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The Danger of Rebirth - Page 24 - Dhamma Wheel

The Danger of Rebirth

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:15 pm

"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:12 pm

Hello all,

Somewhere - way back in the mists of posts and counter-posts - there was mention of the The Distribution of the Twelve Factors of Dependent Arising into Three Lives. Here is an excerpt written by Bhikkhu Bodhi explaining the use of this expository device:

(from Introduction to The Great Discourse on Causation - The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries ~ translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi. ISBN 955-24-0117-8 1995 BPS Kandy, Sri Lanka.)

Introduction pp. 1-5 Dependent Arising:

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition the Mahanidana Sutta is regarded as one of the profoundest discourses spoken by the Buddha. Its principal theme is paticcasamuppada, "dependent arising," and that immediately alerts us to its importance. For the Pali Canon makes it quite plain that dependent arising is not merely one strand of the doctrine among others, but the radical insight at the heart of the Buddha's teaching, the insight from which everything else unfolds. For the Buddha himself, during his period of struggle for enlightenment, dependent arising came as the astonishing, eye-opening discovery that ended his groping in the dark: "' Arising, arising' - thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and light" (S.XII,65; ii,105). A series of suttas shows the same discovery to be the essence of each Buddha's attainment of enlightenment (S.XIII,4-10). Once enlightened, the mission of a Tathagata, a Perfect One, is to proclaim dependent arising to the world (S.XII,20; ii, 25-26). So often does the Buddha do this, in discourse after discourse, that dependent arising soon becomes regarded as the quintessence of his teaching. When the arahat Assaji was asked to state the Master's message as concisely as possible, he said it was the doctrine that phenomena arise and cease through causes (Vin. i, 40). With a single sentence the Buddha dispels all doubt about the correctness of this summary: "He who sees dependent arising sees the Dhamma, he who sees the Dhamma sees dependent arising" (M.28; i,191).

The reason dependent arising is assigned so much weight lies in two essential contributions it makes to the teaching. First, it provides the teaching with its primary ontological principle, its key for understanding the nature of being. Second, it provides the framework that guides its programme for deliverance, a causal account of the origination and cessation of suffering. These two contributions, though separable in thought, come together in the thesis that makes the Buddha's teaching a "doctrine of awakening": that suffering ultimately arises due to ignorance about the nature of being and ceases through wisdom, direct understanding of the nature of being.

The ontological principle contributed by dependent arising is, as its name suggests, the arising of phenomena in dependence on conditions. At a stroke this principle disposes of the notion of static self-contained entities and shows that the "texture" of being is through and through relational. Whatever comes into being originates through conditions, stands with the support of conditions, and ceases when its conditions cease. But dependent arising teaches something more rigorous than a simple assertion of general conditionality. What it teaches is specific conditionality (iddapaccayata), the arising of phenomena in dependence on specific conditions. This is an important point often overlooked in standard accounts of the doctrine. Specific conditionality correlates phenomena in so far as they belong to types. It holds that phenomena of a given type originate only through the conditions appropriate to that type, never in the absence of those conditions, never through the conditions appropriate to some other type. Thus dependent arising, as a teaching of specific conditionality, deals primarily with structures. It treats phenomena, not in terms of their isolated connections, but in terms of their patterns - recurrent patterns that exhibit the invariableness of law:

"Bhikkhus, what is dependent arising? "With birth as condition aging and death come to be" - whether Tathagatas arise or not, that element stands, that structuredness of phenomena, that fixed determination of phenomena, specific conditionality. That a Tathagata awakens to and comprehends. Having awakened to it and comprehended it, he explains it, and clarifies it, saying: "See, bhikkhus, with birth as condition aging and death come to be." The reality in that, the undelusiveness, invariability, specific conditionality - this, bhikkhus, is called dependent arising. (S.XII,20; ii,25-6)

The basic formula for dependent arising appears in the suttas countless times: "When there is this, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this is absent, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases." [1] This gives the principle in the abstract, stripped of any reference to a content. But the Buddha is not interest in abstract formulas devoid of content; for him content is all-important. His teaching is concerned with a problem - the problem of suffering (dukkha) - and with the task of bringing suffering to an end. Dependent arising is introducted because it is relevant to those concerns, indeed no merely relevant but indispensable. It defines the framework needed to understand the problem and also indicates the approach that must be taken if that problem is to be resolved.

