Causes and Effects Come in Various Grades
Causes and effects are like flowing water. Those in front vanish, and those in back arise. The causes and effects continue without interruption. Looking from another perspective, there are infinite kinds of differing causes and effects, and they are mutually interrelated in complex ways. Nevertheless, the law governing them is always perfectly orderly and unconfused. A cause of one type always incurs an effect of that type. Cause and effect always correspond. There are so many types of causes and effects that they cannot all be enumerated. Generally speaking, thunder, rain, wind, and clouds have their causes, and they are in turn the causes for other types of phenomena, such as the sun, moon, stars, and clouds. The Dharma of conditioned arising explains absolutely everything without any confusion.
Causes and Effects Correspond to One Another
The Dharma of conditioned arising encompasses the myriad phenomena. Speaking in terms of one human being, his or her survival depends on such factors as the earth, air, water, food, and society. Food in turn depends on the earth, the earth depends on the sun, and so on. In general, any class of conditions has its own type to which it belongs, and any given condition is an indispensable factor for the arising of other conditions, and thus conditions mutually correspond in the great scheme of conditioned arising throughout the universe.
Causes and Effects Are Never Out of Order or Confused
The Dharma of conditioned arising describes the necessary function of causes producing effects. If there is a cause, there is no way to prevent it from bearing an effect. How soon or late the effect comes is not totally dependent on conditions. Take the example of people eating peaches. Peach pits are the causes for peach trees. Suppose that when the peach pits are discarded, one gets dropped in the garden. Encountering the conditions of moist earth and warm sunlight, it would quickly sprout and grow into a small peach tree. As for the pits that did not encounter these conditions, no one can say when they will grow into trees and bear fruit. As the saying goes, "When evil has not been paid for, it means the time is simply not ripe yet." If there is a cause, there will definitely be an effect; the operation of this law never errs, for the relationship between cause and effect is one of neccesity. For example, when water vapor encounters a cold wind, it becomes the cause of rain. Falling rain is the effect of water vapor and cold wind. The rain in turn is the cause of moisture for the crops and of cool weather. Cool weather and well-moistened crops are the effects of the rainfall. These are necessary relationships of cause and effect that are not influenced by or dependent upon human wishes.
The Dharma of conditioned arising is not only about causes, effects, and retributions; it encompasses the entire universe within its scope. Some people ask what the doctrine of Buddhism is. It could be said to be the "reality of the universe." It teaches people the essentials of how to leave suffering and attain happiness. The Dharma of conditioned arising involves very profound principles. Because on the one hand there are too many threads, and on the other hand the law of cause and effect is emphasized, people have very little understanding of this Dharma. The Dharma of conditioned arising is the first important Buddhist theory of the universe and, in fact, there is nothing that it fails to include.
In order to discover why people must undergo birth, old age, sickness, and death, Prince Siddhartha meditated in the Himalaya Mountains for six years and then, on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, while seated beneath the Bodhi tree, he became enlightened. That is, he thoroughly understood why people undergo birth, old age, sickness, and death. In order to help everyone understand what birth, old age, sickness, and death are all about, the Buddha used the Twelve Causal Conditions to explain this matter.
The Twelve Causal Conditions deal only with the relationship of causes and effects in the past, present, and future-with the actual problems of human life. First, let us introduce the conditions themselves. 1) ignorance, 2) activity, 3) consciousness, 4) name and form, 5) the six entrances, 6) contact, 7) feeling, 8) craving, 9) grasping, 10) existence, 11) birth, 12) old age and death.
"Ignorance" refers to a lack of wisdom light, a kind of delusion. The behavior that this kind of stupidity and delusion leads to is called "activity." Activity refers to the creation of good or bad karma. Once karma is created, retributions are undergone, and there is a defiled karmic consciousness that enters the womb--this is known as "consciousness." In the initial period in the womb before the fetus has formed, it is called "name and form." (Name refers to the psychological aspect, form to the physical aspect.) The fetus gradually grows and develops eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, which are known as the six faculties, the six locations, and the six entrances. "Contact" refers to contact with the outside world when the infant is born at the end of the ten month term. As the baby grows and begins to perceive his surroundings, there is "feeling." When he grows up, he develops fondness for certain situations, and that is "craving." He cannot renounce what he craves, and does everything he can to "grasp" it, and thereby creates new karma for "existence." With that new karma, he must undergo "birth" yet again, and with birth there will ultimately be old age and death. Before aging and dying, he creates new karma, so that after dying he must again be born. Being born and dying in this way, he turns in the wheel of transmigration forever.
To be continued