Posted by: Soh
Kyle Dixon wrote in Dharma Connection:

Elgins' understanding of dependent origination (or "interdependent co-origination" as he coins it) errs a bit on the substantial side.
His criticism of Wilber appears to be presented at the beginning of the piece, however further down the page when he begins to make his own clarifications he explores dependent origination and presents his understanding, for example he writes:


"Interdependent: Everything that exists is contingent upon everything else. The totality of the universe is one interacting system of mutual interrelations.

Co-Arising: Beyond horizontal interdependence is the vertical emergence or origination of the entire universe all-at-once. The continuous creation of the cosmos means that all is emerging as a unified whole at every moment.

Therefore, by combining these two words, we recognize the totality of existence is arising all-at-once as an interdependent whole—a fresh creation in its totality at every moment—where everything depends upon everything else. Reality then involves both cascading causality (or “karma”) through time and instantaneous causality in time."


He just seems to be interpreting dependent origination quite literally; as if things are actually originating in dependence upon one another. When in all actuality, dependent origination is a view that is applied to one's experience in order to reveal that origination in fact never truly occurs beyond the scope of conventionality. Elgin appears to be mistaking 'dependent existence' [parābhava] for dependent origination [pratītyasamutpāda].

Although in Elgin's defense he also makes statements like "The Buddha awakened to interdependent co-arising and the insight that there is no solid and enduring reality."... so he seems to understand that dependent origination, in principle, implies a lack of substantiality. Whether that understood implication translates to an actual smooth understanding though, I'm not so sure.

"wow --- I have never had that insight before"

Yeah... the fact that dependent origination is meant to specifically reveal non-arising is often missed or overlooked, but that aspect is really the linchpin and salient point that drives the principle home:

"The perfectly enlightened buddhas-proclaimed, 'What is dependently created is uncreated.'"
- Candrakīrti

"Whatever is dependently originated does not truly arise."
- Mañjuśrī

"What originates dependently is unoriginated!"
- Nāgārjuna
Looking at dependent origination as an alleged origination that occurs in dependence upon causes and conditions also helps. Because for something to actually, truly "exist" - it technically must do so separately and independently of causes and conditions. However since nothing can be found to exist separately of causes and conditions, nothing can be found to truly exist.

"That phenomena are born from causes can never be inconsistent [with facts]; since the cause is empty of cause, we understand it to be empty of origination. The non-origination of all phenomena is clearly taught to be emptiness."
- Nāgārjuna | Bodhicittavivaraṇa
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