Buddhist Philosophy
based on the
Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

[This section is in process.]


Part 5

Today we continue with the sutra, which says the following: What constitutes the Dharma? It is the eightfold Path of the Noble Ones. In terms of the Dharma there are two aspects, the path that one practises and the result that one attains.

The following aspects make up the eightfold Path of the Noble Ones: Right understanding, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right samadhi.

Right view is based on the realisation of the true nature of all phenomena, what the nature of all phenomena in fact is.

Right understanding is understanding based in the realisation of the true nature of all phenomena. It is the ability to understand and realise the nature of phenomena.

Right speech relates back to the two previous, namely right view and right understanding, both being based in the unmistaken realisation of the true nature of phenomena. The individual that has attained this, will never tell lies. E.g., his speech will always be appropriate.

Right action mainly concerns physical actions. That involves giving up taking the lives of another being and so on.

Then there is Right livelihood. If ones livelihood is right is means that one does not obtain ones livelihood through deception or hypocrisy.

As was said right speech and right action mainly concern the actions of our speech and our body, These were followed by right livelihood, which is concerned with both physical and verbal actions. These three together relate to the paramita of discipline. The two first, right view and right understanding relate to the paramita of wisdom.

The next is Right effort. It is giving up inappropriate motivations when engaging in different kinds of action. In terms of the paramitas, it concerns the paramita of effort.

Right mindfulness contributes towards maintaining ones realisation and viewpoint of the true nature. It is by means of mindfulness that one arrives at a definitive understanding of the true nature of all phenomena and maintains that understanding and realisation. Without mindfulness it is possible that one might turn away from the right view and adhere to a wrong view. Right mindfulness relates to the practise of Shamata (tib.: Shine), resting in a peaceful state. Mindfulness relates to the paramita of samadhi, stable meditation states.

The eight part of the eightfold Path is Right samadhi, which is synonymous with that paramita.

Right view, the first of the aspects of the eightfold path, as we saw, is realisation of the true nature of all phenomena. By means of right view, wrong views are eliminated.

Right understanding is what brings about understanding in other beings, because it involves explaining what one has understood to other beings, so that they may come to the same understanding, the same realisation.

Right speech, Right action and Right livelihood bring about a proper behaviour so that other beings will feel confidence in one, because of ones behaviour being proper.

Through Right effort one purifies oneself of obscuring states of mind.

Right mindfulness removes laxity and agitation in ones mind as one attempts to develop samadhi or a stable meditation state. Right mindfulness counteracts circumstances adverse to developing samadhi.

Right samadhi contributes toward the individual developing qualities that will enhance his samadhi.

There is a commentary to the Sutralankara [1] written by one of Vasubandhu foremost diciples, Lodru Tenpa. He says that the Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones has two aspects. There is behaviour and resting in an even state. That is to say, engaging in the practise of meditation.

[1. "Sutralankara is a book which contains the main percepts of the Yogachara (Way of Union) or Vigyanavadin school of philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism. It is one of the school of Philosophy of Mahayana and the other one is Madhayamika. It was written by Asanga, a Buddhist Monk from Peshawar (Presently in Pakistan) who existed in 4th or 5th century.

According to him, the aspect of behaviour relates to engaging in positive actions, accumulating merit. In ones daily life one engages in various activities, such a walking around, sitting around, sleeping, eating and so on. The three, namely right speech, right action and right livelihood are important in that they relate very much to behaviour in one's daily life. It is important to maintain a proper practise of these.

The second aspect relates to resting in samadhi, a stable meditation state. There are two main aspects of practise, Shamata [2] and Vipassana.[3]

[2. ]

[3. ]

Right view in this context is what is meant by the actual practise of Vipassana, in that right view is synonymous with perceiving ultimate truth. Right understanding and right effort are associated with the practise of Vipassana, but they are not what is meant by actual Vipassana practise.

Then there are right mindfulness and right samadhi. Both relate to the practice of Shamata. However, right samadhi is synonymous with Shamata and right mindfulness is associated with Shamata in that it contributes towards being able to develop that practise.

