IGNORANCE AND ALSO NO ENDING OF IGNORANCE,
UNTIL WE COME TO NO OLD AGE AND DEATH AND
NO ENDING OF OLD AGE AND DEATH."
This part of
the Sutra refers to the formula of the Twelve Links in the Chain
of Existence: These are in the sphere of the five skandhas. As we
have seen, the five skandhas were found empty; consequently the
twelve links are also void. Pratyeka-buddha or the saint of the
middle vehicle who practices the Dharma of the Twelve Links and
who attained enlightenment by that means was liberated from his/her
allotment of birth and death, but has not reached the realm of buddhahood.
The Buddha taught the Prajna Paramita Sutra to bring people closer
to the attainment of buddhahood by means of a deep understanding
of all dharmas as manifestations of Reality and Emptiness.
with superior wisdom and the highest potential, who understands
that all Dharmas are void can attain buddhahood immediately. The
attainment of Pratyeka-buddha is the outcome of his practice based
on the Dharma of the Twelve Links in the Chain of Existence, or
causes and conditions. Causes and conditions act as support for
the twelve links, which confuses people further. Ignorance conditions
karmic action, action conditions consciousness, consciousness conditions
name and form, name and form condition the six sense doors (sense
organs), the six sense organs condition contact, contact conditions
sensation, sensation conditions craving, craving conditions grasping,
grasping conditions becoming, becoming conditions birth, birth conditions
old age and death, sorrow, pain, grief, lamentation, despair and
anguish. The Twelve Links of Existence in combination with causes
and conditions illustrate how confusion contributes to human suffering.
Let me explain:
the context of the Buddha's teaching means either not knowing or
knowing incorrectly; the term is interchangeable with confusion.
Assumptions based on ignorance support or condition unskilful actions.
Action rooted in confusion reinforces the bias generated by ignorance.
is the prime agent in the selection of conditions for rebirth: If
there is confusion present during the intermediate existence between
death and rebirth, proper conditions for the next existence will
not be recognized. In this respect it is the consciousness that
conditions name and form.
Name and form
at the beginning of a new existence are simply the sperm of the
father, combined with the ovum and blood of the mother; the form
already exists, but the name part has yet to develop. The eighteen
realms that will eventually come into existence will be conditioned
from the very beginning by name and form.
The six organs
develop on the basis of corporeality and of the natures of seeing,
hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and knowing, with a discriminatory
bias already built in. The six senses develop on the bases of the
six organs: The six organs, being the sense doors, condition contact.
place when a sense organ produces sense data in response to stimulation.
In the case of a newly born, the earliest experience is tactile:
There is an abrupt change of environment in terms of temperature
and texture, causing intense discomfort in the newborn baby, making
it cry. The contact conditions sensation.
As the range
of stimuli widens, diversity of contact increases; the material
sense-organs develop accordingly, each becoming progressively specialized
and its own realm more and more specific. Eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body and mind develop preferences and aversions, giving rise to
greed and anger. Therefore it is said that sensation conditions
Craving is sometimes
interpreted as thirst. Initially, it is the thirst for the continuation
of one's existence, construed as independent. That notion is the
anchor for the impulse to grasp.
inevitably to clinging which brings new becoming in its wake.
be described as setting the stage for new birth. It is the unavoidable
outcome of grasping.
Birth is conditioned
by becoming. It introduces a new round in the cyclic pattern of
existence; because there is birth, old age and death automatically
Old age and
death require care and produce pain, grief and anguish. Most humans,
when approaching death, are ravaged by grief and anxiety. They hold
on to their thirst for existence entrenched through lifelong habits;
their suffering and their fear are similar to what a tortoise experiences
when its shell is removed. Death and dying are frequently accompanied
by manifestations of grief.
and all the suffering in between arise because of ignorance and
supportive conditions, and the ordinary people have no choice but
to continue the cycle of rebirths in the six realms. Pratyeka-buddha
understands the source of defilement and of birth and death. Upon
hearing the Dharma of the Twelve Links in the Chain of Existence
he/she will generate the mind of Tao and practice to end his or
her own suffering. He/she will attain the path and fruit of the
middle vehicle thereby ending the allotment of birth and death.
To free oneself
from confusion or ignorance is requisite for right or correct practice.
When ignorance is eliminated, all delusory activity ceases. There
is no more fuel to feed delusion and thus consciousness is extinguished,
meaning there is no more birth, no more death. With the six sense
organs extinguished there is no more contact. In the absence of
contact and sensation, there is no longer any greed or hatred, no
craving and therefore no grasping (no karmic activity); without
grasping there can be no becoming, which means that all future rebirths
are extinguished. Without birth there is no aging and death and
that is the end of pain, grief, lamentation and anguish.
The Buddha taught
the Prajna Paramita Dharma to awaken practitioners to the teaching
of the Void and to make them receptive to it. The Chinese term Wu
(none) implies putting an end to grasping; to understand the essential
Void of all existence is to understand the True Mind. To see one's
Self Nature enables swift attainment of buddhahood, because when
ignorance is recognized as void, there is nothing left to break
off. Therefore the sutra says "also no ending of ignorance."
Because, originally, there is no such thing as old age and death
(they are the product of the conceptual mind), the sutra says "until
we come to no old age and death and to no ending of old age and