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 41 of pdf]

Yesterday we finished the explanation of the factor matter. That is was define as not having individuality, it is no sentient being; it is not alive, it is not created, it doesn't possess any creative capacity, neither male, female, neutral, no ego, incapable of possession and it is not creation of Ishvara or any other supreme being. Similarly the factors water ,heat, prana, space and consciousness have no individuality, are not sentient, are not alive, are not themselves creating agents, nor are they products of an energy, not are they individuals produced by this. They are neither male nor female nor neuter. They do not have an ego, they are not capable of the act of possession; they are not the creations of 'Ishvara' or any other supreme being.

Now we go through the characteristics of these twelve links. Just as before there were the five characteristics of the outer causes and the outer process o dependent occurrence. We are going now through the definitions of the links in the process of dependent occurrence. There are five characteristics:

I. The definition of itself.

II. The word definition

III. How they are connected with the other links. The fourth and the fifth one will be explained later.

I. We start by defining what unawareness is. When its own characteristics is being defined, it is in order to explain what basic unawareness is. What is it doing? What is its function and its nature?

In the sutra it then says: What is basic unawareness? Basic unawareness includes various mistaken beliefs, such as mistakenly believing that the factors above constitute a single entity. That has to do with that, as we just saw, there are the six conditions in order for dependent occurrences to happen. It were matter, water, air, heat, space and consciousness. Even though there are all these different factors coming together, one is not aware of that. One has the notion of it being a single entity. One can't see them distinctly, even though they are there. This is the first definition of what basic unawareness is.

The second one sounds quite similar, because in this case one is mistaking the body as a solid entity, even though it is something composite. The body comes about due to the accumulation of a lot of particles and different aggregates, but one clings to it as being one self, one body.

As the consequence that once one believes that outer different conditions to be one thing and once one believes the inner conditions to be one thing instead of seeing that they are the accumulation of many different parts, then automatically the third notion will arise. One gives it a permanent quality. If there is something there which is one thing, one will also cling to it as being lasting or permanent.

The next kind of wrong notion which is a sign of basic unawareness is, that one gives a stable quality to the outer and inner phenomena. That means that one does not understand that they come about through causes and conditions. One can't see that they are occurring from something, because one thinks it is something solid there. That means one gives it a quality of stability, which has no origin or arising and which is just there as a stable factor. It is not depending on other causes and conditions.

Seeing outer and inner phenomena as being permanent and stable, the next consequence is that one sees them a something unchangeable. If they are permanent and stable, one has excluded the possibility that is cause and effect. That means that one thinks that arisal from a cause can't happen, because it is stable and permanent. One thinks that as the time of the cause, the fruit is already included.

The next mistaken notion which happens as a consequence of the others it that one does not understand that everything is composite, that it conditioned. That means that one has not understood that it is impermanent. That in turn means that even though worldly happiness is something which will change into suffering. One clings to the idea of it as being happiness. One believes something to be happiness, which is not real happiness, because it has suffering in it. It will always change into suffering.

Regarding all these wrong understandings, e.g. the last one taking something to be happiness, which is actually means one does not understand that happiness is suffering. That relates to all of them. If one takes outer and inner phenomena to be permanent, again it means one does not understand that they are impermanent. That goes for all of the factors we went through. You understand it in a certain way, which is not as it is, because you are unaware. You have wrong understanding.

Because one has this wrong understanding, it follows that one believes in the notion of a self, of that the composite five aggregates constitute a really existing self. Once one clings to that notion, one will also believe that there is something else, which belongs to oneself as 'mine'.

This self, that one believes to be real, one regards to be a sentient being.

Once believing it to be a sentient being, one believes it to be alive.

Once one think it is alive, one thinks it can create something.

Once one has the clinging to it being a self and alive, then automatically one will believe it to be live sustaining.

One has the notion of it as a person. That can be on any level; as an ordinary person or even if you personify a supreme being, like a god etc.