The suffering with which the Buddha's teaching is concerned has a far deeper meaning than personal unhappiness, discontent, or psychological stress. It includes these, but it goes beyond. The problem in its fullest measure is existential suffering, the suffering of bondage to the round of repeated birth and death. The round, the Buddha teaches, has been turning without beginning, and as long as it turns it inevitably brings "aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair." To gain deliverance from suffering, therefore, requires more than relief from its transient individual manifestations. It requires nothing short of total liberation from the round.

In order to end the round, the conditions that sustain it have to be eliminated; and to eliminate them it is necessary to know what they are, how they hold together, and what must be done to extinguish their causal force. Though the round has no first point,k no cause outside itself, it does have a distinct generative structure, a set of conditions internal to itself which keeps it in motion. The teaching of dependent arising discloses this set of conditions. It lays them out in an interlocking sequence which makes it clear how existence repeatedly renews itself from within and how it will continue into the future through the continued activation of these causes. Most importantly, however, dependent arising shows that the round can be stopped. It traces the sequence of conditions to its most fundamental factors. Then it points out that these can be eliminated and that with their elimination the round of births and its attendant suffering are brought to a halt.

As an account of the causal structure of the round, dependent arising appears in the suttas in diverse formulations. The fullest and most common contains twelve factors. The formula has two sides. One shows the sequence of origination, the other the sequence of cessation.

Bhikkhus, what is dependent arising? With ignorance as condition volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, mentality-materiality; with mentality-materiality as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition,feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this entire mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called dependent arising.

But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance volitional formations cease; with the cessation of volitional formations consciousness ceases; with the cessation of consciousness mentality-materiality ceases; with the cessation of mentality-materiality the six sense bases cease; with the cessation of the six sense bases contact ceases; with the cessation of contact feeling ceases; with the cessation of feeling craving ceases; with the cessation of craving clinging ceases; with the cessation of clinging existence ceases; with the cessation of existence birth ceases; with the cessation of birth, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering. (S.XII; ii,1-2) [2]

The prevailing interpretation regards the series as spanning three successive lives, the twelve factors representing the causal and resultant phases of these lives alternated to show the round's inherent capacity for self-regeneration. Thus ignorance and volitional formations represent the causal phase of the previous life which brought about existence in the present; the five factors from consciousness through feeling are their fruit, the resultant phase of the present life. Craving, clinging, and existence represent renewed causal activity in the present life; birth and aging and death sum up the resultant phase of the future life.

At the risk of oversimplification the sequence can be briefly explained as follows. Due to ignorance - formally defined as non-knowledge of the Four Noble Truths - a person engages in ethically motivated action, which may be wholesome or unwholesome, bodily, verbal, or mental. These actions, referred to here as volitional formations, constitute kamma. At the time of rebirth kamma conditions the re-arising of consciousness, which comes into being bringing along its psychophysical adjuncts, "mentality-materiality" (nama-rupa_. In dependence on the psycho-physical adjuncts, the six sense bases develop - the five outer senses and the mind-base. Through these, contact takes place between consciousness and its objects, and contact in turn conditions feeling. In response to feeling craving springs up, and if it grows firm, leads into clinging. Driven by clinging actions are performed with the potency to generate new existence. These actions, kamma backed by craving, eventually bring a new existence: birth followed by aging and death.

To prevent misunderstanding it has to be stressed that the distribution of the twelve factors into three lives is an expository device employed for the purpose of exhibiting the inner dynamics of the round. It should not be read as implying hard and fast divisions, for in lived experience the factors are always intertwined. The past causes include craving, clinging, and existence, the present ones ignorance and volitional formations; the present resultants begining with birth and end in death, and future birth and death will be incurred by the same resultants. Moreover, the present resultant and causal phases should be be seen as temporally segregated from each other, as if assigned to different periods of life. Rather, through the entire course of life, they succeed one another with incredible rapidity in an alternating sequence of result and response. A past kamma ripens in present results; these trigger off new action; the action is followed by more results; and these are again followed by still more action. So it has gone on through time without beginning, and so it continues.

