Last time ultimate reality of the process of dependent occurrence was explained and there was a list of characteristics. The next part in the sutra explains the ultimate nature of the Dharma. The characteristics are the same as for the process of dependent occurrence, as both cases relate to ultimate reality. The noble Dharma is directly realised by that individual who ultimately sees the Dharma as permanently lacking inherent existence as having neither a life of its own nor any life-force of its own; who sees the nature of the Dharma as it is; that this path of the Dharma in terms of its ultimate reality is unmistaken, it has never arisen or come into being; it is something that has been created in the past. It is not something created by a creator; it is not produced; it is unobstructed; cannot be grasped as a reference point; it is a state of peace that is without fear; it is infallible; inexhaustible and there is nothing that is to be pacified. Whomever sees ultimate reality of Dharma as such has direct perception of its nature.
As the sutra mentions, the individual who perceives the ultimate reality of the process of dependent occurrence, perceives the ultimate reality of Dharma. That individual will also perceive Buddha, the enlightened state. Perception of the ultimate reality of these three is related to one another in that order. Whoever sees the ultimate reality of the process of dependent occurrence, sees the ultimate reality of Dharma, as a result that individual sees Buddha, the enlightened state.
The individual who sees the ultimate reality of Dharma, sees or perceives Buddha, the enlightened state. In that perception of the ultimate reality of the Dharma is insight which fully comprehends ultimate reality as it is. That insight is referred to as perfect wisdom. Perfect wisdom is synonymous with the Buddha's wisdom. Perfect wisdom has five aspects, that is of the five wisdoms: The wisdom of Dharmadhatu, Mirrorlike Wisdom, etc.> One of these five wisdoms is the Wisdom of Sameness or Equality. That wisdom perceives no difference between the essential nature of the process of dependent occurrence, Dharma and Buddha, the enlightened state. For the individual who has perception of ultimate reality, there is no difference in the essential natures of these three.
The following question may arise: If the process of dependent occurrence ultimately is uncompounded, that is to say it is not being produced by causes and conditions, how come one speaks of a process of dependent occurrence? As was said, in terms of ultimate reality, this process, the Dharma and Buddha, the enlightened state are the same in terms of essential nature. When one speaks about the unobstructed play of relative appearances, on the other hand the question 'What is referred to?' may arise.
The answer is that one speaks of a process of dependent occurrence in that nothing comes into existence causelessly. There is always a set of causes and conditions that bring about or produce appearances or the relative level of reality.
In terms of ultimate reality there is mention of different aspects. The aspect referred to as accountable and the aspect referred to as unaccountable. Accountable ultimate reality is referred to as such. Because it is the aspect of ultimate reality that is described through using different examples and names etc. That aspect of ultimate reality is in fact conceptual. One gives an account of something in order to describe it.
Then there is the second aspect, unaccountable ultimate reality, which is the absolute ultimate reality so to speak in that it is beyond conceptual framework. The sutra mentions that ultimate reality of the process of dependent occurrence, Dharma, Buddha, the enlightened state, has the characteristic of never having truly arisen.
The question just mentioned then may arise. How come that one speaks of the process of dependent occurrence, if ultimately there is nothing that has truly arisen. That question brings us back to the relative aspect of the process of dependent occurrence, where it was said that relative phenomena do appear, however since they are the product of the coming together of various causes and conditions, they are illusionlike, they are like a reflection in a mirror. They have no substance [but] even though they have no substance, they do appear and manifest.
Relative appearances, are caused by certain causes and certain conditions. Each and every relative phenomenon has its own set of causes and conditions that pertain to its coming into existence. A certain cause will bring about a certain effect. It is not the fact that any cause would cause any effect to arise. In terms of relative reality there is this ceaseless manifestation of relative appearances caused by various causes and conditions. Each phenomenon has specific causes and conditions and that aspect is what one refers to as relative reality. One should be aware of these two aspects of the process of dependent occurrence, relative and ultimate.
For the reasons that were mentioned, there is no contradiction in speaking of different teachings of the Buddha, such as the twelve phases of the process of dependent occurrence, the six paramitas etc. In terms of relative reality there is also the worldly aspect. Where there are what one may call the ways of the world. There are different presentations of things. Such as a person doing farming. He sows seeds. These seeds will grow into a crop etc. These different aspects relate to the relative aspect.
