Dhamma Articles And Talks By Subject
Dependent Origination And Conditioned Mind
All of human life is anicca, impermanent and uncertain. Life in the phenomenal world is ultimately unsatisfactory, dukkha, due to life’s inescapable qualities of impermanence and uncertainty. Arising from a wrong view of life in the phenomenal world, an impermanent and insubstantial “self” is formed. The Buddha recognized that this wrong view of self is founded in ignorance, and from this lack of understanding, through 12 causative links, a self-established and self-perpetuated belief in a permanent and substantial individual entity arises. This view of “self” the Buddha described as “anatta” meaning that what is perceived as self is a non-self or is not a self.
Often misunderstood, the Buddha is simply stating that what is perceived as a self cannot be substantiated in any manner as permanent, it is “anatta.” As what is believed to be a self is not, in reality, a self, the belief or view of self should be abandoned. As this ego-driven view of self refuses to allow for any other view, due to discursive conditioned thinking, it is very difficult and requires strong conviction to question all hardened views to overcome the effects of conditioned thinking.
From the need to continually establish and maintain what is founded in impermanence, stress, and disappointment arises. Due to contact or input through the five physical senses reaction occurs and is interpreted from a view (consciousness) lacking understanding. From an individual view lacking understanding of human life in the ever-changing and uncertain environment of anicca, conclusions regarding life arise, further strengthening wrong view.
Now stuck in a “thicket of views” founded in wrong view an individual conditioned mind is formed. Arising from a lack of understanding the conditioned mind now determines how life will be experienced as life occurs. This process of 12 causative links initiating in ignorance leading to stress and unhappiness, the distraction of dukkha, is known as Dependent Origination or Dependent Co-Arising.
Dependent Origination is another term that is often misunderstood and misapplied continuing to establish an ego-personality and develop interdependence, clinging, where no interdependence exists. Dependent Origination is a key teaching of the Buddha bringing understanding to how an ego-personality, or anatta, arises. Once understood and seen clearly that all stress and unhappiness, the generally unsatisfactory nature of life, dukkha, is rooted in ignorance, the path rooted in Right View can be engaged with and true wisdom developed.
Life is experienced in very determined ways, due to conditioned thinking. Reactions to people and events that bring pleasure will all have a similar reaction and a similar re-occurring desire for more of the person or event. This forms additional clinging. Reactions to people and events that are disappointing will also bring a similar reaction and a similar reoccurring desire for less of the person or event. This forms additional aversion, a form of clinging, the desire for less of an experience.
From a lack of understanding or deluded thinking, craving and aversion arise. These three characteristics of craving, aversion and deluded thinking are all aspects of dukkha. The Buddha described life in the phenomenal world as Noble Truths. The first Noble Truth is that “There Is Suffering.” This is taught as a condition of human life. Simply as a consequence of living in a human body with its six-sense base, there will be disappointment and suffering.
From clinging to the deluded belief that an ego-personality can and should have a permanent and substantial existence, and that existence can be established and protected by desire, or an act of ego-arisen willpower, suffering arises and is reinforced as long as conditioned thinking remains.
It is possible to interrupt conditioned thinking and bring an end to clinging, craving, aversion, and deluded thinking. The Eightfold Path is the path to end all conditioned thinking and develop clear vision. As clear vision is developed, impermanence, disappointment, and the ego-personality are mindfully recognized. From mindful recognition clinging to the unrealistic, self-perpetuating and self-delusional views arising from conditioned thinking are abandoned.
Through understanding developed through the Eightfold Path, life in the phenomenal world is understood. The inherent unsatisfactory nature of life is understood. The ego-driven attempt to seek only what the six-sense base deems pleasurable or to avoid what is unpleasant is mindfully abandoned. The struggle against reality ends.
Living a human life fully accepting of what occurs moment-by-moment becomes the greatest joy.
My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland and Maurice Walsh, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
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