Conversation with Chat GPT: Dependent Origination–Theravada vs Mahayana

Kenneth Leong
4 min readSep 21, 2023

Ken: Please explain the major difference between Theravada’s version of Dependent Origination and Mahayana’s version.

ChatGPT: The concept of dependent origination (Paticca Samuppada in Pali, Pratītyasamutpāda in Sanskrit) is fundamental to both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, but there are some key differences in how it is understood and interpreted in these two major Buddhist traditions. Here are the major differences between the Theravada and Mahayana versions of dependent origination:

A. Scope and Emphasis:

  1. Theravada: In Theravada Buddhism, dependent origination is primarily seen as a teaching on the arising and cessation of suffering (dukkha). It focuses on the individual’s cycle of birth and death (samsara) and provides a detailed explanation of how ignorance, craving, and clinging lead to suffering and rebirth. The emphasis is on personal liberation (nibbana/nirvana) from this cycle.
  2. Mahayana: In Mahayana Buddhism, dependent origination is often understood in a broader and more universal context. While it still addresses the nature of suffering and individual liberation, Mahayana teachings extend the concept to emphasize the interconnectedness and interdependence of all phenomena. Mahayana interpretations often emphasize the emptiness…

--

--

Kenneth Leong

Author, Zen teacher, scientific mystic, professor, photographer, philosopher, social commentator, socially engaged human