The Sutra goes on to say that the eightfold path of the noble ones includes both attaining various levels of fruition and attaining Nirvana. This the Buddha, the Bhagawan said, constitutes the Dharma. As was said in the beginning, the Dharma has two aspects. The practise of the path and what is attained as a result, fruition.

The sutra mentions that in terms of fruition there are two divisions. There is what is attained by those following the Shravaka path and the Prateyakabuddha path. In terms of that fruition there are four levels. It also includes attaining Nirvana. Nirvana here is synonymous with Buddha, the enlightened state, which is beyond both samsara and the incomplete Nirvana of Arhats, that is merely a peaceful state where the individual does not engage in activities for the benefit of others. Therefore the four levels of fruition according to the Shravaka- and the Prateyakabuddha-path are said not to be ultimate, whereas buddha, the enlightened state is ultimate. It is unparalleled.

This Sutra is a Mahayana sutra. Therefore it does not go into an explanation of the different levels of fruition in the shravaka- and the pratyakabuddha-path. However, it goes on to explain what is meant by unparalleled fruition, that is buddha, the enlightened state. It asks: "What is the enlightened state, the Buddha, the Bhagawan? Full realisation of the true nature of phenomena is what is called Buddha, the enlightened state."

The Dharmakaya, [4] the wisdom insight of the Noble ones, the enlightened state clearly comprehends the entire path, the stage learning through the stage no more learning. Buddha, the enlightened state, is synonymous with the Dharmakaya. The wisdom insight it involves clearly comprehends the entire path, the stages learning through no more learning.

[4. ]

There is the commentary on the Sutralankara that was mentioned before. It brings out the following; that an enlightened individual perceives what causes the attaining of Buddha, the enlightened state, as well as what Buddha, the enlightened state is. As we saw, Buddha, the enlightened state, is synonymous with the Dharmakaya and it involves the wisdom insight of the noble ones, by means of which the enlightened individual, the Buddhas clearly comprehends the entire path, the stage learning through the stage no more learning. Kamalashilas commentary speaks of three aspects in this context.

The three aspects are the following. The first is called the profound aspect and it relates to a realisation of the essencelessness of phenomena. It is the realisation of the essencelessness of the individual. Such realisation is not found in non-buddhist traditions. The third aspect is called 'beyond samsara' in that it relates to the realisation of both aspects of essencelessness. The essencelessness of phenomena and the individual.

The Dharmakaya is defined as follows.[5] It is the Dharmadhatu, which is synonymous with the mirrorlike wisdom, which manifests once the individual has overcome all dualistic notions of perceived and perceiver. Such notions occur in the fundamental consciousness, which is the eighth aspect of consciousness.

[5. Also see ]

Then there are the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya. Both depend upon the Dharmakaya. In fact one can say that these two Kayas are functions of the Dharmakaya.

There is mention of the wisdom insight of the noble ones. The literal translation of the word used in the sutra is the eye of wisdom. Buddhism mentions five different kinds of eye. There is the physical eye of the Bodhisattva who has developed to the point, where he is able to through the physical eye perceive that exist. All forms in the three directions and in the past, present and future.

By means of the second type of eye, the magic eye, the Bodhisattva perceives all forms in the ten directions and in the three times.

Then there is the eye of wisdom, which is synonymous with nonconceptual wisdom.

The fourth, the dharma-eye, relates to perception of twelve aspects of the Buddhas teachings.

The eye of the Buddha or a Buddha's eye is the perception of everything. Whether one speaks of pure or impure phenomena. Whether one speaks of compounded or uncompounded phenomena. A buddha perceives all types of phenomena.

When speaking of these different eyes one is not speaking of physical eyes that may be either square or round or whatever. Eye is a metaphor for insight. When one speaks of insight, one may either say that one knows something or that one perceives or sees something. In ordinary terms that means that one sees something with one's physical eye. Here on the other hand it is the wisdom insight of an enlightenend being that sees. It is not a matter of a physical eye.

The sutra asks: How should the process of dependent occurrence by truly understood? It goes on to give the following answer: The noble Dharma is truly understood by the individual, who sees that the process of dependent occurrence permanently lacks inherent existence, it is not an alive entity, it has no independent structure or life of its own and so on.

All phenonmen are unborn. It means that they have never truly come into existence. Hence this process, which includes all phenomena, permanently lacks inherent existence, never had nor will have innherent existence.

