Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche The Wheel of Life and 12 Interdependent Links

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The Wheel of Life DZONGSAR KHYENTSE RINPOCHE DZONGSAR KHYENTSE RINPOCHE I’m sure many of you have seen the painting of the Wheel of Life. It’s quite a popular painting that you can see in front of almost every Buddhist monastery. In fact, some Buddhist scholars believe that the painting existed prior to Buddha’s statues. This is probably the first ever Buddhist symbol that existed. The painting is, loosely, a depiction of life. I guess curiosity about life is one big curiosity that we have. But the definition of life is quite a diverse thing so this is something that we have to come to a mutual agreement about. I know many refer to this as the ‘wheel of life’, s r i d pa khor lo . But, actually, the Tibetan word s r i d p a is not really ‘life’. S r i d p a actually means ‘possible existence’ – maybe it’s existing, maybe it’s not, but it’s possible that it exists. That’s an interpretation of life according to Buddhism. The interpretation itself is quite profound, I think. And then khor lo means ‘the wheel’, ‘the chakra’, ‘the mandala’, which again in itself has some profound significance because when we talk about ‘mandala’ we are talking about chaos; at the same time we are talking about order. So we are talking about a chaotic order about life. I was asking people about the definition of the word ‘life’ in English. There are many, but one that struck me was ‘coming to life’, ‘becoming animated’. I have a feeling that when we talk about ‘animate’ we are talking about something like consciousness. So, basically, when we talk about ‘life’ I think somehow we are talking about something to do with a mind, consciousness, awareness. Would you agree with that? So, okay, there’s this question: What is the purpose of life? But before we even talk about the purpose of life, what is life? Now according to Buddhism, life is nothing but a perception, a continuous perception. This has become the major, fundamental subject of Buddhist teachings, which is taught in many different ways, and one way is through painting, I guess. So if you look at the picture, you will see the Buddhist interpretation of life. If you ask a Buddhist, ‘What is life?’ they will say, ‘This is it, this is life.’ Anyway, as I said, life is a perception. A perception of what? Who is the perceiver? The black pig in the centre. It’s very difficult to teach about this. It has been the major subject of Buddhist studies because you have to define what is ignorance. In Buddhism when we judge what is ignorance and what is not ignorance, we don’t judge something as ignorant or evil based on morality or ethics. It has to be judged based on wisdom. So when we talk about ignorance, we are talking about a mind that is at its height of abnormality. When the mind is at its height of normality, then that’s wisdom. Briefly, how do you define what is normal or what is not normal? Nagarjuna’s definition of what is normal is when something is not dependent. If an entity depends on another entity, then we are never sure whether the colour or the quality of this present entity is actually the ultimate nature because it is dependent on the second entity. There is always a possibility that the second entity can corrupt the first entity. So, likewise, a mind that is dependent on an object, a mind that is dependent on all kinds of education, influence, meditation, is an abnormal mind according to Nagarjuna. So what is a normal mind? When you completely renounce all these objects, all these entities that your mind is totally or partially dependent on. So for now you can say the pig, which represents our ignorance, is the one that causes all this perception. This is not the best painting. Ideally, the cock and the snake should be vomited out of the pig’s mouth because the pig gives birth to passion, the cock, and aggression, the snake. Now please don’t bring that petty mentality about this being such a politically incorrect thing for a pig to represent ignorance and so on and so forth. This is a useless debate! Please, you have to understand that this is a symbolic teaching. And somehow, I don’t know why, pigs have always been unfortunate. The Buddhists have depicted pigs as the symbol of ignorance and Muslims have even refrained from eating them. Anyway, the pig represents ignorance. From the ignorance comes hope, which is actually like the mother of passion, and then from the ignorance comes fear, which is like the mother of aggression. So we have three kinds of mental factors. Of course, the original one is the ignorance, which gives birth to aggression and passion. So you can say that these three are what perceives things. We were talking about perception. These three perceive things in so many, many different ways. Sometimes, out of ignorance comes the hope of wanting to be good. Out of this wanting to be good, a person behaves or manifests in a compassionate and non-violent way. In this case, such a person’s perceptions are more wholesome so you can say that this kind of person experiences perceptions such as the god realm and the a s u r a (or jealous god) realm. Sometimes out of ignorance comes passion or aggression, which creates a lot of havoc – it kills, steals, destroys oneself or others and gives birth to unwholesome, painful, aggressive perceptions. That’s depicted in what we call the ‘three lower realms’ - the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm and the animal realm. So these are the six realms. Here, there is quite an important message. When Buddhists talk about hell, they are not talking about a concrete place somewhere underneath. And when we talk

