Mike Austin: At what stage do you see mankind’s evolution? For instance, if you were to look at the entire human race as one person, would you say we’re in childhood, adolescence, adulthood?
Dalai Latma: According to the general Buddhist teaching - Buddhist scriptures - sometimes the world is better, sometimes worse. Now if you speak about the period of one aeon, then our era is still childhood, but within a smaller period, it is old. I will explain.
According to the Abhidharmakosha, one great aeon is composed of eighty intermediate aeons in four groups of twenty. The first twenty are aeons of vacuity. The vacuity is the absence of the last world system. They are followed by twenty aeons of formation of the new world system; then twenty aeons of abiding; then twenty aeons of destruction of that system. Right now we’re in the aeons of abiding. Within these twenty intermediate aeons of abiding, we are in the first long period of decline. So, as this one is coming down, there are eighteen ups and downs afterwards. Then the twentieth goes on up.
Now we are in the first downward one, at the point in which the average lifespan is around a hundred years. In terms of this first period of decline, we are far along in it, and thus, old, but in terms of the twenty aeons of abiding, we are only at the beginning.
Mike Austin: Is this panoramic view from scriptural sources only?
Dalai Latma: Yes.
Mike Austin: Is that the only proof that can be cited for this picture of time and space?
Dalai Latma: I think so; probably just scriptural. But forgot about all these aeons, it’s even difficult for us to explain in terms of science the nearest star. Quite difficult.
Mike Austin: Where it is, or what it’s like?
Dalai Latma: What is its real cause, and so forth. What I’m talking about is one world system within a billion worlds, like explaining one galaxy.
Mike Austin: OK, let’s go right to the beginning then. What is the Buddhist view of the origin of the universe?
Dalai Latma: In terms of matter, it’s really energy. In terms of the internal beings, or persons, the force that produces them is that of the actions they have accumulated, which cause them to be reborn in that way.
Mike Austin: Dealing first with the matter side of it, inanimate matter. What is the energy by which phenomena manifest?
Dalai Latma: In terms of the elements, wind is first. Its basis is space. Then the wind moves, and in dependence on that, heat occurs; then moisture, then solidity - the earth element. If you have to explain what the initial wind is a continuation of, then probably it comes out of the period of vacuity of the former world system.
In any case, it’s infinite. If you speak about one world within a world system of a billion worlds, then you can speak about a beginning; otherwise, in general, you can’t.
Mike Austin: But what is the direct cause, initially, of space; and secondly, of this wind or energy you are speaking about.
Dalai Latma: If you’re speaking externally, then just what I said; the period of vacuity of the former world system.
Mike Austin: Energy spontaneously arises from vacuity?
Dalai Latma: It’s natural, not something fabricated, but behind that is karmic force.
Mike Austin: What is this karmic force?
Dalai Latma: Of course, it’s necessary to explain karma. Karma means action. For instance, I’m speaking now, and that’s a verbal act. I’m moving my hands, and that’s a physical act. Then there are mental actions which are cases in which there isn’t any physical or verbal manifestation.
Due to these actions, there are both immediate and long - range results. Because of our speaking, a certain atmosphere is generated here and that’s an immediate effect. However, our speaking also establishes a potency, or makes an imprint on the continuum of the mind. Through this imprint there come to be further good, bad and neutral actions long after the original ones stop.
Thus there are good, bad and neutral karmas. There is this state of cessation - the state of the activity’s having ceased - and this remains in the mental continuum. This state of cessation is an affirming negative - an absence which includes something positive. It is a potency which is not just the mere cessation of the action, but has the capacity of producing an effect in the future. These states of cessation are capable of regenerating moment by moment until an effect is produced. When it meets with the proper conditions, it fructifies, or matures. It doesn’t make any difference how much time passes. It could even be billions of aeons. If one hasn’t engaged in a means to cause the potency to be reduced - such as confession and intention of restraint in the case of bad actions - then it will just remain.
Mike Austin: Where does it remain?
Dalai Latma: With the continuum of the mind. There are two bases that are explained for this imprint. One is continual, the other temporary. The temporary one is the mental continuum, and the continual one is the mere “I”, the relative self of a person.
Mike Austin: Not getting into such detail yet, but going all the way back to the beginning, what is the most basic difference between mind and matter?
Dalai Latma: Matter is physical; mind is mere illumination and knowing.
Mike Austin: What has caused this mind?
Dalai Latma: As regarding the causes of mind, there is a substantial cause, as well as cooperative conditions - an empowering condition and an observed object condition. This last condition - the object which is perceived - could be a form; but a form, a physical thing, cannot be the substantial cause of a mind. It must be something that, itself, is illuminating and knowing. For instance, when I look at the tape recorder, my eye consciousness has as its observed object condition the tape recorder. Its empowering condition - that which enables it to see colour and shape - is the sense power of the eye, but its substantial cause (also called its preceding condition), which generates it into an entity that is illuminating and knowing, must be a previous moment of illumination and knowing, a previous moment of consciousness.
Mike Austin: That entity which is illuminating and knowing: what has caused that? Is that spontaneous, too? Where does that originally come from?
Dalai Latma: And thus there’s no beginning to the mind.
Mike Austin: There is no beginning to the mind...
Dalai Latma: No ending, either. With regard to specific minds and consciousnesses, there are beginnings and ends, but with regard to this mere factor of illumination and knowing, there’s no beginning or end. Now, with some consciousnesses, there are cases where there is no beginning, but there is an end. For instance, an afflictive emotion. When you finally remove a specific mental affliction such as jealousy, then the continuum of that consciousness meets its end. The very nature of mind is that it is this thing which is illuminating and knowing. Right? There isn’t anything further.
Mike Austin: That satisfies you to say it’s just nature?
Dalai Latma: There are four types of investigation of phenomena. One is by way of dependence, such as seeing that smoke depends on fire. Another is to notice the functions of things. The third is by way of reasoning; proving correctness or incorrectness. The last is the recognition that such and such is the object’s nature.
For instance, that we want happiness is just our nature. There’s nothing else to discover. Now, with regard to universal causation, either you have to accept a creative deity, or you have to accept that the universe is beginningless. There’s no other way; there’s no other possibility.