The Buddhist Philosophy of Relations
By Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw, Aggamahapandita, D.Litt.
Translated into English by Sayadaw U Nyana, Patamagyaw of Masoeyein Monastery Mandalay
The meaning of the term 'Patthana' is to be known by "Padhanam thanam ti Patthanam": Patthana is the pre-eminent or principal cause. In this definition 'Padhana' means 'pre-eminent' and the word 'thana' means 'condition' or 'cause'. Hence the whole expression means the "pre-eminent cause", "the actual cause" or "the ineluctable cause". This is said having reference to its ineluctable effect or result. There are two kinds of effect, namely the direct and the indirect. By "the direct" is meant the primary or actual effect, and by "the indirect" is meant the consequent or incidental effect. Of these two kinds, only the direct effect is here referred to as ineluctable, and for this reason: that it never fails to arise when its proper cause is established or brought into play. And the indirect effect is to be understood as "eluctable", since it may or may not arise even though its cause is fully established. Thus the ineluctable cause is so named with reference to the ineluctable effect. Hence the ineluctable or principal cause alone is meant to be expounded in this "Great Treatise". For this reason the name 'Patthana' is assigned to the entire collection of the twenty-four relations, and also to the "Great Treatise".
And now, to make the matter more clear and simple:
Say that greed springs into being within a man who desires to get money and grain. Under the influence of greed, he goes to a forest where he clears a piece of land and establishes fields, yards and gardens, and starts to work very hard. Eventually he obtains plenty of money and grain by reason of his strenuous labours. So he takes his gains, looks after his family, and performs many virtuous deeds, from which also he will reap rewards in his future existences, In this illustration, all the mental and material states coexisting with greed, are called direct effects. Apart from these, all the outcomes, results and rewards, which are to be enjoyed later on in his future existences, are called indirect effects. Of these two kinds of effects, only the former is dealt with in the Patthana. However, the latter kind finds its place in the Suttanta discourses. If this exists, then that happens; or, because of the occurrence of this, that also takes place. Such an exposition is called "expounding by way of Suttanta". In fact, the three states (greed, hate, and ignorance) are called the hetus or conditions, because they are the roots whence spring the defilements of the whole animate world, of the whole inanimate world and of the world of space. The three other opposite states (disinterestedness, amity, and knowledge) are also called hetus or conditions, since they are the roots whence springs purification. In the same manner the remainder of the Patthana relations are to be understood in their various senses. Thus must we understand that all things that happen, occur, take place, or produce changes, are solely the direct and indirect effects, results, outcomes, or products of these twenty-four Patthana relations or causes.
Buddhism views the world, with the exception of Nibbana and pannatti, to be impermanent, liable to suffering, and without soul-essence. So Buddhist philosophy, to elaborate the impermanency as applied to the Law of Perpetual Change, has from the outset dissolved all things, all phenomena both psychical and physical, into a continuous succession of happenings, of states (sabhava) of mind and matter, under the Fivefold Law of Cosmic Order (niyama). And the happenings are determined and determining, both as to their constituent states and as to other happenings, in a variety of ways, which Buddhist Philosophy expresses by the term 'paccaya' or 'relations.' One complex happening of mental and material states, with its three phases of time--genesis or birth, cessation or death and a static interval between--is followed by another happening, wherein there is always a causal series of relations. Nothing is casual and fortuitous. When one happening by its arising, persisting, cessation, priority, and posteriority, is determined by and determining another happening by means of producing (janaka), supporting (upathambhaka), and maintaining (anupalana), the former is called the relating thing (paccaya-dhamma), the latter the related thing (paccayuppanna-dhamma), and the determination or the influence or the specific function is called the correlativity (paccayasatti). As the various kinds of influence are apparently known, the relations are classified into the following 24 species:
1. Hetu--condition or root
5. Samanantara--immediate contiguity
9. Upanissaya--sufficing condition
11. Pacchajata--causal relation of posteriority in time
12. Asevana--habitual recurrence
13. Kamma--kamma or action
17. Jhana--jhana or ecstacy
These 24 species of relations are extensively and fully expounded in the seventh and last of the analytical works in the Abhidhamma Pitaka of the Buddhist Canon, called the Patthana ('The Eminence'), or the Maha-Pakarana ('The Great Book').