From this it is clear that dependent arising does not describe a set of causes somehow underlying experience, mysteriously hidden out of view. What it describes is the fundamental pattern of experience as such when enveloped by ignorance as to the basic truths about itself. This pattern is always present, always potentially accessible to our awareness, only without the guidance of the Buddha's teaching it will not be properly attended to, and thus will not be seen for what it is. It takes a Buddha to point out the startling truth that the basic pattern of experience is itself the source of our bondage, "the origin of this entire mass of suffering."

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:20 pm

Just to balance from the above post I have just discovered quite a good article by Ajahn Sumedho, it discusses the treatment of dependent origination in the moments and the practicality of it. Feel it is good since most teachings on dependent origination as moment arising that i have come accross comes from Buddhadasa so thought it would be good to show a teaching on it thats not from him

MOMENTARY ARISING

In Ajahn Buddhadasa's book on Dependent Origination, he emphasises that his approach has been on the paticcasamuppada as working in the moment rather than in terms of past present and future lives. When you contemplate, when you practise, you realise that that is the only way it could ever be. This is because we are working with the mind itself. Even when we are considering the birth of a human body, we are not commenting on the birth of our own bodies, but recognising mentally that these bodies were born. Then, in reflection we are noting that mental consciousness arises and ceases. So that whole sequence of Dependent Origination arises and ceases in a moment. The arising and the cessation from avijja is momentary, it is not a kind of permanent avijja. It would be a mistaken view to assume that everything began with avijja and sometime in the future it would all cease.

Avijja means in this sense 'not understanding the Four Noble Truths'. When there is understanding of Suffering, Origin, Cessation and Path, then things are no longer affected by avijja. When we see with vijja then the perceptions are conventional reality, no longer 'me' and 'mine.' For example, when there is vijja then I can say 'I am Ajahn Sumedho' - that is a conventional reality, still a perception but it is no longer viewed from avijja, it's merely a convention we use. There's nothing more to it than that. It is as it is.

When we get to cessation of ignorance then at that moment all the rest of the sequence ceases. It is not like one ceases then another ceases. When there is vijja then the suffering ceases. In any moment when there is true mindfulness and wisdom there is no suffering. The suffering has ceased. Now when you contemplate the cessation of desire, cessation of grasping (upadana), there is the cessation of becoming, cessation of rebirth and suffering. When things cease, when everything ceases then there's peace isn't there? There is knowing, serenity, emptiness, not-self. These are the words, the concepts describing cessation.

When I practise in this way, I find it is very difficult to find any suffering. I realise there isn't any suffering except in a heedless moment when one gets carried away with something. So because of heedlessness and lack of attention and forgetting then we get caught in habitual (kammic) mind stuff. But when we realise we have been heedless we can let it cease, we can let go. There is the letting go, the abiding in emptiness. No longer are there the strong impulses to grasp; the fascination and the glamour of the sensory world has been penetrated. No longer is there anything to grasp. One can still experience and see the way things are without grasping it. There's nobody grasping anything, but there can still be feeling and seeing and hearing, taste and touch. It is no longer created into a person ... 'me and mine'.

For me the important insight is just how momentary consciousness is. The tendency is to perceive consciousness as a long-term thing, as being awake and being conscious as permanent state of being rather than a moment. And yet viññana is always described as a moment, a flashing moment, an instant. So rather than assume that avijja is a continuous process from the birth out of our bodies, we can see that at any moment there can be vijja and the whole thing just ceases. The cessation of that whole mass of suffering can be realised. It's gone! Where is it?

To practise this way is to keep examining things so that everything is seen exactly for what it is. Everything is only what it is in the moment. When we see that beauty is just beauty in the moment. Ugliness is just that in the moment. There is no attempt to solidify that or prolong that in any way because things are just what they are. One is increasingly aware of the formless or nebulous as just what it is rather than something that is overlooked, dismissed or misinterpreted.

The problem of perception is that it tends to limit us to just being conscious of certain points. We tend to be conscious in certain designated points and the natural change and flux and flow is not really noticed. One is only conscious at the A, B, C, D, E, F, G - the points between A and B are never really noticed because one is only really conscious at the designated points of perception. That is why when the mind is opened with vijja and is receptive, then Dhamma reveals itself, there is a kind of revelation. The empty mind in the state of wonder allows truth to be revealed - not through perception anymore. This is where it is ineffable truth, words fail us and it is impossible to put it into perceptions or concepts.

