the clouds. And it was coming this way, crushing all creatures.

Tatthaddasaṁ mahantaṁ pabbataṁ abbhasamaṁ sabbe pāṇe nippothento āgacchati.

So then, great king, do what you must!’

Yaṁ te, mahārāja, karaṇīyaṁ taṁ karohī’ti.

Should such a dire threat co-arise [with the mountain crushing all creatures] —a terrible loss of human life, when human birth is so rare—what would you do?”

Evarūpe te, mahārāja, mahati mahabbhaye samuppanne dāruṇe manussakkhaye dullabhe manussatte kimassa karaṇīyan”ti?

SN 3.25

“What’s born, produced, and co-arisen,
“Jātaṁ bhūtaṁ samuppannaṁ,
made, conditioned, not lasting,
kataṁ saṅkhatamaddhuvaṁ;
wrapped [together] in old age and death,

Iti 43

But a gentleman, knowing his income and expenditure, leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, thinking, ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditure, not the reverse.’

Yato ca khoyaṁ, byagghapajja, kulaputto āyañca bhogānaṁ viditvā, vayañca bhogānaṁ viditvā, samaṁ jīvikaṁ kappeti nāccogāḷhaṁ nātihīnaṁ: ‘evaṁ me āyo vayaṁ pariyādāya ṭhassati, na ca me vayo āyaṁ pariyādāya ṭhassatī’ti.

This is called accomplishment in balanced finances.

Ayaṁ vuccati, byagghapajja, samajīvitā.

There are four drains on wealth that has been gathered in this way [together with/using accomplishment in balanced finances].

Evaṁ samuppannānaṁ, byagghapajja, bhogānaṁ cattāri apāyamukhāni honti—

AN 8.54


Well they would if the two arose together and at the same time, especially if they arose from the same cause.

If the relationship is not one of sharing the same cause I totally agree with

So I think the translation decision needs to be made on a case by case basis, carefully considered.


For once I agree with you @Sunyo ! and I think @CurlyCarl does a brilliant job of showing how awful and clunky and bordering on unintelligible it is to go the other way.


Its not clunky when the reading comprehension is holistic. To me, its important because there are often the same Pali words with different prefixes, such as:

“With the ending of relish for rebirth,
the finishing of perception and consciousness,
and the cessation and stilling of feelings:
Vedanānaṁ nirodhā upasamā,

SN 1.2

As previously discussed on this forum, which Bhikkhu Sujato seemed to agree with, the Brahmins held consciousness to be the Permanent Self; not inherently related to the other aggregates. Thus, above, in SN 1.2, the Buddha is saying to the Deity that perception & consciousness are “co-joined” (per MN 43) therefore must cease “together”. “Sam” means something is arising or ceasing “together” with something else.

In summary, even though my translations used many words, in reality, the only word necessary is “co-arise”. Thus when “co-arise” is used, it is understood it “co-arises” with something else, such as the wealth in AN 8.54 that has co-arisen with the various accomplishments in balanced finances.

In SN 1.2 above, I guess there is nothing to render the words to exactly mean “ending” & 'finishing" as Bhikkhu Sujato has translated. I guess Bhikkhu Sujato has arbitrarily chosen two different words with a similar meaning merely for the sake of the existence of two similar but different Pali words.

In Pali, ‘pari’ I think means ‘complete’ or ‘all-round’ and ‘sam’ means ‘co’.

Therefore, in SN 1.2 above:

  • ‘Nandībhava’ is one thing with two aspects.; thus ‘pari’ is used as the prefix to ‘khaya’. Thus ‘parikhaya’ may mean ‘total destruction’.

  • ‘Consciousness’ & ‘perception’ are two different things, yet co-joined in their arising; thus ‘sam’ is used as the prefix to ‘khaya’. Thus ‘samkhaya’ may mean ‘joint destruction’.