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Bhavacakra, Wheel of Life and 12 Links of Interdependence

Transcript of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche The Wheel of Life and 12 Interdependent Links

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The Wheel of LifeDZONGSAR KHYENTSE R INPOCHEDZONGSAR KHYENTSE R INPOCHE

I’m sure many of you have seen the painting of theWheel of Life. It’s quite a popular painting that you cansee in front of almost every Buddhist monastery. In fact,some Buddhist scholars believe that the paintingexisted prior to Buddha’s statues. This is probably thefirst ever Buddhist symbol that existed.

The painting is, loosely, a depiction of life. I guesscuriosity about life is one big curiosity that we have. Butthe definition of life is quite a diverse thing so this issomething that we have to come to a mutual agreementabout. I know many refer to this as the ‘wheel of life’, sridpa •khor lo. But, actually, the Tibetan word srid pais notreally ‘life’. Srid pa actually means ‘possible existence’ –maybe it’s existing, maybe it’s not, but it’s possible that itexists. That’s an interpretation of life according toBuddhism. The interpretation itself is quite profound, Ithink. And then •khor lomeans ‘the wheel’, ‘the chakra’,‘the mandala’, which again in itself has some profoundsignificance because when we talk about ‘mandala’ weare talking about chaos; at the same time we are talkingabout order. So we are talking about a chaotic order aboutlife.

I was asking people about the definition of the word ‘life’in English. There are many, but one that struck me was‘coming to life’, ‘becoming animated’. I have a feeling thatwhen we talk about ‘animate’ we are talking aboutsomething like consciousness. So, basically, when we talkabout ‘life’ I think somehow we are talking aboutsomething to do with a mind, consciousness, awareness.Would you agree with that?

So, okay, there’s this question: What is the purpose of life?But before we even talk about the purpose of life, what islife? Now according to Buddhism, life is nothing but aperception, a continuous perception. This has become themajor, fundamental subject of Buddhist teachings, whichis taught in many different ways, and one way is throughpainting, I guess. So if you look at the picture, you willsee the Buddhist interpretation of life. If you ask aBuddhist, ‘What is life?’ they will say, ‘This is it, this islife.’ Anyway, as I said, life is a perception. A perceptionof what? Who is the perceiver? The black pig in thecentre. It’s very difficult to teach about this. It has beenthe major subject of Buddhist studies because you have todefine what is ignorance. In Buddhism when we judgewhat is ignorance and what is not ignorance, we don’tjudge something as ignorant or evil based on morality orethics. It has to be judged based on wisdom. So when wetalk about ignorance, we are talking about a mind that isat its height of abnormality. When the mind is at itsheight of normality, then that’s wisdom.

Briefly, how do you define what is normal or what is notnormal? Nagarjuna’s definition of what is normal is whensomething is not dependent. If an entity depends onanother entity, then we are never sure whether the colouror the quality of this present entity is actually the ultimatenature because it is dependent on the second entity. Thereis always a possibility that the second entity can corruptthe first entity. So, likewise, a mind that is dependent onan object, a mind that is dependent on all kinds ofeducation, influence, meditation, is an abnormal mindaccording to Nagarjuna. So what is a normal mind? Whenyou completely renounce all these objects, all theseentities that your mind is totally or partially dependenton.

So for now you can say the pig, which represents ourignorance, is the one that causes all this perception. Thisis not the best painting. Ideally, the cock and the snakeshould be vomited out of the pig’s mouth because the piggives birth to passion, the cock, and aggression, thesnake. Now please don’t bring that petty mentality aboutthis being such a politically incorrect thing for a pig torepresent ignorance and so on and so forth. This is auseless debate! Please, you have to understand that this isa symbolic teaching. And somehow, I don’t know why,pigs have always been unfortunate. The Buddhists havedepicted pigs as the symbol of ignorance and Muslimshave even refrained from eating them.

