Paticcasamuppāda: three lives model of Theravāda vs one life-model of EBT community

As many of us read paticcasamuppāda, past ignorance and kamma produced this life. Present craving (and ignorance ) will produce future life.
This makes perfectly sense, it is explained in details in Abhidhamma and commentaries.

Dvipitakin of EBT seems to admit a one -life interpretation. In one mind process you have the paticcasamuppāda according to them.
Since they admit paticcasamuppāda is the cause for suffering, then according to their model you suffer only because of your present ignorance. This would imply, when someone destroy ignorance at Arahantship his consciousness and six sense bases should vanish… He would disappear because the present cause for his present six sense base would have ceased… body and mind should disappear immediately according to their interpretation.
This makes no sense.
On the other hand, the Theravāda explanation makes perfectly sense: by destroying present ignorance you don’t create new kamma and your future six-sense bases cease. No rebirth, end of suffering.

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I agree and this is another issue, where I find myself siding with the Classical view. I agree that it makes sense.

DO includes:
The process of becoming (Bhava)
Conditioned birth (Jāti)
Decay, death, process starts over (Jarāmaraṇa)

And it makes sense that this would not just be about the present and the current life. I find the 3 life model makes sense and with that we can say the moment-to-moment too. It can be referring to the 3 life model and also the moment-to-moment.

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Modern interpretation makes no sense at all if we take “Viññāṇa paccaya namarupa” and “Namarupa paccaya salayatanam”

Those modern interpreters claimed that if we are in contact with an object, there Viññāṇa comes into contact with object and sense organ, and there we perceived “Namarupa”.
But then the problem comes, after perceiving “Namarupa”, there comes “Salayatanam” aka Six sense bases? But since six sense bases are required to make contact with sense objects, then the latter explanation is utterly not logical.

Plus, their modern interpretation is associated with wrong view: no rebirth or “punabbhava”.

The correct interpretation is the Classical Theravada version, as it adheres to Suttas and Abhidhamma.

Viññāṇa in Paṭiccasamuppāda is referring to “rebirth consciousness” aka “Patisandhi citta” (agreeable with Suttas such as Mahanidanasutta and Paṭhamabhavasutta) and there are three rounds of existence: past, present and future (agreeable to Sutta teachings of rebirth and Samsara).

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It’s interesting that the Commentary to the Paṭiccasamuppādavibhaṅga (Vibh. 6), The Analysis of Conditional Origination, mentions a one mind-moment model.
See: 01: The Conditions Tetrad

Avijjāpaccayā saṅkhāro,
With ignorance as condition there is a (volitional) process,
Footnote: The comm. explains that, unlike in the discourse teaching, here we are only dealing with single mind moments, so only a single (volitional) process is mentioned.

I just read the chapter of the commentary to Vibhanga, sammohavinodanī, trnslated by Ven Ñānamolī as " the dispeller of delusion." Nothing like that is said, so if you understand why this footnotes says like that, i would be grateful.

However, avijjā paccaya sankhārā:
Avijjā present at the time of performing akusala or kusala kamma, is the reason for the kamma force originated with cetanā at the same time. It occurs in the same consciousness and also in the same citta vīthi (mind process).
So it is true that these two links of the dependant origination are concomitant : it arise in the same consciousness.
And also, at the death time (maranasanna) the mind who takes it as object, at the next mind moment arises his patisandhi citta (rebirth linking consciousness) corresponding to it. One single citta of this kamma, concomitant with the underlying ignorance together with the cetanā of this single citta produced the rebirth consciousness (patisandhi).

It should be noted that it has nothing to do with the one life interpretation of the Dvipitakin, wich is absolutely different. Also, there is no contradictions within the Theravāda lecture between the model in Suttas, Abhidhamma and Commentaries: all have the same meaning. That is why im also confused about this footnote statement.

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Unfortunately Ānandajoti Bhikkhu does not give an exact reference. There is also a comment to the same effect in Ven Nanamoli’s translation of the Visuddhimagga. I’ll see if I can find that.

Footnote to Visuddhimagga XV11.309, page 607-608 of the PDF from Access to Insight.
Sorry about the garbled Pali due to the PDF not using unicode…

Nanamoli wrote:

In this work, for convenience because of the special importance attached here to the
aspect of the death-rebirth link, the dependent origination is considered from only
one standpoint, namely, as applicable to a period embracing a minimum of three lives.
But this is not the only application. With suitable modifications it is also used in the
Vibhaòga to describe the structure of the complex in each one of the 89 single type-
consciousnesses laid down in the Dhammasaògaóì; and Bhadantácariya Buddhaghosa
says: “This structure of conditions is present not only in (a continuity period consisting
of) multiple consciousnesses but also in each single consciousness as well” (Vibh-a
199–200). Also the Paþisambhidámagga gives five expositions, four describing
dependent origination in one life, the fifth being made to present a special inductive
generalization to extend what is observable in this life (the fact that consciousness is
always preceded by consciousness, cf. this Ch. §83f.—i.e. that it always has a past and
is inconceivable without one) back beyond birth, and (since craving and ignorance
ensure its expected continuance) on after death. There are, besides, various other,
differing applications indicated by the variant forms given in the suttas themselves.

