The Sangha, the Buddhist Monks of the Holy Order of the Buddha
1. HIS NOBLE DISCIPLES
In Buddhism there are three noble objects of veneration, namely:
1. The Buddha, the Perfectly Enlightened One, 2. The Dhamma, The Teaching of the Buddha, and 3. The Sangha, the Buddhist Monks of the Holy Order of the Buddha.
The word 'Sangha', a Pali term, is commonly and essentially used in the texts of Buddhism, but ordinary readers might find it difficult to properly understand this term in the actual sense.
Outside Buddhist countries, there are many who have little knowledge of the accurate facts about the Sangha. A Buddhist monk is therefore generally thought of in a similar sense as the Christian term for "monk" or "priest".
The term "Sangha" is a compound Pali word San-hr which according to Pali dictionary means a group or a community or an assembly of the Buddhist monks. The "Sangha" in a general sense, is a community of Buddha's disciples who follow and practise the Teaching in order to attain Liberation (Vimutti) from the incessant suffering of life. A "Sangha" Sangha, as an individual, is one who destroys or cuts off defilements in himself (Kilese himsatiti sangho). Also"Sangha" in a wider sense of the term means the congregation which comprises of those monks who have renounced home for the homeless life and having the same view of right understanding and moral observance of Vinaya Discipline (Ditthi sila samannena sanghata bhavena sangho).
The following are some other synonyms of the word "Sangha"
1. Bhikkhu is one who contemplates on the cycle of birth and death (Samsara) as the greatest danger:
2. Samana is one who endeavours to extinguish and eliminate the defilements;
3. Muni is one who controls his mind from wavering or flittering away because of greed, hatred and delusion;
4. Brahmana is one who discards and avoids all evil actions;
5. Tapodhana is one who practises restraint in all matters; such as in the use of his own wealth.
The "Sangha" Sangha therefore refers to those monks who have reached four stages of the Path and four stages of the Fruition (Magga and Phala). They are called the Noble Ones or the Holy Saints (Ariya Sanghas). And lastly "Sangha" , since the time of the Buddha till the present day, refers to all those who are practising the Dhamma for the attainment of the Path and the Fruition (Samuti Sanghas).
2. THE FOUNDER
The founder of this Holy Order was Gotama the Buddha who became Perfectly Enlightened in the Four Noble Truths. He then proclaimed his Dhamma to the world elucidating how he himself found out in his search for the Ultimate Peaceful Happiness (Santi). Thus the second noble object of veneration, the Dhamma, was discovered by the Buddha through his Supreme Enlightenment.
3. TWO DEVOTED LAY DISCIPLES
Before the Buddha expounded the Dhamma, there were no Sanghas in the world at that time, but many hermits or recluses were found in India finding their own salvation with their respective religious practices. When the Buddha appeared in the world and taught the Dhamma, it was said that there were only two objects of veneration, the Buddha and the Dhamma, called in Pali dve vacika (Twofold formula) — literally two news, that is one can know the news of only two objects of veneration in the whole world.
Soon after he attained Enlightenment two brother merchants named Tapussa and Bhallika who were informed by their friends that there appeared the Buddha, the Enlightened One who attained the Supreme Buddhahood, came to see him. When they met the Buddha they respectfully paid homage to him and offered same dried rice-flour cakes and honeycomb saying that they took refuge in the Buddha and his Teaching (Dhamma). Thus the brothers became the first devoted lay disciples who had sought two refuges or objects of veneration.
4. THE ORIGIN OF THE SANGHA
Seven weeks after the enlightenment, the Buddha went to Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares where his aid companions, the five ascetics, were residing. There he delivered to them the first sermon called the "Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta, the Discourse on the Wheel of Truth". Then he delivered the second sermon called the Anattalakkhana Sutta, the Discourse on the 'Theory of Non-self'. On hearing the teaching, with the result of their fruitful perfection, the five ascetics attained the Final Liberation (Arahathood). And thus they become, by virtue of utter elimination of defilements, the first and foremost Ariya Sanghas who were the origin of the Noble Order of the Buddha.
5. YASA THE SECOND CONVERT INTO THE ORDER
At that lime there was a young man named Yasa living in Benares who was the only son of a wealthy merchant. He was surrounded by different kinds of sense pleasures and beautiful ladies, but he was greatly distressed and shocked realising the true nature of impermanence, suffering and impersonality of life. And so having made a resolution to become an ascetic, he set out early towards Sarnath where the Buddha was residing. On that day the Buddha, as usual was pacing up and dawn in an open space. Seeing Yasa approaching him, the Buddha returned from his walk and sat down on a prepared seat. Not far from him stood Yasa complaining, "O distressed am I! Oppressed am I!"
Thereupon the Buddha said, "Here Yasa, there is no distress and no oppression in this Noble life. Come here Yasa and take a seat. I shall expound the Dhamma to you." Then on hearing, having filled with joy, Yasa approached the Buddha, respectfully saluted him and sat on one side. The Buddha expounded the doctrine to him, and he attained the transcendental stage of wisdom of the first Path and Fruition of the Stream-winner (Sotapanna).
When Yasa's mother Sujata noticed the absence of her son, she reported the matter to her husband. The millionaire went out to look for his son. Following the Isipatana where the Buddha was residing. The Buddha saw him coming from afar, and by his pychic powers willed that he should not be able to see his son, knowing that he would also be converted into the Dhamma.
The millionaire approached the Buddha and respectfully enquired whether h saw his son. The Master said, 'Well then sit down here for a while, you would be able to see your son before long'. Being pleased with the happy news, the rich man sat down and then the Buddha delivered the Dhamma as h had done to Yasa.
On hearing the discourse, the rich man became a devout lay disciple who took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Order (Sangha). He was the first lay disciple who sought refuge in the three-formula (Tavacika). While the Buddha was delivering the Dhamma to the rich man, Yasa attained Arahatship. Then the Buddha conferred on Yasa the Higher Ordination with the words "Ehi Bhikkhu", "come, O Bhikkhu". Thus there the number of Arahantas increased to six.
6. YASA'S FRIENDS
The venerable Yasa had four close friends of noble birth, named Vimala, Subhahu, Punnaji and Gavampati. When they heard that their noble friend abandoned household life on account of the Noble Teaching of the Buddha, they came to see him and expressed their desire to follow his example. Yasa then introduced them to the Buddha and on hearing the Dhamma they also became Arahats.
Besides, fifty more worthy friends of Yasa, who belonged to the noble families dwelling in various provinces came to him and also received instructions from Buddha. And they attained Arahatship and entered the Noble Order of the Buddha.
