Buddhist Philosophy based on the Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

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Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

Buddha statue

Part 6

Yesterday's question will be answered first.

Twelve Phases

In terms of the question relating to the twelve phases of the process of dependent occurrence. As being present as one given is done can be described as follows: If one takes the action of taking the life of another being, not knowing that this is a negative, non-virtuous action is based in ignorance or basic unawareness.

Then there is the action which is the second link or the second phase of the process of dependent occurrence, which obviously relates to actions and the karma they accrue.

Then there is the intention to take the life of another being which relates to the third phase of the process of dependent occurrence, being consciousness and its associated habitual tendencies or mental patterns.

Then there are the four non-material skandhas, the physical form of the person, the six sensory-cognitive faculties. Without these the following phase in the process couldn't occur. Their presence in the condition, which produces the remaining phases in the process of dependent occurrence.

Then there is the next phase being contact, which relates to the contact between the person which intends to take the life of someone else and what he uses, i.e. the weapon with which he touches the person or being is about to take the life of.

The next phase in the process of dependent occurrence is the sensation of pain produced. The satisfaction of having been able to take the life of someone. That satisfaction relates to the phase called wanting or craving.

The next phase is called taking hold of. That means the persons desire to take the life of another being is very intense, very strong.

Existence is the phase in the process of dependent occurrence relating to the five skandhas of the person, the individual.

As well as the karma that actions accrues which so to speak will be stored within the mindstream of the individual, i.e. within on of the five skandhas of the individual.

Rebirth means that the karma accumulated through this particular action will in the future bring about a particular rebirth, It will result in a particular rebirth.

The next two phases in the process of dependent occurrence are ageing and death. As the person that is being murdered is struck by whatever weapon is used, that is the process of ageing and results in his death.

Twelve Aspects of Buddha's Teachings

Then there were the twelve aspects of the Buddha's teachings:

1. The first of these is a section that contain a number of what one may call lists of names and terms that are easy to understand.

2. The second section is a presentation of the teachings in a poetic form.

3. The third section contains predictions about different Arhats.

4. In the fourth section the teachings are presented in verse.

5. The fifth section contains a variety of particular teachings, particular subjects.

The first five sections mainly relate to the Shravaka path and its scriptures.[1]

[1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sravaka ]

6. Then there is the section of teachings where one finds historical records. The background of a certain teaching-situation in the past. It introduces that history or background to a certain subject.

7. The section of teachings which in order to describe something uses different analogies.

8. Section eight contains records of accounts of different situation in the life of different Bodhisattvas.

9. The section which contains the records of different lives of different Bodhisattvas.

The four that were just mentioned relate to the Vinaya.[2]

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

10. The tenth section contains vast and extensive teachings, i.e. the teachings on the six paramitas,[3] the different aspects of a Bodhisattvas way of life which involves both a profound viewpoint as well as vast conduct.

[3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramita ]

11. The section which contains descriptions of very unusual or extraordinary events in the lives of different Bodhisattvas.

These two relate to scriptures of the Bodhisattva-path.

In the scriptures the last section contains one arrives at a definitive understanding of the true characteristic of the true nature of all phenomena.

These are the Abhidharma [4] of both the Shravaka and the Bodhisattva approach.

[4. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidharma ]

The most extensive explanation of these texts is given in the text called Abhidharmasamuccaya.[5] They are also given in the Sutra-Alankara [6] and there is a brief description of them in the text called the 'Gateway to Knowledge'.

[5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidharma-samuccaya ]

[6. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Of course these twelve sections can be relates to the three baskets, relating to the Sutras, the Abhidharma and the Vinaya.

We go back to the sutra which at this point asks the following question: How should the process of dependent occurrence be truly understood? The question relates to the nature of the process of dependent occurrence.[7]

[7. See topga-rinpoche-course-part-07.htm#five-characteristics ]

The Buddha said that the individual, who sees the nature of the process of dependent occurrence as permanently lacking inherent existence, sees the true nature of this process. As has been mentioned, the process of dependent occurrence is unborn, it has never truly arisen, hence in terms of its actual nature there is no change. To perceive that is to perceive the nature of this process.

As was said yesterday, there is a non-Buddhist school called the Jain-school,[8] where the existence of a self-entity is asserted. This self or self-entity is according to this school of thought a permanent or unchanging entity.

[8 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_Jainism ]

As we saw in terms of the nature of the process of dependent occurrence it is stated that this quality is stated in order to make it clear that it is not the same quality of not changing that the Jain school of thought speaks about. It is stated that the process of dependent occurrence is not so to speak sustained by such a self-entity. The process of dependent occurrence does not involve a notion or a perception of a self-entity.

In terms of the viewpoint of the Jain tradition, it speaks of what one may terms a life-force as an entity separate from what they refer to as the supreme self, which is, according to that tradition, the creator of everything. However, when one looks at these two concepts and analyses them with Buddhist logic, one will see that in fact this life-force is not separate from the supreme self, said to be the creator of everything. When looking at a life-force, the question of what it sustains arises. A life-force would sustain the five skandhas, the five psycho-physical constituents. The point made, when saying the process of dependent occurrence is not sustained by such an entity is that this process does not involve such a life-force.

