Month: July 2022

What is: The 12 links of dependent origination (3 of 3)


7. FEELING (tshor-ba).

Each one of the 6 types of contact containing awareness can express pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feelings, giving a total of 18 feelings.

When awareness contacts an object, there is feeling. Without consciousness (like a dead body), there cannot be any feeling.

Feelings are of three kinds:

  • Good – Bringing happiness when the object is attractive.
  • Bad – Bringing suffering when the object is repulsive.
  • Neutral – Bringing no feeling of either good or bad.

8. CRAVING (sred-pa).

Craving keeps humans attached to existence, meaning that humans are reincarnated again and again, or ‘arise’ again and again.

  • Craving for happiness: If we experience a pleasant feeling, we have an attachment to it and the desire to not be separated from that experience.
  • Craving to abandon suffering: If the feeling is unpleasant, we experience repulsion and the desire to get rid of that state.
  • If the feeling is neutral, the desire is also neutral.

All the above links arise in interdependent origination based on ignorance and follow the law of cause and effect. If we want to remove desire, we have to remember feeling etc. Because what we really want to remove is old age and death, we seek the cause of it through the 12 links and we understand that the cause of all is ignorance. To get liberated from samsara, we have to look at the 12 links in an anti-clockwise manner.

The understanding of the 12 links gives stable faith in past and future lives, the law of karma, interdependent arising, and the formation of samsara. Investigating and reasoning in analytical meditation are very important, especially for the sutra teachings.

9. GRASPING (len-pa).

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

There are four kinds of grasping.

The first is grasping at disturbing emotions, while the following three are grasping at disturbing attitudes.

Grasping at sense pleasures.. From this grasping, the three realms arise:

  • Desire realm: The coarse mind grasps strongly at the sense of pleasure.
  • Form realm: There is grasping at the meditative concentration and attachment to bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality which are the three experiences of contemplation.
  • Formless realm: There is grasping at the subtler form of concentration.

Grasping at wrong views.

There are 360 kinds of wrong views which can be divided into three groups:

  • Believing in past and future lives, but not in the law of cause and effect.
  • Believing that all phenomena exists and are changeless (Externalism.)
  • Not believing in past and future lives nor the law of karma (Nihilism.)

Another classification can be, distorted view, extreme view and wrong view as supreme.

Grasping is the disturbing attitude of holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme.

This is abandoning pure morality and instead, grasping at mistaken ethics, like adopting a negative practice, believing it will lead to a higher rebirth.

Grasping at the self.

  • Grasping at the innate sense of self (common to all sentient beings.)
  • Imposed grasping at self, resulting from philosophical studies.

It is not necessary to experience all of the four types of grasping to have the presence of this link, one of them is enough.


Work out your own salvation, do not depend on others.

There are two kinds of becoming:

  • Becoming of existence.
  • Becoming of the three realms ( desire, form and formless.)

The karmic seed is kept in the projecting consciousness. When craving and grasping water the seed of karma, we have the sprout of a new life (existence.)

11. BIRTH (skye-ba).

The whole world is made of compounded phenomena which are based on causes and conditions and are impermanent.

The 11th link is the equivalent to the first moment of link number four, name and form. Between the 10th and the 11th links, beings experience the bardo where they are composed of four aggregates and have only a mental body (no physical body/form.)

  • In the first half of the bardo, the shape of the mental body is similar to that of the previous life.
  • In the second half of the bardo, the mental body takes the shape of the future body.
  • Birth refers to the entrance into the particular realm where one will live.

There are four types of birth:

  • Birth in a womb.
  • Miraculous birth.
  • Birth from an egg.
  • Birth from heat and moisture.

After being born we have all the suffering aggregates and we will have to die.

  • Whatever was born must die.
  • Whatever is collected must be dispersed.
  • Whatever came together must be separated.
  • Whatever was built must be dismantled.

There are two ways to be born in samsara:

  • Pushed by the winds of karma, one experiences suffering.
  • As a bodhisattva (out of their compassion), they don’t experience suffering because they don’t have the karma for it.

