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 59 of pdf]

The occurrence of a visual perception requires five principal causes: the physical eye, the physical form, light, space and cognisance.

The physical eye acts as the medium through which visual perception functions. The physical form is that upon which perception focuses. Light makes the process possible. It makes the object at hand evident. Space allows room for the process to occur and cognisance makes for subjective experience.

A visual perception cannot occur in the absence of these influential causes. On the other hand, the presence of all these together, the eye, which serves as a medium for the perception, a physical form, the object of perception, light, space and cognisance, when these come together, they will produce visual perception.

The next part deals with pointing out that this process of dependent occurrence does not involve an intentional creation. The eye does not intentionally act as a medium for visual perception; a physical form does not intentionally act as the focus for a perception. Light does not intentionally make a perception possible. Space does not intentionally allow the room for the process to occur. Cognisance does not intentionally make for subjective experience. Visual perception is not the intentional creation of these conditions. Nevertheless, due to the presence of these secondary conditions a visual perception can occur.

The process is the same for the remaining four faculties. If one takes the perception of sound, the sense faculty is the ear, the object is a sound. If one takes E.g., the perception of a smell, the faculty is the nose, its object is a smell, a.s.o. The process described in terms of a visual perception, is the same as in relation to the other sense perceptions.

There are the objects of the five senses in dependence upon these one develops attachment. Manifest attachment produces different kinds of habitual tendencies. These habitual tendencies are what will make one experience the result of actions. In dependence upon the strength of actions one may come to experience the result in this life, in the next life or after many lives.

There are examples given in the sutra that illustrate what experiencing a karmic result in the same life as the action way done entails. Then there was the experiencing of karmic results in this life or in the next life. These experiences are implied in the text.

The next part deals with talking about karmic result experienced in the same life as the actions that caused them were done. Whatever phenomenon one considers, it involves not having transmigrated or transferred on to another life. When based on previous actions and the accrued karma appropriate causes and secondary conditions are present, the karmic result will be experienced.

The karmic result is experienced in that very life. It becomes evident in the same life as the action that caused it was done. The sutra gives one example to illustrate this: When one's face appears as a reflection in a mirror, it is not the case that one's actual face has transferred onto the mirror. Rather, one's face appears because of the presence of appropriate causes and conditions such as that ones face has been put in front of the mirror, the mirror is functional, there is light a.s.o.

Similarly, even though there is no entity that transmigrates after death, when based on previous actions and the accrued karma, the appropriate causes and secondary conditions are present, the resulting effects appear. That is to say the karmic results.

For example, the moon is located in space 42.000 paktse away. It is a Tibetan measure, which means very far away. When the moon appears reflected in a bowl filled with water, it is not the case that the moon has transmigrated or transferred from space into the bowl. The reflection of the moon appears due to the presence of the appropriate causes and conditions.

Similarly, there is no entity that transmigrates after death. It is rather the case that when based on previous actions and the accrued karma, the appropriate causes and secondary conditions are present, the resulting effects appear.

For example, if all requisite causes and secondary conditions for making a fire are not present, no fire can occur. Whereas, when all requisite conditions are present a fire will burn. That analogy according to Kamalashila's commentary relates to the karmic results of actions that may or may not produce a karmic result.

Similarly, all phenomena contained in the process of dependent occurrence are not the productions of any creator.

Similarly, the skandhas, the psycho-physical constituents of an individual, do not involve an ego.

The ego may regard the skandhas, the psycho-physical constituent of an individual, as the possession, of the individual. That notion occurs in relation to the notion of an ego, a truly existent individual. However, ones own skandhas, in relation to another individual, are the skandhas of an individual other than that individual. Hence, the notion of an ego exists only in relation to something else. It is dependent for its existence on something else. Hence, it has no substance, no reality of its own, no independent existence. Even though the ego has no substance, the individuals attachment sees the ego as something having substantial existence.

In non-buddhist traditions that speak of the existence of a self it is not the case that they have failed to realise that ego only exists in relation to something else and therefore has no substance. In order to avoid that defect, when presenting that viewpoint, they speak of what one may call a cosmic self that pervades each and every being.

When analysing these different viewpoints in terms of a creator, it becomes obvious that a supreme self that is a static entity that pervades everything is not possible. If something is static and permanent it is inactive. Not being able to assert that, other viewpoint were created, such a supreme being like Ishvara being the creator of the universe. Ishvara is said to be a supreme being with miraculous powers and immense capacity. That is another non-buddhist viewpoint. There is mention of 360 different schools of thought that present different creators of the universe. All these different viewpoints seem to have come about as a result of a process of analysis where the exclusion of one has produced yet another one a.s.o.

In fact, as the sutra points out, there is no creator. There is merely a process of dependent occurrence, where certain causes and conditioning influences come together and produce such appearances. Within the process of dependent occurrence one can speak of phenomena coming into being and ceasing to exist. The point is that their coming into being and their ceasing to exist are both the outcome of the synchronous meeting of causes and conditions. The are not the creations of some creator.

If one looks at the notions 'I' and 'mine', they only exist in relation to one another. If one looks at the notion 'I' and 'other' the relationship is the same. They only exist in the light of one another. Hence, one cannot speak of a substantially existent individual, self or creator.