Anyway, the pig represents ignorance. From theignorance comes hope, which is actually like the motherof passion, and then from the ignorance comes fear,which is like the mother of aggression. So we have threekinds of mental factors. Of course, the original one is theignorance, which gives birth to aggression and passion.So you can say that these three are what perceives things.We were talking about perception. These three perceivethings in so many, many different ways.

Sometimes, out of ignorance comes the hope of wantingto be good. Out of this wanting to be good, a personbehaves or manifests in a compassionate and non-violentway. In this case, such a person’s perceptions are morewholesome so you can say that this kind of personexperiences perceptions such as the god realm and theasura (or jealous god) realm. Sometimes out of ignorancecomes passion or aggression, which creates a lot of havoc– it kills, steals, destroys oneself or others and gives birthto unwholesome, painful, aggressive perceptions. That’sdepicted in what we call the ‘three lower realms’ - the hellrealm, the hungry ghost realm and the animal realm. Sothese are the six realms.

Here, there is quite an important message. WhenBuddhists talk about hell, they are not talking about aconcrete place somewhere underneath. And when we talk

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about heaven we are not talking about somewhere whereeverything works. We are not talking about a place tomigrate to, basically. When we talk about going to hell,we are not talking about being punished. I think theconcept of punishment is quite a new thing for theBuddhists, actually. Although we may say: ‘If you dosuch and such bad karma, because of this badkarma you will go to hell’, we are not sayingthat there is a someone called ‘karma’which is going to then force you as apunishment to experience the lowerrealms. As we spoke about before, it’sa perception, depending on yourmind, depending on your mentalstate.

Let’s discuss the six realms. Sincethe hell realm is the worst, let’s talkabout it first so we can get it out ofthe way. This is really quite profound.In the hell realm all kinds of sufferingare depicted. In the centre of the hell realmsits Yamaraja, who is like the Lord of Hell. AHell’s Angel, I guess, not on a Harley Davidson,but sitting comfortably on the throne made outof skulls. The interesting question is, ‘Who is this guy?’From many Mahayana texts we know who this is. This isnone other than the bodhisattva Manjushri. And who isManjushri? Manjushri is the symbol of wisdom. So again,here, the Lord of Hell who decides who is to suffer what,so to speak, is actually your own ultimate nature ofwisdom sitting there. Then there are things like beingburned in the hot hell and being trapped in the ice andsnow mountains of the cold hell, and then there are allkinds of animals. There’s one thing I need to tell you. Oneof the reasons why the Wheel of Life was painted outsidethe monasteries and on the walls (and was reallyencouraged even by the Buddha himself) is to teach thisvery profound Buddhist philosophy of life andperception to more simple-minded farmers or cowherds.So these images on the Wheel of Life are just tocommunicate to the general audience. The Lord of Hell,Yamaraja, holds a mirror. Again, this is very symbolic - tobe free of hell you don’t look for an external source, youlook at yourself: meditation such as shamatha meditationor vipashyana meditation.

Now there’s something else quite interesting about thehell realm. Within it you can see a white light going up,which symbolises that hell is also impermanent. It’s notas if once you go to hell then that’s it, there’s no way out.It’s not like that. After all, it’s your perception. If you canchange your perception, you can also get out of hell. Sothere’s a person depicted leaving hell.

Then there’s the animal realm with all kinds of animals.Tibetans have not seen many animals. Australians woulddo better painting this realm. The animals in the oceansand the animals on the land - I guess they must haveforgotten the animals in the sky, like birds.

And then there’s the hungry ghost realm. Beings herehave a very big stomach, a very thin neck and a verysmall mouth and are always hungry and thirsty, looking

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for food everywhere. Quite interestingly, there are somehungry ghosts sitting there who have jewels, but they areso stingy they don’t give them to other people. Of coursenot! But they don’t use them for themselves either. Theyjust save them for the next day or the next year.

