A note on knowing ‘rise and fall’ (udayabbaya) as a liberating insight: ‘He not busy being born is busy dying’


Buddhist philosophy often teaches a way of apprehending things without any form of attachment. It advises the seeing of a particular process: the coming to be and passing away of things (dhammas).  An expression of this is in the explanation of right-view (the first stage of the Noble Eightfold Path) as ‘knowing rise and fall’ (udayabbaya).  It is this which I will consider briefly here. The  Udāna (Ud 38) states that ‘sammā-diṭṭhi (right-view) comes first through knowing rise and fall’ (udayabbaya).[1]

This right-view is described as insight, and that knowing rise and fall is the diagnosis of suffering.[2]  This knowledge is explained as ‘the weapon of understanding, the sword of understanding, the jewel of understanding, the illumination of understanding, the goad of understanding, and the palace of understanding’.[3] This is then stated to be ‘knowledge about suffering, its arising, cessation, and the way leading to its cessation, knowledge about the way, knowledge about the path, knowledge about a cause, knowledge about causally-arisen dhammas, knowledge about a condition, knowledge about conditionally arisen dhammas’.[4]  Knowing rise and fall is then explained in the following terms: ‘knowing rise is to know that with ignorance as condition, there are constructions, etc., by knowing fall one knows that with the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of constructions, etc.’[5]  Essentially, right-view is the seeing of the rise and fall of all dhammas.  To achieve right-view is to have the knowledge that ‘all that is subject to arising is subject to cessation’.

To attain knowledge of the four truths and dependent-origination is to act in a way which reflects an insight into the cessation of craving.  The realisation of this knowledge is inseparable from the attitude that achieves it. This correct mental attitude then is not a static belief that things are a certain way, but an insight that they are a certain way.

[1]sammā-diṭṭhi-purekkhāro ñatvāna udayabbayaṃ, cited Nettippakaraṇa, 47.  The full passage, following on from that given in note 631:

‘So let his cognisance be guarded,

Having for pasture right intention,

Giving right-view first place through knowing

Rise and fall; transcending drowsing

And lethargy, the bhikkhu may

Abandon all bad destinations.’ Ud 38, the translation is from The Guide (PTS, London, 1962), p. 72.

[2] sammā-diṭṭhi-purekkhāro ti vipassani, ñatvāna udayabbaya nti dukkhapariññā, Nett 105.

[3] sammā-diṭṭhi-purekkhāro ti sammā-diṭṭhi nāma paññā-satthaṃ paññā-khaggo paññā-ratataṃ paññā-pajjoto paññā-patodo paññāpāsādo, Nett 106.

[4] sammā-diṭṭhi-purekkhāro ti ekattatā; sammā-diṭṭhi nāma yaṃ dukkhe ñāṇaṃ dukkha-samudaye ñāṇaṃ dukkha-nirodhe ñāṇaṃ dukkha-nirodha-gāminiyā paṭipadāya ñāṇaṃ magge ñāṇaṃ hetusmiṃ ñāṇaṃ hetu-samuppannesu dhammesu ñāṇaṃ paccaye ñāṇaṃ paṭicca-samuppannesu dhammesu ñāṇaṃ, Nett 108.

[5] ñatvāna udayabbaya nti ekattatā: udayena-avījjā-paccayā saṅkhārā, saṅkhāra-paccayā viññāṇaṃ; (evaṃ sabbaṃ, ) samudayo bhavati, vayena avijjā nirodhā saṅkhāra-nikarodho saṅkhāra-nirodhā viññāṇa-nirodho, (evaṃ sabbaṃ) nirodho hoti, Nett 108.

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