There is a difference in thinking in two distinct Buddhist languages: relative truth and ultimate truth. In the language of relative truth people await death in order to be reborn—to becoming and birth. The words bhava and jati, or becoming and birth (one carnation in a moment)—as two of the conditions within the circle of samsara, or reincarnation, called Paticcasamuppada or Dependent Origination—these words do not mean birth from your mother’s womb. But rather a non-material kind of birth, a birth that arises from some attachment which stirs up the feeling of being, becoming or “I”. Thus, it is the “I” that is born, every time there is an attachment.
Thus, the words becoming-bhava and birth-jati in terms of two languages are:
- The language of ultimate truth, the language of Dharma for those who study, think and practice Dharma.
- The language of relative truth, the language of ordinary people.
According to the language of relative truth, we are born once of the physical body and then die and go to heaven before being reborn into another physical body. We might forget that this is the case, but as one ages or gets sick or has a severe accident, we are reminded that death is inevitable—and of course it is, from this perspective.
However, in the language of ultimate truth we may be born many times in one day, as each time the “I” concept arises it sets in motion one turning of the wheel of Dependent Origination, or becoming and birth.
Again here are the following 11 conditions of the Paticcasamuppada-chain in sequence of their arising:
From beginning to end:
Ignorance gives rise to consciousness;
Consciousness gives rise to mental concocting;
Mental concocting gives rise to mentality of the material world;
Mentality of the material world gives rise to the sense bases (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch, body);
The sense bases give rise to feeling;
Feeling gives rise to craving;
Craving gives rise to attachment;
Attachment gives rise to becoming;
Becoming gives rise to birth of the “I”;
Birth of the “I” gives rise to suffering, old age and death.
In reverse order:
Suffering arises because of birth;
Birth arises because of becoming;
Becoming arises because of attachment;
Attachment arises because of craving;
Craving arises because of feeling;
Feeling arises because of contact;
Contact arises because of the sense bases;
The sense bases arise because of mentality of the material world;
Mentality of the material world arises because of consciousness;
Consciousness arises because of mental concocting;
Mental concocting arises because of ignorance.
Thus, in one month there may be many thousands of births; in a year over a million; in one physical life time there may be trillions of becomings and births!
You may be asking yourself, why is this important? Well, the whole hypothesis, or whole thesis, treatise or, if you may, doctrine of Buddha’s enlightenment is based on the total understanding of what suffering means, and it was the origin of the chain of suffering, called Dependent Origination, Paticcasamupada the Buddha discovered before he was enlightened.
In other words, it was discovered by Buddha that suffering arises by means of these conditions or stages. When there is some form of sense contact, such as you see your mother-in-law and you are immediately fixated on her negativity, this attachment brings forth ignorance. This feeling becomes dominant—when mindfulness isn’t present—then consciousness arises immediately where it takes over your mental concocting—and then maybe the look of her, her hair do, her voice, all conjure up in you, in your mind, your material existence, a disastrous event. Then you feel full of memories of how she treated you the last time you saw her. You might attach to these memories and associate these memories with a chronic condition of IBS where you often suffer, that takes over your present state of who you are, and you become and give birth to being that upset, sick and suffering “I”. Now the suffering is complete, until several hours after she departs.
Paticcasamupada is to teach us that there is no self, there is no such thing as a soul, an ego. Many people believe that the soul is a lasting entity that keeps returning life after life. But to the Buddha the soul is a conditioned event that simply arises by the law of conditionality; that it is the result of Dependent Origination, which arises for a moment and then disappears.
Thus Paticcasamupada demonstrates that there is no such thing as a soul or a self. The soul is merely a series of events (paticca-samuppanna-dhamma), where events-moments arise quickly one after the other and are dependent on the previous conditions. And if the soul is not extinguished, suffering will continue to happen, with these conditions arising over and over again. And if these events are absent or disappear then there is no soul and suffering goes away.
Suffering is ultimately dissolved and doesn’t arise by following the Eightfold Path. Namely, the cessation of suffering is eminent by a practice of staying awake to these 11 conditions of Dependent Origination, every moment of the day, by correct living or “Right livelihood”. Correct living means living in such a manner of mindful presence that wisdom doesn’t allow ignorance, and if needed, knowledge, experience and intuition enhance wisdom. Correct living means living in mindful presence all of the time, especially when there is contact between the sense bases and sense objects. And on a path of Right Livelihood with perfected mindfulness all of the time, suffering doesn’t arise.