Then there’s the god realm – castles, dancing girls,beautiful trees that have all sorts of ornaments,

people spending life just listening to music,playing music, taking baths, everything is

so perfect. And there’s the asura realm.They are as rich as gods, but they haveone problem which is fights. They lovefighting because they are jealous allthe time. For instance, they fight a lotwith the gods. This tree is called thewish-fulfilling tree. It actually growsin the asura realm. The jealous gods

are busy taking care of this tree but it isso tall, when it bears flowers and fruit, it

usually does so up on the top level andonly the gods can reach them. So all the

jealous gods’ effort in taking care of the tree iswasted. That really triggers so much anger andjealousy, which then creates a lot of fighting

between the asura realm and the god realm. Sadly, thegods almost always win, but the jealous gods just don’tgive up. They feel that one day they can topple those inthe god realm.

In the human realm we see suffering and pain – birth,death, old age, sickness. At the same time we also seepeople having fun, for instance. We also see peoplethinking, contemplating and discovering. So we have sixrealms. Loosely, you can say when the perception comesmore from aggression you experience things in a hellishway. When your perception is filtered throughattachment, grasping or miserliness, you experience thehungry ghost realm. When your perception is filteredthrough ignorance, then you experience the animal realm.When you have a lot of pride you are reborn in the godrealm. When you have jealousy you are reborn in theasura realm. When you have a lot of passion you arereborn in the human realm.

But the word ‘born’ or ‘reborn’ means a lot. It does notnecessarily mean that right now we are all in the humanrealm and we are not in the other five realms. Dependingon what kind of karma we create, we can go to otherrealms. If the karma to experience the hell realm is thestrongest then you will, I guess, change this form andthen with another form you will experience a hellish kindof perception. But according to Mahayana Buddhism, thesix realms are something that can happen during thecourse of a day!

(Photo Stuart MacFarlane)

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Gentle Voice : April 2005

The previous issue of the Gentle Voice featured a teaching

by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on the Wheel of Life, a

Buddhist depiction of life painted on the walls of many

monasteries. Here is the second half of that talk.

So we have six realms. Loosely, you can say when the

perception comes more from aggression, you experience

things in a hellish way. When your perception is filtered

through attachment, grasping or miserliness, you

experience the hungry ghost realm. When your

perception is filtered through ignorance, then you

experience the animal realm. When you have a lot of

pride, you are reborn in the god realm. When you have

jealousy, you are reborn in the asura realm. When you

have a lot of passion, you are reborn in the human realm.

But the word ‘born’ or ‘reborn’ means a lot. It does not

necessarily mean that right now we are all in the human

realm and we are not in the other five realms. Depending

on what kind of karma we create, we will go to other

realms. If the karma to be reborn or to experience the

hell realm is the strongest, then you will, I guess, change

this form and then with another form you will experience

a hellish kind of perception. But according to Mahayana

Buddhism the six realms are something that can happen

during the course of a day!

For instance, when you wake up in the morning you may

be quite dull and kind of stupid or still drowsy. Maybe

you are going through the animal realm — a late night

out or a sleepless or depressed night. Perhaps after you

wake up, someone you dislike calls you and your day is

ruined first thing in the morning. Then you really get

angry and that’s the hell realm. In order to get out of that

hellish situation you watch television. Maybe you happen

to watch Baywatch. (I’m talking about a man, by the

way, a straight man.) You feel a little turned on with all

these sights on Baywatch. And so, maybe at that time,

you go through the human realm. Once you finish

watching that, you go for a walk and your next-door

neighbour, who is actually quite old and geeky-looking,

happens to be walking towards you with a most beautiful

girl on his arm. Then you have a little bit of envy or

jealousy, ‘My God, of all people — him?’ That’s the

asura realm.

After that you go to an anti-war demonstration, but not

necessarily with a good intention. It’s more with the

intention of, ‘This is the politically correct thing to do,’

and that’s arrogance, isn’t it? And I guess when you go

through that anti-war demonstration, shouting at some of

the scapegoats that we have elected with our own choice,

that’s what I call the god realm — self-righteousness, a

politically correct kind of compassion, a ‘do the right

thing’ attitude. That’s so godly, so very, very arrogant.

And probably, at some time during the day, you go

through a nice time and this nice time you don’t want to

share with others. Maybe that is the hungry ghost realm.

So when we talk about six realms, actually we are

talking about experiences that can come within the

course of a day. It’s not a different place.

