V 10-6 Discussion of the Twelve Karmic Affinities/ the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising (1/2) 谈十二因缘
Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比，怎么写，都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.
Master tells you, to cultivate worldly Dharma, you must first know about samsara. Many people don’t know about it. Master asks you, “What is samsara? What is the origin of samsara?” In this chapter, he will expound on the origin of samsara, which is the twelve links. The twelve links refer to the process from ignorance to death from old age and its affinities. It started when you were born, where you don’t know anything until you pass away. In this process, the links follow like a shadow as karmic conditions, karmic causes and karmic consequences. This process is a person’s lifetime; it’s also the wrongdoings one did in their life, and also all the suffering they encounter physically and mentally in their life.
In the twelve links, the first link is ignorance. What is ignorance? It’s not knowing. When you were born, you knew nothing. Who could say that they knew everything when they were born? You knew nothing, and you didn’t understand anything. The second link is action. It could be simply be walking or moving, and that’s how you began to start your life. The third link is consciousness. When you were born, you knew nothing. But when you start living your life, you start to develop conscious awareness of the things around you. For example, when your mother fed you and took you out to play. As you become aware of new things, these things enter into your consciousness, and you learn to identify what these things are. For example, when you have seen a public bus or an aeroplane, you know that it’s a public bus or a plane the next time you see the same object.
After you have developed a self-consciousness, you will become aware of names and forms. Initially, when you were born, you didn’t know anything or about yourself. Who were you? There was a toddler who was one and a half years old who didn’t have a name, but his parents managed to get Master to give him a name. It was fortunate since many people had queued for me to do so, yet he didn’t have the time to do it. Since he had no name, he was ‘nameless’. He had nothing, so he didn’t know anything. Then he started to take action and become consciously aware of his surroundings, and that’s when he noticed the world of forms. “Oh, this aunt looks pretty. Oh, this house looks beautiful. This lamp and car look good.” After the child develops consciousness, the fourth link of names and forms begin.
The fifth link is the six spheres of the senses, where the senses coming from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind enter your consciousness. When the eyes see something good, then it might trigger your desire to buy. When the ears hear something pleasant, you will smile. When the nose smells something delicious, it triggers your desire to eat. When your tongue tastes something sweet, you become happy. When your mind thinks your mother will take you on holiday next week, you will feel inexplicably happy. Gradually, you entered into the world through your senses and thoughts and became affected by your surroundings. Many people know how to expound the twelve links, but Master could articulate it better using plain terms.
The sixth link is contact. The feeling of wanting to make contact is the same as when one was born. After a person has developed consciousness, they want to make contact with others. Just like when you’re dating, when you see a good-looking person that you like, you want to make contact with them. Then there’s bodily contact. For example, when you walk into a clothes shop and see something you like, even though you don’t have any money in your wallet, you would like to try on the clothes and then put them back where you found them. Even if you don’t have money, you would walk into a shop and try a few handbags to see how they look when you’re holding them in front of the mirror. That’s because when you see something you like, you want to use your hands to feel and touch it. Isn’t it interesting when Master puts it into plain terms? Why do you keep going through the same karmic cycles over and over again? It’s because, after contact, you feel good and become happy. If it goes well, then it’s ok. What if it ends badly? Then you get yourself into trouble.
You can experiment. Find a table with nothing on it, and get somebody to put a banknote on it. Many passersby would turn their eyeballs to look at it. At home, if you see some coins on the table or on the floor, it would immediately attract your attention. Then your mind would think about taking and getting into contact with it. Do you understand? Why do women wear makeup? It’s to attract attention. People’s thoughts are dyed by the objects around them, and they develop the desire to make contact.
The seventh link is feeling. What is feeling? After contact, feelings arise, and they also feel the consequences. When men contact the woman they like, they develop feelings towards her, and she begins to influence the guy. When people like to eat a certain food, it means that food will influence them. Shanghaiese loves to eat Chinese mitten crabs, so they eat them excessively and sin. Many women like to eat walnuts and could eat them all day until it affects them adversely. Some people like to eat olives, while others indulge in unwholesome things like smoking, drinking and taking drugs. In the end, don’t they have to feel the consequences? These seven links are what primarily induces your consciousness to fall into samsara. There are wholesome and unwholesome feelings that one feels as a consequence. If it’s wholesome, then you will enjoy it. If it’s unwholesome, then you’re just getting what you deserved.
