The 3 Methods of Teaching on Cause and Effect

There are 3 methods of teaching on cause and effect, namely:

  1. Noble Truths method,
  2. Dependent Origination method and
  3. Conditional Relations method.
1. Noble Truths Method
Here craving, Origin Truth,is the cause and Suffering Truth is the effect.

Thus, if there is the cause - the delight in the five aggregates which is craving - Origin Truth, then the effect, Suffering Truth - which consists of all kinds of suffering - will take place.

When viewed with the eye of Truth Knowledge (sacca-ñāṇa) and Insight Knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa), all the aggregates in the 3 planes of existence are all suffering.

The common worldling cannot lay down this burden of suffering, so all kinds of peril and suffering have to be endured. Only when this burden of suffering is completely laid down will there be freedom from all peril and suffering and true happiness thereby attained.

Again, the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of Right Understanding and the rest, is Path Truth. This is the cause of release or deliverance, Nibbāna, Cessation Truth, which is the effect.

Since there are different kinds of cessation, that which is Cessation Truth needs to be explained.

The cessation of craving is due to:
  1. its arising on acount of conditions and then ceasing. This is known as cessation after arising (uppanna nirodha);
  2. its non-arising because the conditions for its arising are absent. This is known as cessation without arising (anuppanna-nirodha).
Of the latter, there are 5 types, namely:
  1. Cessation by the Opposite (tadaṅga-nirodha). Craving does not arise at the moment when great wholesome consciousness arises;
  2. Cessation by Repression (vikkhambhana-nirodha). Craving ceases for some time when lofty wholesome consciousness arises;
  3. Cessation by Destruction (samuccheda-nirodha). Craving is eradicated when Path-consciousness arises;
  4. Cessation by Tranquillisation (paṭippassaddhi-nirodha). Craving which, after eradication, ceases forever when Fruition-consciousness arises;
  5. Cessation by Deliverance (nissaraṇa-nirodha). This is Nibbāna.
The third and fourth types bring about final cessation of craving so that it does not arise again. They are not like the fifth type which is permanent deliverance from craving. This is Nibbāna, Cessation Truth.

This explains the Noble Truths methos of teaching on cause and effect.

2. Dependent Origination Method
Dependent Origination is the teaching about all that happens in one existence. Therefore, it teaches about:
  1. the causes for coming into this present existence. These are ignorance and formations of past existences;
  2. the causes for the change to another existence. This is kamm-becoming which brings about birth, decay and death in another existence;
  3. the present existence. These are consciousness, mentality-materiality, six bases, contact, feeling, craving and attachment.
Just as the taste of the water in the ocean can be known by tasting a drop of water in it, so also, what happens in each and every existence can be known when everything that happens in one existence is known.

In this Dependent Origination, the primary cause of the round of rebirths is ignorance. And so the causes and effects are here expounded in this manner: Ignorance is the cause and formations are the effect and so on.

3. Conditional Relations Method
In the Conditional Relations method all the states are treated with reference to 24 conditions to show how the cuases and their effects are related. Here it is expounded that such-and-such a state, as cause, is related to such-and-such a state, as effect, by such-and-such a conditoining force.

Note. The cause and effect expounded in these three methods of teaching must be considered separately, each in its own way. If they are taken together an any inter-relation between them is sought there will be doubt and perplexity. This is illustrated by the following examples:
  1. Take the cuase of feeling and craving. In the Noble Truths method, craving, Origin Truth, is the cause, and feeling, as Suffering Truth, is the effect. But in the Dependent Origination method, feeling is the cause and craving is the effect;
  2. Take the case of visible object and craving. In the Conditional Relations method when there is craving for visible object, visible object, the conditioning state of object condition, is the cause, and craving, the conditioned state, is the effect. But in the Noble Truth method, craving, Origin Truth, is the cause, and visible object, Suffering Truth, is the effect.
Thus the 3 methods of teaching must be understood so as to be clear as to which method is applicable in any particular case of cause and effect.