Now the most important aspect of this wheel of life is

this: wherever you are — it doesn’t matter whether you

are in hell, heaven, the hungry ghost realm or wherever

— you are under one law, under one authority, under one

dictator. Who is this? It’s this hideous man; you’re under

his claws, under his fangs. Who is this? Time. This

monster represents time. And what is so bad about it?

Oh, it is, because time means uncertainty,

impermanence, change.

Of course, it has its positives, but usually we don’t realise

them so much. For example, you could be experiencing

the god realm, but it’s changeable. If it doesn’t change

today, it will change tomorrow. You could be experiencing

the hell realm — changeable! In this case it’s good news.

Wherever you are, including experiencing the three

poisons (ignorance, passion and aggression), it is

impermanent and that’s time.So what is the purpose of our

life? To get out of this wheel of life. Liberation is when

you get out of this existence.

Q: What is it that is liberated?

R: Good question — this pig. So therefore the snake and

the bird also get liberated. Liberated from what? From

these six perceptions. Working with perception is

actually the main path of Buddhism. It’s all to do with

that. And it’s rightfully so, because it’s all your

perception that’s dictating your life, isn’t it? For instance,

when you love someone it is your perception that is

dictating your romance, your relationship. If that

perception gets disturbed even slightly, your outlook

towards this person is definitely changed. Maybe

someone at last tells you that a person you have been

dating for twenty years has a tail growing on a certain

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The Wheel Of Lifeby Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

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Gentle Voice : April 2005

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full-moon day. And if you can be convinced of that, then

your perception of this person who you have been dating

for twenty years changes. Next time he calls you, you

have to think twice!

These perceptions are very roughly divided into six.

That’s all it is. Actually, Buddhists themselves say that

these are not the only perceptions that we have, but this

is the generalisation of the perceptions that we have.

Working with perception is really the fundamental

foundation of the Buddhist path, especially in the

Vajrayana. For instance, in the Sakyapas’ teachings on

path and fruit, there is a whole segment called Triple

Vision and there this is taught so much.

It’s very strange, even some cultures are more animal-

oriented, some are more god-oriented and some are more

human-oriented. Now, although for the sake of

communication, we have to divide perceptions into the

three lower realms and the three upper realms, we are not

necessarily saying that one is better than the other.

Buddhists are not judging. Do you know why? Because

according to Buddhism, anyone who is in this man’s

clutches is useless, be it in the god realm or the hell

realm. Hierarchy doesn’t have much importance here.

They are all equally useless, equally unimportant.

One can easily say that the war that has been going on in

Palestine and Israel shows the asura realm, the demigod

realm. And if you see the hunger and starvation of

Ethiopia, India or Bangladesh, you can almost say this is

the hungry ghost realm. And if you see the endless,

insatiable mind that requires all kinds of hideous toys to

arouse it, like leather and chains and stuff like that,

I think we are experiencing a bit of the animal realm,

don’t you?

If we talk about hierarchy or if we need to judge the

value of these six realms, the Buddhists would say the

best realm is the human realm. Why is this the best

realm? Because you have a choice. Where does this

choice come from? The gods don’t have a choice. Why?

They’re too happy. When you are too happy you have no

choice. You become arrogant. The hell realm: no choice,

too painful. The human realm: not too happy and also

not too painful. When you are not so happy and not in so

much pain, what does that mean? A step closer to the

normality of mind, remember? When you are really,

really excited and in ecstasy, there is no normality of

mind. And when you are totally in pain, you don’t

experience normality of mind either. So someone in the

human realm has the best chance of acquiring that

normality of mind. And this is why in Buddhist prayers

you will always read: ideally may we get out of this

place, but if we can’t do it within this life, may we be

reborn in the human realm, not the others. The human

realm is preferable to the god realm.

Q: Mr. Time seems pretty imposing. Is the whole point

of this to escape Mr Time, to get out of his grip?

R: Yes, that’s liberation. We have to go beyond time. If

we liberate ourselves from time and space, then that’s it.

Then we have done our job. There is no past, there is no

present, there is no future. Then there is no Mr Sigmund

Freud. We can’t brood about our past childhood and all

of that!

