Buddhist Philosophy
based on the
Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

[This section is in process.]


[page in process]

[page 34 of pdf]

We are going to continue from yesterday. In the English text we are on page five. Nor does it occur through the action of some other entity. Yesterday we had the point about that the sprout does not occur from itself. Just as when we wanted to analyse what itself means, in the context of self and other, similarly, today we start by defining what other is when the question is if a sprout comes from something other ...

Is it in relation to a self that we have other or not?

If 'other' is defined in relation to 'self', then self has to be already there, in order to talk about other. This means that if self is already there, then one actually doesn't need this. When you have 'self and 'other', then one depends on the other. You can only talk about either one, if the other one is there. If the question is, if something has arisen from itself or from something else, then if its own cause is already there you do not need another cause.

One can't say it occurred, because it already happened. If we define other as being completely different from itself, then it would mean that anything could occur from anything. Then a vase could occur from a pillar. Fire could occur from water. If the cause would be completely different from the effect, then there is no limit to what could arise from what. Either everything could arise from everything or nothing from anything. It doesn't make sense, It is not possible.

The next part is: Nor does it occur through the combination of the two above. This is also logical, because if it can't occur from itself or from something different, then of course it can not occur from both itself and something other than itself.

The fourth possibility is then that it arises neither from itself nor from something different from itself and that would mean it arises without a cause, which is also no the case. You cannot have a result without a cause.

This kind of reasoning actually brings us to the understanding that there is no real entity or real self. We analysed if a phenomenon arises from itself, from other, from both or from neither itself nor other. It was proven that there is nothing established, which is alone, which is an entity, which is independent a cause. Once we have understood that a single entity is not possible as a cause, then naturally there will also not be some other entity. That brings us to the understanding that whatever appears, appears through the process of dependent occurrence, through causes and conditions. It is not based on one entity.

How come that, even though there actually is no self entity existing, one clings to this concept of it being there. This is because one does not understand the way it is there, there is not understanding of the nature of things. This not understanding the nature is ignorance. Due to this ignorance one clings to the idea of a self and once this clinging is there, that which is not the self is the other. Then you have the duality, you have the self and you have other object. Once there is the duality, the disturbing emotions arise and based on the disturbing emotions, actions are performed. Then all the action and occurrences happen. That is how the dependent occurrences happen.

Through understanding this process of dependent occurrence or through being introduced to it, one develops the wish to stop the process of dependent occurrence. One understands the need of stopping it. Then one searches for a way to stop it and that is the path. Once one practises the path, which allows one to stop the process of dependent occurrence, one is able to develop the realisation. One sees what ignorance is, one gets the experience and through this full enlightenment, the state of buddha-hood.

That is actually exactly what is explained in this sutra, where it is said that through seeing the process of dependent occurrence one sees the Dharma. Through the Dharma one attains full enlightenment. It is describing what the Dharma is. The Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones. It is explained that by practising this path on attains enlightenment and that buddha-hood contain all the qualities. This is exactly what this sutra is showing us.

Essential is that by understanding the process of dependent occurrence one starts to see that everything is composite, everything is changing. By integrating the meaning in ones mind and really understanding what the process of dependent occurrence means, the Eightfold path makes sense. By understanding that everything is a matter of dependent occurrence, ones conviction that it is true is also going to develop. As the conviction develops and becomes stronger, one's effort, wish and joy in the practise is also strengthened and one will proceed on the path and will get to the result. One starts by trying to integrate the meaning of dependent occurrence.

The main point is to start by understanding what dependent occurrence means. It is not enough that one just learns that there is the process of dependent occurrence and it has twelve links starting by ignorance and going on until ageing and death. That kind of knowledge will not benefit us. Also if we just intellectually understand that one thing acts as a seed and as a result the next one arises, such as after ignorance comes consciousness and after actions comes consciousness, it is not enough. What the sutra means with seeing the meaning of the process of dependent occurrence is to really understand the meaning. One has to integrate it in the mind. One has to understand that this is how things are. Everything in the mind arises through the process of dependent occurrence. There is no real arising, no real existing cause and no real existing fruit. That is the whole point. Therefore it is necessary to learn the reasoning we just went through. It teaches us that, if it doesn't arise from itself, something else, both or neither, it doesn't arise, because these are all the possibilities that are possible. Through that one gets to the conclusion that there is no real arising and no real cessation either. That is the real point.

When looking for the origin of things, which is what we are actually doing, then we could see that non-buddhist give other explanations. Like the Samkya school and others. They talk about a supreme being like Ishvara or Vishnu or they have a creator, which is permanent. Actually they are just talking, just giving names to something, where there actually is nothing outside of the mind. That is their way of saying it.

