Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Duncan Oct 24, 1993
Last week I introduced the law of cause and effect. It tries to take something not easy to validate and put it in a way so we can see how we create who we are. In Buddhism there is no limit you can put on time and space. There is no initial or first moment, nor is there going to be a final moment for the physcical universe at large. So there is no scheeme of beginning. That is what the law of cause and effect deals with.
For example, if we were to take the universe so to speak, they say it goes through expansion, abiding, contraction and then a state of emptiness. In regards to that, it is not that there is nothing happening. This is a cycle so you would have a time of emptiness, then slowly the birth and expansion of the universe, the abiding of the universe, and then the contraction and destruction which then brings again the time of emptiness. At the time of emptiness, it refers to that there is no material substance what is actually available for sentient beings to take rebirth on. ......(bad tape)...
When you die, your body becomes more subtle. So actually, the physical world, I think in some ways, spirits, ghosts and such, have some awareness, have some interplay with the physical world but it is not very strong and is much more subtle. They can go through walls and whatever, so they have no limitation. So their state of existence is subtle. Well when the world system is completely destroyed, the minds of sentient beings are not destroyed. Merely they absorb back to very refined states of being, and until there is another physicial possibility to reanimate to a more coarse level of awareness, then they will remain there like asleep for most of us, becuase that subtle level of cosnciousness is not easily consciously accessable to us. So it is said that for example, let's move away from the universe beucase the universe is inconcelvable to talk about the whole nine yards.
Let's talk about world systems. It is said that as many as there are grains of sands on the River Ganges, there are world systems in the universe. Within that, take our world system, they say our world system will exist for a certain period of time and then will burn itself up and become empty. At that time, it is not that just so to speak, we evaporate into space and become non existent, but rather our mind streams will go to a subtle state. And we as the sentient beings of this planetary system will in mass migrate and look for other world systems to take rebirth in. And so in one in Buddhism, there is no limitation to life styles or entities that can have life systems.
In this world system we have humanoid existence, in other world systems, if humanoid style is not available, we as sentient beings would take the available forms of that new world system......(bad tape)...
They say that the existence of beings in a perfect world system would be eighty thousand years. That is the life span of these entities, and our body would not be a coarse physcial body of energy with a lot of energy attributes.So if it takes you every thousand years, you were to loose one year off your life span, so you have eighty thousand years, every thousand years that pass, you take one year off the lifespan, and then go another thousand years, and take another year off your life span, But this of course, you have to live eighty thousand years. So those beings arevery long living. So it has to slowly degenerate all the way down to the sentientbeings who are living about twenty or thirty years........(bad tape)...........
So the universe will expand, abide, and contract. This is thetimes table in the Abidharma. So there is non this time scale, an inconceivable time for things to happen. I enjoy, this is my commentary on it, if you think of the dinsaours, they were around for millions of years. And they are all gone now. Then mamals came around, and finally, humans! We have been around so shortly according to the time of dinasours. So when you think arlong those lines, then you can see that the Buddhist concept of time is not too far away fron what can seen as conceivable!
I was trying about karma. In that from the Buddhist point of view, we aare our own creator. And we don't have to worry about, I have been creating myself for two or three thousand years, your mnd stream has been around for as long as there has been time and space. And so you have had infinite options of rebirths. It is a mind game and cannot be proved, ut it is interesting.
How it is that you are right nowas you are, sitting in this room and experencing yourself, is within that total scheeme of that you have beencreating yourself and been evolving through different states of existence. According to your view, according to the situations you were born into and how you handled the situations. This is within the over all idea of cause and effect.
It is said that one should always apapreciate that the law of cuase and effect is realy that to have an effect, you have to have something that is in it's time continuun. For example, if we have a carnation. There is noway that is going to come from a pansy seed. Carnation's continuity of karmic flow definitely has to be previous carnation. And we could get specific, that theh type of flower this one has, the scent, whatecer, it has to have it's continuity.
Within that idea, the law of cuase and effect is that nothing happens out of nothingness. For example, if things were possible to come out of nothingness, then we would have common expectations of maybe elephants suddenly appearing in the room. Why not? If something can come out of nothing, then suddely an elephant could appear here and then dissapear also! But that is not the case.
That is saying to us that we should be conscious and recgonize that anything that we look to, the carpet, the sky, the flowers and so on, all are within the continuity of a particular flow of cause and effect. So we don't have odd ball things! There is nothing out of wack!
Everything according to the law of causes and effect is manifesting through causes and is related to everything else. And it is in the process of changing. Nothing is permanent. There is a continuous flow and transmutstion of change going on. And that is exactly how the Buddha taught it. There is no new elaboration on that. The Buddha of two thousand years ago taught the continuity termed asthe law of cause and effect.
To put some understanding to it, becuase we as sentient beings have a dynamic mind, we have the ability to look ath things and determine what options we have, so how do we understand ourselves? How do we think about ourselves? Because, we do have options. So how to reflect on oneself in a way that isgoing to be consctructive. We don't want to get hairy fairy and try to solve the riddles of the universe. That would bedifficult. But we can look a little and see who am I, what is the continuity of myself, how have I been creating myself. how can I dymanically cnage myself? What sort of forces can bring to play within myself to make change!
Those are the sorts of things which these teachings are for. And that is the general idea of the law of cause and effect.
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