Basic unawareness is the origin of the notions of 'I', 'other' a.s.o. In dependence upon which the notion of other comes about. That in turn produces attachment, wanting a.s.o. In this way beings wander in this cycle of samsara which is nothing but a process of dependent occurrence. Therefore the Madhyamakavatara says in terms of describing this process: Being wander helplessly in samsara in the same way as a wheel in a watermill turns.

There is the tendency to take the self, the individual, to be truly existent. That is merely a delusion where the individual fails to recognise what is in fact the case. The process of dependent occurrence does not involve the notion, which attributes existence to that which in fact does not exist.

If one looks at ultimate reality, the sutra says that it is like space. It is unborn, and empty by nature. What we were looking at namely samsaric delusions are merely mental fabrications where the individual attributes existence or reality to that which does not exist, which has no reality. This is what is referred to as samsara, relative reality. Ultimate reality is free of those mental fabrications. It is like space.

If everything is like space, why is it that we make efforts? If a farmer sows seeds, these seeds will grow into a harvest that he can make food of. If everything is like space, wouldn't these efforts be without meaning? Wouldn't this world be without meaning? Wouldn't liberation be without meaning, if everything is merely like space, empty or void? The sutra says that causes and condition that produce these appearances are illusionlike. They have no reality or substance. Even though they have no reality or substance, they do produce appearances. It is not the case that there is nothing, that there is just a void. In terms of relative reality illusionlike causes and conditions will without fail produce appearances, will produce phenomena. In terms of relative reality there is the experiencing of these and the associated situations, which relates to correct relative truth. However, in terms of mental fabrications, these do not have any foundation whatsoever not even in relative reality and are therefore referred to as incorrect.

Existence is the indivisibility of appearance and emptiness. Reality does not involve a creator a.s.o. It does not depend upon something specific for it coming into being. What is at hand is this process of dependent occurrence, which is made up of these illusionlike causes and conditions that produce phenomena.

There is the inner aspect of the process of dependent occurrence, which relates to the presence of illusionlike causes and conditions. In this case it is the presence of coloured consciousness, which is the seed, actions and their accrued karma, obscuring states of mind and the mother's womb. These being present together produce the non-material skandhas and the physical form of the fetus.

Q and A p. 61 of pdf

Question: If a partnership is the result of a karmic connection, what does it depend on for how long this result can last?

Answer: If the relationship is a result of previous actions, the first aspect of karma, where one talks about an action propelling you into a certain situation, would be responsible for the duration of the relationship.

If the relationship is very short, it is probably not the result of previous karma. It is probably an incidental occurrence.

Question: In a statement the Buddha once said that the intention is the action, because it is due to ones intention that one will act through body, speech and mind and hence accumulates karma. If the intention itself is the action, how does this go together with the two aspects of karma that where explained last week, where, if there is no intention, there will not be an effect?

Answer: There has to be both the intention and the action. Just to intend something may not necessarily create a karmic result. If one intends to take the life of someone but actually never does it, the karmic result will not be the same as if one had taken the life of someone. A mental action alone does not necessarily create a karmic result. However, verbal action, such as abusing someone verbally, will create such a result.

Question: Is a samadhi a mental action which produces a karmic result?

Answer: Yes. It has the capacity to enhance or develop the different types of samadhi that one can engage in. In dependence upon samadhi, one develops qualities resulting from practising that path. In dependence what type of samadhi you practise. Non-conceptual samadhi that involves experiencing clarity and bliss do not produce rebirth in the two higher realms. Whereas samadhi, which involves interrupting the stream of thoughts occurring in ones mind so that what is at hand is a state of absorption, produces rebirth in the two upper realms. It is a specific result that we are talking about.

Question: It was said that the type of Samadhis, which aim at interrupting mental activity lead to rebirth in higher realms. What is the other kind of samadhi?

Answer: A proper samadhi is defined as a samadhi that is a non-conceptual state involving the experiencing of clarity and bliss. The kind of samadhi that produces rebirth in the two upper realms is not regarded as perfect Samadhis

Question: Why is time, which is a conditioning factor in the outer aspect of the process of dependent occurrence, no element of the inner conditioning factors of the process of dependent occurrence?

Answer: The inner aspect relates to an inner process of consciousness, whereas the outer aspects relate to outer appearances.

The presence of time is implied. The aspects of the inner process depend on the aspects of the outer process and vice versa. It is a matter of explaining one or the other. One emphasises a certain aspect, but they are not unrelated.

Question: The sutra talks about matter as not being a sentient being, having no individuality a.s.o. Then it talks about consciousness as also not having these attributes. To me consciousness seems to have a connection to being sentient and having intentions. How is that?

Answer: Consciousness is mind. Consciousness as a factor is not a sentient being on its own. A sentient being would be any being in any of the realms of samsara. What is implied is that the factor consciousness is not a creative agent such as asserted by the Jain school of thought. It is to refute that school of thought. It is not meant in general. The point made is that the factor consciousness is just the outcome of certain causes of conditions. In general of course consciousness is alive. The point is to refute the notion of a self-entity as a creative entity. One can't speak of consciousness as alive in terms of a certain duration such as a a.s.o. A consciousness alone couldn't be a sentient being.

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