• A Teleological Mode of Conditionality in Early Buddhism

      Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester
      In addition to the twelve links (nidānas) of dependent arising (paṭicca-samuppāda), early Buddhist texts record a series of stages of the path to awakening, called “preconditions” (upanisās), which in the Pāli Upanisā Sutta (S 12: 23; pts ii.29–31) are joined in one series. Modern western Buddhists take this one series to imply that nidānas and upanisās exemplify an over-arching principle of conditionality. In this article I argue that the upanisās exemplify a distinctively teleological mode of conditionality. I investigate (i) the images of a tree coming to full growth and rain flowing to the seas used to illustrate the upanisās, (ii) the distinctly goal-directed language used in relation to the stages of the path, and finally (iii), I propose, via a discussion of Aristotle on teleology, that the upanisās represent a teleological mode of conditionality, such that each stage of the path becomes the condition for the next, in relation to an aim or goal of awakening. I argue that the series of upanisās has a normative, rather than phenomenological, character, and I compare the series to a recipe. I conclude with the suggestion that the similarity between upanisās and nidānas lies in their being necessary conditions, and that this similarity constitutes a “family resemblance” (in Wittgenstein’s phrase). The over-arching principle of conditionality is not a feature of reality over and above such a family resemblance.