7. THE HOLY ORDER OF THE SANGHA
After the Buddha had spent the rainy season (vassa) in Benares with his sixty Arahat disciples, he addressed them thus: "O, Bhikkhus I am free from all the fetters and attachment in the world, both divine and human; you also are free in the same manner. You have now became fit to be messengers of the Dhamma. So go ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of many, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, O Bhikkhus the glorious doctrine, preach ye the life of holiness and purity."
Having followed the obeisance to the instruction, the disciples went to different direction and preached the Dhamma at many places. And thus the number of Sanghas increased by the thousands even during the Buddha's life time. Since then the Holy Order of the Buddha has continued without a break to the present day.
The Buddha was thus the first religious teacher to send his enlightened ordained disciples to propagate the doctrine out of compassion for the welfare of the others. With no permanent abode, alone and penniless, these first missionaries were expected to wander from place to place to teach the sublime Dhamma, just by living on alms-food. They had no other material possessions but their robes to cover themselves and alms-bowls for receiving their food. As they were Arahats who had been freed from all sensual bonds, their chief and only object was to teach the Dhamma and proclaim the Holy Life (Brahmacariya). The original role of Arahats who had already achieved their life's goal was only to work for the moral upliftment of the people both by examples and by precept. Their real concern was to release people like themselves from the whirlpool of sufferings and to the safety of Nibbana.
With His sixty Arahats disciples the Buddha founded a celibate Order as the nucleus: it was a real systematic organization of democratic principles in lifestyle; dress, abode, almsfood and medicine were equally shared. The original members were selected from the highest status of society. All were educated and rich men, but the Order was open to all worthy ones, irrespective of caste, class, colour or rank. Both young and old belonging to all the castes, anyone who could follow the Rules were freely admitted into the Order. All the members of the Sangha lived like brothers of the same family without any distinction. This Noble Order of Bhikkhus or Sanghas which stands to this day is the oldest historic body of celibates in the world.
8. THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A SANGHA
The religious life of a "Sangha" or Buddhist monk, in other words the righteous conduct of a Samana is also called Brahmacariya which means "Holy life'. A Sangha lives a righteous life as he carefully observes and follows the precepts and rules of discipline which the Lord Buddha laid down for all Buddhist monks to follow. His life is a real virtuous blessing and insightful peace since he has renounced the world, he has no cares and no need to be worried about his family or relatives. He tries to be content with what he gets and so does not have to compete for his livelihood.
He can freely and safely go wherever he likes at that flies where it wishes, a Bhikkhu can freely go for his study, teaching or preaching and practice. He has no need to fear any one, for he has no enemy to cause him harm. In short, the advantageous fruit of being a Sangha is simple, joyous, calm, secluded, free and safe life. It is also a life that can lead one to attain virtue, concentrationt knowledge, wisdom, psychic powers, divine eye, divine ear, remembrance of one's former births, etc. These are completely and orderly described by the Lord Buddha in the Samannaphala Sutta of Digha nNikiya.
As a Sangha's main intent is on releasing sufferings of life and attain NIBBANA, he is always trying to lessen avarice, ill-will, delusion, etc. He endeavours to free himself from all forms of sensual pleasures and improper companies. Thus he can devote his time only in learning, teaching or preaching and practising the Dhamma which will lead him to the utter Liberation, Nibbana.
The advantages of becoming a Sangha are numerous. So in order to realize the actual benefits and experience a taste of the supramundane peace of holy life, every man should try for himself the life of a Buddhist monk for at least three weeks, or if possible three months or more, under the guidance of a well-versed and experienced elderly monk. He who enters the Order has a great rare opportunity. i.e. the golden opportunity of being born as a human in the dispensation of the Buddha. As a homeless Buddhist monk, who lives a virtuous and pure life without harm to others, he will enjoy real benefits in this present life as well as in all lives to come till he gains Nibbana. However, a man who enters into the Order merely to have an easy life is not a good Sangha. Such a man is not really dutiful on study, teaching, preaching and practice, and is also not following the precept or rules of discipline according to Buddha's teachings. Such a person will not only lose the benefits of being a Sangha, but also after his death will go down to the lower woeful planes of existence (Apaya). Therefore only a Sangha who can follow the principles according to the Teaching is quite in accordance with the inherent qualities of an Ariya Sangha as mention below.
9. NOBLE ATTRIBUTES OP THE SANGHA
The nine highest qualities of the "Sangha" of the Noble Order are:
1. Of good conduct is the Order of the Disciples of the Blessed One;
2. Of upright conduct is the Order of the Disciples of the Blessed One;
3. Of wise conduct is the Order of the Disciples of the Blessed One;
4. Of dutiful conduct is the Order of the Disciples of the Blessed One;
5. This is Order of the Disciples of the Blessed One - namely these Four Pairs of persons, the Eight Kinds of individuals - is worthy of offering;
6. Is worthy of hospitality;
7. Is worthy of gifts;
8. Is worthy of reverential salutation;
9. Is an incomparable field of merit to the world.
All "Sangha" are bound by the rules laid down Buddha in the Vinaya Pitaka and required to teach the Dhamma to mankind for the attainment of prosperity, peace and happiness in this life as well as in the lives to come. In this way over 2,500 years after the Buddha's demise, the Sangha preserved the Buddha's words which passed down from teacher to teacher or from generation to generation. Now as a consequence, Buddhists possess the Dhamma, the most precious treasure in their presence, and for that they value the proudest confidence in the Sangha who is earnestly carrying on the main task of study and practice (dvedhura) of the Dhamma.
THE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES FOR ENLIGHTENMENT
PART I: KAMMA AND REBIRTH
1. KAMMA AND ITS RESULT
The Dhamma taught by the Buddha is based on conditional relation between cause and effect or action and its results ( Kamma and kamma vipaka ). To understand Buddhism or the Dhamma, in its plain sense, one should know that there are only two views or concepts in the world, namely:
1. Soul or Self (Atta); and
2. No-soul or No-self (Anatta) theories.
Several other religions, except Buddhism, advocate the Soul or God or Self theory in various denominations.