When we analyse it in the buddhist way, then we see that the cause we talk about can never be different from the mind. We should look for the essence of this cause and since there is no essence to this cause, we look for the mind. When we look for the mind, we try to see where does mind come from, where is it right now and where is it going. We can meditate on that to get an understanding of this. When analysing, if it comes from itself, something else etc., is exactly the same. It is another way of analysing, but it is very close to directly meditating one the essence of the mind. It can help us to understand what the nature of the mind actually is. The point is that one finds out that there is nothing really independently existing, also not the mind.

This is how we should practise. Topga Rinpoche is emphasising the fact that the whole meaning is to practise it and to use it for understanding and to integrate it in this way.

What the sutra says until what was explained now is: A sprout does not occur of itself, nor through the action of some other entity, nor through the combination of the two above.

It goes on: The sprout is not the creation of some supreme being such as Ishvara truly existent entity such as time. The sprout does not appear merely because it is its nature to do so; nor in the absence of a cause.

That shows again that the cause of thing can't be what some non-Buddhists say, like a supreme self.

Also, like some non-buddhist schools say, it cannot be that things have no cause, that they appear out of themselves. These are the nihilists who believe that

How does it the happen? The sutra continues:

When the secondary conditioning factors earth, water, air, heat, space and time function together, a seed gradually comes to an end and a sprout comes into being.

This is describing the dependent occurrences. This is how things come about. Not through the causes we just went through, but through the combination of the causes and conditions.

It then says: This is how one should understand how outer secondary conditions function to produce dependent occurrences.

One should see that it is cause and condition coming together, which makes things occur and that it is not, as the non-Buddhists say, created by somebody or created without a cause

This is explaining how relatively things occur. Now follow five characteristic qualities, which demonstrate how from an absolute point of view these dependent occurrences are taking place.

One has here the root text to which there are different commentaries. In the commentary by Kamalashila two kinds of absolute reality are explained. The accountable and the unaccountable absolute reality.

Unaccountable absolute truth can't be communicated. It is the essence of emptiness, that things are neither eternal nor non-existent. The accountable absolute truth is that what leads to the unaccountable ultimate truth. This can be communicated and that is explained here in the sutra.

As to relative reality, it is subdivided into correct relative truth and incorrect relative truth

Then the sutra continues: The process of dependent occurrence has five characteristic qualities -- these qualities are: 1. The occurrences are not static; 2. They form part of an ongoing process; 3. The shift from one phase to another is not the result of sudden transmutations; 4. A small cause can produce a relatively large effect; 5. Typical causes produce typical results.

These points will be explained one by one. This way of explaining is connected with the ultimate but also with the relative level.

First is the question: In what way is the process of dependent occurrence not static? It says: The seed and the sprout are two different entities -- the seed is wholly other than the sprout. By defining that the sprout and the seed are two different entities, it is already clear that it means that it can not be something static or permanent.

Because if would be static, there couldn't be any difference. Things would stay the same.

E.g. if one sows seeds of rice one will get sprouts of rice. The seed itself and the sprout are different and therefore they are not static. The process is not static.

Actually it means that the entity as such is not really existing also.

It goes on in the sutra saying that the process of dependent occurrence is not static: It is not the case that the seed stops and the sprout appears; nor is it the case that the seed does not stop and the sprout appears. Just exactly at the very time that the seed is ceasing to exist, the sprout is then coming into being. In this way the process of dependent occurrence is not static.

That is again proving that the process of dependent occurrence is not something static, because in order to talk about a sprout, it must be different from a seed. For the sprout to be there, it is the moment that the seed ceases to exist that the sprout occurs. The sprout does not exist before the seed stops to exist. Also the seed does not exist anymore once the sprout exists. In the moment the seed has ceased to exist, the sprout is there. This means that it is not static , because there is an interruption, it is not static

This we should also see with the background of some other viewpoint such as the non-Buddhists who claim that is some creator like Ishvara, who has created the world. At the same time they say that Ishvara is permanent. Then one could ask the question that, when the world is created, does any action take place or not? Is there anything going on at that time or not? For the world to be created there is some kind of energy or something that happens. This kind of ability to create the world, is this permanent or impermanent. They will then claim that Ishvara is permanent, he is not changing. But if analysed it is not logical, because how can a permanent creator create something, if the act of creation is not permanent? Just the fact of creating something make a change and makes it impermanent. There is a change, hence it is not logical when they say that the creator is permanent.

