Buddhist Philosophy based on the Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

device width goes here

Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

Buddha statue

Part 4

Today the phase of the process of dependent occurrence called impulsion into the next phase of existence will be explained.b It has three aspects. One relating to the desire realm, one relating to the form realm and one relating to the formless realm.

This particular phase in the process of dependent occurrence relates to the five skandhas or psycho-physical constituents. Beings in the desire realm and form realm only have four skandhas.

In other sutras there is mention of seven classes of existence, being the hell realms, animals, pretas, human beings and celestial beings. There is also mention of the existence relating to the intermediate state and then karma as the basis for existence.

One finds all seven types of existence in the desire realm. In the form realm there are three of these, celestial beings, the intermediate state and karma as the basis of existence. In the formless realm there are just two, celestial beings and karma as the basis of existence.

This particular phase of the process of dependent occurrence called impulsion into the next phase of existence relates to the particular types of existence that beings are reborn in and the causes for being reborn in these different types of existence.

This particular phase in the process of dependent occurrence relates to the kind of existence that one may be reborn into and the cause that propels one into that particular type of existence. It involves both the different types of existence there are as well as the cause of the, the karma.

This particular phase dealing with existence in its various forms relates to being reborn into a particular type of existence, hence it is referred to as impulsion into the next phase of existence.

There is a previous phase in the process of dependent occurrence, actions and the karma they accrue. One may wonder what the difference between the impulsion into the next phase of existence and that one is, since both relate to actions and the karma actions accrue.

With respect to karma there are two aspects or even phases. One relates to the essential nature of actions, what they are in essence and one relates to habitual tendencies.

When speaking of the previous phase in the process of dependent occurrence, actions and the karma they accrue, we saw that there are certain actions which are presented as a basis in dependence upon which karma is accumulated. One has to distinguish the different aspects of karma. There is this basic type, which acts as a cause for engaging in actions as a result of which one comes to experience a certain result. That result in the second aspect, which as was said relates to habitual tendencies. It relates to habitual tendencies in their manifest form. In terms of the lay and karma there is cause and effect. So essence relates to cause and effect to manifest habitual patterns, experiencing the karmic results.

The precious phase in the process of dependent occurrence called actions and the karma they accrue, where karmic seeds so to speak are accumulated in the mindstream or the conscious stream. These karmic seed are the basis in dependence upon which habitual patterns and tendencies will ripen in the future at which point we are dealing with the phase in the process of dependent occurrence we are discussing today. The previous phase relates to karmic seeds and today's phase relates to these seed having ripened, so that the karmic results will be experienced.

There is also a phase that we discussed yesterday. [Part 3] The one called taking hold of. It is in dependence upon this particular phase that the karmic seeds so to speak are activated and that the individual comes to experience the karmic results.

The Indian scholar Gunamati said that if there is wanting or desire, that is to say the inclination to take hold of something, because of desiring something, impulsion into the next phase of existence will be produced. Again it is because of the previous phase, taking hold of the impulsion into the next phase of existence comes about.

Taking hold of, as we saw yesterday, is produced by wanting and wanting is produced by sensations, that one craves or wants to have a pleasurable sensation. Of course one may say that someone wants to get rid of suffering. However, when you want to get rid of suffering, you are actually wanting to obtain a pleasurable sensation. In essence that is the same as craving pleasure.

When one wants to obtain pleasure and avoid pain, that as was said involves desire or craving, which in turn then produces wanting and taking hold of, which in turn produces impulsion into the next phase of existence.

If someone engages on different activities without any intention of doing so for the sake of avoiding pain or obtaining pleasure, one does not accumulate karma through these activities or these actions.

However, as we saw yesterday, in the context of taking hold of there was mention of what one may call different types of attachment. These related to, as we saw yesterday, the five sense objects, different philosophical speculations or viewpoints, adhering to different types of conduct and the fourth being the kind of attachment or desire, which is based in the notion of there being a self-entity in both the individual and in other phenomena. These different kinds of attachment are the basis for the phase taking hold of. Without this phase, impulsion into the next phase of existence would not be produced.

Today's phase is mainly caused by taking hold of and the different types of attachment that this in itself involves.

One may speak of liking something without being particularly attached to whatever it is that produces joy in ones mind, a sense of well-being. Through that type of liking something one does not accumulate karma when engaging in actions in that frame of mind. It is through desire and attachment that one accumulates karma. It is not through just liking something in general.

In terms of taking hold of something that one wants to obtain, there are two principle causes for that to occur. The wish to possess something and the intense desire to obtain what one wishes to obtain. Between these two there is a progression in terms of how intense the state of mind is. Obviously attachment or desire is stronger than the previous one.

Then we have the next phase which is rebirth. What is in question is rebirth in one of the six realms. First the individual is conceived in the womb of his future mother. There is the phase of conception. The fetus develops in the womb of the mother so that the different faculties become developed, after which the child is born. That is followed by the next phase which constitutes that individuals lifetime. That is from the moment of birth until death. Rebirth includes all these stages.

There are further characteristics given in relation to this particular phase rebirth. It involves for the individual the obtaining and the full development of the skandhas, the dhatus and ayatanas. In addition to which there is what is called the faculty of the life-force a.s.o. Different characteristics are given in order to describe this particular phase called rebirth.

