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 62 of pdf]

The sutra says that this is how one should understand the inner process of dependent occurrence. This process has five defining characteristics that are as follows: Such occurrences are not static; they form part of an ongoing process; the shift from one phase to another does not involves transmigration or transference; a small cause can produce a relatively large effect and typical causes produce typical effects.

This listing deals with ultimate reality.

How is the process of dependent occurrence not static? That, namely the process of dependent occurrence not being static, is related to the fore phases of existence. The first of these is the intermediate state, the phase between death and a new rebirth. The second is the phase of existence of birth, which is the moment an individual is born. The third phase of existence being the lifespan of an individual, That starts the second instance of that lifetime. The first relating to birth and ends as the individual dies. The phase of existence of death itself. The moment of death itself.

The skandhas, which eventually disintegrate at death and the skandhas that come into being are different entities. The skandhas which disintegrate at death are wholly other than the new skandhas that come into being; they are not the same. They disintegrate upon death and others come into being. Thus the inner process of dependent occurrence is not static. In relation to the four phases of existence two are mentioned here, namely the moment of death and the moment of birth.

Now we come to the second defining characteristic. How is the dependent occurrence a dynamic, ongoing process? The skandhas that come into being are not the result of some previous skandhas, which ceased to exist some time ago, nor are they the result of some skandhas which have entirely passed out of existence. Just as the skandhas disintegrating, during the process of death, fresh skandhas are coming into being. Like the simultaneously shifting movements of the two pans of a scale. The ceasing of the skandhas at the time of death results in the coming into being of the skandhas of the next life. In this way the process of dependent occurrence is ongoing and uninterrupted.

What does it means that the process of dependent occurrence doesn't involve transmigration or transference? There is no transmigration or transference of the skandhas from one lifetime to another; since the skandhas that have been produced anew can take rebirth in different circumstances and categories of sentient beings, according to accrued karma.

What does it mean to say that a small cause can produce a relatively large effect? A relatively insignificant action can result in the experience of a far greater consequence. Thus from a cause that is relatively small a significantly greater result can come to pass.

A typical kind of action brings about a typical kind of result. The process of dependent occurrence, in this way, involves a continuum of similar instances.

A typical action, whether good or bad, will bring about a typical kind of result.

That concludes the listing of the five defining characteristics of this process. The sutra goes on as follows: Noble Sariputra, the process of dependent occurrence that involves twelve phases is thus perfectly described by the Buddha, the Bhagawan. The Buddha described this process without any mistake. He perfectly described it and it is directly and unmistakenly realised by that individual who, on the basis of authentic insight, sees the following: An individual who sees what the process of dependent occurrence truly is does so by means of authentic insight and he sees it exactly as the Buddha described it.

In terms of seeing this process by means of authentic insight. That would involve seeing that the process of dependent occurrence in fact always is without any life of its own. This perception of the process of dependent occurrence involves seeing what is in fact the case, there being no mistakes whatsoever with regard to this perception.

It involves seeing that this process is unborn, that it is not a fixed or static entity that abides or endures. It is to see that this process has not been brought about by any creator or creative agent. It is to see that this process is not conditioned, that it is free from obscurations and is beyond the duality of perceived and perceiver. It does no involve a specific occurs in the context of duality. It is beyond the conceptuality of dualistic mind.

In terms of ultimate reality this process is a state of peace in that is beyond birth, sickness ageing and death. That perception of its ultimate nature is completely beyond fear. It is infallible in that that perception cannot be influences by obscuring states of mind. It does not come to and end. Ultimate reality is always present. There is nothing to be pacified

What comes after deals with relative reality. In terms of relative reality it involves seeing that dependent occurrences do not truly exist. The five skandhas do not truly exist. They are essenceless, an mere effigy, an empty shell. In terms of the previous discussion there has been mention of a self or a self entity. These characteristics just listed point to that such a self-entity, such a self does not exist.

This self is like a empty shell. This self or self-entity, asserted by some, is said to be a permanent or static entity. It is pointed out that this is not the case, it is merely like an empty shell. It cannot perform E.g., the function of perceiving or turning its attention to an object. It is merely an empty shell.

The skandhas are a state of disease; they are like a metastasising tumour.

They are a persistent state of suffering. They are the source of subtle constant pain, since they themselves consist in nothing but karma and obscuring states. Hence they are sources for negativity.

Editor note: Is this the same as Tolle's "pain body"?

