There Is No Suffering 74

These lines are the crucial part of the sutra. They summarize the twelve links of conditioned arising ( nidanas), a Buddhist explanation of the cycle of birth and death. It also provides a basis for contemplating causes and conditions,29 one of the five methods of stilling the mind. There are two ways to view causes and conditions: spatially and temporally. Spatially, causes and conditions focus on the physical realm—matter. Temporally, causes and conditions focus on the mental realm—thoughts, feeling, and concepts. The twelve links address causes and conditions from the temporal (mental) point of view. In general, Buddhadharma address the mental realm, and its purpose is always the same: to use contemplation to free us from attachment, self-centeredness, and emotional afflictions.

Each step of the twelve links is the consequence of the preceding step. The twelve links can be viewed as a sequence of causes and consequences, but causes and consequences are themselves based on causes and conditions. From our point of view, it might seem that there is a linear relationship between cause and consequence, and that one cause leads to a particular consequence, but it is not true. Many causes come together under various conditions (conditioned arising) to produce consequences (karmic results). A particular cause and consequence may seem to be dominant while the others appear to be secondary, but that depends on your point of view. I will identify and explain the twelve links, and how you can contemplate each one.

The twelve links are: (1) fundamental ignorance, (2) action, (3) consciousness, (4) name-and-form, (5) the six sense faculties, (6) contact, (7) sensation, (8) desire, (9) grasping, (10) coming into existence, (11) birth, and (12) old age and death. This sequence, or process, connects one cycle of birth and death to the next. Moreover, the twelve links can be divided into three karmic periods. The first three links refer to one’ s past life; the next seven refer to one’ s present life; and the final two refer to one’s future life.

The Past Life