Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

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Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:23 am

I have often felt that there is a lot of common ground between what is called, in Western philosophy, the 'cosmological argument', and the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination and śūnyatā.

The cosmological argument is, in a nutshell, 'an argument for the existence of God which claims that all things in nature depend on something else for their existence (i.e. they are contingent), and that the whole cosmos must therefore itself depend on a being which exists independently or necessarily.' It is associated with classical theology such as that of Thomas Aquinas and has been elaborated and debated for centuries.

I can't help but notice the phrase that 'all things in nature depend on something else for their existence'. That is the aspect of the cosmological argument that is close in meaning to 'dependent origination', which is that every contingent thing is likewise 'dependent on causes and conditions'. Nāgārjuna elaborates the argument by saying that no thing is possessed of 'sva-bhava', i.e. 'self-existence' or essence.

So in the Western form, the cosmological argument is that every contingent being is dependent on the uncaused cause or first cause, which is God, without which neither they nor anything else would exist.

Now obviously Buddhism does not argue for the existence of God, so the argument from dependent origination points to a different conclusion, which is that 'Everything except Nirvāṇa are the consequence of Pratītyasamutpāda'. But Nirvāṇa is not conceived of as a creator-god, first cause, or ground of being, in the way that it is by the cosmological arguments. But even so I still think that in broad areas, there is a convergence or a likeness between them. I wonder if any of the contributors here are aware of any work that has been done on this similarity, maybe in Philosophy East and West, or one of those journals, or has any thoughts on the subject?
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Astus » Sun Aug 21, 2016 12:55 pm

Wayfarer wrote:So in the Western form, the cosmological argument is that every contingent being is dependent on the uncaused cause or first cause, which is God, without which neither they nor anything else would exist.
The same argument was made by Hindus and Taoists as well, and it directly opposes the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination. It even contradicts their own idea that everything must have a cause to then assume something without a cause.
Now obviously Buddhism does not argue for the existence of God
They actually refute all attempts of establishing an ultimate substratum or originator, because it denies the whole teaching of karma and rebirth.
so the argument from dependent origination points to a different conclusion, which is that 'Everything except Nirvāṇa are the consequence of Pratītyasamutpāda'.
In Madhyamaka dependent origination is nirvana. To posit a nirvana outside of samsara is the mistaken view of sravakas.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Kaccāni » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:26 pm

Astus wrote:It even contradicts their own idea that everything must have a cause to then assume something without a cause.
I need to giggle at this one-step argument for an ontological God every time. It apparently only works if you fear him so much that you don't dare to question him. What cruelty.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by MiphamFan » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:32 pm

How is dependent origination being used in the same way as a "First Cause" in the Western cosmological argument?

Dependent origination itself means that the chain of causes is never-ending. "First cause" implies that infinite regress is unacceptable for some reason and there must be a cause that itself is uncaused.

Buddhism is completely fine with infinite regression.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Jeff H » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:04 pm

I agree that the crucial distinction is that the God-argument exists because people insist there must be a discrete beginning, and Buddha rejected that.

But I don't think Wayfarer was saying that dependent origination replaces God, rather that emptiness does. Emptiness is that which allows dependent origination to occur. It is only by the utter absence of inherent existence that dependent appearances can causally arise without beginning. So perhaps, since emptiness has no reality yet simply "is" the condition of existence, one could say it is an uncaused condition. But that in no way equates God and emptiness.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by MiphamFan » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:12 pm

I think this kind of thinking reifies emptiness.

Emptiness is not just another condition of phenomena. It refers to the fact that all conditions are impermanent, have no external existence.

Cosmological argument depends on the premise of rejecting infinite regress. Dependent origination embraces it.

I mean yeah, in the end they are similar in that both Aristotle and Madhyamaka say that things depend on other things to arise, but Madhyamikas don't see the need to have a special case where one thing doesn't depend on anything else. Madhyamikas are more consistent.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:04 pm

The cosmological argument assumes a prime mover, dependent origination suggest a prime mover is impossible, that's why samsara is said to have no beginning...
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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by BuddhaFollower » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:04 pm

Wayfarer,

Dependent Origination = Nonarising.

For example in the book Nagarjuna's Reason Sixty by Loizzo, Candrakirti says:

"the perfectly enlightened buddhas-proclaimed, "What is dependently created is uncreated."

"Likewise, here as well, the Lord Buddha’s pronouncement that "What is dependently created is objectively uncreated"


(Uncreated is Loizzo's translation for Non-arising. Dependently created is his translation of Dependent Origination.)

Also please see:
Malcolm wrote:Dependent origination is exactly the meaning of non-arising -- Manjushri states in PP sutras "Whatever arises dependently, just that does not arise in truth."
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... =20#p32877
Malcolm wrote:The nature of the conditioned is non-arising. Whatever does not arise is unconditioned. Non-arising, unconditioned, suchness, etc., are all synonyms.