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Thanks, that is indeed a very important point.

I always considered the Venerable Ñānamolī as a great scholar, perhaps the best Pāli to English translator. Nowadays may be only Bhikkhu Bodhi is capable to translate such complex texts treating about deep and intricated matters, with such dexterity.

Pheraps this application of paticcasamuppāda in all mind moments within life - that is, the kamma potency present in all mind process, have inspired the modern interpretation wich reject life to life process.

But the difference is that moment to moment process taken in the Theravāda lecture would not limit to one life. For exemple, if you do a kamma, the main powerful kamma force would produce a birth in future. But a small vipāka may be seen in this life.
In the same way many resultant consciousness have been produced by kamma in past life but also in this life and so on.

While the so called EBT interpretation would limit all cause and effect of paticcasamuppāda in this present life. This completely removes the nature of cause and effect fuel for samsāra.


yeah i never understood this Buddhism is only about the present life nonsense. If paranibbana is the (ultimate) end of suffering and you only suffer for this one life and buddhism is all about getting suffering in this one life. Then just kill yourself and achieve paranibbana rather than doing all the work of enlightening and freeing yourself from suffering for only the remainder of your life.


This is the only model that makes sense. Even some secular Buddhists agree with that, despite throwing the whole concept out lol! They still agree that the other models are nonsense.

Yes, Three Lifetimes

The traditional interpretation has a lot going for it. Given the material we find in the Sammadiṭṭhi and Mahānidāna Suttas, the twelve link chain is best interpreted as extending over three contiguous lifetimes, or if we are not to understand the chain as literally progressive, over more than one such lifetime. While the three lifetimes interpretation may not be explicit nor consistent in the Nikāyas, it appears at least to be reasonably implicit in the twelve link formula. And while, for example, the Mahānidāna Sutta omits three of the links in its discussion, that ends up having no particular bearing on whether it nevertheless affirms rebirth. It clearly does.

To put it another way, to interpret all twelve links in the chain as occurring solely within a single lifetime would seem to be an exercise in secular apologetics.
-Doug Smith

While I don’t agree with Mr. Smith on the rest of his opinion about dependent origination, I do concur that the three lives model is the only logical interpretation. People either understand that dependent origination is talking about rebirth between three lifetimes, or they devolve the teaching into complete and utter blathering nonsense, frequently sounding a lot like Nagarjuna. That’s what happens when you take a perfectly laid out, clear teaching, using straightforward speech, and try to twist it into something completely different.

Another misunderstanding is that people think you only need to know three lives to understand paticcasamupāda :slight_smile:
Pa-Auk usually aims for, but not limited to 5 lives in the past and then several in the future. One spends the majority of the time linking all of the causes for nāmarūpa with the previous past (life) causes.


Actually Bhante i know only pa auk method which discern past and future lives nāma rūpa. I didn’t heard or read about another teaching wich practically explain how to do it…

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I think the one life model does make sense to an extent. it just doesnt make complete sense.


Yes, three lives also seems incomplete, i cant remember if it was a sutta or something in the commentaries or abhiddhamma, but kamma is explained as taking effect over a variety of possible ways.

In this very life
In the next life
Over the course of several next lives

likewise previous kamma can be the result of

actions in this very life
Actions in a past life
a combination of actions made throughout several past lives.

There is even a whole jataka where the lesson is literally about kamma not taking effect for several lives after the action is performed.

So a three life model isn’t totally all inclusive, more like three directions of lives.

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The past begets present, the present begets the future. The present becomes past, and then the future becomes present. It is all interlink.

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-Diṭṭhadhamma vedanīya kamma: kamma to be experienced in this life , which ripes in this very life

-Upapajjavedanīya kamma : kamma to be experienced in the next life, which ripes in the very next life

-Aparāpariyavedanīya kamma: kamma to be experienced indefinitely, which ripes in any life subsequently of the very next life of it till parinibbāna

(In Abhidhamma commentaries, and Abhidhammatha sangaha)

Actually if we say three lives model, these are the words.
But it should be understood, this is the whole system working at rebirth. So if one understand for few lives, he knows it is like from countless lives.

But here in this system mainly the life to life system is important. It means upapajjavedanīya and aparāpariyavedanīya kamma. And janaka kamma, rebirth kamma, the main and strongest at the root of our life.

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