Relative reality also has two aspects. The correct and the incorrect. What was just described is referred to as the correct aspect of relative reality. The text goes on to speak about the mistaken or incorrect aspect of relative reality, which relates to opinions and assertions about reality that are not accepted even in the world. Such as some non-buddhist traditions, claiming that phenomena come into existence without cause, causelessly. Again other traditions claim that impermanent phenomena are the creations of a permanent being, who is said to be the creator of the universe. These assertions are what is refuted.
A dependent occurrence is something that has come into existence through the coming together of causes and conditions. It has not come into existence without causes and conditions.
Five defining charactistics
The text mentions that the process of dependent occurrence has five defining characteristics:
- A dependent occurrence is something produced by a cause.
- A dependent occurrence is produced by many causes that are impermanent.
- A dependent occurrence is without self-entity.
- It has been brought about through a variety of conditions, that have the capacity to produce an effect.
- There is no creator as the conditioning influence for dependent occurrences to arise.
The sutra said that the process of dependent occurrence involves causes. The first defining characteristic is precisely that. Namely that a dependent occurrence is produced by a certain cause or causes. By that statement the viewpoint that phenomena come into existence causelessly, as asserted by certain non-buddhist traditions, is refuted.
The sutra continues to give a brief definition of this process of dependent occurrence. It says that conditions themselves are effects. The implication of that statement is that a cause is a dependent occurrence, a condition is a dependent occurrence and the effect produced by a cause and a condition is also a dependent occurrence.
It is pointed out that these elements are mutually dependent upon one another. One can't exist without the other. A cause which would not be a dependent occurrence cannot exist. A condition that is not a dependent occurrence cannot exist and en effect which is not a dependent occurrence cannot exist. These elements that make up the process of dependent occurrence do not exist and cannot function in the absence of one another. This is what defines "process of dependent occurrence".
The sutra goes on to say that whether the Tathagatas come into being or whether they do not come into being, the process of dependent occurrence is the way things always have manifested and always do manifest. Whether Tathagatas in the past have come into being or whether they will come into being in the future makes no difference in terms of what the process of dependent occurrence truly is.
The sutra speaks of the nature of this process of dependent occurrence. It uses the word nature and goes on to say that this nature stays or abides. In meaning there is no difference. Both refer to the fact that the nature of the process of dependent occurrence is always the same. The reason for mentioning this twice is that different individuals give rise to understanding of a subject by means of different statements.
The next characteristic is unchangingness. It can be related both to the ultimate and the relative aspect of the process of dependent occurrence. In terms of ultimate reality its nature is always the same. It is unchanging. In terms of relative reality, the same term relates to the fact that a relative phenomenon has its own specific causes and conditions that produce that particular phenomenon. The point in terms of relative reality is that there is always a specific set of causes and conditions that produce a relative phenomenon.
A dependent occurrence is always produced by a certain set of causes and conditions. A dependent occurrence is not causeless, not unconditioned.
The next characteristic relates to ultimate reality. That is in this case, how the process of dependent occurrence in fact is. There are two aspects. There is the perception of this in meditation, which relates to a direct realisation or perception of that. Then there is the cause of such a perception, which relates to an understanding of the true nature of this process, which acts as a cause for attaining realisation of its true nature.
Then there is the true nature of this process of dependent occurrence in terms of being unmistaken. There is the mention of unmistaken for the reason that this defining characteristic will negate the opposite, namely there being a mistake at hand.
This process of dependent occurrence can never be anything else. This statement implies that there are no phenomenon that would be dependent occurrences and then other phenomena that would not be dependent occurrences. All phenomena without exception are dependent occurrences.
It is nothing other than authentic. This process, as it has been decried, is authentic.
It is valid and genuine in that it relates to a perception of Buddha, the enlightened state.
It is ultimate truth in that if one looks at the perceptions of Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, their perception are also referred to as valid or genuine, but they are not ultimate in that they do not perceive Buddha, the enlightened state, the ultimate state. Their perceptions are therefor incomplete and in the ultimate sense not valid and genuine.
