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Conditionality (Idappaccayatā) vs Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda): What’s What and Why It Matters

When I first began studying Dependent Origination, it was not clear to me where DO (paṭiccasamuppāda) ended and Conditionality (idappaccayatā) began.

Today it’s a little more clear; here’s what I think, and why I think it matters:

Conditionality (idappaccayatā) is the way the world is.

All phenomena are dependent on (conditioned by) other phenomena.

The phenomenon that I am writing in English is conditioned by the phenomenon that England was the dominant political presence in this part of North America when the USA was founded.

All of what is, as far as I understand, has this same conditional nature.*

Dependent Origination (paṭiccasamuppāda) is the personal, psychological expression of this Conditional nature of the world.

Dependent Origination, the twelve** nidanas, is how this conditionality plays out in our personal psychologies.

Light rays bouncing off a pack of Oreos strike my retina. My brain registers these as delicious sugary treats. I crave said treats. I buy said treats. I eat said treats. I further cement sugar addiction in my behavioral patterning.

Dependent Origination is an example of Conditionality.

Why does it matter which is which?

The terrain of living well is vast and tangled. It helps to have one (or several) maps to navigate.

The map of Conditionality is concerned with the history, the background, the system in which my organism is manifesting its skillful and unskillful behavior.

The map of Dependent Origination is concerned with how my organism is responding to any particular stimulus it encounters. Maybe habitually or maybe in this particular instance.

Both maps are useful. If I want to eat less Oreos, it helps to understand both:

  • Dependent Origination: how to work with the craving that arises when I see that delicious little black and white sandwich and,
  • Conditionality: that it would be wise not to keep Oreos around the house on the regular.

* Maybe this falls apart in quantum theory. Not sure.
** Twelve or ten or eight or six or however many nidanas you like.

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