From rebirth comes aging and death. Rinpoche says that these two phases are quite obvious. There is no need for any detailed description of them.

This has been a very brief explanation of the different phases of the process of dependent occurrence. There are other explanations in other texts such as one called the Gateway to Knowledge. Some of you may have studied this particular text. Those of you who had, could maybe explain to your fellow student here how this process and the characteristics of its different phases are presented in that text.

There is a commentary by the Indian scholar Kamalashila [2] on this sutra. He categorises the different phases of the process of dependent occurrence in the following way: The three first, being basic unawareness, action and the karmic seeds that colour consciousness, as the phases that propel the individual towards taking rebirth in a certain existence.

[2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamalashila ]

The phases that follow these three, namely the four non-material skandhas and the physical form, the six sensory-cognitive faculties, contact and sensation, in terms are produced by the previous three. They bring about wanting taking hold of ,and impulsion into the next phase of existence, which in turn produces rebirth. Rebirth is what results from these. The phases ageing and death may be referred to as shortcomings in that they mainly relate to suffering.

You have the three first phases that so to speak are indirect causes of rebirth. Then you have the direct causes. As we saw these are wanting, taking hold of and impulsion into the next phase of existence. They are more directly related to the other three.

In the Abhidharma [1] is another categorisation. It speaks of basic unawareness, wanting and taking hold of as being obscuring states that produce suffering. Actions and the karma they accrue and impulsion into the next phase of existence relate to actions. The remaining ones being the four non-material skandhas and the form, the sensory-cognitive faculties, contact, sensation, rebirth, ageing and death are the basis for both karma and obscuring states.

[1. 3rd century BC and later en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidharma ]

The next part in the sutra is as follows: When basic unawareness stops, action which accrue karma stop. When actions which accrue karma stop, the formation of tendencies which colour consciousness stops. When there are no tendencies which dolour consciousness, the four non-material skandhas and the physical form of the fetus are not produced. When these are not produced the six sensory-cognitive faculties are also not produced. When the six sensory-cognitive faculties are not produced, contact does not occur. When contact ceases, sensation ceases. When sensation ceases, wanting stops. When wanting stops, taking hold of stops. When taking hold of stops, impulsion into the next phase of existence stops. When that phase stops, rebirth stops. When rebirth stops, ageing and death stop along with agony, keening, physical and mental suffering and psychological turmoil. This is how what is nothing more than massive suffering is brought to an end. This the Buddha, the Bhagawan explained is the process of dependent occurrence.

Kamalashila in his commentary explains the statement basic unawareness stops in the following way: It is not a matter of literally removing basic unawareness and replacing it with something else. If one has a disease, one would take medication in order to cure the disease. Similarly, in order to remove basic unawareness one practises the path, through the power of this the opposite, namely insight or enlightened awareness is produced. However one should not think of basic unawareness as some sort of solid entity that one removes from ones mind and replaces with its opposite. What happens when one practises the path it that a process of change takes place. That process of change is similar to the following analogy, namely that darkness cannot exist in the face of daylight.

In terms of explaining this process of dependent occurrence it was mentioned that basic unawareness is the main cause for this process and when basic unawareness ceases, then this samsaric process also ceases. However, if one looks at practise, where one aims at putting an end to this samsaric process, the progression is different. It is very difficult, as has been said before, to recognise basis unawareness, because it is quite subtle. In terms of practise, one starts with suppressing different types of ones sensation. Through ones practise one suppresses wanting, one suppresses taking hold of etc. and as result obscuring states of mind will be cleared away so that one is able to recognise basic unawareness and then proceeds in doing away with it. In terms of practise, the progression is different from the progression in this explanation.

These teaching then are a method by means of which, when put into practise, one will be able to give up obscuring states of mind. That is the point of this kind of teaching. In terms of how to practise these teachings, Rinpoche will explain it tomorrow.

Q and A

Question: The fourth part is name and form and the eleventh one is rebirth. In both cases similar things were explained, like in the fourth one that the fetus is developed a.s.o. In the eleventh it is said that birth includes six aspects. One of them was conception. What is the difference of these two?

Answer: What distinguishes rebirth from name and form or the phase called the four non-material skandhas and the physical form of the fetus, is the actual birth from the womb.

Question: Name and form are related to the bardo, the mental body, and that the development of the fetus is then connected with the eleventh one.

Answer: Obviously the intermediate state would be before conception, before one enters the womb of ones mother, so it can't relate to the development of the fetus.

Question: In that presentation the twelve links were connected to two lifetimes.

Answer: In essence the intermediate state is something of its own. It doesn't have anything in particular to do with what was explained. It might be confusing to go into the different kinds of intermediate states, bardos that there are. Rinpoche says that he prefers not to go into that subject right now, because it will just be confusing.

Question: In the commentary of Kamalashila and in the Abhidharmakosha there is the description of how the twelve links are interconnected. Kamalashila presents five groups and in the Abhidharmakosha there are three. How come?

Answer: [inaudible]

Question: In relation with the desire realm, there was a mention of seven phases. One was that based on karma. What does that exactly mean?

Answer: It is the phase called impulsion into the next phase of existence from among the twelve phases in the process of dependent occurrence.

top of page