The sutra goes on to say that this process of dependent occurrence does not involve what is literally called a life-entity. That goes back to a school of thought that existed at the time of the Buddha. Its name is the Jain tradition.[7] This tradition speaks of a life-force as a permanent entity that is the basis in dependence upon which all phenomena arise and abide. In order to point out that the process of dependent occurrence does not involve such an entity, the Buddha said that the process of dependent occurrence does not involve such an entity.

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Q and A

Question: A question with respect to how Buddhism is presented in general. Usually when we speak for instance about right conduct, the way one approaches this topic is to explain what kind of conduct is a negative one and how this is to be avoided. One usually approaches the teaches from this negative aspect, saying this should not be done or this is incorrect. Indirectly one explains by this the correct aspect. Why do have this approach in Buddhism?

Answer: It is of no great significance whether one in terms of explaining buddhist conduct tells the students what they should not do or what they should do. If one looks at how the Buddha taught conduct in his days 2500 years ago, he started out teaching followers conduct. That was what he began with. A lot of rules came about, because members of the buddhist community engaged in different negative actions. In order to prevent that occurring again, the Buddha made a rule that one should not do such and such a thing. It is because of those circumstances that the Buddha himself started out so to speak telling followers what they should not do. One of the first teaching of the Buddha was that he told his followers never to engage in a negative action, but to make all efforts towards engaging in positive actions. If one knows what negative actions are, one will naturally engage in positive actions. On the other hand, if one doesn't recognise what negative actions are, it may not be that easy to avoid them an engage in positive actions. Maybe this is the reason for pointing at to begin with what one should not do rather than what one should do.

Question: From the different types of eyes, the fourth one was the so called dharma-eye. In that it was spoken about the twelve aspects of the Buddha's teachings. What does that mean?

Answer: There are twelve aspects. Rinpoche says we won't go into the details of each and everyone right now.

Question: [naudible]

Answer: With respect to the first that this person mentioned, it relates to perceiving all different forms that exist in all their variety. The latter relates to perceiving their true nature, because that is the perception of a buddha. The previous is the perception of a Bodhisattva. Rinpoche says he won't go into that now, because it is not really related to what we are doing.

Question: Regarding the Eightfold Path of the Nobel Ones, is to the succession in which the different aspects are explained connected to a meaning, because if one takes for instance the presentation of the paramitas, it seem that one starts with the more simple ones and then goes to the more difficult aspects? In this case it seem that there is no such obvious succession or that the more deeper ones, such as the right view is at the beginning.

Answer: In order to be able to perceive the nature of the process of dependent occurrence right view is indispensable, because it relates to comprehending the nature of reality, perceiving the nature of reality. Once there is such perception, the aspect of conduct comes into play. Through proper conduct one will progressively do away with obscuring states of mind, different kinds of obscurations. This is one way of looking at the practise. There are other ways of looking at it, where one from among the three, viewpoint, meditation and conduct, may emphasise any of the other, E.g., meditation or conduct.

Question: Relating to the twelve links of the process of dependent occurrence it is usually said that the prior links is the main condition which brings about the following link. However, if there was no basic unawareness, none of the other links would occur. Form that reason, shouldn't one say that it is always basic unawareness, which brings about each and every of the remaining twelve links, instead of the respective prior link?

Answer: Basic unawareness is the root of all the others, however it is not the direct cause of each and every phase in this process.

As we saw yesterday, these twelve phases may be divided on three lifetimes. One may also looks at them as all of them arising in one moment. The point is, as was said, there are direct and indirect causes. Basic unawareness is the root of all the others, indirectly. However, it doesn't act as a direct cause of each and every of these phases that make up the process of dependent occurrence. Also it seems that these different phases always arise in a sequential order. It may be easier at the beginning to start out focusing on a sensation. Whether it is one of pain or one of pleasure. In terms of what this sensation is and the reason for it occurring. One contemplates this different phases of this process of dependent occurrence. As a result of such a contemplation, one will come to realise that basic unawareness is the real source of such a sensation, of such a feeling. One contemplates the different phases that make up the process of dependent occurrence and in this way develops understanding or awareness of what E.g., a sensation is. What has caused it and so on.