With reference to Anatta theory, there are two views, namely:
1. Kammasakata Samma Ditthi Nana, i.e. the knowledge of proper understanding of one's own actions and their reactions, or cause and effect; and
2. Vipassana Nana, i.e. the insight knowledge of realisation of things as they really are.
With regard to the first view, Buddhists do not believe, like followers of other religions, in any creation by God or Divine Being or other supernatural powers or in a permanent or indestructible Soul or Self, which are regarded in Buddhism as Issara Nimmana Ditthi, meaning the wrong view of creation by dominant Power or Soul or God. And they also do not hold the view that what is experienced, whether good or bad, happy or unhappy, in this present life is due to past cause only (Pubbekatahetu Ditthi. In a similar fashion, Buddhism teaches that there are causal relationships for our existence, resultant from the past births and the things do not evolve by blind chance or no-cause (Akiriya or Ahetuka Ditthi), but dependent on their previous cause. According to the causal or conditional law of nature, there is also the possibility of resultant existence after one's life, as long as one has craving or clinging for something in one's mind.
Other religions generally believe in transmigration or reincarnation, eternalism and nihilism, self-indulgence and self-mortification, pessimism and optimism, all of which differ from Buddhist Teaching. But Buddhists believe only in the principles of Cause and Effect, the Cycle of Dependent Origination (Paticca Samuppada).
With regard to Kamma formation, Buddhists believe that in the whole universe there are only three phenomena, namely wholesome ( Kusala Dhamma ), unwholesome ( Akusala Dhamma ), and neither wholesome-nor-unwholesome ( Avyakata Dhamma ). According to the Buddhist concept, wholesome means good action, good speech and good thought, whereas unwholesome means evil action, evil speech and evil thought.
Buddhists try to cultivate good actions, speech and thought. That is, one is trying to create and accumulate good Kamma as much as possible. Kamma here means wholesome and unwholesome volition. Good resultant fruits are acquired by creating good volition or good Kamma, and vice versa.
It therefore depends upon how one cultivates Kamma, for good or bad during one's lifetime. Quite simply, you can expect that the result of what you are related to what you have done, and will also result from what you are doing presently. Good begets good and evil begets evil.
It is natural and scientific law of the universe that whoever does any good or bad action will surely have good or bad reaction. As an old proverb says; "As we sow so shall we reap". Similarly, there is also a Buddhist saying that 'a tree will bear fruits according to its seed, whether bitter or sweet' (Yadisam vappate bijam tadisam harate phalam).
Buddhist Kamma is neither fatalism nor determinism. It is dynamic and moves always upwards and downwards according to one's activities, movements or volition either good or bad. One will see, therefore, that one's Kamma can be modified or created as one likes, so that one can progress to a higher realm of life. As such, man is supreme master of himself; it is man's creative power and that alone makes himself, his status, or his Kamma to be developed for the betterment of his life. One must strive to raise the degree of one's moral virtues and cultivate good Kamma for spiritual evolution.
In Buddhism to have faith in Kamma and its effects is first and foremost essential. If one does not believe in Kamma and its effects and wrongly believes that an Almighty Being or God is arranging the good and bad results, human power or capacity becomes of no use for one's own destiny and one must then solely surrender oneself to God only. If that is so, man is not required to do anything good and just has to wait for the guidance of God. Thus he is more inclined to do bad deeds instead of good since man mostly delights in evil things. As a result, he will not enjoy happiness, but surely meet sufferings which are natural consequences of his own bad deeds.
Those who have done meritorious deeds in the past gain prosperity and happiness in the present. They are born in high and noble families. Their hearts are full of kindness and love for their fellow beings. They shun evil actions, and love honesty and truth. Their minds are occupied with noble thoughts. They receive the love and respect of the people. They are brave and fearless in doing right; they act, speak and think rightly. They act calmly and thoughtfully. Other people regard them as their true leaders. Their good fame spreads far and wide all over the county and the world. These are the results of meritorious actions done only by themselves in the past as well as the present.
For example, a person receives good education and moral teaching in his or her youth from good parents, guardians and teachers. He or she thus enjoys at a later date the fruits of his or her labours. In the same way, persons who performed good deeds in the past enjoy good fruits in the present as a consequence of their good deeds; they lead a life of prosperity, peace and happiness.
There are four kinds of personalities, namely:
1. One who is born of rich parents and became rich and prosperous, is said to be good in both past and present Kamma - like Anathapindika and Visakha;
2. One who is born of rich parents, but become poor and low in one's living is said to be good in the past but not good at present, like a begger son of a very rich man;
3. One who is born of poor parents, but becomes rich and prosperous is said to be bad in the past and good at present Kamma;
4. One who is born of poor parents and became low in living is said to be bad in both the past and present Kamma.
Though the past Kamma is not exempt now in the present life and is supporting occasionally, unless one cultivates the present Kamma as good as possible, one cannot by any means become rich and prosperous.
Therefore in order to fulfil the present Kamma better, one must earn one's living according to the following four ways;
1. One should live according to the means of alertness or diligence in doing one's business, education, service, etc. (Utthana Sampada).
2. One should live according to the means of wariness, watchfulness and good care, etc. so that one's wealth and possessions may not be lost (Arakkha Sampada).
3. One should live according to the means of association with good friends (Kalayana Mittata) who have such good qualities as-
A. Faith (Saddha) B. Morality (Sila) C. Liberality (Caga ) D. Wisdom (Panna)
4. One should live within one's means (Samajivatata).
In observing the above mentioned factors, it is obvious that the inequalities in human characters, appearances, positions, abilities, status, etc. are only due to their own actions (Kamma) and experiences of their resultant effects. Apparently, in this world, the basic and natural process of individual mentality or tendency differs from person to person. Consequently, as the manner of their actions differs from one another, their consequences also are not the same, lust like their fingers. Such being the case, we, all human beings, appear in the world in different forms and qualities. That is why some are rich while some are poor, and some are wise while some are foolish and so on. It is a well-known fact that the natural phenomenon, like Kamma, can never produce two identical things; that is the reason why even identical twins of the same parents differ from one another.
The Lord Buddha teaches us about the consequences of actions. Kamma literally means action. In the ultimate sense of the term, Kamma means good and 'bad volition, Kamma dose not necessarily mean only past action; it may be both past and present actions; Kamma is action and Vipaka its fruit, is reaction. The, various kinds of bad and good volition engender the resultant mental properties and material qualities produced out of one's actions, as a result of Kamma.
It is not like fate, nor predestination which is imposed on us by some mysterious unknown being to whom we must helplessly submit ourselves. In a plain sense, it is one's own doing or action which reacts or result on one's own self. It is a natural law in itself.
As Kamma is good or bad actions, and Vipaka is the natural consequence of those actions, no one can escape from the consequence of one's moral or immoral actions. In other words, every action or cause is followed by its reaction or effects like a shadow following the person. For no power on earth or heaven can prevent the consequence of one's own actions or avert the actions resulting therefrom.