That characteristic makes clear that in the Buddhist viewpoint there is no difference between what one in the Jain school may call a life-force and the individual self. The next characteristic in the list again says that this process is free of such a life-force, that is to say such a self-entity. If one looks at the notion of truly existent individual self, it is by this characteristic that is mentioned pointed out that the notion of the individual self is merely an imputation, a mental fabrication. One takes that which has no self-entity to have one. It is pointed out that such a self-entity is not part of this process of dependent occurrence.

When saying that the process of dependent occurrence is not sustained by a life-force, what is pointed out by the associated explanation is the nature of non-self. The second, where it is said that this process is free of such a self-entity, points out that this process in no way constitutes a self-entity. The first describes the nature of non-self and by the second it is stated that there is no self within this process in terms of its actual nature.

Then there is the next characteristic of this process. The sutra says that this process is unfabricated. What is present is what is in fact the case in terms of ultimate reality. In the same way as this process does not involve a self-entity as was described by the two previous characteristics, it is in terms of its absolute or ultimate nature completely unfabricated.

And this process is precise or clear in that it involves no mistakes. That is based on the three types of direct clear perception.

That relates to Perception in general as it has been explained in the morning teachings. You have direct clear perception based in non-conceptual states of mind, you have inferential clear perception and you have direct clear perception based in an understanding of the scriptures. There are these three types.

Since we are speaking of these different types of direct clear perception, there is no mistake at hand in terms of the nature of the process of dependent occurrence.

In terms of the quality unchanging one may wonder what that quality means in the context of the process. The next characteristic describes that. The ultimate nature of the process is referred to as unchanging, in that it has never truly arisen. It has never truly arisen. It has never truly come into existence.

Rinpoche has based his explanation on a commentary by the Indian master Kamalashila,[9] who was a master of the Svatantrika [10] school of thought. This characteristic that is mentioned, Kamalashila then of never having truly arisen explains in the context of the Svatantrika school of thought, where the viewpoint that not a single phenomenon has ultimately truly come into existence is maintained. There for relative appearances or relative phenomena are merely like a reflection in for example a mirror. They have no substance.

[9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamalashila ]

[10. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svatantrika ]

Another sutra explains this as follows: Any phenomenon that is produced by certain conditions has in fact or ultimately never truly arisen, has never truly come into existence.

If this process of dependent occurrence has never truly arisen, meaning that therefore it does not exist in the present as an entity, isn't it the case that it may have come about at a point in the past?

The answer to that is that just as this process in terms of its nature is not an entity that has truly come about or has truly arisen in the present, in the very same way it has also not arisen at some point in the past.

If there is no true arising in the present and there has been no point in the past when this process truly arose, isn't it then the case that some creator would have created it? A creator such as Ishvara.

The present discussion as we have seen relates to what is perceived once the true meaning of the process of dependent occurrence has been perceived. Since there is no true arising ultimately, there is no process of dependent upon causes and conditions.

In terms of ultimate reality there can't be a creation by any supreme being such as Vishnu or Ishvara. As we have seen, that type of being is said to be a permanent, unchanging phenomenon. However, a permanent phenomenon such as Vishnu or Ishvara can't be the creator of phenomenon in general, as these phenomenon are impermanent in that they are so to speak created in a progression. The nation of the creator and his creations is not the same. They are in fact two opposites, permanent and impermanent, which is when analysing that situation an impossibility.

Even though what is perceived when one perceives the ultimate aspect of the process of dependent occurrence is not created by a being such as Vishnu, isn't is the case that what was perceived, can have been created by a variety of causes and conditions and therefor be a compounded phenomenon? The answer in the sutra is that what is perceived in the ultimate aspect of this process is uncompounded.

That which is perceived then in terms of the ultimate nature of this process in not a creation of causes and conditions.

Emptiness is unobstructed

The next characteristic relates to that emptiness is unobstructed. The next question may arise: Even if it is the case that all phenomenon are unborn, that is to say that it has never truly come into existence, isn't it possible that somehow with respect to a certain aspect the opposite may hold true. The sutra give the characteristic of being unobstructed, making clear that in fact all phenomenon are pervaded by emptiness. So that possibility does not arise.

The following question may arise: If this is what the process of dependent occurrence truly is, how come all being do not perceive that nature. It has certain qualities as we have seen. It is unborn and so on. The answer is that this ultimate nature is beyond the intentional character of dualistic mind. It is not perceptible in a conceptual framework. In is in that sense not referential.

It can only be perceived by the wisdom that is beyond the world. A state of mind that is free of mental fabrications.

In terms of perceiving what is in fact the case on an ultimate level, one is speaking of something that is in fact not perceptible.

