Buddhist Philosophy based on the Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

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Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

Buddha statue

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[page 37 of pdf]

Now we continue in the sutra. We have come to the point where the process of dependent occurrence is explained in the inner aspect which involves two parts which are the cause and the secondary conditions. First the sutra says: What is inner causation? Due to the presence of basic unawareness, actions occur and karma accrues. This process continues through rebirth, which brings about ageing and death. That means that it is caused by ignorance that actions and karma accrues and due to that consciousness etc. occur; down to ageing and death. That is the causal condition, where unawareness is described as a cause and each of the links in the process of dependent occurrence is the cause of the next one arising.

This kinds of process means that these links are interdependent. To understand that it continues is the sutra: If basic unawareness is not present, actions that accrue karma do not occur etc. Each link of this process depends on the other one. It will not arise if the other one is not there. That is why they are called dependent occurrences.

Similarly, if rebirth does not occur, there can be no ageing and death. In order for something to arise there will always be a previous cause which makes the later result appear. If this previous cause is not there, then there will not be a result arising. It continues in the sutra: From the presence of basic unawareness, actions occur and karma accrues, with this process continuing on through rebirth, which results in ageing and death.

The point is that this process is happening unmistakenly. When there is a previous cause, then there will be a later result. In connection with the twelve links of dependent occurrence it means that there is no intention from the side of either part of the process. It is said: Basic unawareness does not intentionally create karma, nor is accrued karma and intentional result of basic unawareness. There is no intention behind it. It just happens that the causes create the result.

It continues by explaining how also the actions which are accruing karma and all the different phases are not intentional. The point which is shown and which the Buddha is teaching is that by explaining that the process of dependent occurrence is happening unmistakenly without intention, it means that it is not the same as if you had some supreme being or a creator. Like with Ishvara or Tsowo. The concept of a creator of the world involves an intention of the creator to do so. Otherwise you can't talk about a creator. The process of dependent occurrence is completely different. It just happens that the causes lead to the result and there will be the dependence on each other and the occurrence will happen.

It goes on:

This is the same through ageing and death -- that is, ageing and death are not intentional creations of rebirth. The whole way through it is the process of dependent occurrence without intention behind it.

The sutra is kind of repeating it: Because of the presence of basic unawareness, actions occur and karma accrues, with this process continuing on through rebirth, which results in ageing and death. This is how one should understand inner causation within the process of dependent occurrence. It is the same fact being repeated several times.

When the sutra says that this is how one should understand the inner causation it refers also to the defining characteristics we had before. It is not static, dynamic, no sudden transmutations etc. That is how we should understand the inner causation of the process of dependent occurrence.

The point again is that in the process itself what is first there has to cease and then immediately the next process arises. It is not that before the cause has ceased that the fruit arises. This point is again proving that it is different from a creator god or a Tsowo, because when a so-called permanent creator god is creating something impermanent he changes. The creation as such is a change and so it is a contradiction. This we can also understand through seeing how the dependent occurrences are arising.

The concept of something permanent or lasting means that something was there and will continue to be there. That is the definition of permanent. It also denominates something non-composite and non-conditioned. In connection with the Shravaka path the fruit of meditation, which is called cessation, which is identical with the understanding of emptiness, is also called permanent. This is another context in which the term permanent is used. One sees that there are different definitions on the concept of permanence.

That means again that if something is permanent there can't be a process of dependent occurrence. Because for something to happen and to be dependent on each other, there is naturally the fact of impermanence. There can't be any action related to permanence. There will always be the factor impermanence in the action and the process of dependent occurrence.

Similarly, when we talk about impermanence, then impermanence is something composite, something conditioned. Just as something arises, it automatically disappear again. You can't have arising without disappearing. Therefore it is impermanent.

That is why dependent occurrence is possible, because whatever arises will again disappear. That is how these appearance will arise and disappear continuously, because every moment is impermanent. That is why you can have dependent occurrence.

Now we go back to the sutra because we have finished the explanation on the causal conditions. Now come the secondary conditions. The sutra says: How do inner secondary conditions function within the process of dependent occurrence? This involves the conditioning influence of six factors. These factors functioning together constitute inner secondary conditions within the process of dependent occurrence. Just like in the explanation of the outer dependence occurrence, where we had the seven causes and the six conditions, then for the process of the inner dependent occurrence, we have also the causes, which were the twelve links and six conditions, which are very similar to the outer conditions.

Each of these six inner secondary conditions are being defined. It says in the sutra: With regard to inner secondary conditions, what is the function of matter( or earth) etc.?

