There Is No Suffering 75

How do the first three links relate to past life? Fundamental ignorance refers to affliction that has existed since time without beginning, although Buddhadharma does not speak of a primordial beginning. Although Earth’ s origin dates back billions of years, sentient beings have experienced the cycles of birth and death for time unimaginable. Due to collective causes and conditions, some of the innumerable sentient beings transmigrated to this planet. When this planet is no longer suitable, sentient beings will transmigrate to other planets or to other planes of existence. Buddhism holds a view of cosmology that is without beginning or end.

These timeless afflictions can be cognitive, emotional, or perceptual. In this case, fundamental ignorance is a cognitive affliction. The Sanskrit word for fundamental ignorance, avidya, means ‘not -clear.’ What we are unclear about is the true nature of being—that of no-self, or emptiness. Due to our ignorance, we cannot help but be vexed when we interact with other people and the environment. We oppose things as they are, believing them to be other than what they are. Interaction with the environment usually generates one of three emotional afflictions: greed, aversion, or delusion. Greed is the mental attitude of desiring something; aversion is the mental attitude of opposing something; delusion is the mental attitude of not knowing or understanding something. These three attitudes, when they arise in us, lead to the second link, actions of body, speech and mind.

These actions, once performed, generate a mental force, karma, which accumulates and continues. Under the law of karma, this force inevitably gives rise to consequences that can ripen in one’s present life or in a future life. This karmic force is consciousness, which here refers not to ordinary consciousness, but to the fifth skandha, the accumulated karmic energy that carries from one life to the next. This consciousness, the third link, is what generates future lives.