It is not flawed. It involves no errors in that what is at hand is a perception based in ultimate wisdom or ultimate awareness.
There has been frequent mention of that this process of dependent occurrence involves a variety of causes and conditions. The sutra goes to say that the process of dependent occurrence involves two parts. Causation and the presence of secondary conditions. That relates to the second of the five characteristics that were mentioned at the beginning. The defining characteristic involving a variety of causes that are impermanent.
These two parts of the process of dependent occurrence relate to causes and the presence of secondary conditions.
These are connected by being dependent upon one another. This points to the fact that a dependent occurrence is caused by many causes. It is produced by the coming together of many causes that are impermanent. Therefore one cannot speak of a permanent cause as the producer of phenomena. By talking about a group of impermanent causes, producing an effect, one refutes the position that a phenomenon may be created or caused by a single permanent cause.
Each of these has an outer and an inner aspect. So one speak of outer causes and inner causes and outer conditions and inner conditions.
That relates to the third defining characteristic, namely that this process does not involve a self-entity.
Worldly individuals take what is called the inner ayatanas  to constitute an individual self. In terms of the outer ayatanas, they regard them as phenomena belonging to that individual self.
That brings us to the idea of the individual as an entity, a truly existent individual and outer phenomena as an entity and in that sense taken to be truly existent entities. The inner ayatanas relate to the five skandhas.
As was said worldly individuals regard these five skandhas as a truly existent individual and that which is perceived by the individual as truly existent entities. To enable individuals to give up the mistaken notions of a truly existent individual and the notion of truly existent outer phenomena, the process of dependent occurrence, the fact that phenomena arise in dependence upon a variety of causes and conditions, was taught.
The individual, that is to say the truly existent individual, is regarded as a static, permanent entity. That quality of being permanent would in effect prevent the process of dependent occurrence it would obstruct this process, which is not static. It is the opposite. It is a dynamic process, involving a variety of causes and conditions. The notion of the five skandhas as a truly existent individual would prevent the coming together of causes and conditions that produce dependent occurrences.
The sutra goes on as follows. It asks:
What is outer causation in terms of the process of dependent occurrence? It is like this. A seed produces a sprout. The sprout produce a first tiny leaf. The first tiny leak produces a shoot. The shoot produces a stem. The stem produces a bud. From the bud comes a flower and the flower produces a fruit.
That relates to the fourth defining characteristic mentioned previously. The characteristic which involves a set of conditions, which have the capacity to produce something.
This points out the fact that a certain cause or condition will produce a certain effect.
The opposite would be that, without a seed there cannot be a sprout through the whole process that we went through up till the flower which produces the fruit. So, without the flower, there can be no fruit.
As was described a specific cause will produce a specific effect. If the cause is not there, the effect will not be produced. Mentioning this does away with the mistaken notion that causes and conditions cannot be inherently other. That is to say not related in terms of nature.
As was said, a single permanent cannot produce an effect in that it is permanent, that is to say static. Such a cause cannot perform a function such as producing an effect.
In terms of a phenomenon coming into existence one may look at different alternatives in terms of the source of a phenomenon. Some may believe that a phenomenon is produced from itself. It may be produced from something which is inherently other than this phenomenon, a combination of these two or from no cause at all. The four alternatives and the related alternatives will be explained tomorrow.
There seems to have been a question about the dedication prayer. ... of which beings are freed from the ocean of samsara. It is the merit or the positive potential, which brings about freedom from samsara. In terms of positive potential; that is based on the practice of the six paramitas etc. through which beings are freed from the ocean samsara and attain the state of omniscience.
All beings that are innumerable, that are in number as vast as the sky, are to be freed.
These beings are to be freed from samsara, which, as we have seen earlier is made up of the three realms. Samsara is spoken of using a metaphor, namely the ocean.
The ocean of samsara is stirred up by the waves of birth, ageing, sickness and death. If there is a storm the ocean will be stirred up. In addition one can imagine there being numerous ferocious animals, such as crocodiles etc. That would induce fear. It would be a very fearful situation. Similarly the ocean of samsara is continually stirred up by the waves of birth, ageing, sickness and death.