One believes it to have an ego, to be able of the act of possession, to be a creation etc. What this definition show is that there is this unawareness, which means that one has a wrong understanding, that one believes non-singular things to be singular, things to give happiness even though they only give suffering and that one believes in a self and something else. This basic unawareness starts on a very subtle level and get more and more gross, it the way that it leads to more and more results, because it is based on a completely mistaken notion. That is what is being described here. Based on unawareness and wrong views various philosophical schools are founded. One solidifies it so far that one even has theories about it. It becomes more and more elaborated, from starting on a very subtle level. All ideas about how oneself and the things are created are based on unawareness.

In the sutra it finally says: And so on. That means one can't even speak of the unawareness going up to a certain point and stopping there. In the sutra this part was: What is basic unawareness? Basic unawareness includes various mistaken beliefs, such as mistakenly believing that the factors above constitute a single, solid, stable, unchanging entity. It is to regard these factors as being sources for satisfaction rather than as being inherently sources for suffering. It is to regard them as constituting a truly existing individual, to regard them as being sentient, as alive, as creating agents. It is to regard the six factors which sustain the body as being truly existent, as constituting an ego, as being capable of the act ofpossession, and so on.

It continues that: Based on these kinds of unawareness, attachment or desire, aversion, and stupidity or obviousness occur in relation to ones phenomena.

Because one is unaware, attachment, aversion and not to know how to act upon the object occurs. This again will lead to actions. These action are done because of the obscurations that one has in ones mind.

At this point, it would be useful to go more into the different ways the mind works, when it is unaware. There are the 51 different mental events. This Rinpoche will explain apart from the sutra in the next class.

The actions will result in the different kinds of consciousness. That means the different way in which one experiences things, as being singular and being other than oneself. Here, the experiencing consciousness is meant to be the all-base-consciousness.

That is what was called coloured consciousness, which in turn will give rise to the four non-material skandhas. The sutra expresses is like this: Action (via the karma which those action accrue) result in separate instances of subjective experience. This is what is meant by the formation of tendencies which colour consciousness.

The four non-material skandhas are not different from the mind. They are not described separately. They are sensation, conception, mental events and consciousness.

Just to repeat briefly: Sensation was the pleasant, the unpleasant and the neutral sensation. The conception dealt with perception. That the mind distinctively perceives something. The compositional factors are connected with the actions one does, based on the different mental functions. Consciousness relates to the six kinds of consciousness. The five consciousnesses of the sense-faculties and the mental-consciousness based on the mental faculty.

Based on the four non-material skandhas the inner sensory/cognitive faculties arise. The occurrence of the sensory/cognitive faculties makes perception possible.

Based on the presence of the object, the sense-faculty and the mental-faculty contact will occur.

The experience, which arises through contact, is sensation.

The attachment to the sensation which arises, may it be a pleasant sensation one want to have or an unpleasant sensation which one wants to get rid of, is wanting.

Wanting leads to the next phase. One takes hold of the object and is impelled into the next phase.

That means one takes rebirth through the skandhas. Once one has taken birth, ageing and death will follow.

Due to ones strong attachment, death will be experienced as very painful. Usually it is combined with strong suffering.

It is even described that one is wailing, cries of agony. This pain is connected to the attachment to ones body. When the body dissolves there is physical suffering. At the time of death then there is also a mental suffering.

This final state of complete panic, suffering and turmoil in ones mind has to do with all the different disturbing emotions and how the mind is functioning. It is the root afflicted emotions and the secondary afflicted emotions, all the different negative ways the mind works, which produce the result of confusion, pain and suffering at the time of death. These mental events will be explained later.

This was the explanation of the first characteristic. The own characteristic of each of the twelve links.

Q and A - page 44 of pdf

Question: It seems to me that cause and effect are presented as separate. How can there be then a dependent occurrence. Answer: This explanation of how from the seed the sprout arises etc. is one the one hand making clear that everything that arises has a cause and that the result will always correspond to the cause. On the other hand, once one understands that, one sees that there is no creator for the things and that things are not causeless. The process of dependent occurrence is an ongoing process. Also it shows that while the cause is present, there is no fruit. Cause and fruit are not simultaneous. The moment the cause ceases, the fruit comes in to being, not before.

On Wednesday there will be more explanations about cause and effect.

Question: How does the Dorje Sempa praxis work? Does it dissolve the karmic imprint totally or do they inevitable come to ripen, maybe then in a weaker sense?

