The Buddha advised the people to follow the moderate way of life
- Part 3 -
Thangjam Sanjoo Singh *
A visit to the ancient city of Ayutthaya in Thailand :: March 2016
Through the rising and falling of the Worldly Law of Dependent Origisnation, the Buddha explained the First (ultimate) Truth. The ultimate truth averted attachment to either existence or non-existence; to permanence or change. This is similar to the "True Jhana" (The Vipassana that leads to the realization of the First Truth) explained by Katyayana:
"To contemplate the unreal nature of all things, there is nothing real.
Various names arise due to the coincidence of causes and conditions which are unreal. When one sees the truth of emptiness, one will realize that there is no Dharma (the perverted view of existence)and non-Dharma
(the perverted view of extinction)."
All Dharma is unreal, for it is mainly the coincidence of causes and conditions. These are worldly (mundane) views. Through this worldly understanding we can see that it is conditioned. The Enlightened Ones see and realize the Truth of Emptiness.
They relieve themselves from attachment to both the existence and non-existence of Dharma, and hence realize the Ultimate Truth. This is why the Buddhas always preach about emptiness, hoping that beings may be detached from perverted views.
The Buddha also said,
"If we can see the truth of the causes of worldly sufferings,
we will not be attached to the view of nothingness.
If we can see the truth of cessation in the world, we will not be attached to worldly existence.
By avoiding the two extremes, the Tathagatha teaches us the Middle Path, which is, what this is, that is; this arising, that arises…"
(Chapter 12, Samyuktagama)
When worldly people see existence, they think that there is a real existence. When they see cessation, they think that it has really ceased. This is the perverted view of the two extremes. By compassion the Enlightened Ones, when they see Dharma arising, know that it is not nothingness, while at the same time not becoming attached to it as something real.
When they see the Dharma disappear, they do not become attached to its extinction nor at the same time do they think that the extinction is real and means nothing at all. This is because, according to the Law of Dependent Origination, when there is a cause there will be an effect. When the cause ceases, the effect ceases.
The Dharma is alive. It can exist or cease, rise or fall. If it is something real that has a permanent identity, then it should not cease and become extinct. If it is nothing, then it should not rise and exist.
The Dharma rises and ceases, it can exist and become extinct. If we investigate the core of all things, we will realize that everything is conditioned and has empirical names. Things have no permanent identity, existence, extinction, rise or fall. Their nature is empty and silent.
Thus, when we talk about emptiness, we do not deny the rising, falling, existence and extinction of all phenomena. In fact, emptiness explains the truth of rising, falling, existence and extinction. This is the main teaching of the Tathagatha. Do not misunderstand Circulation and Cessation as two separate identities.
From these Laws of Circulation and Cessation, we can see the creation and extinction, rising and falling of all phenomena and hence realize the truth of emptiness in all things. This is the Principle of Emptiness of the Middle Path, the ultimate explanation of the Middle Path. It is also the special characteristic of Buddhism — the Truth of Emptiness and of Dependent Origination. This is also "the immediate moment is empty" that is always mentioned by Mahayana scholars.
We should not think that this is only an old saying. We should know that this is the part of Dharma that is beyond all worldly knowledge. The worldly religions assume a god, the creator of the Universe; and the real characteristics of "I" as perfect, permanent, and happy. With such philosophy, their faith tends to be emotional.
The Buddha emphasized reality and explained that all things are impermanent, and in constant change. There is nothing that rises but never ceases. There is nothing that is permanently unchanged. All things rise and cease due to causes and conditions. There is no independent identity that can exist without other conditions. The permanent, independent god that most worldly people believe in is denied by Buddhism.
From the Law of Dependent Origination, the Buddha expanded the truth of emptiness and articulated the Three Universal Characteristics. As the sutra says,
"All volitional actions are empty.
There is no law that is permanent and unchangeable.
There is no I nor mine."
(Samyuktagama, Chapter 11)
As all things have the nature of emptiness, there is thus no law that is permanent and unchangeable. There is no ego that is permanent and independent. With continuously changing phenomena, the existence of all things is a web of interrelationships. Understanding the Law of Dependent Origination, we can realize the Truth of Impermanence and Egolessness and hence the nature of the emptiness of all things.
Emptiness also implies Nirvana, that is the renunciation of the perverted view of permanency and ego, leading to the realization of liberation. Thus, the sutra says,
"One who thinks of impermanence will understand the truth of ego-lessness.
The Enlightened One lives in the state of ego-lessness, renounces self-conceit and hence progresses towards liberation and Nirvana."
(Samyuktagama, Chapter 10)
To realize the Three Universal Characteristics of impermanence, ego-lessness and Nirvana from the standpoint of Emptiness in Dependent Origination and on the Middle Path, is the basic teaching of Buddhism.
Often people tend to become attached to worldly phenomena, and think that only the phenomena that change are impermanent and that the origin of things is still permanent. They think that egolessness means that "I" has no real identity; that it is only an image formed by a co-operation of factors and that there is no "I" but that Dharma is still real and does exist nevertheless.
To be continued....
* Thangjam Sanjoo Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a lay Buddhist & a Social Activist. He can be reached at thangjamsanjoo42(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 07, 2017.
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