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The Buddhist Tradition: Dependent Co-Arising Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism is a timeless tradition that has its origins dating back to before the birth of Christ. Founded by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, the tradition follows basic principles such as the belief in the “Three Marks of Existence”, the “Four Noble Truths”, and the concept of dependent co-origination. The Buddha, “or enlightened one”, taught a unique form of philosophy. Within his doctrine of the “Four Noble Truths”, Buddha proclaimed that suffering could be stopped because all things that cause it are dependent of one another. He essentially believed that life was a series of events that were all conditioned by certain factors. This theory of dependent co-origination is one of the staple elements of Buddhism’s history, concept of “dharma”, and the religion’s understanding of the surrounding world.

At an early age, the Buddha led the life of an ascetic. He devoutly searched the world to find an enlightened truth or “nirvana”. The Buddha promoted his answer to enlightenment, or “the middle way”, after he reached a state of nirvana. The concept rejected both extremes of the sacrifice of the body from nutrition, and of living heartily without sacrifice as paths toward a state of nirvana. Buddha had many disciples and accumulated many followers up until his death around 483 BC. After the his death, a council of monks gathered and collected his teachings and the oral traditions of the faith into written form, called the Tripitaka. Because of the oral communication of the Buddha’s sermons, the Tripitaka is full of phrases such as, “The Buddha taught,” and “It is said….” From these oral communications, the concept of dependent co-origination arose.

The text suggests that Buddha explained the term dependent co-origination as a series of connected events conditioned by certain factors. The conditionally of all of these connected events in life can be both mental and physical. A thought or a physical act can manipulate a certain moment in time, which will lead life down a different path. A Buddhist concentrates on these variables and believes that they will lead him or her to an achieved ultimate enlightenment. All things, either mental or physical, arise and exist due to the presence of certain events and cease to exist once those variables also cease to exist. Consequently, these variables can question the Buddhist’s belief of the existence or non-existence of fate.

A Buddhist believes that the outcome of life is based on actions alone instead of a pre-determined destiny. Dharma, or the moral conduct or duty of a Buddhist, is the one thing that the Buddhist strongly believes shapes their ultimate path towards a state of nirvana. Buddhists believe that their lives are connected and happen according to Dharma. Dharma is a variable, which causes one to perform actions and receive the results of those actions. Dependent co-origination and dharma practiced positively constantly condition the path to prevent rebirth, or achieve nirvana. Nirvana, therefore, is the only independent state of a “higher reality” in which dependent co-origination ceases to exist.

A repeated idea within the dependent co-origination concept is that all things are constantly becoming. This means that life is constantly conditioned and ever changing. Buddhists place emphasis on what things become rather than what they are. Events that happen in the surrounding world are never structured or set in a certain way but always changing in an unstable environment. Therefore, the quote from Nhat Hanh describes Buddha’s dependent co-origination teaching that the outcome of a certain event is defined by and dependent on the outcome of previous event. Nothing can stand totally independent of any other event.

For thousands of years, Buddhism has been an established and practiced philosophy and way of life. Today, millions of people still follow the teachings of one man who claimed to have found mystical enlightenment far beyond the threshold of reality. He also succeeded in making his form of enlightenment accessible to the masses. Through the practice of the Buddha’s teachings, any devout follower is sure to walk the enlightened path. Through the concept of dependent co-origination, Buddha taught that all events are interconnected and consequential of a person’s actions. Followers that wish to understand the sufferings of the surrounding world and start on the mystical journey to a final enlightenment, or nirvana, practice the Buddha’s concept of dependent co-origination.


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