Paṭiccasamuppāda in the Buddhacarita

The Buddhacarita is a 1st or 2nd century CE epic Sanskrit biography of the Buddha. It has 28 chapters and exists in Sanskrit (1-14), Tibetian, and Chinese. [English translations of both, the Sanskrit and Chinese are found online]

Chapter 14 contains an account of the paṭiccasamuppāda (Dependent Origination -DO) which is a welcome addition to the complex theories about the DO. (see for an introduction ‘Bucknell - Conditioned Arising Evolves’, online)

In the following I assume that the poet-monk Ashvagosha would not present an outlandish view about the DO but at least an interpretation that was fairly wide spread at his time…

As many of you know there are several versions of the DO in the suttas, most prominently the ‘full’ 12-DO, and a ‘looped’ 10-DO (where viññāṇa conditions nāmarūpa - and in turn nāmarūpa conditions viññāṇa)

The Buddhacarita combines both in chapter 14, the account of the Buddha’s enlightenment. In both extant versions, the Tibetan and Chinese, we find the following version:
When the Buddha examines the conditionality of the limbs, he arrives at the looped 10-DO. But when he reflects on how to extinguish the limbs, he arrives at the full 12-DO.

So the 10-DO would be ‘things as they are’, whereas the 12-DO would be the seriotological practice guide.

I find it both, an interesting solution and a glimpse into an understanding of the 2nd century.


Thanx Gabriel for this very interresting point.

The DN15 with the looped version hasn’t the revers DO ( as I noticed only now !) and is as it seems the dependent, say sankata, existence as a samsaric beeing:

DN 15…Ettāvatā kho, ānanda, jāyetha vā jīyetha [jiyyetha (ka.)] vā mīyetha [miyyetha (ka.)] vā cavetha vā upapajjetha vā. Ettāvatā adhivacanapatho, ettāvatā niruttipatho, ettāvatā paññattipatho, ettāvatā paññāvacaraṃ, ettāvatā vaṭṭaṃ vattati itthattaṃ paññāpanāya yadidaṃ nāmarūpaṃ saha viññāṇena aññamaññapaccayatā pavattati.

“It is to this extent, Ānanda, that one can be born, age, and die, pass away and re-arise, to this extent that there is a pathway for designation, to this extent that there is a pathway for language, to this extent that there is a pathway for description, to this extent that there is a sphere for wisdom, to this extent that the round turns for describing this state of being, that is, when there is mentality-materiality together with consciousness.