Sthavira Śrīlāta’s View of Dependent Origination (Pratītyasaṃutpāda) -In regard to the interpretation of the two formula of Dependent Origination, if X exists, then Y exists (asmin satidam bhavati) etc.-
This paper aims to discuss the patriarch of Sautrāntika, Sthavira Śrīlāta’s view of dependent origination through the lens of the interpretation of the two formulas, “if X exists, then Y exists (asmin satidam bhavati) and if X arises then Y arises (asyotpādād idam utpadyate),” cited in the Abhidharmanyāyānusāraśāstra by Saṃghabhadra.
Sarvāstivāda understood the pratītyasamutpādasūtra as the perfect one (nitārtha) while Sthavira identified it as the being imperfect one (neyārtha). The reason being that although the pratītyasamutpāda of 12 branches is only applicable to sentient beings, the two formulas are applicable to sentient and non-sentients being (namely sarvam saṃskṛta), and also take the form of presenting (uddeśa: 摽) and interpreting topics (nirdeśa: 釋). As a result, he was able to criticize Sarvāstivāda’s theory of dependent origination based on the stage of reincarnation (avasthā) and momentariness (kṣaṇika).
Sthavira therefore stipulated that the two formulas indicate that the phenomenon (saṃskṛtadharmas) occurs in various conditions, but again presented two interpretations based on his theory of causal inheritance (因果相續).
First, the previous formula is indicates the abiding (sthiti) of the phenomenon. In other words, the phenomenon is streamed as a causality without disconnection. The following formula indicates that these causalities are not a simultaneous but a series of sequential-continuous arising (utpāda).
Second, Sthavira interpreted the two formulas on the basis of the theory of kṣaṇabhaṅga (刹那滅) and abhūtvā bhāva (本無今有). In this context the previous one means that when the effect exists, there is a destruction of the cause. In that case, the effect arise from the extinction of cause, namely non- existence. And dhus the sutra states the following. “This (=cause) arises then that (=result) arises.” Meanwhile, Badhanta Rāma, Sthavira’s disciple, interpreted the two formulas according to the theory of a seed, i.e. saṃtatipariṇāmaviśeṣa. He describes it as a causality based on immediate cause (sākṣāt-hetu), and indirect cause (pāraṃparyam-hetu), respectively.
In conclusion, Sthavira and his sect (Sautrāntika) interpreted the two formulas of Dependent Origination based on their main doctrine, the theory of anudhātu (隨界)/bīja (種子). In particular, the interpretation of the Sthavira reflects the fact that the Sautrāntika’s unique theory of causal inheritance based on sequential-causality, and this explanation corresponds with those who claim that only a moments exist (kṣaṇika).