It is therefore necessary to perform whatever action may be, bodily, verbally, and mentally, with good will or intention, as far as possible. The meritorious deeds done in the present life will bear fruits of a future blissful state either in the heavenly birth or human abode. But in the performance of any activity, one should not forget to use right effort, right judgement, common sense and reason. Otherwise, for the lack of these, one's actions in the past may not bear good resultant fruits in the present.
Buddhism attributes that one's action is one's own heir, one's own inheritance, one's own cause, one's own kinsmen, ones own refuge. If one, does good or bad, one is the heir of that action.
Here we shall take an instance how the Buddha delivered the Doctrine of Kamma, the Law of Cause and Effect and replied to the questions by the young man, Subha, the son of Todeya as follows:
"Why is that among human beings some live short, whilst some long lives, some have poor health whilst some good health, some are ugly whilst some beautiful, some are friendless whilst some have plenty, some are poor whilst some rich some are low-born whilst some high-born, some are ignorant whilst some intelligent? Why is it that human beings have these differences?"
2. SHORT LIFE AND LONG LIFE
If a certain man or woman kills a living being, as a result of this evil deed he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode such a person will live a short life. But one who abstains from killing will be in a happy celestial (Deva ) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will live long.
3. SICKNESS AND HEALTH
If a certain man or woman harms others, as a result of this evil deed, he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode, such a person will be full of sickness. Being kind and harms not, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will be healthy.
4. UGLINESS AND BEAUTY
If a certain man or woman is full of anger, as a result of this evil deed, he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode, such a person will be ugly. But being not angry and impatient, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will be beautiful.
5. FEW FRIENDS AND MANY FRIENDS
If a certain man or woman feels jealous of others, as a result of this evil deed, he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode, such a person will be friendless. But without a jealous mind if one feels rejoice, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will have many friends.
6. POVERTY AND WEALTH
If a certain man or woman does not give to charity, and prevents others from giving, as a result of this evil deed, he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode, such a person will be poor. But if one gives charity, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will be wealthy.
7. LOW-BORN AND HIGH-BORN
If a certain man or woman being proud, does not pay respect or homage to whom respect is due, as a result of this evil deed, he or she will be born in Hell (Niraya). If born again in the human abode, such a person will be born in a low family. But if one, not being proud of oneself, shows respect to whom respect is due, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane; if one comes to be born as a human being one will be born in a high family.
8. IGNORANCE AND INTELLIGENCE
If a certain man or woman does not ask questions as to what is good or evil, or how he or she ought to practise, and is ignorant and has done evil in deeds, speech and thought, such a person will be born in Hell (Niraya). if born again in the human abode, such a person will become an ignorant person. But if one asks questions as to what is good or evil, what deed is faulty or faultless, what ought to be practised or otherwise, what deed will bring disadvantage and suffering or advantage and happiness, one will be born in a happy celestial (Deva) plane: if one comes to be born as a human being one will be wise and intelligent.
Regarding the above mentioned differences, the Buddha has clarified as follows: "Owners of their deed, young man, are the beings, heirs of their deeds, their deeds are the causes that bear them, their deeds are their relatives, their deeds are their refuge. Their deeds differentiate the being into low and high states. Here one would like to know who create Kamma to prolong Samsara and why it is going on like this. A being is bound to go round in Samsara through the consequences of his or her moral or immoral deeds. And these moral or immoral deeds are motivated by ignorance (Avijja) and craving (Tanha) . As long as these two defilements are latent in one's mind, Kamma is being generated in the process of Samsara and thus one can never attain Nibbana. In order to dispel the two latent defiled tendencies of ignorance and craving, one must concentrate to combat or eliminate the craving and meditate to dispel the ignorance. Here we can fulfil the two tasks of concentration and meditation simultaneously by just being aware and noting the touch at the tip of the nostrils, of the in-breathing and out-breathing. This concentration and meditation technique will be explained later. When one comes to realize that one is composed of physical and mental phenomena from the notion of touch and awareness it is said that one has reached the Purity of View (Ditthi Visuddhi) or the insight knowledge of realization between Mind and Matter.
By continuing meditation on the arising and passing away of psycho-physical phenomena and knowing them as they really are, the defilements of greed, hatred or anger, and delusion have no chance of penetration into the mind and thus one can gain Ariyan Path, Fruition and Nibbana, in the present life.
Part II: THE DEPENDENT ORIGINATION
(THE DOCTRINE OF PATICCA SAMUPPADA)
1. AN EFFECT DEPENDS ON A CAUSE
Natural Law of the Universe provides that cause and effect are related to one another. If there is cause there must be effect. Without a cause there cannot be an effect. The effect again becomes a cause, which, in turn, produces its effect and thus the cycle of cause and effect goes on ad infinitum.
The central theme of this doctrine of Paticca Samuppada is that every phenomenon is produced depending on cause and conditions. All mental and physical states are being produced depending on other state of mind and matter, which, in turn, are produced depending on still other states. In reality, there is nothing that can arise of its own accord or lead an isolated life, quite independent of everything else.
The doctrine of Paticca Samuppada is the real foundation on which the entire philosophy of Buddhism is built up. Paticca Samuppada is a combination of Pali words. Paticca meaning "depending upon", Sam meaning "well" and Uppada meaning "arising of effect', hence it is known in English as the Law of Dependent Origination or Cycle of Birth and Death of a being.
It is to be borne in mind that Paticca Samuppada pertains to nothing but your own self, your own aggregate (Khandha )of Mind and Body (Nama and Rupa). It shows the casual continuum of your so-called self, the process of arising and passing away of Mind and Matter. In other words, the series of sufferings since indefinite time and space.
Paticca Samuppada actually is in itself the cyclic order of arising and passing away of the aggregate of Mind and Body. One phenomenon gives rise to another in an endless continuum. This process is therefore only the arising and passing away of Mind and Matter, or Law of Casualty, in which there is no semblance that can be taken for I, you, he, she, man, woman, self or ego, etc.
In the Digha Nikaya, the Buddha Himself has said, "O Bhikkhus, one who understand Paticca Samuppada does understand the Dhamma, and who understands the Dhamma understands Paticca Samuppada". And, soon after His Enlightenment, the Buddha meditated on the Wheel of Life and proclaimed to the world of beings how He had realized the actual stratum of the links of life, the Buddha therefore uttered a Paean of Joy (Udana) on this very Doctrine of Paticca Samuppada.
In this chain, we see one incident depends upon another one previous to it, and gives rise to one after it. Everything that we find in the world can be brought under a chain of cause and effect; nothing can originate without depending on something else previous to it, and no originated thing can be conceived of which does not give rise to something else in its turn.