Question: It was mentioned that the twelve links of the process of dependent occurrence are included in one instance. What does that really mean, because from the practical side it is hard to understand?

Answer: When speaking of the twelve phases that make up the process of dependent occurrence in terms of occurring together in one moment, one should understand that in fact what is at hand is a series of instances. Maybe one cannot speak of those occurring in just one moment. However there is a sequential order of instances or moments. If one takes the example of taking the life of another being, for that to occur, the individual must first have an intention to do so. There has to be the intention to take the life of another being. That intention occurs because of obscuring states of mind. Obscuring states of mind occur because the individual does not have a proper knowledge of what should be adopted and what should be rejected. What is proper to do and what is not proper to do. That is based in basic unawareness, the first of the twelve phases. Due to this intention of taking the life of another being, a certain mental pattern or habitual tendency will occur in the mindstream. That followed by committing that deed, by taking the life of another being. That act of taking the life of another being produces a karmic imprint in the individuals mindstream, which again will impel the individual into another phase existence. That again, as we saw yesterday. will produce rebirth and so on. There is what one may call this chain-reaction that occurs where the different phases occur in a progressive order, in a sequential order.

Question: The Buddha taught this sutra by holding a rice seedling in the hand. He used that as a basis to present dependent occurrence, but the ... is speaking about consciousness and basic unawareness and so on. With respect to this rice seedling its matter only, so one can't speak about consciousness or unawareness. How is this connected?

Answer: One cannot know for sure why the Buddha, while looking at a rice-seedling explained the twelve phases of the process of dependent occurrence. However, the Buddha at that point had perfect and complete realisation of the fact that all phenomena without exception are essenceless, insubstantial and unreal. One may deduce that the Buddha, while looking at the rice-seedling, thought to himself that all phenomena in the relative world manifest without fail. A rice seedling will always produce, will always grow into a rice-seedling. What is it that produces that process? Thinking about what it is that produces this process, the Buddha may have come to reflect upon the true nature of existence. This may be how come the Buddha, while looking at a rice-seedling, spoke of this process. That is to say, he may have contemplated the two aspects of reality, relative and absolute, while looking at this rice-seedling and hence he through explaining this process also pointed out that in fact there is nothing that is real, that has any substance. As we have seen, these twelve phases are comparable to a chain-reaction. If we look at the recessed growing into a rice-seedling, there is also a kind of chain-reaction, where there are certain causes and conditions creating other causes and conditions. If one looks at time and space, time is merely a mental fabrication. One speaks of past, presence and future. One speaks of presence in dependence upon the past and one also speak of the future in dependence upon the future and so on. In fact there is no real basis. Time is merely a concept without any basis in reality.

Question: When speaking about meditation on the twelve links of dependent arising, which kind of meditation is meant? Should one first of all contemplate or reflect on the meaning of the respective links and then rest ones mind in the understanding attained or how is that meditation meant practically?

Answer: One starts out contemplating what each of these phases that make up the process of dependent occurrence. At first there is the understanding of what they are. One then sits down and tries to see if one actually when thinking in detail E.g., the statement basic unawareness is the root of samsara, if this really is the case or not. If one becomes convinced of that this is the case or not. If one becomes convinced of that the case is really that basic unawareness causes samsara, one will then want to eradicate basic unawareness. One will then want go on to looking for methods by which one is able to do so. That is how one at the outset contemplates these different phases that make up the process of dependent occurrence, in order to acquire a personal conviction of what this process involves. We are all followers of Buddhism. As such, it should be clear to one why it is that one desires to follow that tradition. Ones reason to do so is individual. Some may want to practice Buddhism, because it will result in a state of well-being which is sort of a temporary benefit resulting from following this tradition.. Others again may want to follow Buddhism, because they truly want to attain Buddha, the enlightened state. Whichever is ones choice is something personal. When following Buddhism it is very important that one has confidence in this path. in order to gain such confidence one must analyse and examine these teachings. One should not follow this just because one is told that this is a good approach to follow. One shouldn't believe the buddhist teaching just because someone tells that these teachings are very good. One must gain a personal conviction through analysing and examining the teachings oneself.

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