1. That which, when combined together with other factors, produces the body's materiality, is called the factor matter.

2. That which provides a liquid medium which binds the body together is called the factor water.

3. That which digests and assimilates liquid and solid nutrition is the factor heat.

4. That which is responsible for respiration and the circulation of air within the body is called the factor prana.

5. That which is responsible for the bodies cavities is called the factor space.

6. That which is responsible for the fresh production of the physical form of the fetus and the four non-material skandhas is called consciousness, which has been coloured by the obscuring states of mind.

Regarding the sixth secondary condition, we talk about consciousness as a factor. The consciousness condition is including the four non-material skandhas. First you have the five consciousnesses related to the five sense-faculties, i.e. eye-, ear-, nose-faculty, etc. and then you have the consciousness related to the mental faculty. It is decried here: The various element within that category mutually support one another as do the supporting legs of a tripod. That means for the consciousness to function, all six kinds of consciousnesses have to be there. The mental consciousness is the main factor, because only this can actually perceive, but if the consciousnesses of the faculties are not there, then perception can't take place. If one is missing a perception does not take place.

When it is mentioned that the consciousness is including the four non-material skandhas, one has to know that these non-material skandhas are not different from the mind. They are all related to the mind. They are the sensation, the conception, the compositional factors (mental events) and consciousness. They all have to do with the consciousness

The consciousness is called 'sak che', which actually means contaminated, when the mind is deluded. The literal translation is 'fallen down'.

An example of the opposite, the non-deluded mind is highest wisdom.

When these inner secondary conditions are present, it is possible for a body to form. When they are not there it can't form. It is said in the sutra: In the absence of these secondary conditions, the body cannot be produced. When the inner factors matter, water, heat, prana, space and consciousness all function properly together, the body is produced. It means that for the body to be produced, these conditions have to be present.

Just to clarify the conditions are repeated again. This time stressing the fact that also the conditions are not intentional. There is nothing much to add to what is written in the sutra. The factor matter does not intentionally create the body's materiality. Similarly the factor water does not intentionally act as the liquid medium which binds the body together. The factor heat does not intentionally digest and assimilate liquid and solid nutrients. The factor prana does not intentionally act to circulate the air within the body and to breathe. The factor space does not intentionally provide space for the bodies cavities. The factor consciousness does not intentionally create the physical from of the fetus and the four non-material skandhas. The body is not an intentional creation of these secondary conditions. On the other hand when these secondary conditions are present, the body is produced. It is kind of explaining the same again

Now follows the reason why the secondary inner conditions are not intentional. The first point is that the matter or earth factor has no concept of a self. In order to have that there must be a mind or a consciousness. Since there no mind, there is no sense of individuality, no sense of a self. It says in the sutra: The factor matter has not individuality.

The whole point of this sutra is to focus on the illusionary nature of the concept of clinging to a self. The sutra is meant to dissolve that concept.

When we talk about a self, then it is this identification, thinking of yourself as 'I' and of things as 'mine'. When you think of yourself then everything else will be other.

If one does not get to the roots of this wrong concept of 'I' and 'mine', it is not possible to get rid of the concept of the self. One will not be able to understand that phenomena as such do not have a real existence and are not truly established.

The sutra continues to describe the inner secondary conditions. Matter or earth is not a sentient being. When one talks about sentient beings, one means the beings in the six realm of existence. Of course matter is not within that category.

If there is a sentient being then one talk about it being alive or not alive, sick or not sick, but since matter is not a living being, the next point is that It is not something with a life force of its own.

Also the next point that matter or earth does not have a creating quality. It is not a creating agent. It does not have the capacity to create. It is not a creation. It doesn't have any own power.

The sutra goes more into detail in describing that it is not an individual.

It is not male, nor female, nor neuter. It does have an ego. It can not own anything, It cannot have the notion of being the creation of somebody else.

All these points in short mean that there is no individual, no self involved in the secondary conditions of the inner process of dependent occurrence.

Q and A - page 40 of pdf

Question: Since everything we do is conditioned by karma? Whatever we do is therefore preconditioned. Therefore there is in fact never any situation were we can speak about a hundred percent free will, where there is no karmic predisposition whatsoever. People who have a knowledge about karma and cause and effect, might be able to make certain decisions, but sill these decisions are not hundred percent free of karma.

At which point does this change that one frees oneself from karmic disposition and is free in the sense of ones decisions? Does the Dorje Sempa praxis work in such way that one will free oneself from such predisposition's?