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Gentle Voice : October 2005

Since some of you are new to Buddhist ideas, this may

be the first time you are encountering the tantric path or

Vajrayana. So I would like to say a little bit based on

this, the Vajrayana path. There are figures such as Tilopa,

Virupa and Kukkuraja, and broadly speaking, from the

mundane world’s point of view, some of the things that

they did weren’t acceptable in society. This tradition has

existed for a long time in Buddhist history — Tilopa

eating live fish! A Buddhist eating live fish? While he

was eating the head, the tail was moving in his mouth.

Virupa was a drunk man, that’s what they say. He drank

anyway, he drank constantly. Kukkuraja was sleeping

with his own pet dog, the bitch.

The tantric path is shocking. I’m telling you these things

because when I say that Buddhism emphasises more the

appreciation of wisdom, I want you to know how we do

it. Yet, with all their almost inhuman, unacceptable

behaviour — eating live fish, becoming alcoholic and all

that — these are the people who left behind some of the

most incredible paths of wisdom that today we find are

the only source of solace, the path of the practice lineage

that we can walk, the steps of the staircase we tread.

I’m telling you this because we are beginning to talk

about the Twelve Interdependent Links of Origination

and the first thing we are going to talk about is

ignorance. We have already talked about ignorance that

is symbolised by the pig in the centre of the Wheel of

Life. What is ignorance? Very simply, I can say,

ignorance is actually distraction. When the mind is

distracted by something, then that is ignorance. The

whole act of getting distracted is ignorance.

Based on Buddhist theory, the evolution of ignorance is

an idea. Let’s take an abstract idea like a table. First we

create a label like ‘a table’, but that label is actually an

abstract entity. For instance, when we look at a table, you

will not really see an entity that is ‘tableness’. There are

legs, there is wood, there are nails, all of that. If you take

the table apart, each of them is a different phenomenon:

wood is wood, nail is nail. Within the phenomenon of

table there are many, many parts that are not necessarily

referred to as ‘a table’. But when they are all together,

then there's the idea or the label ‘a table’, and we created

that table, we created that label. That is still fine, that is

still not a big failure. The failure comes next when you

think that abstract idea is not abstract but concrete, when

you think there is actually a table existing, really

existing. You got it?

Actually, to put it very simply, it is attachment to a label.

Ignorance is attachment to a label. Out of all this

labelling — flowers, table, chairs, earth, water, fire —

there is one label that is probably the most dangerous.

It's not only dangerous; it has the most potential, is the

most destructive, constructive and, at the same time, the

most elusive. Basically, the root of all the other labels is

the label of self, myself, I.

Again, like the table we were referring to earlier, when

we say ‘I’, we are referring to something abstract. That is

fine; but what is not fine is strong attachment to this self

that is represented by a picture of a blind person (1)

right under the fangs of Time, the wrathful monster.

What does this ignorance do? The self is such a strong

notion that it can destroy the whole world if it is given

the authority, the equipment, the money, the power.

We all have the potential to be, and we are in our own

way, a little bit of Saddam Hussein, a little bit of Osama

bin Laden, a little bit of George Bush, a little bit of

Donald Rumsefeld. We all have that potential. Why? The

cling-ing to the self is so strong. Why is it that clinging

to the self is so strong? Because, ironically, it still hasn’t

con-firmed that it exists, that is why. It is very ironic,

isn’t it? It is like when something is not sure, you have

this obsessive impulse to confirm it. You have to get

confirmation. That’s why. And that has been going on

forever. This uncertainty whether the self exists or not

constantly needs to be confirmed and you need to

confirm it.

And what do you do? You take action — you make

friends, go shopping, have sex, use whips and chains or

melted wax, which makes you really feel that you exist.

This is the second link, action, which is depicted by a

person making a pot (2). In classic Buddhist terms,

karma is action. You know how when we are insecure we

have to do something, from taking Prozac to meditating

or chanting mantras, whatever — all these are actions to

prove that you exist. And when we talk about these links,

they are sort of in order. But don’t think that these things

take time — like first there's ignorance and then there's a

little bit of a pause and then there's action. It is not like

that. It is really, really speedy. It is very fast, it is almost

at the same time.