The next characteristic involve the statement that this understanding constitutes peace of mind. Again that in terms of the process of cultivating an understanding of the ultimate reality of the process of dependent occurrence refers to that it is free from the flaws of obscuring states of mind, hence, what is achieved, is peace of mind.

Those who desire to free themselves of obscuring states of mind should meditate on the ultimate reality of this process of dependent occurrence. In doing so, one removes wrong views that are the source of obscuring states of mind.

In another sutra there is mentioned that in terms of an individual who wants to understand both aspects of reality, relative reality and ultimate reality and ultimate reality, the progression is as follows. In terms a analysing relative reality one should follow the ways of the world. Relative phenomenon are to be understood as understood be ordinary worldly individuals. In terms of eradicating obscuring states of mind, that process relating to ultimate reality, one should cultivate a realisation of ultimate reality itself. One should make efforts in terms of seeking out what brings about perception of ultimate reality.

In terms of fear that may be developed by worldly individuals who are not able to comprehend emptiness in terms of a state free from the notion of perceived and perceiver as truly existent entities. Upon hearing these teaching a worldly individual may develop fear, failing to grasp what is being explained. In terms of the individual who perceives what the process of dependent occurrence truly is on an ultimate level, there is no such fear.

The sutra goes on to say that the perception of ultimate reality is unfailing. The following question may arise: Isn't it the case that when encountering negative associates, that through their influence again obscuring states of mind may recur? Obscuring states of mind such as desire and so on. The answer is that perception of ultimate reality in infallible, hence obscuring states of mind do not recur once that perception has been achieved.

Once that perception of ultimate reality has been attained, there is no longer any causes for applying an antidote that would remedy the agitation of conceptual mind. There is nothing that one need to attempt to pacify once that perception of ultimate reality has been attained, because that perception in itself is a state where all obscuring state of mind have been satisfied. There is no need for further attempts to pacify something, in that an object of pacification no longer exists.

Q and A

Question: What is the reason for that characteristic of complete pacification?

Answer: In terms of ultimate reality, as was said, there is complete pacification of any obscuring state, of any obscuration, hence there is nothing one needs to attempt to pacify. In terms of the nature of ultimate reality there is complete pacification. There is nothing more to be added or anything else to be removed. It is a state of complete pacification of all obscuring states of mind. Hence the sutra says it is characterised by there being nothing left to pacify.

Question: The question relates to the previous characteristic, where it is said that ultimate reality is infallible. Once perception has been achieved, negative friends cannot influence one. There are no adverse circumstances that could make obscuring state recur. Hence that perception of ultimate reality is infallible. Even though that is the case, someone may ask himself: Isn't it possible that the individual regresses because of his own personal negative conduct?

Answer: Negative conduct never comes about, once perception of ultimate reality has been achieve. Why? Because it is a state of complete pacification. Obscuring states no longer occur, hence there is nothing to pacify. The first to that a self-entity has no self nature. The second relates to that ultimate reality and its perception are completely free of the notion of a self-entity.

Question: In connection with the theory of perception, one speaks about the concrete object, which is defined as something which performs a function, is impermanent and is the object of direct clear perception. He thinks the twelve links of the process of dependent occurrence can be directly and clearly perceived. For this reason they are a concrete phenomenon, therefore they perform a function. Which function does the process of dependent occurrence therefore fulfil? What is the purpose of it?

Answer: In terms of performing a function in relation to the twelve phases of the process of dependent occurrence for example sensation is a concrete phenomenon that performs a function or produces an effect. There are also the six sensory-cognitive faculties in dependence upon which one can smell something, hear something and so on. In dependence upon those one is in a process where one experiences the performing of a function or the producing of an effect of a concrete phenomenon. One may E.g., speak of becoming attached to an attractive form or disliking an unpleasant sound and so on. From that we can see there is a producing of different effects in the contexts of these phases.

Question: In the context of the eight aspects of (right) phenomena, there is always a mention of right view, right understanding, right etc. How do we know that it is right, because that seems to be based upon a certain judgement, which in our western context would refer to conscience. That due to certain standards know that this is moral. In the context of the five skandhas, which is the basis for all our experience, there is no mention of such a function in our mind, which refers to moral standards. How can we be sure that we have a right, right understanding etc.?

Answer: If one looks at for example, right speech, right action and right livelihood, these would correspond to what is regarded to as good moral in society in general. Right speech involves not telling lies. Right action involves giving up taking the lives of another being, adultery etc. Right livelihood means that one does not create ones livelihood on the basis of deception and hypocrisy. If one looks at the aspect of the eightfold path of the noble ones, they relate to a person, who has the capacity to perceive things very cleanly or sharply. There was a mention of the analogy of sharp perception in relation to having a hair in ones eye and the acute pain that causes dull perception. And of things in relation to having a strand of hair in the palm of ones hand, which doesn't produce any sharp sensation. The eightfold path of the noble one relates to a person which has very sharp perception, whose perception is very clean.

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