The above has been an explanation of people's spiritual being (the soul that controls our physical body)—its origin, energy, functioning, organization, and so forth—which is known as Buddhist science and is unique in the world. It is an explanation of the mental activity of every human being. All human inventions and creative endeavors throughout the history of mankind are the result of this mental system. Becoming a Buddha and falling into the hells are also due to it. This is the answer that Siddhartha found upon his enlightenment to his question of why people undergo birth, old age, sickness and death. Few people are able to understand themselves; even if they want to, they can only understand the first six consciousnesses. They go through their whole .life without understanding their own minds, without seeing it once before they die. Alas! This knowledge can only be found in Buddhism. Moreover, it can only be derived through actual practice. That is the only way to understand the causes and effects behind human birth, aging, sickness, and death.
"Name and form" refers to the consciousness in the initial period after it has entered the womb, before it has taken shape. Name is the psychological aspect, which is sent forth from consciousness. Form is the physical body, which is composed of the six elements from the mother's body. Earth forms the bones and flesh; water forms the blood and other bodily fluids, fire gives the body warmth; wind gives the breath; and emptiness makes the hollow cavities in the body. Thus the fetus takes on a human appearance and gradually matures, developing the six faculties of eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, the overall body, and the mind, which then necessitate the six entrances.
The "six entrances" come into being when the baby is born. The six entrances are just the six consciousnesses, which are born from the eighth consciousness. The eighth consciousness is the first to arrive, because at that time the six faculties have not yet taken shape. They are called the six faculties because each one carries out only the duty associated with its corresponding consciousness. In this system, the mind has no fixed location and constantly relies on the seventh consciousness. The consciousnesses never get mixed up; they help each other out but don't try to usurp each other's positions or jobs. For example, the eyes are in charge of seeing and would never step out of place and try to hear things. The same goes for the other consciousnesses. However, if the eye consciousness gets overburdened or looks around recklessly and cannot see clearly, the other consciousnesses come to help out. The person concentrates all his energy on seeing to the point that he cannot hear others calling, for the ear consciousness has gone to help out the eye consciousness.
If the seventh or the sixth consciousness issues an order, part or all of the consciousnesses will carry it out without the slightest delay. They never ignore an order or disobey a prohibition. They are extremely well organized, responsible, and cooperative. They only want to complete their duties, and would never shirk them. From this we can see clearly that both the psychological and the physical aspects are formed from a combination of interdependent factors; neither are independent entities that exist on their own. Thus the Buddha spoke of
"non-self." But for many lives and many eons, the great majority of people have taken this false image to be their true selves. Due to the seeming existence of this false image which is a combination of things, it is hard for people to recognize it as false. This led to the analytical explanations of the Consciousness-only School, which are Buddhism's science of human existence. Yet people fail to understand the reality that this science describes. The functioning of the consciousness is very great, yet it cannot take place without the three aspects uniting (the six faculties, the six sense objects, and the six entrances). As mentioned before, the six faculties [literally
"roots"] (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind) are thus called because they have fixed locations. The six sense objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations of touch, and dharmas) include all external states. There must be the eye, forms, and the eye consciousness—all three together—for anything to happen. None of the three can be missing. For instance, if there is an eye but no consciousness, nothing can be seen. If there is the eye consciousness but no forms, again nothing can be seen. So, the three must be linked. This is also the case with the other five faculties, objects, and consciousnesses. Then the eighteen realms are there in their entirety, and that's when each consciousness can carry out its job and report the states it perceives to the intellect. After evaluating them, the seventh consciousness decides how to deal with them. This is the internal makeup of every human being. The seventh consciousness is the headquarters of all bodily activities. It is in charge of all matters great and small. It gives orders to the lords in the name of the king. The body is controlled by the mind. That's why people often create evil karma in reaction to external states. As the child grows older, he or she comes into frequent contact with the outside world.
"Contact" refers to when children gradually come into contact with the outside world. They have no sense of good and bad yet, but only know that there are objects. They know it feels good to be hugged. As they gradually come into contact with more things, they learn what is good and what is bad. They experience cold and warmth, rough and smooth, which brings about feeling.
"Feeling" refers to fondness. The more one loves something, the closer one draws to it. Sometimes one cannot bear to let the object of one's love go; other times one cannot obtain the object for oneself.
"Grasping" refers to wanting to take what one loves into
one's own possession. Everything in society has an owner;
how can one take whatever one wants? Therefore, people must
plot and scheme in order to usurp other's property. Those
who have planted good roots in past lives may be born into
wealthy families of high standing. If they can use that to
advantage in their cultivation, they can succeed very
quickly. Conversely, those who lack virtue use their wealth
and power to seize things that are dear to others, creating
evil karma and planting new karmic seeds.
"Becoming" refers to the karmic seeds that bring about another round of existence. In total ignorance, we go through life after life without realizing what is happening. If the Buddha had not come into the world, no one would have revealed our ignorance to us. Before we have become thoroughly enlightened, we are still bound up in ignorance. If one is knowledgeable, that does not mean one is not ignorant. Which one of the great villains was not knowledgeable. But looking back, we can see that they were all ignorant. Thus, among the Twelve Causal Conditions, the most important link to break is ignorance. The seeds of karma lead to the karmic retribution of further existence.
"Birth" is birth into the next life. It's the same old thing—once there is birth, there is old age and death.
"Old age and death." The above has been an explanation of cause and effect in the three periods of time in terms of the Twelve Causal Conditions. Actually, this is not just talking about three periods of time, for the past and present are infinite. Before ignorance is destroyed, there is no end to the succession of births and deaths. This is the basic law of the Dharma of conditioned arising. Once we have studied the Twelve Causal Conditions, although we cannot go to meditate in the Himalayas, we also can no longer just drift along in life as before. What should we do? Make a fresh start in life. We can be just the same as before outside, but just change in our hearts. This is called transforming consciousness into wisdom. If we used to benefit ourselves at the expense of others, from now on we will only benefit others and at least not take advantage of them. We should
"refrain from evil and practice all good." We must never lie. Everything we say should reflect our minds. This is hard to do. It seems like nothing, but if you can truly practice in this way, after three years you will have some accomplishment. Buddhism talks about cultivation and realization. If you cultivate but do not come to realization, it's not that you are not earnest, but that your method is inappropriate for you. Now
"self-supporting monasteries" are popular, with the idea that the workplace is the Way-place. In worldly Buddhism, the inner mind is the place of practice. We shall conclude the discussion of the Twelve Causal Conditions here. The ancients had a verse to describe the Chinese character
"心" for mind/heart:
Three dots like a cluster of stars;
A hook like the crescent moon.
Furred creatures arise from there;
Buddhas come from there too.
The Dharma of conditioned arising not only includes the relationship between cause and effect, it encompasses everything from religion to philosophy to science. The more one studies it, the deeper one's understanding becomes. It can never be studied to exhaustion.