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The Twelve InterdependentLinks of Origination by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

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Gentle Voice : October 2005

The moment you have action it is accompanied by

consciousness that is depicted by a monkey (3) —

clever, very clever, jumping all the time, going

everywhere. Here, there, you think he’s here and the next

minute he’s there. But, you know, those tame monkeys

are chained with all kinds of ropes. It doesn’t matter how

clever they are, they still don’t know how to undo these

chains and run away from their abuser. Basically, the

consciousness emerges from ignorance. The monkeys are

cleverly stupid, that’s all. They are clever idiots. (It’s sort

of unfair on the monkeys!)

So what has happened? You need to confirm this

ignorance, this insecurity. You create an action; action

is accompanied by this consciousness, like eye

consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness,

tongue and touch consciousness. This then develops

nama and rupa, which is depicted in the fourth image

on the Wheel of Life, name and form. It could be John,

Paul, democracy, a trend or a fashion. But strictly

speaking, here there is a boat that symbolises identity

and inside the boat there are the five aggregates that are

represented by the five travellers (4). Wherever this

label, this identity, this trend goes, somehow the five

aggregates, without much choice, tag along. Where do

they go? They don’t reach anywhere. They just go round

and round in this ocean of samsara. Basically, what we

are talking about is constructing identity, self- identity,

yourself. You have now successfully constructed an

identity — myself, me, Buddhist, Hindu.

So once you construct that, then what do you need?

This me, this self, without all the rest is useless. Again, it

will become very lonely. It needs a place to get distract-

ed, to get occupied, like a job or entertainment, which is

represented by an empty house with five doors (5) —

sense objects such as sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.

With this identity, this notion of ‘I’, we go through or

enter this house of sense objects. It is an empty house;

there is nothing inside but we think there is something

very valuable inside. Or if you happen to be inside, you

think that there must be something very valuable outside

and then you go outside. We go in and out; basically we

create more phenomena. Then what does this give birth

to? Contact (6). Tibetans are just hopeless when they

paint. This is supposedly a man and a woman kissing.

Basically, we meet, we have contact between the sense

and the sense object, consciousness and the object.

There is contact and what does this contact lead to?

It leads to feeling, which is represented by being

blinded by an arrow in one eye (7).

Let’s go back to the self. We have the self, ignorance —

insecure and at the same time very, very, very proud.

Very egoistic, but at the same time very insecure and

because of that we have to do something. As we do, we

create consciousness, form, we create a certain kind of

identity, a trend or some kind of fashion that we belong

to. With the help of the form, the trend, this feeling, we

go out to the sense objects and when we go out, we meet

the object. The moment we meet, we then feel — not

necessarily good feelings, sometimes bad feelings.

A feeling is created. Feeling leads to craving, which is

depicted by a person drinking alcohol (8). This

insecure self is going through this form and feeling and

all this identity and then we meet a very good feeling. Of

course, we crave for more.

But sometimes we even encounter bad contact, bad

feeling, and then crave to dispel it, to outdo it, to gain

some kind of victory. You know how we are so attached

to fixing the problem, aren't we?

Continnued from page 3

In both ways basically what’s happening, whether you

are just enjoying the experience or maybe not necessarily

enjoying it, there is some kind of a sense of addiction to

get rid of the problem, to fix the problem. In both ways

you have gained craving, craving for more.

Craving leads to taking, which is depicted by a person

picking some fruit (9). So we then take — information,

possessions, food, drink. Once you take, taking leads to

grasping which is symbolised by the pregnant woman.

Then you hold on to what you crave and what you have

just obtained by taking. That holding on is what we call

existence and that’s depicted by the pregnant woman

(10), which then leads to birth (11). Birth automatically

leads to old age; old age leads to death (12). These are,

briefly, the Twelve Interdependent Links of Origination.

What I have been explaining to you is only really, really

the basics. This is a very big subject; it is taught in the

Abhidharmakosha and Abhidharmakosha-karika really

extensively.

We are not only talking about a gradual human evolution

— first ignorance, then action and so on. It is definitely

that; but we are also talking about what happens within

one instant. When we go to a coffee shop and order a

cappuccino, there is ignorance, which leads to action,

which leads to everything… until you finish your

cappuccino, which is death, which then leads to an

appetiser or a headache or something else. In every

action, in every aspect of our life, there are the Twelve

Interdependent Links of Origination.