In order to be able to free other beings from this ocean of samsara one must have the proper means. This means to say one must have attained the state of a buddha, the state of omniscience. One prays that one attains this state through the merit or the positive potential accumulated.
In order to attain that state it is necessary to conquer the enemy of obscuring states. That is why the dedication prayer mentions this.
One then contemplates, as one does this prayer, the wish to free all beings from the ocean of samsara. In order to be able to do so, one needs to accumulate the positive potential by practising the six paramitas. As a result of that practise, one will remove obscurations, obscuring states of mind that produce suffering, and as a result attain the state of omniscience.
The sutra goes on to say that it is not the case that a seed intentionally creates a sprout. The meaning is that there is no individual self-entity. Such an entity, if present, would occurr in the mindstream. It would be a mental occurrence. By saying that a seed does not intentionally create a sprout, is pointed out that this process of dependent occurrence does not involve a self entity. There was a mention of it not involving a life force, which as we saw is synonymous with a self. This process is completely devoid of such a self entity. It is not stained by the notion of a self-entity. It is completely devoid of it. That is the implication of this statement. Thus it is not the case that a seed intentionally creates a sprout.
As we saw yesterday there is a process where a sprout is produced a sprout, that, in turn, produces a first tiny leaf etc. The statement that no intentional creation is at hand, applies to each of the steps in that process.
The process of dependent occurrence has five defining characteristics. The fifth is that in the process of dependent occurrence there are no intentional creations. An intention may be developed by an individual based on the notion of an individual self or by a creator. What was just discussed, relates to that fifth defining characteristic, which points out that this process is devoid of any intentional creation.
As has been pointed out, this process involves the presence of a cause or of a variety of causes. However, causation is not intentional. There is no intention of an individual or an external creator. One should at these two, cause and intention, in terms of being identical or essentially different: If these two were identical, there, would be no meaning in speaking of these two as two things. Namely referring to one as a cause and one as an intention. If they are essentially different, one should be able to determine what each of them, so that their own otherness may be established. In that this is not possible, so one can not speak of them as essentially separate entities.
As was said, the process of dependent occurrence does not involve intentional creating based on an entity of some sort or something other. In terms of different non-buddhist traditions, different entities are presented as the creators of things. The Samkhya  tradition speaks of what one may call the primal substance, which is asserted as a permanent or static entity. If things were produced by such an entity, the intention to produce could not act as a cause, because it coexists with the effect.
If one were to speak of an intentional creation in relation to anything else (no connection between cause and effect) it follows that anything could act as a cause for the production of any effect, which again is an untenable position, when it is an absurd consequence, because then anything could produce anything. When saying that a seed does not intentionally create a sprout, the point is that the process of dependent occurrence involves no entity that would intentionally create whatever effect is at hand.
The implication is that in the process of dependent occurrence a combination of elements produce an effect. These elements are dependent upon each other, hence one speaks of a process of dependent occurence.
The sutra says: If there is a seed, a sprout can manifest and this continues until the process results in a flower from which comes a fruit. Yesterday there was a mention of five defining characteristics [see list above] of the process of dependent occurrence, through which it is established that even though a dependent occurrence ultimately has never arisen, a dependent occurrence does manifest without fail. This process of manifesting does not involve any intention, on the part of an entity or anything else.
The sutra goes on to say: The process of dependent occurrence in terms of outer causation should be understood in this way.
Then the sutra asks: How should one regard the process of dependent occurrence in terms of the presence of outer secondary conditions?
The sutra goes says that it involves the conditioning influences of the six factors earth, water, heat, air, space and time. When these secondary conditioning factors function together, outer occurrences manifest.
The functions of these factors are as follows: the function of earth is to provide ground for the seed to grow in, the function of water is to provide moisture for the seed, the function of heat is to provide warmth for the seed, the function of air is to enable the seed to grow, the function of space is to provide room for the unobstructed growth for the seed. The function of time is to allow the seed to go though a series of changes as it grows.
The sutra points out that, if these secondary conditions are not present, even though the principal cause for a seed growing into a sprout is present, the seed will not grow into a sprout. The sutra says: If these conditioning influences are not present, the seed cannot grow into a sprout.