2. THE LINKS BETWEEN CAUSE AND EFFECT
Thus the process is going on, yet, anything can be traced upwards to where it originated and downwards to that which has origin depending on it, for nature is governed by the Law of Paticca Samuppada or depending on that, this originates. There is no break in the process. The events flow continuously in a series, one giving rise to another. As one ripple in a stream causes another, and that, also still another, so the causation goes on.
In reality, Paticca Samuppada is nothing but the ceaseless process of one's own Khandhas, i.e. perishing of the old ones giving place to the new, in other words, Paticca Samuppada is the Causal Continuum of arising and vanishing of physical and mental phenomena.
3. TWO ROOT DEFILEMENTS
Samsara is unmeasurable in that the beginning of it is inconceivable. Being shrouded in ignorance (Avijja)and bound up by craving (Tanha) the beginning of beings who are undergoing round of rebirths from one existence to another is incomprehensible. The first predominant factor of the potential force of Samsara is ignorance (Avijja) which binds the beings so he cannot see the Truth as it really is, and the second, its ally is craving or lust (Tanha), which binds or fetters oneself, to one's own family, property, possessions, wealth and all animate and inanimate objects.
4. THREE ROUNDS IN THE PROCESS OF EXISTENCE
Due to ignorance (Avijja) and craving (Tanha), a man does all sorts of good and bad actions, and thereby having gathered new Kammas at every instance of action is thus reborn after death. And again he goes on doing the same actions with his ignorance and craving and continues being born and reborn. These two predominant factors are indeed the origins of life which cause the being tremendously miserable in the cycle of lives in Samsara. Until and unless they are totally uprooted and annihilated the cycle of life (Bhavacakkara) or the Law of Cause and Effect or the Dependent Origination will be repeated continually round and round in the following twelve links.
5. LINKS IN NATURAL ORDER
1. Depending on ignorance there arise volitional Activities (Sankhara):
2. Depending on the Volitional Activities there arises Rebirth Consciousness (Vinnana);
3. Depending on Rebirth Consciousness there arise the Mental and Physical States of a being (Nama-rupa);
4. Depending on the Mental and Physical States there develop the Six Senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) (Salayatana);
5. Depending on the Six Senses there arises Contact (with sense objects) (Phassa);
6. Depending on the Contact there arises Feelings (e.g. pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) (Vedana);
7. Depending on Feelings there arises Craving for the objects (Tanha);
8. Depending on Craving there arises Grasping or Clinging (Updadna):
9. Depending on Clinging there arises the Process of Life (Bhava);
10. The Process of life flaws into another rebirth (Jati);
11. The present birth is followed by,
12. Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Suffering, Intense Grief and Mental Distress.
Thus a being, composed of Mind, and Body, is endlessly suffering from the worldly ills of life in circling around these links.
6. LINKS IN REVERSE ORDER
Just as the Dependent Origination evolves and "chains" from link to link through depending on the first predominant Cause, Ignorance , so also this Dependent Origination ceases through depending on the extinction of this very Ignorance as follows:
1. Depending on the extinction of Ignorance, Volitional Activities become extinct;
2. Depending on the extinction of Volitional Activities, Rebirth Consciousness becomes extinct;
3. Depending on the extinction of Rebirth Consciousness, the Mental and Physical States of a being became extinct;
4. Depending on the extinction of the Mental and Physical States of a being, Six Senses become extinct;
5. Depending on the extinction of Six Senses, Contact becomes extinct;
6. Depending on the extinction of the Contact, Feelings become extinct;
7. Depending on the extinction of the Feelings, Craving becomes extinct;
8. Depending on the extinction of the Craving, Grasping becomes extinct;
9. Depending on the extinction of the Grasping, the Process of Life becomes extinct;
10. Depending on the extinction of the Process of Life, Rebirth becomes extinct;
11. Depending on the extinction of Rebirth,
12. Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Suffering, Intense Grief and Mental Distress became extinct.
Thus the whole mass of suffering in Samsara is ultimately exhausted and annihilated.
Here Avijja means not comprehensively understanding the Four Noble Truths, the past, the future and both the past and the future existences, the Cycle of Dependent Origination of all phenomena of existence, as they are in reality. Due to this Avijja, all the physical, verbal and mental activities were done, good or bad in a previous life, called atitakamma bhava, i.e. the process of active life in one's former birth.
In other words, a being deluded with ignorance has done:
(a) Wholesome actions for which rebirth takes place in pleasant abodes, such as human or lesser Gods (Deva );
(b) Unwholesome actions for which rebirth takes place in lower woeful miserable abodes, such as hell, animal kingdom, the kingdom of ghosts (Peta , or ghost-like beings whose life is partly pleasant and partly hellish;
(c) Higher mental actions for which rebirth takes place in the planes of higher Gods (Arupa Brahma ) enjoying a limited period of continual bliss of ecstasy.
All moral and immoral thoughts, words and deeds are included in Sankhara. Actions good or bad, which are directly rooted in or indirectly tainted with ignorance, must necessarily produce their due effect and tend to prolong in Samsara. Even in moral activities, still conjoined with ignorance and craving for something, they too produce their due good or bad result, and nevertheless, are necessary to reduce or get rid of these ills of life. Ignorance, indeed, is more predominant in immoral activities, while it is latent in moral activities,
Thus dependent on past conditioning activities arises relinking or rebirth consciousness (patisandhi vinnana) in a subsequent birth. For instance, the foetus in the mother's womb is formed by the combination of this relinking-consciousness with the fertilized sperm-ovum cells of the parents. In this consciousness are latent all the past impressions, characteristics and tendencies of the particular individual life-flux. Simultaneous with the arising of the relinking-consciousness there appear physical and menial states or mind and matter (Nama Rupa) or the "corporeal organism".
Here Nama means the three aggregates:- feeling ( Vedana ), perception ( Sanna ) and mental formation (Sankhara) - that arise simultaneously with the relinking-consciousness. Rupa means the three combinations - body (Kaya ), sex (Bhava ) and seat of consciousness (Vatthu) - that also arise simultaneously with the relinking-consciousness, conditioned by past Kamma.
Then depending on these psycho-physical phenomena, there evolve the six sense-bases (salayatana). All the six senses - eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind have their respective objects and functions. Again, the six sense-objects, such as forms; sounds, odours, tastes, tangibles and mental objects collide with their respective sense-organs giving rise to six types of consciousness. The conjunction of the sense-bases, sense-objects and the resultant consciousness is contact (phassa ) which is purely subjective and impersonal.