Answer: We start by first defining what freedom of choice means. One can understand it in two ways. First one can understand it in the way that one can just do whatever one likes. The other kind is that which was asked about. That one

thinks it means not being bound by your karma. This does not work, because in order to become free one has have to abandon the karma which is binding one. Once one does that, one automatically will be free. But in order to purify your karma, one has to firstly understand what the cause of the karma is. The cause of karma is ignorance which causes disturbing emotions and that again gives rise to actions. One has to understand this whole process and then one has to try to get rid of the unawareness and has to purify the negative karma.

The Dorje Sempa meditation was mentioned. It is one of the methods the Buddha taught in order to purify negative karma and the obscurations. Here Topga Rinpoche says that within the Vajrayana one applies the method of using mantras. Of course the mantra has some power to remove negativity, but it is also important that one understands what one is doing. It is important no to only rely on the mantras. Through the effect of doing the Dorje Sempa meditation ones wisdom, ones ability to understand the teachings of the Buddha's by teaching, studying and meditating will also increase. One has to ultimately get rid of the unawareness, because then the understanding of emptiness will come about. This then means that the karma, which binds one is gone. Then one is free.

When we apply a method like the Dorje Sempa meditation, we are actually praying to Dorje Sempa. We are asking Dorje Sempa to purify all our negative karma, all our obscurations. It means we are relying on the blessing of Dorje Sempa. Dorje Sempa is a buddha-aspect on the Sambhogakaya-level. It is a buddha-aspect in the Kriya-Tantra level. The Buddha gave four Tantra classes. Dorje Sempa is a Yidam within the dorje-buddha-family. When we pray to Dorje Sempa for his blessing, then the one who is praying to Dorje Sempa has to be also suitable. One can not just disregard any kind of negative karma. There has to be some effort from the side of the one who is doing the praxis. It is not that forcefully all karma is purified and one is totally liberated. It doesn't work like that. One should not think that.

The Tantra classes were mentioned. For those who are not familiar with the term, the Buddha gave two main classes of teachings: the sutra and the Tantra-teachings. Just like you have different kind of schools, like Theravada and Mahayana, also in the Tantra there are different levels of teachings. There are the four Tantra classes. Within the four classes the Kriya Tantra is the first one. Now you have been asking a lot of questions about karma. Rinpoche says that all that are present here now are, by being here and following this course, show that you have the right intention. You have the motivation. You have decided to learn what the Buddha taught. Instead of going on a holiday and doing nothing, you are willing to put an effort and go through all the difficulties that might be. Actually you don't have to worry so much. You can be sure that, since you have the right intention, just listen and try to understand and your questions will be answered, it will be OK If you think too much about karma, or what karma are you creating, it is actually disturbing. You get too many ideas, which again blocks your concentration.

Question: Is the knowledge of how the mind works a dependent occurrence, because it is caused be something?

Answer: Yes.

Question: The consciousness in the context of the twelve links of the process of dependent occurrence is considered to be a cause which brings about the next step, whereas in the context of inner dependent occurrence, consciousness was explained as a contributing condition. Where is the borderline between something being a cause and something being a contributing condition?

Answer: There are a few things connected with it. One thing is that the third factor of the twelve links is the consciousness. Here is meant the basic consciousness (tib.: ktn shi). Today, when we had the conditions, then the consciousness mentioned is the last of the four non-material skandhas. That is the five consciousnesses connected with the sense-faculty and the consciousness of the mental faculty. The reason that consciousness is here a part of the contributing conditions is, that if it is not present, then the production cannot happen. That it is a necessary contribution. Actually consciousness has both the causal and the conditional function.

Just to define: If you speak of causes and conditions. Then the causes will always be conditions, but the conditions will not always be causes.

Question: Practising Vajrayana it seems to be important that one gains more and more certainty in ones buddhanature. This is then trained by various methods, e.g. to identify oneself with a pure buddha-aspect, in order to be more and more certain that these buddha-qualities are in fact qualities of the mind. There are other methods such as the guru-yoga where one visualises the teacher in his human form. The question is: If one meditates upon ones particular teacher, is it necessary that this teacher is accomplished or not? Or is it rather a question of how far oneself is able to consider the teacher as a real buddha?

Answer: It will be a very general answer: If one has a teacher like the Karmapa, like Rinpoche himself has, it is quite simple. Generally, the purer you can see the lama, the more blessing you get.

Question: Lets say ones teacher is a Bodhisattva and there is another teacher on the tenth level. If one meditates on a Bodhisattva on the third level, does one receive the blessings or qualities of the third level only or can one receive the full range of blessing, as a Bodhisattva on the tenth level has.

Answer: It depends on the disciple. If one is able to see him pure, then one will get the full blessing. There will not be a difference.

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