However, when the outer factors earth, water, air, heat, space and time are present and are present in a form which is sufficient, when all these factors are combined as conditioning influences the seed gradually grows into a sprout.
The sutra then goes on to make the point, that was just made, in terms of principal causes. Namely that there is no intentional creation. It says that during this process the factor earth does not intentionally provide ground for the seed to grow in. The factor water does not intentionally moisten the seed. The factor heat does not intentionally warm the seed. The factor air does not intentionally enable the seed to grow. The factor space does not intentionally provide room for the unobstructed growth of the seed. Time does not intentionally perform the function of allowing the seed to undergo changes as it grows. The seed does not intentionally create the sprout and the sprout is not an intentional result of these secondary conditions.
If these secondary conditions are present the seed will gradually cease to exist and the sprout can begin to develop. This process will continue to unfold such that if there is a flower, the fruit is produced.
These factors earth, water, warmth, air etc. are of course not animated beings in that these factors have a mind that could intentionally create something. The reason for speaking of these factors in those terms is that this process of dependent occurrence is in no way connected with some sort of self-entity in any form.
There was a mention yesterday of four different alternatives on the basis of which a phenomenon may be produced. The first of these was production from a self-entity. If one asserts this, one must define what that self-entity is. One may relate it to some other entity so that one gets the pair self and other and possible production of either of these alternatives.
There are these two alternatives, production from a self-entity or from some other entity. When looking at this pair one should then examine how these two exist in relation to one another.
The relationship between a self-entity and some other entity is one of mutual dependence. One cannot exist without the other. Neither exist independently of the other. Hence, assertions of production from a self-entity are untenable.
You have these different possibilities of determining what the self or an entity is. Either you determine it in relation to something other or you determine it on the basis of the five skandhas.
If one asserts that this self-entity is the individual self of a person, which persons self is one speaking of? Sariputras or Devadatas or somebody else.
If one comes to the conclusion that it is Sariputras self, it follows that his self would be the source of all phenomena, which would be an absurd conclusion.
Then it follows that the individual self of other individuals, such as Devadata, would be defined as some other entity. In terms of that then he would end up with Sariputras self with the definition of what is meant an entity or a self-entity. Then any other individual self would become different from Sariputras self.
An individual self could never be the source of phenomena.
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If speaking of an entity as the source of all phenomena, a self-entity such as presented in the
Samkhya tradition, then one may ask the question: What is meant by other in relation to that self entity?
If a permanent or unchanging entity is asserted as the source of phenomena, one must either determine if it is a mental phenomenon or a physical phenomenon As a mental phenomenon it must be based on the five skandhas. As matter it must be based in the factors that were mentioned before, water, warmth etc. There are no other possibilities
There is no basis of designation in dependence upon which one can define such a self-entity, in that it cannot be proven to exist either as a mental phenomenon nor as matter. There is no basis of designation in dependence on which its existence can be proven.
It is neither mind nor matter. Therefore one cannot speak of such an entity as an active phenomenon that is the cause or creator of phenomena.
It is a non-existent phenomenon. Such a phenomenon couldn't be the source or the creator of a phenomenon.
Nothing is produced by such a self-entity.
Q and A
Question: Last time it was said that nothing can exist as such, nothing can exist as result. This relates to the example that a sprout is produced from a cause which is a seed. What is at hand is rather a change that takes place, namely that the seed changes into becoming a sprout. There is no primal coming into existence involved in that example. He is not sure whether the first coming into existence could not happen from something which does not exist to begin with, because what was said now doesn't really fit to the example given in the sutra, where one rather refers to matter which undergoes a process of change, but not to a first coming into existence of something.
Answer: One has to determine what the self entity that different schools of thought assert as the cause of the universe. Is it something that first existed and then became subject to destruction or is it something that has never existed to begin with. The answer is that it is something that has never existed to begin with. As we saw, the Samkhya school of thought of thought speaks of what they call a primal substance, the inner gnostic being. These are names of what they assert as the inner source of everything. They are spoken of as a self-entity that never changes. Even though unchanging it does involve all phenomena. It involves a process of action. In the buddhist viewpoint, such an entity can never have existed to begin with. It is completely nonexistent, it is merely a mental fabrication, a conceptual label.