When the objects come in contact with the senses, there appear feelings (Vedana) that experience desirable or undesirable fruits of an action done in this or in previous births. Chiefly there are three kinds of feelings, namely, pleasurable (Somanassa), unpleasurable (Domanassa), and neutral (Upekkha} This is the process of the present life as a result of the previous Kamma, I called (Paccupanna upapatti-bhava), i.e. the process at the time of taking birth.
Then, dependent on feeling arises craving (Tanha) which, like ignorance, is the other predominant factor in the Dependent Origination. Craving is threefold, namely craving for sensual pleasures ( Kamatanha ), craving for existence ( Bhavatanha) and craving for non existence (Vibbavatanha). There are also twelve kinds of craving corresponding to internal six senses and external sense-objects. When they are viewed as past, present and future, there are 36, and again when multiplied by three kinds of craving they all amount to 108.
After that, dependent on craving, there appears grasping or clinging (Upadana). Here Tanha is something like the love of a mother to her son, whereas Upadana is akin to much attachment for her husband. Grasping is caused by both attachment and false view. There are four kinds of grasping namely, Sensuality, False Views, Adherence to rites and rituals and Theory of Soul or Self-illusive View.
Again, dependent on grasping, there arises the Process of Life (Bhava) which literally means becoming. Thus a being or person keeps on the struggle of life, doing all kinds of good and bad actions. This is the active part of the present life called Paccupanna "Kammabhava", i.e. the process of his or her activities in the course of his or her present span of life. These yield results in the form of "patisandhi" conception of Rebirth, in the following life accordingly, which is again followed by decay, death and all other miserable evils. This future resultant of the present is called "anagata upapatti bhava', i.e. the process of life in the future as a result of the present.
Thus the cycle of Paticca Samuppada, meaning the "Wheel of Life' or the "Dependent Origination" takes into consideration as follows;
a. two root bases (mula ), i.e. ignorance and craving;
b. two Noble Truths (Sacca), i.e. Suffering and the Cause of Suffering;
c. three tenses (kala ), i.e. Past, Present and Future;
d. three junctions (Samadhi), i.e. First, Second and Third;
e. three rounds of defilements (vatta ), i.e. Sensuality, its Result and Defilement;
f. four sections ( Sankhepa), i.e. First, Second, Third and Fourth;
g. twelve parts ( Anga ), i.e. Ignorance, Volitional Activity, Consciousness, etc.;
h. twenty constituents or modes (Akara ), i.e. five modes in each section,
The cycle of Paticca Samuppada lengthens so long as the aggregate of grasping is apparent in one's life-process. So we must be mindfully aware of how this aggregate of grasping takes place in the Dependent Origination. In the act of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking, the psycho-physical phenomena become apparent at every moment one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and thinks. In every act of thus seeing when the eye-base comes in contact (Phassa) with the visible object, the phenomenon of seeing-consciousness indelibly becomes apparent.
7. GRASPING ON THE AGGREGATES
Along with this seeing consciousness, the perception ( sanna ) of what is seen, the feeling (Vedana) whether pleasant or unpleasant or neutral at the sight seen, the encouragement of the active volition to see (sankhara) and attention (manasikara), all these become apparent. Of these, the eye-base and the object constitute the aggregate of material qualities (rupakkhandha ). And if these material qualities are considered as existent, permanent and pleasing as a living entity and clung to, both of the eye and the object are called (rupupadanakkhandha ). Due to the similar attachment, the eye consciousness is called (vinnanaupadanakkhandha).
8. A BEING - MERELY MIND AND MATTER
In brief, the eye and the sight are only material qualities (rupa ) and the consciousness of the sight is mental quality (nama ). In reality, there are only these two phenomena. i.e. mental and material (nama-rupa ), which constitute a being.
If we scrutinise them, we will discern that they are momentarily arising and passing away for ever and ever. During such a moment of seeing, unless we meditate on the phenomena of Mind and Matter and their arising and passing away, the defilements of ignorance (Avijja) and craving (Tanha) do arise in our eyes. Then due to this, there arises grasping which again gives rise to the process of new birth (bhava) and it lengthens the Cyclic Chain of Paticca Samuppada, widening the scope of Samsara.
9. CUTTING OFF THE WHEEL OF LIVES
Here, in order to cut off the stratum of Paticca Samuppada, we must meditate on every link of the wheel and should be fully aware of the eye-base and visible objects as the material qualities and · the eye- consciousness too as the mental quality, but not I or he or she or yours or mine or hers.
In the like manner, we should be fully aware of the pleasant feeling as pleasant feeling, the unpleasant feeling as unpleasant feeling and the neutral feeling as neutral feeling, in their own intrinsic nature, bur not I or he or she or mine or yours or his or hers, and in fact, they also are arising and passing away all the time.
As a result, the feeling can produce non-craving, which, in turn, gives rise to no-grasping, no-new-life- process, no-rebirth, no-old age and no-death.
Thus you will be liberated from all the cyclic endless sufferings of Paticca Samuppada and it is called in Buddhism the Most Supreme Happiness of Nibbana.
Note — See Appendix for "Dependent Origination Diagram".
Part III: THE DOCTRINE OF ANATTA
(THEORY OF NO-SOUL)
1. THE ORIGIN OF RELIGION
Man of the ancient times, in his fundamental nature, was dreadful for having come across with any kind of troubles or dangers and then he sought for his reliance to get rid of his fears and frights. With the confrontation of any difficulty or problems, he was generally incited to try to find out a powerful and influential person or thing for his reliance which could console or remedy his worries, anxieties, grief or sorrow etc. In finding out the ways and means for relief and release from any kind of his trouble, he had taken refuge in the ideational spirit of a big tree, or a mountain, or a river, or the sun, or the moon or any seeming beings or idea.
These various imaginary refuges were taken sparingly only for their satisfaction, but never tested with a reasoning and scientific proof as is done in our modern day and even they dared not miss or affect their worship. For this reason some were quite far from the true goal of ultimate reality; some might be only satisfied with an imaginary worship; many became invalid from the scientific and rationalistic view point of real deliverance. But only a few who had been opportune enough of philosophy of the law of the universe, could see the truth as it is.
2. BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE NOBLE TRUTHS
Consequently, men, without having true light of knowledge, in a normal way, accepted the sayings of their forefathers from earlier generations and believed in the tradition. If their fore-generations were wise enough of the knowledge of truth according to their scriptures, the sphere of their knowledge could have been more developed and their view might be on the right path.