Maybe now you are beginning to appreciate the emphasis the Buddha made: 'I teach suffering and the end of suffering. I teach only two things ... there is suffering and there is the end of suffering.' If you have just that insight into understanding suffering then realise the end of suffering then you are liberated from ignorance. If you attempt to speculate on what that is like, you could call it 'Nibbana, the highest happiness' - but 'highest happiness' is not quite it either, is it? To expect the highest happiness to be like getting high, floating in the air, reaching Nibbana and floating up to the ceiling.

But the Way is one of realisation; mindfulness and realisation. Then the eightfold path is development, bhavana: to develop that path to right understanding. More and more we realise the emptiness, the not-self, the freedom from not being attached to anything; which affects what we say, what we do and how we live in the society we are in by increasing the sense of serenity and calm.

That word Nibbana is generally defined as 'non-attachment to the five khandhas,' which means no longer experiencing a sense of a self in regard to the body and mind - rupa, vedana, sañña, san^khara, viññana. We contemplate the five khandhas not with avijja anymore but with vijja. We see that they are all impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. Then Nibbana is the realisation of non-attachment wherein the self-view ceases. The body is still breathing, so it doesn't dissolve into thin air, but the mistaken identity that 'I am the body' dissolves. The mistaken identity with vedana, sañña, san^khara and viññana - all that ceases. The self dissolves, you can't find anybody. You can't find yourself because you are yourself.

In the view of Dependent Origination occurring over the span of three lives, we see the five khandhas are seen as a kind of permanent form from birth. The body: feelings, perceptions, mind formations and consciousness, are considered as being continuous from birth. But that's an assumption we make - and the reflection of momentary arising points to the mind itself. The body isn't a person anyway, it's not 'me' and 'mine' anyway, never was, never will be. There's only the perception of it as 'me' and 'mine'. The belief that I was born.

I've a birth certificate to prove that this body was born. We carry birth certificates in our mind - we carry around the whole history, the memories and so forth of our lives, giving us this sense of a continuity of a person from birth to the present moment. But examination of perception alone shows that perception arises and ceases. This perception of me as a permanent personality is just a moment. It arises and ceases. Consciousness too is just momentary and conveys the attractive, repulsive and neutral qualities of the conditioned realm. When one sees that clearly then there is no interest anymore in that attachment and in seeking for happiness, trying to be reborn into happiness or beauty, pleasure, safety or security. Rebirth is a grasping of the conditioned realm so we let that go. The five khandhas are still the five khandhas, they are seen for what they are as impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self.

So this reflection on the truth of the way it is - it's very direct, very clear. From the confused, amorphous, nebulous, insecure, unstable, uncertain to the certain - whatever it is, we are no longer choosing which we prefer, we are just noting that what ever arises ceases. As you realise this through your practice, then a lot of the vagueness, and fuzziness of your mind are seen for exactly what they are. Confusion is confusion, just that, it's a dhamma. Confusion is just confusion in the moment, it's not permanent or the self. So what before was a problem or something deluding us is transformed into a dhamma. The transformation is not through changing the condition but through changing the attitude, from ignorance to clarity.

People say, 'all this is very well but what about love and compassion?' The desire for all that is the block, isn't it? Love is no problem once there is no delusion, once there is no self, there's nothing to hinder or block off or prevent love. But as long as there is self-illusion then love is just an idea that we long for but are always feeling disappointed with because the self is getting in the way. The self-view is always blinding us, making us forget and deluding us that there isn't any love. We feel alienated and lonely and lost because there doesn't seem to be any love, so we blame somebody else. Or we blame ourselves, maybe because we're not loveable. Or we become cynics.

But the Buddha pointed to this and asked what was the real problem? It's the illusion of a self. It's the attachment to that perception. That affects the consciousness and everything else so we are always creating the separations, and the dissatisfaction and identifying with that which is not ourselves. Once we are free from that illusion then love is ever-present. It's just that we can't see it or enjoy it when we are blinded by our desires and fears. As you understand this more and more your faith increases and there is a willingness to give up everything. There is a real zest, a joy in being with the way things are.

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

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