This is why Manjushri says "Whatever is dependently originated does not truly arise."

The core of the conditioned is unconditioned.

M
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 80#p185946
Malcolm wrote:
Sherab wrote:So what is the meaning then of "whatever arises in dependence, that in truth does not arise"?
It means simply that when you examine dependently originated phenomena you cannot ascertain that they ever arose.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 60#p212012
Malcolm wrote:everything, including buddhahood, etc., is completely equivalent to an illusion; not "like an illusion", as some people in Mahayana with a poor understanding hedge -- completely equivalent.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... dge#p58244
Malcolm wrote:Some people, hearing that all phenomena are completely equivalent with illusions freak out. Some people who hear that phenomena are empty, freak out. This is why it is a bohdhisattva downfall to teach emptiness to the immature.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 100#p58342
Malcolm wrote:Emptiness, in Mahayana, specifically refers to the absence of the four extremes in phenomena. This is the profound emptiness taught in Mahayana according to Gorampa and many other critics of Tsongkhapa, not the mere emptiness of inherent existence which is common which the sravaka systems.

Since phenomena cannot be found by any of the four extremes, they are illusory, and ultimately nonarisen.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p206889
Malcolm wrote:If one believes that any of this is more than a dream or an illusion, one is definitely deluded.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... ed#p330797
Malcolm wrote: However, our waking consciousness is merely a dream as well, and when compared with the consciousness of a Buddha, is found to be wholly invalid.
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... ng#p330216
Malcolm wrote:In Madhyamaka view, there is no reality.
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 80#p321082
Just recognize the conceptualizing mind.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by vinegar » Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:31 am

BuddhaFollower wrote:Dependent Origination = Nonarising.
= beginningless and endless, no prime beginning or ending
Wayfarer wrote:That is the aspect of the cosmological argument that is close in meaning to 'dependent origination', which is that every contingent thing is likewise 'dependent on causes and conditions'.
Have to include mental labeling at some point into dependent origination, otherwise things necessarily have to exist either one with their parts or independent of them, as you've said "the whole cosmos must therefore itself depend on a being which exists independently"

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:20 am

MiphamFan wrote:How is dependent origination being used in the same way as a "First Cause" in the Western cosmological argument?
As I said, the area of convergence is simply the argument of the contingency of particulars, i.e. 'all beings are dependent'.

Now Buddhism says that beings arise as a consequence of dependent origination, theistic philosophies say that they're ultimately dependent on the First Cause.

So clearly they diverge on that point, but I am interested in that aspect of similarity. Both are alike in saying that beings are not possessed of their own originating ground, cause or essence (= are empty of own-being).
MiphamFan wrote:Dependent origination itself means that the chain of causes is never-ending.
It might be never-ending in one sense, but in another sense, it ceases with 'nirodha', cessation, does it not?
Johnny Dangerous wrote:The cosmological argument assumes a prime mover, dependent origination suggest a prime mover is impossible, that's why samsara is said to have no beginning...
I read a great saying here on this forum 'Samsara has no beginning but it has an end, Nirvāṇa has no ending but has a beginning'.

I was simply wondering if there was some scholarly comment on this subject, from the viewpoint of comparative studies. That's why I posted the thread in 'Academic Discussion'.

@ Jeff H - thank you, I think you see the point I was interested in. :namaste:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Malcolm » Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:59 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
So clearly they diverge on that point, but I am interested in that aspect of similarity. Both are alike in saying that beings are not possessed of their own originating ground, cause or essence (= are empty of own-being).
Dependent existence is carefully articulated by Nāgārjuna to be a kind of "own-being." Thus, beings who are dependent on another in an absolute sense, have own-being.

MiphamFan wrote:Dependent origination itself means that the chain of causes is never-ending.
It might be never-ending in one sense, but in another sense, it ceases with 'nirodha', cessation, does it not?
The idea that an entity ceases is annihilationism. This is rejected by the Buddha. Cessation is simply the absence of causes for further arising. In this way there is cessation without any entity ceasing.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Jeff H » Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:30 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:
So clearly they diverge on that point, but I am interested in that aspect of similarity. Both are alike in saying that beings are not possessed of their own originating ground, cause or essence (= are empty of own-being).
Dependent existence is carefully articulated by Nāgārjuna to be a kind of "own-being." Thus, beings who are dependent on another in an absolute sense, have own-being.

MiphamFan wrote:Dependent origination itself means that the chain of causes is never-ending.
It might be never-ending in one sense, but in another sense, it ceases with 'nirodha', cessation, does it not?
The idea that an entity ceases is annihilationism. This is rejected by the Buddha. Cessation is simply the absence of causes for further arising. In this way there is cessation without any entity ceasing.
I think I understand what you’re saying here, Malcolm, (which is not always the case for me) but it doesn’t sound right somehow.