But if there were not rational intelligent factors in the sayings, they remained helpless satisfying just only with their sayings in the delusion of their knowledge. The obvious fact is that the standard of knowledge mostly dependent on the situation whether the society or race has had the appropriate correct literature or sayings of wise fore-father.
3. FOUR GREAT RELIGIONS
There exist now in the world four great religions; they are, Brahmanism or Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Brahmanism dated from the beginning of the world of mankind, Buddhism originated more than 2,500 years ago, Christ was born 543 BC after the demise of the Buddha. Mohamed was born 570 years after the birth of Christ.
These religions have their own respective scriptures, viz., the Vedic Scriptures of Hinduism, the Bible of Christianity, the Koran of Islam and the Buddhist Scriptures of Buddhism. Generally, we find that there is not so much difficulty for Buddhists for studying the doctrines of other religions. A considerable comprehension of their meaning and significance is possible with just a reasonable effort within a few months or years.
In the case of Buddhist Scriptures, however, people of other religions are sure to find very hard even by spending many years when making them a subject of study, even harder in the actual practice and most difficult for the attainment of the Noble Truth.
Buddhism is originally written in Pali language known as Magadha in the Buddha's time. The Pali words, though now known by many people of the world, have a great wealth or richness of meaning of varying depth and profundity.
4. THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE BUDDHA-DHAMMA
Some of the Buddhist doctrines have been taught by direct method (nitattha) whereas others by indirect method (neyyatta). Unless these two ways are properly understood, the content or the meaning of the doctrine is liable to be construed contrariwise.
For instance, not easy to understand indeed is the true significance of the supreme knowledge or wisdom (omniscience) of the Buddha, in like manner, it is most difficult to know the actual meaning of Nibbana and experience the blissful happiness of Nibbanic Peace (santi sukha) "Nibbanam paramam sukham.
Buddhism is therefore distinguished from all other religions and philosophies for its unique character. In particular, the technique of deliverance which is distinguished characteristics of Buddhism is quite different from that of all other religions.
5. THE VIEWS OF OTHER THREE RELIGIONS
Christianity, Islam and Judaism primarily base their teachings on the idea of God, whereas Hinduism on Atta or Atman, Self or Eternal Soul. They say, "Turn to God; pray to Him; give yourself utterly to Him who will wash away your sins and reward for your good; become one with Him or Eternal Soul or Brahma;.
These religions says that until a man believes in God or Brahma, he cannot begin to live a truly righteous or useful life of purity, Evidently enough, there are thousands in these religions who do live of charity, purity and holiness, but the strange fact is that there are also lives of charity, purity and holiness lived by thousands who follow the Buddha, who yet never asked men to worship any God or Brahma for their deliverance.
6. ATTA VERSUS ANATTA
(Soul and No-soul)
On the whole, there are in the world of mankind, only two views or concepts, namely Soul (Atta) and No-soul (Annata). Of these two views, the one expounded by the Buddha through His Supreme Enlightenment is the No-Soul (Anatta ) view. The rest of mankind generally hold the view of eternal Soul or God (Atta ) under various denominations.
Of all soul-views, the one held by the Hindus is quite like others. The Hindu system believes in the cosmic law of action-and-reaction governed by cause-effect righteousness (Kammavipaka). Other systems of Soul or God (Atta) have no faith in the law of Kamma formations.
7. NATURAL LAW AND THE BUDDHA-DHAMMA
However, it is only in recent years that modern philosophers and scientists have come to recognise that "everything is in a state of flux or change; nothing whatsoever is permanent and substantial in all the worldly domain". That been explicitly taught by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago in its exposition not only to the body, so called matter, but also the mind.
In Buddhism, for higher rational thinking and philosophy, knowledge is divided into two kinds:
1. Knowledge of Kammassakata (i.e.) proper understanding of action and reaction; and
2. Knowledge of insight meditation (Vipassana nana ) which corresponds to the adaptation of sublime truth (Saccanulomika nana).
The followers of Hindu faith can attain kamassakata knowledge, but not Saccanulomika nana which can lead to the attainment of the Path and Fruition of Ariya stages. However, in the Buddha's teaching specifically both knowledge can be attained.
In the Buddha's teaching, by virtue of these two kinds of knowledge or wisdom, the aspirant can attain the ultimate blissful Peace of Nibbana, through the Paths and Fruitions which cannot be attained by following any doctrine of other religions. The Buddha's teaching alone contains the significant prescription or technique to be practised for the higher knowledge pertaining to the transcendental Path of Nibbana and thereby closing forever all doors to rebirth in the lower realms of gravest misery and woe (Apaya) and then leading to the utter liberation from Samsara.
To acquire such a higher knowledge of adaptation to the sublime truths, the aspirant intending to achieve the final goal of Deliverance should first establish himself in the Purity of View or Understanding (Ditthi Visuddhi).
8. NO-SOUL VIEW AND HUMAN BEING
Here he should know the theoretical aspect of mind and matter which constitute the so-called being or man.
A being whom we call 'man' is indeed composed of mind and matter only. According to Buddhism apart from mind and matter (nama rupa )' which constitute the so-called man, there is no such thing as an immortal soul (Atta), which lives (behind them) inside him.
Our body is composed of particles of matter (rupa). Matter, in fact, is the visible complex of invisible qualities and forces known in Pali as Mahabhuta, essential or great elements, Along with the arising of these four primary elements there also arise four secondary characteristics of matter, i.e. colour, smell, taste and nutritional quality. The whole physical body, composed primarily of these material qualities, can be experienced only in terms of these eight elemental properties of matter.
In fact, these eight properties are inseparable and interrelated, yet different in cosmic nature with one another.
9. ARISING AND PASSING AWAY OF MIND AND BODY
Each quality or property, being a combination of themselves in one proportion or another, can only be "seen" by the inner eye or insight knowledge. As soon as the material quality is changed into different forms, the composite things are held to be mere conceptions presented to the mind by the particular appearance, shape or form. Above all, matter in its perishable or dissolvable nature is not a substantial entity, but merely an arising and passing phenomenon along its psychological process.
Mind, which is the most important in the being, is consciousness plus mental factors. Consciousness is just the knowing faculty, that which knows the object. Generally people imagine that mind exists somewhere in the brain or in the heart as a solid entity. As a matter or fact, it is not so. The so-called mind is nothing but a series of successive momentary thoughts or process of consciousness which are the product of the impact between sense organs and sense object. Due to the contact between eye and visible object, there arises for sure eye-consciousness (Vinnana ) and simultaneously along with it there also arises mental constituents called (cetasika), such as, sensation or feeling of whatever kind (Vedana), perception of sense-objects (sanna) and fifty types of mental factors including tendencies and faculties (Sankhara). Thus the so-called mind consists of the four mental aggregates.
