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The first two represent the suffering of change, while the latter represents the pervasive suffering of conditioning. The different kinds of suffering have been caused by contaminated actions underlain by the disturbing emotions. To show how this happens, the twelve links of dependent arising - ignorance, formative action, consciousness, name and form, the six sources senses , contact, feeling, craving, grasping, existence, existence, birth, and aging and death-are painted around the rim of the wheel.

The scenes within each section show what living beings experience in that particular kind of rebirth. The fact that the Lord of Death holds the wheel of existence in his mouth signifies impermanence and that everything is subject to transience. The links are numbered as above to represent the causal relationships. The order in which they actually occur is 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, as follows:.

Links 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10 are the five karmic causes of rebirths.

Twelve links of dependent origination

Links 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are the five karmic results in the rounds of rebirths. The Theravada tradition uses it to explain the arising of sufferings; that all composite existence is without substantiality. This doctrine is then used the basis for the negation of self. In the Mahayana, conditional arising is further interpreted to validate the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity.

Madhyamika School equates this doctrine with shunyata emptiness. Conditional arising is taken to show that because of their relativity, appearances have only empirical validity and are ultimately unreal. In the Yogacara view, only true understanding of this doctrine can overcome the error of taking what does not exist for existent and what does exist for nonexistent. The Prajnaparamita Sutras stresses that this doctrine does not refer to a temporal succession but rather to the essential interdependence of all things.

The 12 links of dependent arising: Overview

Com multitude of free pdfs www. Sources: various, see below [fair use]. Twelve Links of Dependent Arising dependent origination, causes and conditions twelve cause of suffering Image from dharmanet. Geshe Sonam Rinchen, comments on the mandala: [fair use, slightly different from the above mandala] The wheel is divided into sections of which the three lower ones show the realms of hell beings, hungry spirits, and animals. Lack of wisdom, which is the root of all evils.

Obscuration as to self of persons and self of phenomena. Wholesome or unwholesome thoughts, speech and bodily deeds. Concious - ness. The 6 consciousnesses; taken as 8 in the Yogacara School. The 5 aggregates that make up name and form: Feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination

The suffering of samsara is also internally caused by ignorance. But if the nature of the thorns was the cause of suffering external and the cause was not in the nature of the sufferer, then even shoes would not prevent the suffering. And if the cause of samsaric suffering were external, then there would be no means for controlling samsara. Nor would there be any method of attaining final peace, of completing the state of perfect happiness by extinguishing samsara. Even medicine could not cure sickness. Yet as we can experience greater and greater suffering, we can experience higher and higher happiness.

If the Buddha were a creator being and he alone created the samsaric realms and their suffering, then there would be no reason to follow the teachings to be released, or to have him show us the teachings. All attempts would be in vain since every living being would have a samsaric nature rooted in suffering by him. If the Buddha were the cause of samsara he would be the creator of ignorance and suffering, and would be our worst enemy instead of a perfect guide.

There is no logical reason to say that the compassionate Buddha created everything, for his teachings were shown only to help us achieve happiness. For if he were the creator of all, he would have already created enlightenment for each living being and we would already have received it.

To say otherwise sounds like the imagination of a little baby.


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Universal evolution is created by the universal law of karma, created by the beings which inhabit the universe. The weapons of the hell beings, By whom and for whom were they created? Who laid the foundation of the burning iron? How did the limitless blaze happen? All the suffering stages, even such as that one, Arose from the veiled mind. A beautiful girl appears differently to different people with varying levels of thought. Food tastes differently to different people. It depends on karma, and nothing is created by itself but by the individual mind.

World peace will not come about through external development. It does not depend upon reducing noise in the city or hiding in a cave.

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The only cause that can bring peace to universal beings is to exchange ourselves with others, to be attached to the comfort of others instead of our own, which we would renounce. The negative thought that cherishes ourselves and not others is the cause of all suffering and problems.

Meditation on the Wheel of Life. One way to understand the suffering nature of samsara is to meditate on the gradual evolution of the twelve links of dependent origination, Skt: pratitya samutpada; Tib: ten-drel. It is held in the mouth of the Lord of Death, showing how all beings who live in the six realms of samsara are controlled by impermanence and death. I and most other sentient beings are suffering in this circle of interdependent origination. Its root is ignorance, which is the complete opposite of the Dharma wisdom that perceives the absolute reality. The blind man shown on the wheel of life symbolizes the ignorant person, who does not see where he is going, where he will be reborn, what he has suffered or what he will suffer in rebirth.

Ignorance is the cause of the 84, delusions. There are two kinds of ignorance: Ignorance of absolute truth, which binds me more strongly to samsara. The main purpose of all the teachings of Guru Shakyamuni is to remove ignorance by the realization of absolute truth, just as the main purpose of medicine is to remove sickness.

Ignorance of karma arises from ignorance of absolute truth; it causes rebirth in the three lower realms.

Purpose of studying the 12 links

This is symbolized by a man producing clay pots. Just as a clay pot can be fashioned into many sizes and shapes, so does the creation of different karmas bring different results. Karma may be meritorious, unmeritorious or indifferent. Karmic formation generates consciousness. This is symbolized by a monkey with fruit in its hand, swinging from tree to tree, to show that consciousness, bearing karmic impressions, joins past to present and present to future.

The monkey is uncontrolled, impure, because its outlook depends on its position in the tree, just as my consciousness depends on karma. Consciousness is the mind, which perceives the different aspects of objects. There are six kinds of consciousness: those of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Consciousness generates name mind and form body.

This is symbolized by a man rowing a boat, and shows that to do so, many conditions such as the boat, the oarsman, the ocean, etc. Similarly, name and form could not exist without the five skandhas aggregates. Name and form generate the six sense organs.

29.09.2016 The Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination

This is symbolized by an empty house. From the distance the house looks full and lived in, but it is empty. Similarly, the six sense organs are empty because they are meaningless without an object. For the six sense organs there are also six outer objects and six inner sense bases.


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