The explanation of the way of taking birth in cyclic existence based on the twelve members of dependent arising is like a presentation of the basis: the contaminated actions, afflictive emotions and suffering. Now, can the mind be separated from this ignorance or not? This is something you have to look into. No matter what type of consciousness you consider, it is connected with familiarization. No matter, how much you develop a mistaken consciousness, since it doesn't have a valid foundation certified by valid cognition, it cannot be increased limitlessly. However, if you become familiar with a non-mistaken consciousness, which has a valid foundation certified by valid cognition, even if you don't train a great deal in it, it will remain with you. To the degree that you continuously familiarize with it, it will increase and eventually can become limitless.
It is said that qualities that depend on the mind have a stable basis. Why is this?-because consciousness is said to have no beginning and no end. Mental qualities have a stable basis in that consciousness itself is the basis.
Once a mental quality is in the mind, it is in the mind with a certain force, and you don't have to exert that same force again to bring it up to the initial level. Thus when you train more, you will increase that quality.
It is in terms of this discussion of no beginning and no end to consciousness that cyclic existence itself is said to have no beginning and no end, which leads to the topic of rebirth. With regard to the one round of dependent arising explained above, for all twelve members to occur, at the slowest it takes three lifetimes, and the fastest they can be completed in is two lifetimes.
The topic of rebirth leads to the topic of reincarnation. Nowadays there are people who remember their former lifetimes. Recently in India there have been two cases that I have come across, both of small girls. For somebody who accepts former and future lifetimes, there's nothing amazing about this sort of phenomenon. But a person who does not accept former and future- lives should come up with some answer: through what sort of condition or causation does this memory take place?
Consciousness also has no end, but reaches its fulfillment in Buddhahood. Now there's no question of the afflicted levels of mind going on the Buddhahood, or even the coarser levels of consciousness. It is the subtlest level of consciousness that proceeds to and through Buddhahood. This subtlest level has existed since beginning less time and goes on to Buddhahood. When we die, our coarser levels of consciousness dissolve or cease and the final consciousness that manifests is this most subtle mind of clear light, it is this consciousness that makes the connection to the next lifetime.
The twelve branches of dependent arising can also be explained in terms of the obstructions to omniscience, with reference to Bodhisattvas on the three pure Bodhisattva grounds, the eighth, ninth and tenth grounds.
Since the root of our suffering is ignorance, it is from having an untamed mind that we meet with that root and suffer. Therefore we have to eliminate the ignorance in our mind stream that brings us suffering. Through taming the mind we will meet with suffer-ing. Now, since the mind needs to be tamed, there is a mode of taming the mind in terms of the mind itself. Then the trainer and that which is being trained are both the mind. So one has to become skilled in the presentation of mind. In Buddhist teachings a great deal of time is devoted to this.
Within our consciousness, the most untamed type of mind is called wrong ideas, wrong knowledge, or wrong consciousness. As one hears and becomes accustomed to teachings, one gradually rises to the level of doubt. There are three levels of doubt: the lowest being doubt that tends to what is wrong, the middling being equal doubt, which tends both to what is wrong and to what is right, and the highest being doubt that tends towards what right. Then, as one trains more doubt is transformed into correct assumption. From this level, by reflecting on reasons and so forth, one generates inference. Then by accustoming oneself to the inferential understanding, direct perception which realizes that object is gained.
In order to overcome these wrong consciousnesses or wrong ideas, many absurd consequences are set forth. At the point when you rise to the level of doubt it is possible to use reasoning to, generate an inferential understanding. Through this one develops the wisdom that discriminates phenomena. In the process, one gradually develops the wisdom arisen from hearing, from thinking and from meditation.
When one proceeds with this type of practice one gradually comes to see that there is indeed a possibility of transforming one's consciousness. From this point of view one can become convinced about the practice of non-violence. This first level is to restrain oneself from engaging in activities that harm others. The second level is to implement the antidotes to the mental factors that motivate bad actions. The third level is to overcome even the predispositions that have been established previously by afflictive emotions. Through reflecting on the view of dependent arising one sees the faults of cyclic existence, how suffering comes about, and one is drawn into the practice of these levels of non-violence.