In this way, the so-called being or man (satta) is a composition of five aggregates of the material and mental forces, the composition of which is changing all the time, not remaining the same even for two consecutive moments. If so, apart from the five aggregates of the mind and matter, there remain nothing to be called Atta, the Self or Soul.
Here we have to quote the three fundamental characteristics of existence taught by the Buddha. "All conditioned things are impermanent; all conditioned things are suffering; all things are insubstantial. What is transient that is painful; what is painful that is soulless, essenceless, impersonal or insubstantial (Anatta), i.e., the absence of a permanent unchanging self or soul in anywhere or in anybody.
10. NOTHING REALITY IN THE PHENOMENAL EXISTENCE
Let us take a simile here:- A cart is set up by various part of accessories. But if these parts are taken out, there is no form to be called as a cart, In the same way, the combination of physical and mental elements is called a "being" or "man" which may assume as many names a its types, shapes, forms and so on varying according as the mode of physical and mental changes. Here, in this respect, we find no permanent entity or identity or soul or self.
Moreover, let us cite the case of eye-sight. When the eye-base is in contact with a visible object, there invariably arises the eye-consciousness which comes into being by its own cosmic nature, not by any other supernatural being or power. Both the eye-base and the visible object are only material phenomena, not my eye, nor yours nor his nor hers.
In the like manner, the consciousness which arises by the result of contact between two material elements is a mental phenomenon, not my consciousness or mind, nor yours, his nor hers.
Just at the moment of seeing, these two phenomena are respectively arising and vanishing away in its own nature. Therefore, in each of these two phenomena there is really no I who see it, no personality, no identity, no soul, self, ego nor Atta, but a mere natural process of happening of physical and mental elements. This way can be applied to other sense organs, too.
11. NO-SELF. NO-EGO
By scrutinzing and reviewing the above fact, it may be noted that there is no real Atta or soul or self ego, God or Brahma in the matter of seeing, or likewise in all the universe, apart from the happening of the five aggregates of mind-body, the six internal sense organs and six corresponding objects and eight kinds of elements (which arise in the impact between physical and mental elements). Thus our whole being is in reality rolling on in the circle or speed of our own vices and virtues, not as a personality, identity, but as the process of cause and effect itself.
12. ANATTA - THE ULTIMATE REALITY
So in the ultimate sense of reality, there is no entity of body or mind, but just the manifestation of physical and mental states which are always subject to the nature of insubstantially or Non-soul (Anatta ). It is only because of this significant doctrine of Anatta, non-soul theory, Buddhism firmly stands its pristine purity abreast with modern science and is still seen as good and beneficial as in our modern age. In this way, Buddhism should be properly understood as to how it differs from other religions.
13. ORIGIN OF LIFE
There are two main views in the world with regard to the problem of the ultimate origin of life. The first one is that life must have had a beginning in the infinite past and that beginning of the first cause is the Creator — God or Brahma. This view is believed mostly by other religions except Buddhism. The other view believed by Buddhists is that life is considered beginning-less, for the cause ever becomes the effect and the effect again becomes the cause, and thus in circles of cause and effect; a first cause is not conceivable and no personality or identity can be utterly found out in the process of cause-effect cycle.
Here the Buddha states in the Samyutta Nikaya II, "The origin of phenomenal existence is inconceivable, and the beginning of the beings obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving is not to be discoverable". Such being the case, the life process or the universe is governed by the natural law of cause and effect. Birth is the cause; death is the effect and so birth and death are two phases of the life process.
So in this circle of cause and effect or of birth and death, the first beginning or creator is not discoverable. In actuality, no one creates the first origin of the universe, but the obvious fact is that the phenomena or elements alone are rolling on in all universe since the time immemorial. In Buddhism, the perpetual wandering or round of rebirths is called Samsara (lit. Sam-ever, sara-becoming). The cosmic law on this process of life and death is explicitly explained by the Buddha in the Paticca Samuppada - The Dependent Origination.
14. THREE TENSES OF LIFE-PROCESS
Our present position in character and circumstances is the result of our past actions (Kamma). What we shall be in future depends on what we do now, upon how we face circumstances or how we condition our volitional activities in the present, and also that at present it is within our power to alter or modify the quality of the life-force that continues the next birth. Thus we come to understand that no other being or power apart from oneself is creating one's own kamma either wholesome or unwholesome. It is only man himself who creates his own position or status whether noble or mean, rich or poor, wise or foolish, beautiful or ugly, long-lived or short-lived and so on and so forth.
There are only three consecutive existences, past, present and future. By properly understanding the sequence of tenses, we come to realise that our being is really not a personality or entity, but the resultant combination produces out of the things which we have done before; out of past vices and virtues; out of darkness of our own ignorance and craving. Thus we come to the present bringing with us the virtues and vices, our own joys and sorrows, ups and downs of our status and positions of life. We all are led here by our own desires or craving and here we remain in the present and again condition our new activities until our selfish desire or craving is annihilated.
15. THE PRACTICE OF ONE'S SAKE
To the wise man therefore, the life he lives here is a very valuable and golden opportunity to rid himself of the burden which he has accumulated in the past; to rid himself of his wrong doings, wrong views and wrong concepts of life and death, and dispelling them away all behind, to attain the highest blissful peak of life, Nibbana.
Without attainment of the final goal of Nibbana, we are sure to go again to the effect of our causation as long as we condition our activities. Such a round of our activities and their results is called the wheel of life (Samsara )- the whole mass of sufferings. Those actually follow the Buddha and discern the real nature of the Anatta doctrine can be released from all sufferings of Samsara and reach the state of Nibbana, the ultimate lasting peaceful Happiness.
16. THE NOBLE ADVICE OF THE BUDDHA
In conclusion, I would like to express the noble advice of the Buddha:
To give charity or alms-giving (dana );
To perfect oneself with moral conduct (sila);
To love all sentient beings (metta );
To concentrate on the noble attributes of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha (anuasatti) and in-and-out breathing (Anapana );
To detach dear and near ones and worldly things (Samyojana);
To dispel ignorance (avijja) and craving (Tanha);
To be absorbed into the reality and enlightened knowledge in the Noble Truths of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana.
Is the most valuable and noble advice of the Buddha.
May you all be liberated from the sufferings of Samsara (the cycle of birth and death) and attain the Ultimate Happiness of Nibbana!
May you all be well and happy!