We need to get an idea of what is the twelve Nidanas (the twelve links in the chain of existence):
1. Ignorance (avidya) 2. Karma formation (samskara) 3. Consciousness (vijnana) 4. Name and form (namarupa) 5. Six senses of organs (sadayatana) 6. Touch (sparsa) 7. Feeling (vedana) 8. Love – thirst, desire, craving, affection (trsna) 9. Grasp (upadana) 10. Existing (bhava) 11. Birth (jati) 12. Old age and death (jaramarana)
In the Twelve Nidanas, the Buddha analyzed carefully that feeling bears love. Feeling is enjoyment, then it bears love. Love means selfish affection or craving. Thus, feeling always bears love, and enjoyment creates selfishness. This is a regulation of psychology. What that makes us happy is what that makes us desire. And eventually, we become selfish.
For instance, alcoholics have no responsibility for themselves, for their family, for their society. They are selfish to make others suffer. A retribution for what they have done is unsound minds. Why? Because they enjoy feeling drunk, they don’t want to be sound. It is a cause of insanity. There are some causes that lead people to insanity and getting drunk is the one of them. Because they cause others to suffer, their blessings are gone fast. Most of mental patients have no blessing. If alcoholics are left with a little blessing, they can release themselves from drunk.
Drug addicts have extremely strong and negative feelings. They will disregard moral principles or gratitude or relationship. They have no personality or dignity. They are only concerned with finding any possible way to get their drug addiction satisfied. The result of their evil doing is that they will be drowned in the sea of extreme suffering. They live in absolute selfishness. The retribution for drug dealers is that they will be reborn down to hell.
Drug and alcohol use can raise feelings of enjoyment, and selfishness. Selfishness is a cause of suffering and is one of the three types of sufferings. And this is the truth. For that reason, our Buddhists must try to avoid taking the earthly pleasures.
Selfishness also comes from inhumanity. It is because people are selfish that they treat others in an inhuman way. If their minds are filled with wickedness, then they are creating their bad karma, and will receive horrible retribution for that in their future. In present, they have no peace of minds or health at all. This is a natural process.
Selfishness is a cause of jealousy. People only want to be first, and anyone else to be second to them. If someone seems better than they are, they don’t feel comfortable, and they look for some evil way to harm that person. They will receive bad retribution later.
For example, there are two best friends, Alex and Bill, who have been getting along for a while. One day, Bill realizes Alex is respected by their friends more than he is. Day by day, Bill’s jealousy arises.
Although, they are still very close, yet Bill doesn’t want Alex to be adored by others. This is a feeling of jealousy.
If we don’t want people to be loved, we will be alone as a result. It is the important causality. People who have no friends, or no love from their relatives did have a cause of jealousy. They didn’t want others to be loved. They felt jealous if others are loved. Their result for their jealousy is that they will live a lonely life.
Secluded has meaning different from alone or lonely. Secluded life is to live by oneself. Maybe it’s people’s choice to be isolated for their practice. Lonely or alone life is to live without having love. Some people are secluded, not lonely. Others are lonely, not secluded, while others are secluded and lonely, too.
Secluded but not lonely means that someone lives alone, however, many people living in different places are thinking of him/her with their love and caring. It means he/she still has love from others.
Lonely but not secluded means that a person lives with others, but he/she still feels lonely because no one loves him/her. Or he/she has no real people in whom they can confide.
The cause of loneliness comes from their past lives when they used to prevent people from loving together. They don’t know it would turn out that they would have nobody love them in present.
Therefore, we should be aware of causality, so as not to receive a bad retribution later. We should try to connect people’s love to others, make people happy, then we can get a reward of happiness and love.
Speaking ill of someone is a cause of loneliness. We should be careful with what we say about others. If we speak ill of this person to that person, so that person doesn’t love this person any more, then we will not be loved, as well. It is a small retribution. The worst retribution for speaking ill of a Saint is that we will go to hell when we die. Or if we speak against someone who must be in jail due to our slander, we will also receive the worst result.
When talking about the cause of suffering, we realize the three kinds: psychological suffering, corporal suffering, and causal suffering. We not only just receive a bad retribution from our doing evil now, we also keep creating bad karma in present. As a result, we are always in the Circle of Birth. The very Circle of Birth is the extreme suffering of which the Buddha warned us, and then He showed the path to guide us out of the Circle of Birth.
If selfishness is a cause of suffering, then generosity is a cause of happiness. So, if people live selflessly, they can feel happiness.
Ignorance causes people to clinging to ego. Clinging to ego creates selfishness. And selfishness causes countless sins that make people suffer.