12. AGEING AND DYING (rga-shi).

Birth, old age and death are the three main sufferings of human beings.

This starts in the second moment of our rebirth. So, after the first moment of experiencing the future life based on an embryo, we start to age. From birth, we advance towards death through a stream of change. When the stream of moments stops, it is death, defined as the moment when the consciousness leaves the body. The suffering of a baby in the womb is very great, the suffering at birth is even worse. Old age, disease and death are suffering at a gross level. At a more subtle level, we experience the suffering of change and all-pervasive in all the realms. All sufferings are rooted in ignorance. We should feel tired of samsara and its sufferings and wish not to be born again.

Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the last 6 links of dependent origination.

What is: The 12 links of dependent origination (2 of 3)


1. IGNORANCE (ma-rigpa).

The belief in ‘I’ gives rise to ‘mine’ and ‘others’

Ignorance is the main cause of misconception, which is the root of samsara. We do not see or know the ultimate nature of phenomena and exaggerate the way things exist.

There are 4 kinds of misconceptions:

  • Holding impure phenomena as pure.
  • Holding empty phenomena as truly existing.
  • Holding suffering as happiness.
  • Holding impermanent phenomena as permanent.

Because of ignorance, sentient beings accumulate positive, negative and neutral (or immovable) karma which produces cyclic existence.

  • Accumulation of positive karma produces birth in a higher realm.
  • Accumulation of negative karma produces rebirth in a lower realm.
  • Accumulation of neutral karma produces rebirth in the form or formless realms.

The belief in ‘I’ gives rise to ‘mine’ and ‘others’ and from there arises the negative emotions of desire – attachment and anger – aversion. This I that is produced by ignorance is also the cause of negative emotions, karmic action and cyclic existence.

The five aggregates (form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness) are the base of imputation for the I. As long as we believe in the existence of the 5 aggregates, we are grasping at the I, thus producing karma and subsequently samsara. We need to develop the wisdom to realise the selflessness of self which will free us from samsara (liberation / Arhat.) And the selflessness of phenomena, which will remove the veils of ignorance from the ultimate nature of reality (Omniscience / Buddha).


The mind stream goes continuously from life to life.

The results of karmic actions are stored in the consciousness in the form of imprints. When they meet with the right conditions they will ripen and produce results according to their causes (good actions will bring about happiness and bad actions suffering).

Among humans, some are working towards temporary happiness in this life, looking for happiness outwardly (through external objects) and not accepting the law of cause and effect. They do not concern themselves with the importance of accumulating virtuous karma and avoiding non–virtuous karma. Others are working towards the happiness of future lives, by looking inwardly (through meditation) and do accept this law as valid. But they are only interested in obtaining a high rebirth in their next lives through virtuous actions. And some beings practice meditation and thereby attains rebirth in the form or formless realms through the accumulation of neutral (immutable/unchangeable) karma.

These 3 kinds of karma are all contaminated karmas (the negative, positive and neutral karmas) which are the cause of cyclic existence. Uncontaminated karma is the result of all actions based upon the wish to achieve liberation from samsara combined with the insight into the empty nature of things. In the 12 links, we speak of contaminated karma only.

3. CONSCIOUSNESS (mam-shes).

Consciousness is defined as that which is clear and knowing (aware.)

There are 6 different kinds of consciousness:

  • Eye (visual)
  • Ear (auditory)
  • Nose (olfactory)
  • Taste (gustatory)
  • Body (tactile)
  • Mental / Mind.

Sometimes two additional types of consciousness are described: the affected consciousness and the mind basis of all.

Karmic imprints are stored in the subtle consciousness which goes from life to life and remains stored in the consciousness like seeds planted in a field. According to the Mind-Only Schools, they reside in the mind basis of all. In Svatantrika / Madhyamika it is said they reside within the continuity of the six consciousness, and the Prasangika /Madhyamika in the continuity of consciousness that grasps the existence of an “I”.