The next part relates to the truth called suffering. It says that the skandhas do not last, they are impermanent. That means that the moment that something comes into existence it is subject to change. Coming into existence itself implies change, implies impermanence.

The mere fact of existence itself encores suffering. Here, as we have seen, there is a list of three types of suffering.

The skandhas are mere conceptual labels. Them being nothing but mere concepts points to that, in fact, they are empty of inherent existence.

The skandhas are empty of inherent existence. That can be described as follows; A house which is empty does not contain, however, it doesn't mean that he house is not there.

The skandhas do not constitute an 'I', a substantially existent person.

That individual, who sees the process of dependent occurrence in this way, who truly sees how relative and how ultimate reality is, will not speculate about whether the 'I' or the self has existed in precious lives or has not existed in previous lives; nor will he speculate about what type of being he might have been; nor what kind of circumstances he might have been born into.

Such an individual will not speculate about what will happen to the self, to the 'I' in future lifetimes or what will not happen in future lifetimes. Nor will he speculate about what type of being he might become or what circumstances he might be born into.

This person will not speculate about the following: He will not speculate about what this self is in essence. What it might be like and what it is that exits now in the presence; nor what will become of this self or 'I'.

This person will not speculate about the specifics of a self.

That person won't speculate about what it is that exists not in the presence, in that the self, the 'I' cannot be defined in terms of existing substantially

He will not speculate about what will become of the self, the 'I'.

Such a person will not speculate about where sentient beings come from nor what will become of them.

Q and A - p. 64 of pdf

Question: With respect to the self consisting of the five skandhas only negative statements were made, such as it is suffering, pain etc. How does that go along with seeing the own body as pure, as a buddha-palace?

Answer: It is evident that the five skandhas are of the nature of suffering. With respect to them being the opposite, a state of well-being, hat might relate to some Yidam-practise, where one no longer sees the five skandhas is their ordinary form. One sees them as of the nature of the five kinds of wisdom. At that point the samsaric skandhas no longer exist. They are not relevant in that situation. It is important to understand the symbolic meaning of the elements of such a Yidam-practise and not to equal them to the physical form.

Question: With respect to daily practise, it is often recommended to see the world as a pure expression, that all being are in fact Buddhas. How is one able to train in a pure vision, if one focuses on the five skandhas as being suffering only? Answer: No matter how much one thinks about that all beings are Buddhas, unless one has experienced the truth of that, it won't change anything. However, when the individual being of a nature of suffering is recognised, the individual will develop the desire to free himself from that suffering, which brings him to recognise what the skandhas and their suffering entail. That again will bring him to the methods be which he will free himself of that suffering. On the other hand, just contemplating that oneself and all other beings are in fact Buddhas, without a direct perception of that, will not change anything.

Question: Back to causes and conditions. With respect to the bardo-state after death, does it also happen that influential conditions influence ones future lifetime or are there merely causes responsible for ones development? Answer: One just has a mental body in the intermediate state and nothing obstructs it in that it is a mental body. One can move to any place. Having been conceived in the womb of ones mother, it becomes a material body. In the intermediate state between death and the next life, there is just the mindstream. It is possible, if certain conditions come together, that the individual comes to perceive ultimate reality during that phase of existence. If one has a realised teacher, he can get into contact with an individual in the intermediate state. That would be an example for a condition that influences the future life in the intermediate state.

Question: Is the pure realm Dewachen manifesting due to the power of Amithaba's samadhi? Answer: Yes.

Question: Are the mundane siddhis also the product of samadhi?

Answer: Some of them yes, however others may be produced by the power of mantras or certain substances.

Question: How does the example of the shifting movement of two pans of a scale illustrate the process of dependent occurrence as being an ongoing process?

Answer: It is an ongoing process, because the skandhas at the time of death do not suddenly stop or come to a halt, then there being an interruption and the new skandhas are produced. Nor is it the case that they do not stop and that would result in the skandhas of the next life coming into existence. What happens is, that as the skandhas, at the time of death, ceases, simultaneously the skandhas of the future life come into being. The process of dependent occurrence does not involve an interruption between it's different phases. In that sense it is an ongoing process. It has no interruptions.

Question: What is meant by substance as the cause for mundane siddhis? Answer: There are certain substances that are used as an ointment applied to the eyes. As a result, the person is able to see very far. He can see what takes place at a great distance. That is an example of substances. Also the are some substances that, when applied to the soles of ones feet, make one move very rapidly. These practises existed in Tibet up till the fifth Dalai Lama. Whatever happened later is not clear.

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