1. Dependent origination = own-being? How can that be? What does it mean to be “dependent on another in an absolute sense”?

2. Miphamfan said, “the chain of causes is never-ending”; Wayfarer said, “[the chain of causes] ceases with ‘nirodha’, cessation”; Malcom said, “Cessation is simply the absence of causes for further arising”. Your (Malcolm’s) post sounds like you mean to contradict Wayfarer, but you seem to be saying the same thing. He didn’t mention the cessation of entities.

Confused.
:shrug:
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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Kaccāni » Mon Aug 22, 2016 5:34 pm

Jeff H wrote: 1. Dependent origination = own-being? How can that be?
Malcolm wrote: Dependent existence is ... a kind of "own-being."
As I see it, there is a difference between origination and existence. If one phenomenon depends on another to originate, both are seen as to have an own-being, which however depends on another. Otherwise there wouldn't be a distinction that causally separates them. But as soon as this distinction is made, they are to be dealt with separately in matters of existence.

As long as there are karmic traces (or if you want to say "momentum"), this chain perpetuates. If there are no karmic traces, there is a cessation of origination, which means there is no cause for new origination, thus no creating of own-being.

So for practical purposes and a side note: By stopping to make (= give relevance to) certain distinctions, you can stop the origination of monsters ;-)

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Kaccāni » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:04 pm

Or to put it differently, in more modern terms:

Any distinction gives way to an observable entity, which can then be attributed existence. You could say that the entity only comes into existence by the observation, or distinction. These entities appear to be connected by causality as governing principle. So the distinction, origination, and cause all fall together. Not space and time, but cause. That makes them dependently (causally) arise on each other. Space and time, existence and ego are perspectives on them, that have no inherent existence independent from them. They do not causally structure or order them, although for some observations in the conventional sphere, the two may coincide. That's practical. But dependent origination, the causal chain, is the driving principle. So sometimes it appears, that the observations of the conventional level within time and space are the driving force. That creates confusion. And there appears to be a momentum that keeps this causal chain going. Now name it Karma.

With a little bit of overlap here and there, in essence, this does not even contradict some interpretations of quantum mechanics.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Malcolm » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:23 pm

Jeff H wrote:
1. Dependent origination = own-being? How can that be? What does it mean to be “dependent on another in an absolute sense”?
Dependent existence (parabhāva) is not the same thing as dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda)

2. Miphamfan said, “the chain of causes is never-ending”; Wayfarer said, “[the chain of causes] ceases with ‘nirodha’, cessation”; Malcom said, “Cessation is simply the absence of causes for further arising”. Your (Malcolm’s) post sounds like you mean to contradict Wayfarer, but you seem to be saying the same thing. He didn’t mention the cessation of entities.

Confused.
:shrug:[/quote]


The manner in which Wayfarer has stated this is such that it he appears to be saying that with nirodha, the chain of causation ceases.

What I am saying is that the absence of causes is nirodha.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Jeff H » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:54 pm

Wow! Thanks to both of you (Kaccani and Malcolm). I see there is solid reasoning ... I just need to sit with it for a while. (And, BTW, I completely missed that I had substituted "origination" for "existence".)
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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by MiphamFan » Sat May 12, 2018 3:33 am

I have been re-examining this idea after debating with some Christians/theists.

I don't like the "first cause" language, because it is misleading unless you are well versed in Aristotelian language. I realised that what Christians mean is really that "Causality" itself must exist before causal series can even start. So for example, Thomas Aquinas, unlike many Christians, actually argued that the universe did not have a temporal beginning, but that there was an ontological beginning, i.e. First cause = causality, so causality has to exist before causes can exist.

What would be the Madhyamaka answer to this?

Dependent origination to us is something that isn't something "out there", but is defined precisely by the relationship between causes and results, so it is meaningless to talk about causation existing ontologically prior to causes, because causation does not make sense without causes. Is that right?

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat May 12, 2018 6:50 am

MiphamFan wrote:
Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:32 pm
Dependent origination itself means that the chain of causes is never-ending. "First cause" implies that infinite regress is unacceptable for some reason and there must be a cause that itself is uncaused.
I'm not an expert on this, but I've recently been learning about christianity and the other middle eastern religions.
There are different cosmological arguments, right?
Aquinas, Leibniz, etc.

then there is the Kalam school, which was popularized by an american William Lane Craig. He uses the 'hilberts hotel' and the 'tristam shandy' examples to try to prove that the idea of an "actual infinite" is "absurd".

Like I said I'm no expert but I do find it interesting. I wonder what it gets people though to study this stuff... maybe some heaven of some kind??
This is a great thread through.

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Re: Dependent Origination and the Cosmological Argument

Post by MiphamFan » Sat May 12, 2018 7:30 am

I've seen the "Hilbert Hotel" objection before. It doesn't make sense to me.

All it really means is that infinities are not "intuitive". Set theory uses infinities all the time.

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