the logical structures in pali gathas

tetsuo hashimoto


       there are many logical sentences in the pāli canon.

       the most popular logical word in the pāli canon is ‘paṭiccasamuppāda (bsk. pratītyasamutpāda)’.

       but the word is found only once in the old gāthās i.e. all the gāthās of suttanipāta(sn.), sayutta-nikāya(sn.) vol.i, theragāthā(thag.), therīgāthā(thig.), dhammapada(dhp.), itivuttaka(itiv.), udāna. ( all the gāthās are resolved into the words, and the compounds are also resolved into the words, and the verbs and  the derivatives of a verb are reduced to the basic verbal form i.e. present indicative, 3rd person, single. and they are gathered and sorted in the file “ thesaurus of the pali gathas” . when i write ‘the text’, it means this file.  about the details, see the appendices and my hp, )


i. logical structures


       are there any other logical words in the text ? 

       ‘paṭiccasamuppāda’ is the compound of ‘paṭicca(bsk.pratītya)’ and ‘samuppāda(bsk. samutpāda)’ .

       ‘paṭicca’ is found 13 times in the text. nine cases of them are used as a preposition with an accusative word which is the object of the preposition. so ‘paṭicca(on account of --)’ can be considered to need its object.  ‘samuppāda(arising)’ is found 9 times in the text. seven cases of them are the compound with ‘dukkha’., i.e. ‘dukkhasamuppāda(the arising of pain)’. so, ‘samuppāda’ can be regarded as ‘samuppāda’ of ‘dukkha’. therefore ‘paṭiccasamuppāda’ has the structure “something -- paṭicca -- dukkha -- samuppāda”.

       in the structure ‘paṭicca’ is the key-word(=logical word) for the relation between cause(=something) and effect(=dukkha).  we can rewrite the structure “ something -- paṭicca -- effect -- verb(or derivatives)”. i call it ‘paṭicca-causality-structure’. it is found 11 cases in the text and they can be classified into four groups----

       (a-1) “ hetu(s.) -- paṭicca – khandha,etc.(pl.) -- sambhuuta”(3 cases)[i]

       (a-2) “ piya(s.) -- paṭicca – dukkha,etc.(pl.) – bhavanti” (3 cases)[ii]

       (a-3) “ upadhi,etc -- paṭicca – phassa(pl.) -- phusanti”(2 cases)[iii]

       (a-4) “ upadhi(pl.) -- paṭicca – dukkha(s.) -- sambhoti”(1 case)[iv]

       (a-5) “ hetu(s.[v]) -- paṭicca – bimba,etc.(s.) -- sambhūta” (2 cases)[vi]


       ‘paccaya’ is the derivative of ‘pacceti’ just as ‘paṭicca’ is. ‘paccaya’ is found 19 times in the text. some cases of them make the structure “ something -- paccaya -- effect -- verb(or derivatives).”  i call it ‘paccaya-causality-structure’. they can be classified into two groups----

       (b-1) “āhāra,etc. – paccayā – dukkha -- sambhoti” (5 cases)[vii]

       (b-2) “upādāna – paccayā – bhava(dukkha) – (sambhoti[viii])” (1 case)[ix]


       ‘nidāna’ also makes the similar structure “something -- nidāna -- effect -- verb(or derivatives)” i call it ‘nidāna-causality-structure’. they can be classified into four groups----

       (c-1) “ upadhi – nidāna – dukkha – pabhavati” (2 case)[x]

       (c-2) “ ito – nidāna -- rāga,etc. -- (pahoti) “ (4 cases)[xi]

       (c-3) “ icchā – nidāna – pariggaha,etc. – (pahoti)” (7 cases)[xii]

       (c-4) “ piya(abl.) -- (nidāna) -- kalaha,etc.-- pahūta” (6 cases)[xiii]


       there is another structure in which ‘jāyati’ is used for ‘pahoti’. i call it ‘jāyati-causality-structure’.

       (d-1) “ piya,etc.(abl.) – (none) – soka and bhaya,etc. – jāyati”(5 cases)[xiv]


ii. true structure a


       which structure is the true logical structure that buddha wanted to teach us?

       when type (a-1) and type(c-2) are told, the similes of plants’ growing are used.     the former is ‘seed-growing-model’ , and the latter is ‘aerial-roots-growing-model’.