The eighth link is love (a craving or desire). The feeling of love is very painful. If you don’t understand, you think that it’s easy. But when you trigger those feelings, then be prepared to be in pain. For example, you love your children. But if your child constantly disobeys you and keep leaving the house, then you’ll get depressed. Isn’t that right? Love can cause trouble. When a couple loves each other, they might bring a new life into the world, which may cause a combination of more happiness and suffering. One shouldn’t be selfish in love; they should love everybody equally and unconditionally. Then there’s no suffering. But in reality, Master tells you, love like is also painful. Do you agree that Master loves you? Yes. If you misbehave and keep doing wrong things, or if you’re suffering at work, then Master would be sad. Conditional love has its share of suffering, while unconditional love also has its share of heartache. As long as there’s love, you must bear with it. But Master could tell you one thing. As long as you’re in the Human Realm, you can’t escape from the subject of love. The subject of love also encompasses the craving for material goods, love for others, desire for wealth and fame etc. Some people crave playing mahjong; that’s also love. If you don’t let them play, then they feel worse than death.
The ninth link is grasping. What is grasping? When you make a choice, you are creating karma that keeps the cycle of samsara turning. When you take something that you shouldn’t take, that creates karma. When you give up something that you shouldn’t give, that creates karma. These actions lead to dependent origination. “I dated that girl before, but in the end, she broke up with me. I’m not going to let her get away with this.” You see, then one is torn between the decision of seeking revenge or not. “If I don’t have my revenge, then I’m a wimp. I must make her pay.” Alright, when you make that decision and take action, then you create the karma that keeps you within samsara. In the Human Realm, the decision to take and give is the most difficult, yet it’s also the most important. That’s because if a person takes the right things, then they will be walking on the right path. They will be walking on a smooth path to success. If a person takes the wrong things, then they will always suffer in hardships. Many women marry the wrong person, for example. Maybe the woman had three guys interested in her, but she chose the current husband in the end. That ended up being a mistake, and she is now in agony because of that decision.
The tenth link is existence. The words of the Bodhisattvas are few. One word could encompass many things. What is existence? That is also a source of suffering. You suffer if you don’t have something, but you will also suffer once you have it. If you can’t have a child, won’t you be in pain? You go to the doctors and spend money to see if you could; isn’t that a painful process? Then when you could bear a child and give birth, Master tells you, you’ll suffer more in the future. Your child will tether and bind you up, so you lose freedom. Many people don’t practise Buddhism because they have a child. Isn’t that why monks and nuns renounce that secular life? If one can give birth, then give birth. If one can’t give birth, then don’t. If something is predestined to be yours, then it will eventually happen. If not, then don’t force it. There was a married couple who gave birth to a daughter. They were Master’s disciples. Before they had a child, they were respectful and affectionate towards each other. But after their daughter was born, the mother became second place while the father became third. Both of them have to take cues from their daughter. Originally, the father was only afraid of one person, which is his wife. Now he’s afraid of two. Luckily he doesn’t have a pet; otherwise, the father would be afraid of three beings. So aren’t both mother and father bearing hardships? Fortunately, their daughter had practised Buddhism. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have treated them well. Master is trying to convey to you the principle. If something exists, it will bring greater suffering. That’s because when you have something, there will be a day when you will lose it in the future, so you will bear the suffering of loss. If you don’t have it, to begin with, then there is no suffering.
When Master was hosting the Dharma convention in New Zealand, a girl contracted polio when she was little and when she got older, she got a doctoral degree in Arts. Master asked her, “Child, are you in pain?” She replied, “I’m not because I’m well taken care of by my parents. Also, many people treated me with love, so I’m very happy.” “Then, do you have any thoughts about life that you want to share with others?” She said, “I only look at what I have. I don’t look at what I don’t have.” That’s an obverse way of speaking. In other words, if you only look at what you possess, then you will be content. And you don’t look at what others have that you don’t. That way, your attitude will be good.
People nowadays tend to look at what they have and also what other people have. Just like when people are eating their food, they also look at what other people are eating. You can see whether a person is greedy just by looking at how they eat. Like when ten people are sitting around a table with eight dishes on top. Those who eat while staring at the other dishes are people who tend to be discontented. If you’re eating with Master, you should be careful because he will know what kind of person you are. Greed stems from the inner mind and manifests externally. When you possess something, you will eventually suffer. If vast amounts of wealth are stored in your house, you will be scared of being kidnapped, burgled, or killed. Isn’t that a source of suffering? That’s why it will also create karma.