Answer: We are doing negative actions, the physical, mental and verbal one. Eventually the karma of that will ripen. So we need to purify our karma. There are different ways to do it. There are direct antidotes to the negative actions. The antidote to anger is patience. Through meditating on the antidote of the problem, you purify it and get rid of it.

Another way is to meditate on Dorje Sempa. As was explained the other day, the Dorje Sempa meditation is to focus on this pure buddha-aspect and to pray for the blessing to be purified. The combination of trust, confidence and ones praying and that there is the compassion and the blessing of the Buddhas will help in the purification. In that way it is possible to purify the karma. But you cannot say that practising Dorje Sempa today means that tomorrow your karma is purified or that one always must use an antidote for a certain disturbing emotion. This is very individual. But one just has to apply all the different methods in order to purify the karma.

Actually you can look for yourself. You are doing the preliminaries and some of you are doing the Dorje Sempa meditation. Maybe you have even done 100.000 Dorje Sempa mantras. You can look for yourselves how much is purified and how much is unpurified. You can look at you own experience what is actually happening.

Question: Is fear classified somewhere in the buddhist tradition? E.g. as a mental event.

Answer: It is not a manifest disturbing emotion.

At the same time you say that fear always arises due to causes and conditions. Fear is the result of something and no the cause of something. The causes can't be exactly defined, because there can be so many different causes. There can be outer causes. Sometimes there is fear without outer causes. Fear is put within the category of suffering, which is subdivided into three kinds; the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the all-pervading suffering. The suffering that arising due to fear is a feeling of loss.

It is something we will understand better in the next class, when the different mental events are explained.

Question: Inaudible

Answer: When meditating on the antidote of anger, one can actually suppress the anger, but that doesn't mean that one hour later, one doesn't have the anger. When the anger arises, in that moment there is no cause for patience. There you have to learn how to apply the patience. It is seeing how the mind functions.

E.g. you talk about the kinds of actions; positive, negative and neutral. During the neutral actions the mind is neutral, but if it is completely neutral, how can it cause something? How can it create karma? Then we can analyse what is means when the mind is not positive, negative or neutral. Is that still a feeling or not? In this way you can learn a lot about the mind.

To return to the Dorje Sempa meditation. When you do a Dorje Sempa meditation, you are meditating on a buddha-aspect. You are praying to him. You are visualising how the nectar is flowing down through you and how all your negative karma and your obscurations are purified and that they are actually leaving your body as different substances. This doesn't mean that the negative and the obscuration have a certain form. These are methods. You are using certain methods, which work if all the conditions are present. When you do the Dorje Sempa meditation, then there is the power of the method itself, which is in the Vajrayana methods themselves. Then there is the compassion of the Buddhas, there is the blessing. Then from your side there are the trust and the confidence. When all these conditions come together, then it happens, it is possible to purify negative karma. You cannot say that it is not possible to purify negative karma then. At the same time you cannot say that all the time when you do the Dorje Sempa meditation, then this and that happens. It is not so fixed. It is methods that have to be applied properly and then they give results. If the results of the practise come about or not, is up to each individual to see in his practise. After having recited a certain number of Dorje Sempa mantras and having done the Dorje Sempa practise, they can get some signs themselves, which shows that the purification has taken place. Maybe there will be some signs in dreams or even physically sometimes, that something will grow on top of ones head. Different signs can be there. It means that the methods are there and everybody has to apply them as well as one can. Then even though there is no immediate effect. Sometimes one gets upset, one gets greedy or one is angry or whatsoever. Then anyway one has to see relatively, if one is improving or not. Then according to if one is doing the practise properly or not it is not that fixed. One has to see that it is a graduate process. As you apply the methods you will see that they have their effects. You can't say it is not beneficial, even though you don't have immediate effects.

There is a story of somebody, who had done a complete three-year retreat. When he came out he told his friends that he had completed the retreat and didn't have any anger anymore. But then he was still worried what would happen if he met some robber or thieves. When he actually did, he was the most aggressive one of all. When he himself said that he had no anger anymore, it was said because he was actually convinced himself. What he had achieved was to be able to suppress the anger completely. It is not the same as having completely dissolved the anger. He had suppressed it, but it was still there.

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