For me, this is the fun interesting dynamic Pali method. :dizzy:


It’s certainly true that sometimes Pali prefixes don’t seem to give any additional meaning to the base word. Pali doesn’t always work like that.
Two words that come to mind are upakilesa and sambuddho/sambodhi.

I don’t know if this is the case for samuppada or not.

But I don’t think the issue should be decided by an English language stylistic perspective, rather by what the word implies in Pali.


Choong Mun-keat translates the two terms, paṭicca-samuppāda as ‘arising by causal condition’, and paṭicca-samuppannā dhammā as ‘dhammas/dharmas (phenomena) arisen by causal condition’ (p. 150 in Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism). It seems no one translates the similar way!

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I think “co-arising” makes sense in relation to the mutual dependence of vinnana and nama-rupa described in some DO suttas.
Apart from that it doesn’t make sense in DO, where generally one nidana arises or ceases in dependence upon another.


I think the core issue here depends on how you understand “imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati”. Is it “This arises, because that arises” OR “When this is, This is”.

I understand it as the latter. That is to say “when ignorance is suffering is” because the twelve links are explanotory of the principle which is “imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati” - “When this is, This is”

If you agree with this, then I do not see any reason why “Co-arising” although it is a made-up-word, cannot be used because it is exactly what the twelve links of Dependent Originations means.
With Metta

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You bring up an important question of interpretation, how one should understand the meaning.

But isn’t this different from the linguistic question the Venerable is asking? Whether the prefix should be assigned significance based on the way Pali works rather than an interpretation of the meaning?

For as you quoted the Venerable, in ‘imassuppādā idam uppajjati’, we don’t have the ‘sam’ prefix.
But we could have without changing the meaning.

We wouldn’t translate this, ‘from this co-arising, this co-arises’.

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“When this is, that is” still means that the second thing is dependent on the first. It’s not a two-way dependence, except in the case of nama-rupa and vinnana in some suttas.


What is important is the context. I think most translators fail there.

Is it really? The way you put it, ignorance can still remain when sankhara have ceased. Please correct me if I am wrong.
With Metta

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Would you then, as a translator, make a silent amendment to the imassa quote just above, and translate ‘co-arise’ for uppajjati?

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I think it is not necessary because “When this arises, this arises” is sufficient.
With Metta


But if we translate quite literally,
‘From the arising of this, this arises’, a gray area of temporality occurs.

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True. But it ignores the coexistence of the two.
With Metta

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“When ignorance is present, so are sankharas… When ignorance isn’t present, neither are sankharas”.

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That is how I understand it too.
With Metta

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I agree with the others here that co-arising is appropriate and makes plenty of sense, particularly in the context of paṭiccasamuppāda.

While CurlyCarl’s translation renditions might not sound very pleasing and be unnecessary in those specific instances, and we may opt to translate it as merely “arising” in those cases for the sake of English, that doesn’t mean that co-arising is inaccurate (as they tried to demonstrate).

Also, even if the sam- prefix can be redundant in some cases, that doesn’t mean that in other cases it isn’t meaningful. The Buddha was quite apt at playing with words and coming up with all kinds of innovative etymologies for the terminology he used. We also see in the formula for paṭiccsamuppāda the use of the word ‘uppada’ (“imassuppada idam uppajjati.”) So it’s specifically using a the noun ‘uppada’ without sam there, and yet it’s called paṭiccasamuppāda, referencing to the fact that those two arsings (uppada/uppajjati) occur together; that is, they co-arise.

I think this is essential for understanding paṭiccasamuppāda not as a chain of cause and effect or a succession or events, but rather as exactly what it says: things co-arising in dependency. bhava co-arises with upādāna dependent on it; upādāna co-arises with taṇhā dependent upon that. So with avijjā, the entire structure is in place, and with the cessation of avijjā, the entire structure collpases (into reverse order, paṭiloma). I don’t think there’s a better word to explain this than ‘dependent co-arising’ itself, and if the translation is literally the most accurate and succincnt way of describing the thing it refers to, that’s a good translation.


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