Question: He said that there are gods in the form-realm and simply because they have a wish things spontaneously manifest, hence arise from out of nothing. How is this to be understood. It seems to be that things come into existence from out of nothing.
Answer: It is because of previously accumulated merit that these things manifest when these beings think of them. So they do have a cause.
Question: Why can something not arise out of itself or out of something other? Could this be repeated please?
Answer: There are these different self-entities asserted by various non-buddhist traditions which, when analysed through logic and reasoning, are found not to exist, are found to be merely conceptual labels, mental fabrications. There was the previous question in relation to how one defines such a self-entity. If it is defined in relation to what is its opposite.
In the buddhist viewpoint, these two, self and other, are mutually dependent. Self exists in relation to other and other exists in relation to self. Hence neither of them can be a truly existent phenomenon, the source of all other phenomena.
The second question arose, whether when looking at a self entity, is this the self then. As we saw that as well was an impossible alternative. According to the buddhist tradition a self entity cannot be the source of phenomena.
Question: When saying the process of dependent occurrence it was said that any given cause additionally requires contributing conditions, which make this cause cease and hence the respective results will occur. That was said to be necessary in order to have a result brought about from the cause. With respect to the gods in the form-realm or, a more practical example, a Mahasiddha, who is able to manifest things, it seems that not always these contributing conditions need to support that process of production in that a cause brings about the result. Are these six contributing condition, such as the elements, indispensable or not?
Answer: The six factors that were mentioned relate to production in terms of relative reality. There are what one may call the creations of a Mahasiddha. They are of course not brought about by the conditioning influences, such as the six factors that were discussed. However they are not without cause. It is because a Mahasiddha has attained realisation of ultimate reality that he has the capacity to E.g., change fire into water or water into fire. These creations are caused by the power of the realisation of ultimate reality that he has attained.
Question: In the example that was given in the sutra there was the seed which develops into the sprout etc. On the one hand there are the causes and on the other hand there are the contributing conditions. There are other situations in the world, for example that a human being has a certain intention and then performs a certain activity. Also in that case causes and conditions come together. Where is the aspect of consciousness, the intention, which one particular person has, which then induced his activity to perform this and that action. So, consciousness would be which kind of cause or condition?
Answer: If one speaks of intention in terms of generating bodhicitta, that motivation brings one to requesting instructions and the practise of these instructions, which results in ones attaining of fruition. The intention is not the direct cause for that attainment. It is the condition that contributes towards the individuals attaining of fruition. The direct cause of that fruition is the practise of the path. In that context intention is the conditioning influence. If one looks at the process of dependent occurrence, it is made up of a series of instances, where the impetus of each instance produces the next instance, In that sense each and every instance is a dependent occurrence in that it, for its coming into existence, is dependent upon its previous instance.
Question: Regarding the Samkhya tradition: It was a mention that one should analyse whether this entity is matter or consciousness. Couldn't it be that it is both matter and mind?
Answer: A phenomenon that is a combination of mind and matter doesn't exist. It was established that an eternal creator, as asserted by for example the Samkhya tradition is neither mind nor matter. Since it is neither mind nor matter it could also not be a combination of both. Hence a combination of these two is not possible
Question: Is it correct that in this context now matter was considered as something being completely different from mind. Matter and mind as different entities. If this is the case, then is there an explanation regarding of how different kinds of matter interact with each other. Physical effects such as gravitation, which is a phenomenon of just matter. Secondly, is there an explanation of how different mental states interact with one another? How e.g. one mental reaction causes another one to arise? Is there an explanation how matter interacts with matter and how mind interacts with mental phenomena?
Answer: In speaking of mental reactions producing other mental reactions there is the process of dependent occurrence, where basic unawareness causes actions and the karma they accrue a.s.o. This is one example of how different mental functions produce other mental functions or phenomena. Then there is a presentation of fifty-one mental events. For exaample, an individual who hears a sound he doesn't like will react with aversion. Similarly, if the individual hears a sound he likes, he reacts with pleasure. These are examples of how mental events produce other mental events.