Paticcasamupadda is the Pali word used in Theravada Buddhism for the better-known Sanskrit term Pratityasamutpada, which is used in Mahayana Buddhism in particular. An English translation for this key element of Buddhist teachings is “Dependent Origination” or “Conditional Arising”.
The teachings of Theravada and Mahayana emphasise slightly different interpretations of the meaning of this core concept of Buddhism. In Theravada Buddhism, Paticcasamupadda refers to the Twelvefold Sequence of Causation, called “Twelve Nidanas”. This is a series of causations describing the process underlying both the chain of rebirth and the arising of suffering. In reverse order they also describe the way to liberation from the circle of rebirth, which is the world of suffering. A key formulation of Paticcasamuppada is: This is, because that is; and this is not, because that is not; and this ceases to be, because that ceases to be.
The meaning of the teaching of dependent origination in Mahayana Buddhism is a more general one, namely that everything comes into existence in dependence on something else, or, in an even broader sense, of universal interdependence. This is why Nagarjuna, the most famous Mahayana philosopher, equates Pratityasamutpada with emptiness, because whatever is difined dependently, is empty. But everything is defined only by its dependencies and correlation with other things, and those other things are defined only by dependencies and correlations, too.
All interpretations of Paticcasamupadda agree in this: The character of everything that arises is defined solely by its dependencies, causes or correllations, there is no substance underlying those processes of change. In this respect, the teachings of Paticcasamupadda are intimately related to another key Buddhist concept, the teachings of Upadanakhandhas and Anatta...
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