Dharma of Conditioned Arising
Originally there was no such term as “arising from conditioned causation” (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada). This term was coined by the Buddhas of the past to describe how everything in the universe arises from conditions. Such arising from conditions is not controlled by anyone, but it occurs ceaselessly over the course of time. If no Buddha appeared in the world, humankind would not be able to realize this principle on its own. When the Buddha said, “all things are impermanent,” “all things are devoid of a separate and independent nature,” and “Nirvana is still quiescence,” he was confirming that none of the myriad phenomena in the universe exists forever. Nothing in the universe has an independent being—everything arises dependent on something else. For instance, the human body is formed from a temporary combination of the six elements. Without such combining, nothing can exist. From ancient times until now, no other individual has been able to offer a coherent explanation of the actual nature of the universe in a way that takes into account everything in the universe, whether great or small, especially human beings, who play a major role. This will be discussed in detail later on.
First, let us explain the principle of conditioned arising. Conditioned arising refers to all the myriad things coming into being due to causes and conditions, and their various manifestations. Causes are the basis upon which things arise; conditions are the requirements for their arising. When the causes and conditions meet--that is, when the basis and the requirements come together--things come into being. This is the principle of arising from conditioned causation, in which there is no Lord or Creator. All things are born from causes and conditions, and change and perish according to causes and conditions. Aside from the power of causes and conditions, there is no other entity to be found. That's what is meant by "empty in nature." The Madhyamika says: "Things born of causes and conditions, I say are empty; they are also false names, and also the meaning of the Middle Way." That's why all the myriad things and appearances are said to be causes and conditions coming together, and have no nature of their own. Thus, "all existing things are empty."
The Dharma of conditioned arising is all-encompassing. One who can truly master this Dharma will have a good foundation for studying Buddhism. All things come into being due to a cause; it's impossible for something to come into being without any cause. Since there is a cause, there will be a corresponding result. And so the Buddha said, "If this exists, that exists. If this arises, that arises. If this does not exist, that does not exist. If this is gone, that is gone." The meaning is that, regardless of whether we are talking about events that occur simultaneously or at different times, conditioned arising is a relationship that connects them. For example, if there are students (this exists), there must be a teacher (that exists). If there are no students (this doesn't exist), a person cannot be considered a teacher (that doesn't exist). Similarly, if there is no teacher (this is gone), how could there be students (that is gone)? These are relationships of simultaneous co-existence.
Another example is the relationship between seeds and sprouts. It's because there are seeds that there can be sprouts. And the existence of sprouts confirms the prior existence of seeds.This is a relationship of mutually dependent existence at different times. From another viewpoint, the emerging sprouts signify the change and disappearance of the seeds, and the change and disappearance of the seeds also mark the emergence of the sprouts. This is a relationship of mutual existence at different times.
There is also the dual relationship of causes and effects. The relationship of causes and effects is the actual process of how conditioned arising functions throughout the entire universe. Of course the process is extremely complicated, but the operation of the law of causes and effects is never off by the tiniest bit.
Question: You say there is no one controlling it—no Lord or Creator—yet given the complicated nature of causes and effects and the universal scope of their operation, how can it never be off by the tiniest bit?
Answer: I had the same question before, but through the observation of certain natural phenomena, I finally understood the scientific principle behind it, overcame my doubts, and strengthened by faith. You see that plants have green leaves and blossoms of all different colors. Who gave them those colors? Where did the colors come from? Most pigeons are gray and rather plain-looking, but their feathers also have some black patterns formed from a little bit of black on each of the feathers. Pigeons themselves cannot make these patterns, so where did they come from? Also, look at how clean and flawless the shell of a chicken's egg is, with the egg white wrapping the egg yolk inside. If this were not produced from a hen, probably no factory in the world could produce it. Is this controlled by humans?
Next, please visit the autopsy room in a hospital and observe the physical features of different people—the nervous system that starts in the brain and spreads throughout the body; the circulatory system of blood vessels coming directly from the heart; and the extremely complex network of tiny blood vessels finer than oxhairs throughout the body. Who designed these things? Who made them? Was it done by humans? Nature is incredible! The Buddha's words were not wrong. After pondering all this in my mind, I had an insight and realized that they were completely scientific.
To be continued