In order to remove the latent predispositions established by the afflictive emotions, it is necessary first to eliminate the afflictive emotions. The removal of the afflictions, as well as of the predispositions established by them, is called the stage of Buddhahood. The mere removal of the afflictive emotions is called the stage of an Arhat or a Foe-Destroyer. The practice for overcoming the afflictive emotions and the predispositions established by them is like an offensive engagement. Prior to this it is important to engage in a defensive line of action, hence the importance of initially restraining ill-deeds of body and speech. The ultimate aim is to attain Buddhahood. But in the implementation of this one initially has to restrain one's ill-deeds of body and speech. Now, if with a selfish motive one commits a wrong action, such as killing, stealing, lying, adultery or slander, these bad actions of body and speech not only harm others, ultimately they will bring suffering upon oneself. Thus, even if one considers merely the violence one is bringing on oneself, it is necessary to restrain wrong actions of body and speech.
For this, it is helpful to reflect on impermanence. No matter now long our life is, there's limit to it, isn't there? Compared to the formation of the universe, and geological time, the human lifetime is very short. Even then, there isn't any guarantee that we'll live out the usual lifespan of 100 or even 60 years. In these circumstances, to concentrate all your energy, mental as well as physical on money or on wealth is only helpful for this life, which is uncertain and short. Reflecting on this will help reduce extreme greed, the desire to get something, no matter what the consequences.
Thinking about the current world situation also helps this practice, no matter how good material things become, they can't give the answer to life. Material progress alone is solving some problems, but at the same time it is producing new kinds of problems. Through our own experience we can realize that mere material progress is not sufficient. Thinking along these lines a conviction will grow, that harming others will bring loss to yourself. This is something to reflect on again and again. Also, at this stage, analyze the usefulness of the human brain, the body, the human condition, for it is really sad to use it in a harmful way.
For some people it is helpful to reflect on the three bad levels of transmigration, as hell beings, hungry ghosts or animals. If it is difficult to believe that there are hell-beings, we can just consider the suffering that the animals undergo, sufferings we can see with our own eyes. We should think about whether we could stand that sort of suffering, if we born in such circumstances. We can assume that in our minds we already have the predispositions from actions motivated by initial ignorance for rebirth as such animals. We need to think that we have within our continuums the substances which are just ready to develop into that kind of lifetime. And if we were born into that kind of life, what kind of suffering would we have? Up to now we have just been looking at them; now we should imagine: 'If I became like that, could I bear it or not?' When you think this way, you discover it's not what you want. Now what brings about this kind of suffering is violence towards others. This is the first level of reflection on the faults of violence and the need to restrain ill-deeds of body and speech.
Now there's no guarantee that if you restrain ill-deeds of body and speech in this lifetime you will do so in the next lifetime. Therefore the best defence is the second level of offensive engagement, training to overcome afflictive emotions. The afflictive emotions that bring us all this trouble are those mentioned in the twelve limbs of dependent arising. The basis of the afflictions is the ignorance which conceives of objects as inherently existing, which then induces varying degrees of desire, hatred, enmity, jealousy and so forth. These are the real trouble-makers. It is very clear in our present world, at the national or family level, all difficulties and problems are related to attachment, anger and jealousy.
When some other person seeks to harm us, we identify that person as an enemy. If this anger, this wish to harm, were the very nature of that person, it would be a different matter. But hatred, anger, and the wish to harm are actually peripheral mental factors affecting the mind. Although we do bad actions, we're thinking of doing bad actions all the time. It is the same for your enemy. The actual trouble-maker is not the person, not the being; it is his or her afflicted mind. The real enemy is within ourselves, not outside. As practitioners the real battle should take place within ourselves. It will take time, but it is the only way to minimize what I call the bad human qualities. And through this you will get more mental peace, not only in the next life, or after a long time, but day by day. The basic destroyer of our peace of mind is hatred or anger. All bad thoughts are trouble-makers, but anger is the most powerful.