1) ‘seed-growing-model’ (a-1) ---- nayidam attakataṃ bimbaṃ // na yidaṃ parakatam aghaṃ // hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtaṃ // hetubhaṅgā nirujjhati // // yathā aññataraṃ bījaṃ // khette vuttaṃ virūhati // pathavīrasañ cāgamma // sinehañ ca tad ubhayaṃ // evam khandhā ca dhātuyo // cha ca āyatanā ime // hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtā // hetubhaṅgā nirujjhare ti // //  (sn.vol.1,p.134,g)

<transl.> “ this bimba[xv] is not produced from itself. nor is this (like) a sadness[xvi] produced from other. on account of a cause this has come to be. with the cause’s extinction it will cease. as when a seed is sown in the field, it grows out thanks to the two: the nutriment of the soil and the sap (of seed) , just so the elements of existence and elements and six bases for conception have come to be on account of a cause. with the cause’s extinction it will cease.”

       here we notice that ‘attakata’ and ‘parakata’ has the simple structure of causality, that is,  it has only one origin or sauce (whether it is self or not-self). on the other hand, ‘hetuṃ paṭicca’ has the complicated structure of causality which has many factors, i.e., the outer power(the nutriment) and the inner power (lust or sap). it is important that the ‘single origin’ is denied and ‘multi-origin’ is accepted.


2) ‘aerial-roots-growing-model’ (c-2) ---- " rāgo ca doso ca itonidānā // aratī ratī lomahaṃso itojā[xvii] // ito samuṭṭhāya[xviii] manovitakkā // kumārakā vaṃkam iv-ossajanti // // snehajā attasambhūtā  // nigrodhasseva khandhajā // puthuu visattā kāmesu māluvā va vitatā vane . (sn.vol.1,p.207;sn.271-272)

<transl.> " passion and hatred have their origin in this. aversion and delight and excitement are born from this. thoughts of mind rise from this, and......(omitted).......... (they are) born from the lust or the sap (of itself), arisen from iteself, like the trunk-born (aerial-roots) of the banyan tree[xix]. (they are) many, attached to sensual pleasures, like a maluva creeper stretched out in a wood.

       here we notice that ‘itonidāna’’, ‘itoja’ and ‘ito samuṭṭhāya’ are ‘attasambhūta’.[xx] and ‘attasambhūta’[xxi] is similar to ‘attakata’ which has denied in ‘seed-growing-model’. so ‘nidāna-causality-structure’ (type c)[xxii] is denied. it cannot be the true causality that buddha told[xxiii]. and ‘jāyati-causality-structure’,(type d) cannot either, because it is nothing but ‘itoja’ in this model..

       all the exemples of type c and d have a common characteristic that every example shows “ single origin and multi-effect”. so the denial of type c and d also means the denial of “ single origin and multi-effect”. it means the denial of  ‘aerial-roots-growing-model’


       now we have two types left : type a and b.

       in type a, two groups(a-4, a-5)[xxiv] show “ multi-origin and single effect”. and in every case ‘sambhoti(sambhavati)’ is used. the verb of them are all ‘sambhoti(sambhavati)’. so ‘sambhoti(sambhavati)’ must be the exclusive verb for the true causality. therefore only these two cases have the true causality in type a----

  1) nayidam attakataṃ bimbaṃ // na yidaṃ parakatam aghaṃ // hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtaṃ // hetubhaṅgā nirujjhati // //(sn.1,p.134) “ this bimba[xxv] is not produced from itself. nor is this (like) a sadness[xxvi] produced from other. on account of a cause this has come to be. with the cause’s extinction it will cease.”

  2) upadhī[xxvii] hi paṭicca dukkhaṃ idaṃ sambhoti, sabbūpādānakkhayā n’atthi dukkhassa sambhavo. (udāna,3.10) on account of upadhi, as a result, pain arises: when all 'attachment' is destroyed, then is there no birth of pain.


iii.  true structure b


       in type b almost all the examples have ‘sambhoti(sambhavati)’ as a verb, and show “ multi-origin and single effect”. only ‘viññāṇa’ is single. in the text viññāṇa’ is always written in single except one[xxviii], so i think viññāṇa’ might be written in single even if it is plural actually. therefore in this succession of suttanipāta 731-750, it could be one of the cases of “multi-origin and single effect”









saṃkhāra(pl.)(m. aggregation)






viññāṇa(s.)(n. consciousness)






ārambha(pl.)(m. effort, support)






āhāra(pl.)(m. food, nutriment[xxix], fuel)






iñjita(pl.)(n. emotion, adj. moved)






upādāna(pl.)[xxx](n. fuel, grasping, clinging to existence)










       all cases are true structures. but it is not easy for us to understand how ‘dukkha(pain, misery)’ arises from ‘food’ or ‘effort’ and so on.

       now, this gāthā(b-2) is inserted between sn.734 and sn.744, and it is helpful for us---------

" upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhūto dukkhaṃ nigacchati, jātassa maraṇam hoti, eso dukkhassa sambhavo.” (sn.742) existence is because of grasping. an (existent) being goes to misery. (there is) death for one who is born. that is the arising of misery. (k.r.norman)

       i will try to show my construction about it ---. here the process has two stages: on the first stage, it is said that ‘bhava’ arises because of upādāna or by means of upādāna. though the place or matter from which ‘bhava’ arises is not described here, we put it in order to understand the system. the place can be a ‘black-box’ which has many origins or sauces in it. they are ‘sneha(sap)’ in the seed-model. when ‘upādāna’ soaks into the ‘black-box’, itself and other origins or sauces cooperatively produce ‘bhava’ . ‘bhava’ means ‘living being’ which is raised in this way, and is involved in ‘saṃsāra’. but we can’t recognize the origins or sauces in the ‘black-box’. we can see only ‘upādāna’, so we recognize it as the cause. but more causes exist in the ‘black-box’. so it is hard for us to escape from ‘saṃsāra’. in the seed-model, upādāna is ‘the nutriment of the soil’, and ‘bhava’ is ‘a sprout’. ‘upādāna’ could be translated into ‘fuel’. the ‘black-box’ may be ‘taṇhā’.

       on the second stage, ‘bhūta(any living being)’ which includes ‘bhava’ necessarily suffers pain. it is the permanent truth. then ‘dukkha’ seems to arise on account of ‘upādāna’. in this system, every thing can be ‘upādāna’ as far as it can stimulate  ‘sneha’ or ‘tanzhā’ in ‘black-box’. upādāna is the representative of all the stimulators. they are triggers for ‘bhava’. one of them is ‘āhāra(nutriment)’.  that is appropriate to ‘seed-growing-model’.




       in the pāli texts, there are a lot of structures of causality. i chose some from the old gāthās. among them only the structure of “multi-origin and single effect” with ‘sambhavati’ shows the true causality. its model is ‘seed-growing-model’.










[i] sn.vol.1, p.134. the causality-structure “ hetu(s.) -- paṭicca – khandhā(pl.), dhātuyo(pl.), āyatanā(pl.) -- sambhūtā” (a-1) is a little strange, for khandhā should be the sources or origins of bimba. is ‘khandha’ made from any origins or sauses?

[ii] udāna, p.92.

[iii] sn.872; udāna,p.12.

[iv] udāna,p.33. i corrected ‘na upadhī’ to ‘upadhī’ according to cpd. and comm.

[v] ‘hetu’ of this structure should mean plural because the origin or source are plural in the following simile.

[vi] sn.vol.1,p.134.

[vii] if we count in “somethig – paccaya – (supplemented ‘sambhoti’) – dukkha” , b-1 will have 10 cases. sn. 731, 732, 734, 735, 744, 745, 747, 748, 750, 751.

[viii] ‘sambhoti’ is supplemented.

[ix] sn.742.

[x] sn. 728, 1050. from one arise many. dukkhā is plural.

[xi] sn. 271, sn. vol.1, p.207. from one arise many.

[xii] sn.865, 870, 872, 874. from one arise many. pariggahāni(sn.872), papañcasaṃkhā(sn.874), dukkhā(sn.728,1050) are plural.

[xiii] sn.863. from one arise many.

[xiv] dhp. 212-216. from one arise two.

[xv] the meaning of this word is obscure. i can’t chose ‘a puppet’ or ‘an individual’.

[xvi] nandi >> aghāgha >> nandi. (sn.1,p.54)

[xvii] ex. “chandajam aghaṃ, chandajaṃ dukkhaṃ” is said by a devatā.(sn.1,p.22)

[xviii] ex. “ajjhattaṃ me samuṭṭhāya khippaṃ paccati māmakaṃ” (thag.755)

[xix] many roots of baniyan grows from one trunk. it neans the causality ‘from one arise many’ . and it is denied. it is not true causality.

[xx] i think ‘ito’ is a sign of ‘single origin’.

[xxi] lobha, dosa, mohāre ‘attasambhūta’ (itig.50-1). it has the simile of ‘tacasāra’s fruit’.

[xxii] although some examples show that from one arises one,

[xxiii] upadhi nidāna dukkha can be important on some points.

[xxiv] a-4 is udag.2.4, a-5 is sn.1,p.134.

[xxv] the meaning of this word is obscure. i can’t chose ‘a puppet’ or ‘an individual’.

[xxvi] nandi >> aghāgha >> nandi. (sn.1,p.54)

[xxvii] i corrected ‘na upadhī’ to ‘upadhī’ according to cpd. and comm.

[xxviii] “viññāṇānaṃ pariggahe”,thag.419

[xxix]nutriment’ is appropriate to ‘seed-model’.

[xxx] “sabbūpādānakkhayā n’atthi dukkhassa sambhavo” (udāna, 3.10)