This subtle consciousness is of two types:

  • The projecting consciousness: This is active at the time of the creation of karmic imprints, and stores the accumulated karmic imprints (seeds) until the necessary conditions arise.
  • The projected consciousness: This is the ripening of past karmic imprints.

4. NAME AND FORM (ming-dang gzugs).

 Name and form refer to the five aggregates, which mutually support each other like the poles that support a tent.

  • NAME: Consists of the four aggregates of feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness.
  • FORM: Consists of the aggregate of appearance.

All sentient beings have the five aggregates except those in the formless realm, who in the intermediate state, are constituted of name without form.

When a consciousness (name) enters a human womb and merges with the white and red essences from the parents, it takes a form (body). At death, the coarse consciousness dissolves into the subtle one and the last moment in this life is the cause for the first moment in the intermediate state where we have name without form. After remaining in the bardo for generally 49 days, the consciousness enters between the red and white drops and grows, the five elements become coarser, giving rise to name and form. Ordinary beings take rebirth under the influence of their karma but there is the possibility of gaining ultimate freedom through liberation which is definitive independence.

There is a mutual dependence between cause and effect. The cause must be consistent with the effect and the effect is dependent on the cause. It is not that the aggregates of previous life go on to the next, but they are interdependent.

So how do we describe the continuity between lives if there is no transfer of the aggregates? There is the continuity of moments being the causes and effects of each other. This is the continuity of the consciousness that is the link between lives. When in past lives we accumulated positive imprints (karma), happy consequences will arise in future lives and the same for negative imprints and suffering. This is made possible by the on going continuum. For example, the passage in life between child-adult -old age is a coarse continuity made of newly arisen states.

The first three links (with the first consciousnesses) are the cause for birth in a womb (name and form) from which sense sources arise.

5. SIX SENSE SOURCE (skye-mched).

To hold and grow – When the consciousness is projected to an object, it holds onto it.

  • Six outer sources: form, sound, tangible objects smell, taste, and phenomena.
  • Six inner sources: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body/skin and mind sense powers. The first five are based on subtle physical elements.
  • The eye-consciousness is composed of the eye sense power and form. In the eye, there is the substance which can perceive form.
  • The ear-consciousness is ear sense power and sound. The ear contains a physical base for sound.
  • The nose consciousness has receptors to sense smells.
  • The tongue consciousness has receptors for different tastes.
  • The body sense power has receptors on the skin to convey sensory impulses.
  • The mind sense power is not physical but based on the continuity of discrete moments of consciousness (sense consciousness).

The coarse continuity of a person allows the arising of the next link – contact.

6. CONTACT (eg-pa).

The object of the mental consciousness is phenomena, and the mental faculty is awareness and has no shape.

This is the meeting between the sense consciousness, the sense faculty and the object. Because there are 6 senses, there are 6 types of contact.

Now the aggregates of distinguishing and significant parts of the aggregates of other affecting variables are functioning. They are no longer merely nameable mental faculties.

Contact usually gives the impression that it is the physical action of contacting an object. It is not that. It is a way of being aware of an object that, because it is distinguished, is contacted. Contacting awareness differentiates such an object as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. For example, from within a field of physical sensations, the fetus is now able to distinguish experiences of hot or cold, or bouncing up and down that it cognitively contacts. It is aware of the physical sensations of bouncing up and down, such as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

What determines that?

Karma. Here, karmic results start to ripen that are similar to their cause. Because we created pleasant, unpleasant situations in past lives, we encounter things that we are aware of as pleasant or unpleasant at this stage of development. Although the distinguishing aggregates and other affecting variables, such as contacting awareness are functioning, the feeling aggregate is not yet functioning. It is present, but still in an undifferentiated form as a nameable mental faculty. In other words, we are aware of objects that we contact as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, but we do not yet feel happy, unhappy, or neutral in response.

Thank you for reading my understanding of the first 6 links of dependent origination, back soon with the finale 6.