So we can see that there is no permanent creator. It is not logical

The second defining characteristic was, that the occurrences are uninterrupted, dynamic, that there is an ongoing process. It is said in the sutra:

How is the process of dependent occurrence a dynamic, ongoing process? A sprout is not produced by some seed, which has not ceased to exist some time ago. Nor is it produced by some seed that has not ceased to exist. This is then showing that there is an interruption. The sprout is not there until the seed has ceased to exist. It is a dynamic process. It is going in that the seed ceases to exist and then the sprout comes into existence. This is not interrupted, it is ongoing.

It says further in the sutra: Just exactly at the very time that the seed is ceasing to exist, the sprout is then being born. Like the shifting movement of two pans on a scale. The process of dependent occurrence is ongoing and uninterrupted in this way.

This is also showing the quality of the mind being a continuous stream of consciousness. The mind is not interrupted. It is the mind which is accumulating the karma, which gives rise to the disturbing emotions and the thoughts etc., which leads to the accumulation of karma The mind is functioning all the time and there is no break in the stream of consciousness.

Then comes the third defining characteristic in the process of dependent occurrence: The sutra says: What does it mean that the process of dependent occurrence involves no sudden transmutations? A seed is one entity; a sprout is another entity entirely. A sprout is wholly other then the seed. The process of dependent occurrence does not involve sudden transmutations from one thing into an entirely different thing.

That is emphasising the fact that during the time of the seed there is no sprout and when there is a sprout, there is no seed. In that way they are actually different entities. You cannot say that the seed is transforming into the spout, because the seed is different from the sprout.

For the fourth point the sutra says: Within the process of dependent occurrence, is it the case that a small cause can produce a relatively large result? From sowing a small seed, a large result can be brought into being. In this way, from smaller causes relatively larger results can occur. This is showing how dependent occurrences happen unmistakenly. That from a small seed something like a big tree can grow. The causes and conditions can give the result of a big fruit.

The fifth quality is: Typical causes produce typical results within the process of dependent occurrence. When a typical kind of seed is sown, it brings about its typical fruit. The process of dependent occurrence in this way involves a continuum of similar instances.

That is explaining again how cause and effect are always unmistaken. From a certain seed you will always get a fruit, which corresponds to the seed. It is not that from any seed you can get any result.

That were these five characteristic qualities.

Q and A - page 37 of pdf

Question? Are there differences between the fourth and the fifth defining characteristic?

The commentary was the same for both.

Answer: In one it says that from a small cause you can get big results. But it is being emphasised that the result will always be in correspondence with the seed. There is no different fruit from it s seeds.

It is just to make it clearer because it was said in both cases that it is showing the unmistaken quality of cause and effect. That is why he though it was the same. The fourth characteristic is that even though the seed is small it can get big result. In the fifth it is said that the result is always the same as the seed.

Question: With respect to the third defining characteristic, no transmutation, no change is the characteristic. He thinks when looking this, it is not the case. When we observe a seed a change takes place He does not agree with the third characteristic.

Answer: One has to see these different explanations on the background of what was already given to explain the different phenomena. That characteristic relates especially to explaining that it is not as the Samkyas say. They say that the fruit is present during the time of the seed and when the conditions are present it will come out. The buddhist reasoning say that this is not the case, because if the fruit is already present in the cause, there would be no need for the fruit to come into existence.

Question: When looking at this presentation, it seems that any kind of development of phenomena is a matter of causes and conditions, which bring about the respective results. Looking at the karma of an individual, that would mean that any kind of activity is fixed, in that certain causes and conditions will lead to the respective results. Isn't there a point where the individual has the free choice to act independently from its karmic preconditions. Is there anymore a free choice to act in a certain direction, without being preconditioned by ones previous actions? Answer: One has to make some distinction, if one has some kind of education or not and one is you are using it for a certain purpose. In a worldly sense whatever education you get is to improve something. In the outer world when it is about seed and sprout you can use a certain knowledge to improve e.g. harvest. That is a very concrete level. If it is about mind, when you learn about the mind how cause and effect works. How you are creating karma and how the results of karma are, then you can use this knowledge in order to improve your karma. In this way it is nothing fatalistic, because you are making your karma yourself and you are using it.

If one is not involved in any education, then the trees and the flowers grow wild and you don't interfere in what is going on out in nature. Also if you are not educated about the mind, then you don't interfere on this level. Then whatever karma you accumulate, you will get the result. In that case it is actually true that you don't have much freedom. You are just doing things and react on them.

You have to make the distinction between these to kinds of situations.

Question: Regarding a certain kind of free choice.

Suppose one has a certain amount of knowledge and makes up ones mind to use this situation in a very positive way, even if it might be difficult. Does that making up ones mind come about by chance or is it karma again or is it a combination of both? Answer: You answered the question yourself. It is a choice to use the situation or not.

top of page