Dependent Origination better matches the 1st Noble Truth, not the 2nd

I have seen many (even well-known) people in Buddhist discourse say that “dependent origination is an extension of/equivalent to the 2nd Noble Truth”. And sometimes that the 3rd Noble Truth mirrors the second part - dependent cessation.

I was not able to find any explicit sutta support for this (can you?), and I think it is a modern extrapolation that comes from wanting to “categorize” information “under” the 4 Noble Truths, and maybe from a desire to help rationalize things for beginners. I don’t think this categorization is too useful.

However, if you wanted to somehow map it to one Noble Truth, then I think the 1st Noble Truth is better anyway, with only a 1/12th sized hint of the Second and Third.

Here’s a side by side of dependent origination and the Noble Truths:

1 avijjā | 3rd? 4th?
… | 1st?
7 vedanā | 2nd? “nandi” (except non-pleasurable feelings)
8 taṇhā | 2nd and 3rd
9 upādāna | 1st: “(>in summary<) pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā”
10 bhava
11 jāti | 1st: “jāti pi dukkhā” (“birth is also suffering”)
12 jarā | 1st: “jarā pi dukkhā”
12 maraṇaṁ | 1st: “maraṇaṁ pi dukkhaṁ”
12 sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā | 1st: “soka… pi dukkhā”

Arguably, 4. nāmarūpa, 5. saḷāyatana, 6. phassa, 7. vedanā are mentioned in the 1st with “piya” and “icchati” - your loved ones, what you hold dear, what you want, is suffering

At least 3 of the links or explicitly 5 terms are mentioned in the First Noble Truth, compared to 1 link and 1 term for the Second Noble Truth. But, does the First NT capture the essence of dependent origination more than the second (and third)? That’s hard to say since taṇhā certainly matters, but so does avijjā, and upādāna, and jāti…, they all play a role. With the ending of vedanā, there’s the ending of taṇhā, so taṇhā isn’t a “bigger” factor in D.O. as it totally dependent on vedanā. Taṇhā takes up just 1/12th, but maybe it’s one of the more “noticeable” factors, easier to see why it’s connected with the delusions of selfishness and permanence, so it’s spotlighted in the 4 Noble Truths. Maybe the spirit of the second is “finding a cause”, similar to “dependent” origination, but in that case, I’d say avijjā is primary, especially in terms of a dedicated practice, since it is the first cause, the root, and it’s what one can directly change with mental development - with wisdom, from concentration and stillness, from virtue.

You could also see this in terms of specific conditioned realizations. Like that each Noble Truth and dependent origination are specific realizations, totaling to 5. Perhaps you would have to know what exactly is suffering (1st NT; last links) in order to know what causes it (2nd; 8th link) (or vice versa), therefore those two Noble Truths would not exclude each other in the process of realizing dependent origination.

In the end, I don’t think dependent origination should be seen as classified under or an expansion of any particular Noble Truth, but that it’s just one explanation by the Buddha of the truth. Some of his explanations end up being deeply related between each other, but it only goes as far as complex relationships in this case, just fused together, not categorized under or as. These doctrines are also fused with the ones on kamma and the ones on rebirth, for example.

P.S. just to be a little more controversial, “Nth Noble Truth” isn’t the best name scheme. They were almost always called, respectively: suffering noble truth, suffering-origin noble truth, suffering-cessation noble truth, and suffering-cessation-going-path noble truth. I found 74 results for “dukkhasamudayaṁ ariyasaccaṁ” and 2 for “dutiyaṁ ariyasaccaṁ”.

Do you disagree? Opinions welcome for me. With mettā for you all.

Is “modern” perhaps a typo for “later”?

There isn’t anything modern about mapping dependent arising onto the four truths. The practice goes back to at least the paracanonical Peṭakopadesa and Nettippakaraṇa, wherein the scheme is:

Dukkha = viññāṇa, nāmarūpa, saḷāyatana, phassa, vedanā, bhava, jāti, maraṇa.

Samudaya = avijjā, saṅkhārā, taṇhā, upādāna.

Nirodha and Magga = dependent arising against the grain:
“With the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations… &c.”

Alternatively, Magga = supramundane dependent arising:
“The purpose and benefit of wholesome virtuous behavior is non-regret … the purpose and benefit of non-regret is joy… &c.”




AN 3.61 makes sense if you think about the second and third noble truth as describing the etiology of suffering. The first truth is the disease (suffering), the second and third truths are the disease’s etiology, the fourth truth is the cure.

(etiology in medicine refers to understanding the causes that lead to a disease)

With this “medical” framework in mind, it makes sense that DO is related to the second and third noble truth because DO is a description of the causal process that leads to suffering. It’s the expanded version of the short form found in the second and third truths.

Fyi, there are plenty of medicines that we use because we know people get some benefit from them, yet we don’t understand why they work (i.e. the etiology is missing).

That’s an intriguing layout. Also, it begins to remind me of the 3 lifetime theory.

I think you had a typo and meant SN 12.1

Thank you for the medicine relation. I was thinking of some ideas like that when I said this:

The reason I didn’t fully accept that reason at first was because I was dealing with how the first and second are complexly related to each other in that the second depends on the first (by defining suffering before saying its cause). So DO could also ‘depend on’ the First in order to be matched with the Second as in the AN3.61 type explanation. In summary: this thought, “DO is more of the 1st” can come from “1st being in 2nd”, but since DO mentions 1st AND tanha, then 2nd is the best for DO (since 2nd mentions dukkha and tanha like how DO does).

For the usual description of the noble truth of the origin of suffering, to show how the links are related (besides the “spirit”), it’s like the word “an” in “uglification”, the 8th and 12th letters (I don’t think there’s a specific preposition for that relation), so I’m guessing people use the words “expansion” for that aspect and “equivalent” because of the AN3.61 definition.

I guess I don’t fully understand your reasoning here. To me, the relationship is that suffering (first truth) the thing that is to be explained and that DO is the full explanation.

Maybe you could clarify what you mean when you say their relation is complex? :slight_smile:

But like, they are related in the sense of cause and effect?

You can say ‘smoking causes cancer’ or ‘smoking causes inflammation which causes cancer’.

It’s just different levels of specificity, a choice of which variables in the causal chain you want to focus on.