The 12 links of interdependent origination (dependent arising), are one of the basis of the Buddha’s teachings, which can be found in the ‘Rice Seeding Sutra’ and are recognised in both Sutra and Tantra. It states that all phenomena are related by interdependent origination and are depicted on the outer rim of the famous wheel of life. They represent the 12 causes for the existence of all phenomena that keep us trapped in samsara and how to reverse them to achieve liberation.
For example, the existence of the flower depends on the sprouting of the seed. The cause is the plant, producing the flower, which is the cause of the seed. This is the flower cycle. For the seed to sprout, it had to depend on the conditions
All phenomena depend on 6 conditions: earth, water, fire, wind, space and time. That means that any cause, to produce an effect, needs to rely on conditions. This is the law of dependent arising (or interdependent origination).
At the ultimate level, all phenomena are interdependent is the same as saying that all phenomena are empty of true existence. (The nature of phenomena is emptiness).
Atthe conventional level, everything exists by dependent arising. By investigation and analysis, we can understand the relation between the seed and the sprout – the seed (cause)vanishes when the sprout (result) appears. The cause disappeared but without the cause in the first place, no result can be obtained. This explains the relationship between emptiness and dependent arising.
Law of cause and effect.
The cause should not vanish before the effect is produced and it cannot subside after the result is produced. This refutes the extremes of externalism and nihilism. From that, we deduce that phenomena are not produced and are free of the four extremes of existing: Existing, non-existing, both, and none. They are empty – form is emptiness, emptiness is form etc (The heart sutra).
Space is infinite (endless,) where there is space, there is the universe, and where there is the universe there are sentient beings – sentient beings are endless. – Shakyamuni Buddha.
There are 6 classes of beings:
3 higher realms – Gods, humans. and demi-gods.
3 lower realms – Animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings.
Each has its own type of suffering.
Sentient beings can also be classified into 3 realms: Desire, form and formless. They wander endlessly between those realms in dependence on their respective karma. Cyclic existence itself has no beginning and no end but a particular sentient being can uproot the ignorance that binds him to the cycle of rebirth and thus be liberated from cyclic existence.
THE 12 LINKS:
1. Ignorance – The root of all samsaric suffering.
3. Consciousness – The continuity of the mind stream serves as the basis of the imprints of karma.
4. Name and form – is the moment when matter joins mind
5. Six sense sources – This is like the construction of a building in which the finishing work, such as windows and doors, has been completed.
6. Contact – After the sense organs have evolved, they function through the sense consciousnesses to establish contact with outer sense objects, such as visible forms, sounds and so forth.
7. Feeling – Pleasant feelings arise from contact with pleasant objects, unpleasant feelings from unpleasant objects and so forth.
8. Craving – The attachment that evolves from ignorance helps condition the karmic seeds sown in our stream of consciousness.
9. Grasping – This has the special function of bringing karmic seeds to fulfilment.
10. Becoming – At the end of our life, a throwing karma arises and immediately directs us towards our future existence.
11. Birth – The moment the wind leaves the bardo body and enters the united cells of the parents
12. Ageing and death –All this produces the ageing process, which eventually finishes with our death.
We go through the 12 links in an anti-clockwise order till the 2nd link, karma. We need to stop the accumulation of contaminated karma (positive and negative) and purify already accumulated karma. To understand how to do that, we have to look at the cause for the accumulation of karmic imprints which is ignorance.
The holding of phenomenon as truly existent.
The antidote is the wisdom to see the nature of reality by abandoning dualism. By suppressing ignorance, we eradicate karma and the succession of the 12 links in clockwise order stops altogether.
When the 12 links are going clockwise, they produce samsara. When they are reversed, they produce nirvana.
The 12 links can be condensed into four: Two causes and Two results.
The projecting causes are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd links (Ignorance, karma and consciousness.)
The projected effects are the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th links (name and form, six sources, contact and feeling,)
The achieving causes are the 8th, 9th and 10th links (craving, grasping and existence.)
The achieved results are the 11th and 12th links (birth, ageing and death.)
The 12 links can also be classified into three groups:
Base of suffering: The other 7 links (3,4,5,6,7,11, and 12).
This categorisation goes according to the Four Noble Truths (The truth of suffering, The truth of the cause of suffering, The truth of the cessation of suffering, and The truth of the path.) It shows the first two of the Four Noble Truths, delusions and karma represent the true cause, and the base of suffering represents the true suffering.
By understanding the relationship between the Four Noble Truths and the 12 links of dependent arising, we can have a clear picture of how samsara is formed and how nirvana is achieved, and develop stable faith in the teachings which lead to nirvana.
Thank you to take the time to read my brief introduction to the 12 links of dependent origination. I’ll be back with a more detailed description of each link soon.
First, you need to generate the Bodhicitta mind of awakening of a Bodhisattva. This refers to a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana/Buddhahood in order to benefit others. Once you have this wish, then the work to achieve that goal is done through the 6 perfections and the 5 paths.
THE 5 PATHS:
Path of accumulation.
Path of preparation.
Path of seeing.
Path of meditation.
Path of no more learning.
