This year we will be exploring the Dhamma of Dependent Origination. It is often considered a complex topic that’s hard to grasp but this isn’t necessarily true. Buddha taught this topic to anyone and everyone regardless of status, class, education level and/or family. He once said that whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination, whoever sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma and whoever sees the Dhamma sees the Buddha. I take this to mean that dependent origination is another way of practicing with the whole of Buddha’s teaching through one door. It is about understanding self and non-self in a more accessible way. If we are able to understand what is meant by self and non-self, we are halfway to the idea of Awakening.
So let us begin on the ground floor. At its core, duality means separate. It means the existence of two separate things; each independently controlled. It means what happens to you has nothing to do with me and no matter how the world is around me, I can still control the outcome of my life; my world. In this view, I may believe that I will be somewhat impacted by the world but I can still insulate and provide protection for me and mine so that the impact is minimal, or at the very least, lessened.
Most of the world lives within this view. We live pushing and pulling our way through life trying to insulate and protect ourselves from the perceived separate outer world. This is the view Buddha lived in before his awakening. In my opinion, Buddha had what I would call a paradigm shift in understanding at his awakening that enabled him to see that truth lay more in his relationship with the world. He saw how conditional everything is to each moment of existence. This arises because this arises; relinquishment of this means relinquishment of this; when this is present this is also present and when this is not present this is not present.
Buddha saw that all phenomenon is therefore co-arising in relationship to something else. When certain conditions come together phenomenon arises and when the conditions change (even slightly), the phenomenon changes. Moreover, life is movement and movement means change. Buddha saw that what he called the world is constantly changing and that this change was lawful, natural, unreliable and, therefore, unrelated to him. Since he had no control over the change, all of his security measures were always falling apart causing him to have to be vigilant in rebuilding them. And he saw that this constant building and rebuilding of protective measures for himself was not only painful; it was futile. Buddha realized that his release from suffering; his middle way – was in his relationship with the present phenomenon.
Over the course of the year, we will talk about the twelve links that represent the intersections of self and non-self; or rather the twelve places where our relationship with life leads towards suffering or towards liberation.
One last thing…
Life is as life is. Conditions will come together in pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and ill repute. Our job is not to make sure we get the good, positive conditions. Our job is to learn skillful means so that in either conditions we will bring kindness, not cause additional harm and to let go of the need to get our way.