Points of Controversy

6.2. Of Causal Genesis

Controverted Point: That the causal elements in the law of causal genesis are unconditioned.

This is exactly similar to the opening argument in Kv6.2.1.

Theravādin: Would you say that any single term in each clause of the formula of causal genesis refers to something unconditioned, for instance, “ignorance,” or “karma,” in the clause “because of ignorance, karma,” etc.? No? Then how can you maintain your thesis?

Pubbaseliyas and Mahīsāsakas: If we are wrong, why did the Exalted One say as follows:

“‘Because of birth, bhikkhus, comes decay and death’: whether Tathāgatas arise or not, this element stands as the establishing of things as effects, as the marking out of things as effects, as the cause of this or that. Concerning this element a Tathāgata becomes enlightened, and penetrates it. Thus enlightened and penetrating, he declares, teaches, makes known, lays it known, reveals, dispenses, makes manifest, and behold! he says: ‘Because of birth, bhikkhus, comes decay and death.’ ‘Because of the tendency to become comes birth. Because of… ’ and so on, back to: ‘Because of ignorance comes karma.’ Thus, bhikkhus, this element, stable, constant, immutable, is called a causal term in the law of causal genesis.”

Surely then the causal element in that law is unconditioned.

Theravādin: In the clause “Because of ignorance karma,” the former is that which establishes, which marks out the latter as its effect. And Nibbāna is unconditioned—you affirm both of these? Yes? Then are there two unconditioned?… two shelters… (as in Kv6.2.1)?

And if in the next clause: “Because of karma, consciousness,” you affirm that karma is unconditioned, are there then three unconditioneds?…

And so on, affirming that each of the remaining nine terms and Nibbāna are unconditioned: are there then twelve unconditioneds?… twelve shelters, twelve refuges, etc.?

Of course you deny, hence you cannot affirm that the causal term in the law of causal genesis is unconditioned.