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.

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