Early meanings of dependent-origination

Eviatar Shulman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Dependent-origination, possibly the most fundamental Buddhist philosophical principle, is generally understood as a description of all that exists. Mental as well as physical phenomena are believed to come into being only in relation to, and conditioned by, other phenomena. This paper argues that such an understanding of pratītya-samutpāda is mistaken with regard to the earlier meanings of the concept. Rather than relating to all that exists, dependent-origination related originally only to processes of mental conditioning. It was an analysis of the self, not of reality, embedded in the Upaniṡadic search for the ātman. The teaching also possessed important ontological implications regarding the nature of the relation between consciousness and reality. These implications suggest that rather than things being conditioned by other things, they are actually conditioned by consciousness.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Indian Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Causality
  • Conditionality
  • Dependent-origination
  • Early Buddhism
  • Paṫ iccasamuppāda
  • Pratītya-samutpād


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