Seeing that all beings need to be free from suffering is compassion. Wishing for them to have more cause for happiness is love.
THE 6 PERFECTIONS:
The first five of the six perfections (generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration,) are all aspects of the practice of skilful means. The sixth, wisdom belongs to the accumulation of primal wisdom. If the first five perfections are done with the understanding of emptiness, they also become a collection of wisdom. So, let’s have a look at these 6 perfections.
Giving ordinary things.
Giving material things
Giving exceptionally great things.
Giving protection from fear.
Giving ordinary things: Food, water or offerings, like clothes, money etc. to the 3 jewels (Buddha, Dharma and sangha.)
Giving great material things: Very precious jewels, gold, silver, horses, elephants etc.… anything valuable, even your children, spouse.
Giving exceptionally great things: Our own body or any part of it to benefit others. (This can only be done by Arya beings who have a direct realization of emptiness.)
Giving Dharma: Explaining to confused people what to cultivate and abandon, what to put into action and what to avoid. The best is to teach the entire path to enlightenment to people who are interested in it. And the very best situation is when these teachings are given by realised beings.
Giving protection from fear: Trying to solve other people’s problems or protect them from their suffering. The best is to save other beings’ lives.
The ordinary perfection of giving is seeing the action, giver and object as truly existing. But seeing the action, giver and object like a dream, not truly existing is the extraordinary perfection of giving. This becomes a collection of wisdom and merit.
DISCIPLINE (PERFECTION OF ETHICS / MORALITY.)
Negative actions are the cause of suffering in this and future lives, and there are:
3 non-virtues of the body: Killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
4 non-virtues of speech: Lying, slander / divisive speech, harsh words, and idle speech.
3 non-virtues of mind: Covetousness, harmful thinking and wrong views.
After abandoning the 10 non-virtuous, one needs also to act according to Dharma and practice the 10 virtues, which is the main cause for rebirth in the higher realms. Human beings can understand what is beneficial and what is harmful, in the long run, and should know that any small non-virtuous action should be abandoned. A small spark can start a big fire, and even small virtues can be very beneficial, one drop and then another drop can fill a bucket.
You are your own protector and your own refuge.
The best opportunity to practice patience is given by our enemies, not by our friends and family. This is why we should value our enemies as our teachers. Because the whole point of our practice is to reduce the 3 poisons of ignorance, hatred and desire, which arise under the power of delusions in our own minds. Our ordinary reaction with other’s wrong actions, is immediate retaliation to harm or speak harsh words, etc. but we must try not to retaliate or wish them harm because when we do, we are only creating negativities that will lead to suffering. It is better to generate love, and compassion and be patient. So, opponents and enemies provide us with the opportunity to practice patience
Patience to bear hardships for the Dharma.
Dharma is precious and difficult to find, when we have found it we should be ready to make efforts, endure hardship and have patience in following the path. We must have patience with ourselves and the difficulties we face to achieve temporary happiness and reduce suffering and eventually the greater goal of enlightenment. We invest so much effort to follow our worldly goals, but we need to invest more effort in working for eradicating suffering in this and future lives.
Patience to face the profound truth without fear.
Accepting the natural state of profound emptiness, the key points of the natural great perfection beyond all activities, and the doctrine that all phenomena’s nature is emptiness.
Patience to develop wisdom through hearing.
This means listening to all the words and meaning of the Dharma spoken by a spiritual teacher, and understanding the meaning of those words as they are spoken. It is important to avoid adding things that the teacher did not say as well as avoiding leaving out things that he did say. Without a teacher to explain the path, we would not know what to practice and what to abandon. Without listening first to the teachings and receiving instructions, we wouldn’t know what to meditate on.
Patience to develop wisdom through reflection.
After listening to the teachings, we must analyse and check how it relates to our mind; analyse, investigate and come up with our own reasoning. Once you have a good intellectual understanding through the wisdom of contemplation, you can go on with the wisdom of meditation which will familiarize the mind with these concepts.
Patience to develop wisdom through meditation.
After meditating for a long time, you can come to a direct realisation of what were previously sounds and words in hearing and intellectual concepts in contemplating. For example, if someone tells you that a certain fruit is sweet, you listen, but these are just words. In the second stage, you analyse the fruit and contemplate (reflection) on the different characteristics of the fruit (not salty, not sour.) In the third stage, you actually experience and you realise the sweetness of the fruit – you actually taste it.
Meditation means becoming accustomed to, or familiar with, so if one begins directly by meditation (without first hearing and contemplating,) there will be nothing to meditate on. For example, there are one-pointed meditations on a subject like love and compassion or emptiness. Meditations on the generation stage, on peaceful and wrathful deities (the deity can be external or one within ourselves.) Meditations on the completion stage practice, where the focus is shifted from the form of the deity to the direct realization of ultimate reality, which also include techniques that work with the subtle body substances, the inner heat (tummo,) channels, energy and essence (tsa lung). These meditations should be without any conceptuality (no arising of thought).
THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF NON- CONCEPTUALITY:
Non-conceptual meditation: This is one pointed meditation on emptiness. Focusing on the nature of emptiness can be called non-conceptual, although the concept of emptiness itself is present, but there are no other thoughts. For example, in deity meditation, when the deity is visualised as being one with oneself, and no other thought arises, only the visualisation.
Non-conceptual wisdom: This is the ultimate wisdom practiced by Arya beings where no conception at all is involved. When the object perceived and the perceiver (the mind) are indivisible, similar to great space, unlimited. Oneself, the object and the act are called the 3 spheres of grasping. When the 3 spheres are seen as empty, worldly perfections (for example the perfection of giving) is transformed into transcendent perfection. Then the two efforts try to grasp their true meaning without giving rise to negative views.
The idea of emptiness of phenomena is strange and can be frightful for certain practitioners. For example, the Hinayana followers who recognise only the emptiness of self, it can produce opposition and rejection. In Mahayana teachings, there are differences between the profundity of the teachings between Sutra and Tantra, regarding the path of union or liberation, and these can be misunderstood and opposed. To have a wrong view about these teachings or to criticize them is what is called ‘The harmful act of rejecting the Dharma’ and brings us huge negative karma. This lack of patience, of rejecting Dharma, is one of the 5 negative actions that result in immediate retribution.
Diligence is included in all the 6 perfections, and we need it to practice any of the five perfections, so we should be joyous when practising these virtues.
There are 3 kinds of diligence:
Diligence in action.
Like a soldier who develops the courage to go to war, we armour our mind with the confidence we can practice Dharma and achieve the goals we fix ourselves upon. To encourage our mind and protect it on the path, we use arguments such as, we have a precious human life, we are following the right path, we have a perfect teacher and a perfect goal.
Diligence in action:
To activate this diligence, we think about death and impermanence. This will encourage us to set out to practice Dharma, without postponing it for tomorrow, next week or next year.
This pushes us to never stop doing virtues until reaching the final goal of enlightenment, we must continue to do virtuous deeds and practice.
Whether you attain Buddhahood or not depends solely on your diligence. With no diligence whatsoever, all good qualities will be useless. Patrul Rinpoche.
Normally our mind is very weak and distracted, following the five sense objects like a feather in the wind. To stabilise our fluctuating mind, we must engage in one-pointedly meditation and focus the mind inward. We need a powerful, concentrated mind to be able to cultivate virtues like love and compassion, purify the mind and remove the obscurations. Then we will be able to see clearly with our mind, achieving clairvoyance then omniscience.
THERE ARE 3 LEVELS OF CONCENTRATION:
Child-like concentration or close concentration of ordinary beings
Meditative concentration with great purpose
Concentration on Great Bliss
Child-like concentration or close concentration of ordinary beings:
When the motivation is to achieve a happy feeling it creates the cause to be reborn as a god in the desire realm. People who meditate and achieve a clear feeling are reborn in the form realm. People who meditate on and achieve the no sensation and no feeling state are reborn in the formless realm.
By practicing calm-abiding meditation, we evolve through the 9 stages of concentration (1 Stage in the desire realm, 4 stages in the form realm, and 4 stages in the formless realm). We have experiences of bliss, clarity and non-thought, but we become attached to them when they appear. In Tantra practice, it is necessary to develop calm-abiding, to practice the meditations of development and completion stages. Then we can practice the special insight meditation, and then by combining both, we meditate on the nature of mind, without the duality of the perceiver- perceived.
Meditative concentration with great purpose:
Arya beings use the previous state of mind of child-like concentration to meditate on emptiness as the object to eliminate self-grasping and the selflessness of a person. Using emptiness as the antidote for grasping at the self is the cause for liberation.
Concentration on Great Bliss:
The thought of emptiness itself must be abandoned as well as the 2 thoughts coming with it: existence and non-existence of emptiness (Madhyamika view). This is the cause for enlightenment.
It is necessary to develop the first type of concentration before the other 2 types can arise.
These first five perfections are worldly. They are the collection of merit, the cause of the form body, and the method aspect of the path. It is achieved for other being’s benefit.
The last perfection is transcendental perfection and is the collection of wisdom. The cause of the wisdom body, the wisdom aspect of the path. People who have wealth and enjoyments in this life have practiced generosity in past lives. It’s not because they invest effort or time for that, because some poor people invest a lot of effort to become rich without result. Being miserly in a past life is the cause for being reborn poor or as a hungry ghost.
WISDOM – Transcendent wisdom has three aspects:
The wisdom that comes through hearing.
The wisdom that comes through reflection.
The wisdom that comes through meditation.
The two accumulations of merit and wisdom are joined together.
The accumulation of merit as the cause, together with the accumulation of wisdom as the condition is support for the realisation of the form body of the Buddha (Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya) for the benefit of others while the accumulation of wisdom as the cause and the accumulation of merit as the condition are the support for the realisation of the truth body of the Buddha (Dharmakaya) for the benefit of oneself.
The union of the two accumulations is the union of appearance and emptiness and the union of the two bodies. Understanding (and remembering) emptiness is crucial to achieve liberation while practicing the accumulation of merit.
Thank you to take the time to read my concise understanding of the 6 perfections. I hope you found it useful.