If there is generosity suddenly arising in activities of mind against selfishness, then people can live charitably and selflessly. They can do anything to make others happy. They can do charity. They can sacrifice themselves to do good for others. This is people’s conscience. Human beings by nature have the two kinds of conscience: good and evil. When good conscience is bigger, people are inclined to the good, which help people feel happy and peaceful. If people are always willing to help others, then they will get back three kinds of happiness. Psychologically, they themselves feel happy. In addition, the persons who are given feel love for the givers. This doesn’t need a reward. This kind of love is a reward by itself. Any time we help people get through their difficulties, happiness naturally comes to our minds. Second, a good relationship between the givers and receivers will arise to color life. Life by itself is suffering that comes from a feeling of people’s hatred for others. So, if love is used to water and color life, then suffering can be lessened. Third, people can receive much good luck, blessings and happiness, because of their good doing.
Why is the notion laid down as a principle that ignorance causes people to cling to their egos, that clinging to ego creates selfishness, and therefore that selfishness is a cause of suffering? Human beings all have ignorance, and so cling to their ego, which is selfishness, and as a result, they are plunged into the sea of suffering. People just go around in this circle without having an exit to get out.
Yet, why can we get out of the principle? Why can suddenly we realize something different as we do good for others and give love to others? This means that we are kind-hearted, generous, moral, and conscious to distinguish between goodness and evil.
This is a difference between human beings and animals.
When scientists analyzed genes, they realized that gene of the gibbon is only one of two less than that of human beings. This discovery surprised the scientists. Why gibbon’s gene is only a little different from that of human beings, and they are animals having no wisdom and never having civilized? Why, when human gene is only a little more than that of the gibbon, humans have flown to Mars and have created a lot of the great works? Maybe, in the differences between human and gibbon, there is a gene called “conscience” that helps humans distinguish between humanity and inhumanity. This is the very especial point that people have a right to stand for the wisdom in this planet.
Thanks to conscience, we are human beings. However, being a human is not easy or has any assurance. One day, if the conscience is shadowed and human beings no longer know what good deeds or misdeeds are, they will become animals. Therefore, we need to know what to do and how to do it, so that we can keep our conscience clearer and clearer. From this point, we can see an idea that we might not be human beings forever, and one day we can become saints, if we can absolutely make our conscience bright through practice Buddhism.
Nobody can subjectively suppose themselves to be smart enough to find out any moral theory. This subjective supposing is arrogant. We must be humble and diligently to study Dharma that helps us keep our conscience brighter and brighter.
Through this matter clearly being analyzed, we express our deepest gratitude and greatest respect for our Buddha. He came to the earth to give us the great stream of the Truth.
We live and learn His teachings everyday. We practice His teachings everyday. Consequently, our consciences are better and better, which help us keep being humans. One day, we can become saints. This is thanks to our Buddha. We, as humans, can never sufficiently pay His great help back. Our deep gratitude is also towards the Patriarchs, who have followed our Buddha to keep His teachings spreading to us. Today, we have Dharma to better ourselves thanks to the Buddha’s disciples.
Because we have our good conscience, we are against selfish reasons for doing good deeds or helping others. If a better conscience is increasingly developed, people will be conscious of destroying their selfishness, then they can get free from suffering. Supposing that conscience is blurred with evil thoughts, selfishness is increased, then people will keep suffering forever.
The conscience that can distinguish between the good and the bad is called wisdom. If our wisdom increases to the utmost, we can reach the Enlightenment.
This point need to be analyzed, from which we can get help to become saints.
There are three levels to draw a clear distinction between animals, human beings, and saints. If we have an understanding about this core, then we can make our practice easier.
Human beings are between animals and saints.
In the normal animal’s mind, there is no area of conscience, no distinguishing between the goodness and the misdeed. Some animals can be smart to do good, because they have good sensibility or past good lives when they were human beings.
People have the conscience to distinguish between sin and blessing, and this is the important point that we can practice Buddhism. If we can make our conscience grow into great wisdom, from which we always distinguish between the good and the bad, then we can reach to the third stage: sainthood.
Thus, to become saints, what do people need to do? They are only to have wisdom to distinguish goodness and misdeed.
The key of our practice to become saints is that we know how to get our wisdom developed to distinguish between the good and evil. To build up our conscience and wisdom to utmost, we must practice the Eight-Fold Path.
We fully understand the key of our practice, and we know for sure that the process of practice the Eight-Fold Path will require us hard labor and a long time. When we specify the key of practice that is the distinguishing between sin and goodness, we should always concentrate in this point.
Some people may think practice Buddhism is the way to get a peaceful mind, because they consider the peaceful mind as saint’s mind, as true happiness. In fact, that concept is completely wrong. A peaceful mind is a cause of goodness. When a person lives in a good life, thinks of goodness, speaks good, does good deeds, then his/her mind will get peaceful. In this case, this person only keeps his/her result without actively striving for their practice. Whereas, practice Buddhism to become saints relies on wisdom that can distinguish between sin and goodness.
Supposing that mango trees are bearing fruits, one person takes care of roots, while another only takes care of fruits. The person taking care of roots is doing right, since he can enjoy good harvest. If people only keep their peaceful minds in practice, then they are just like the person who only takes care of fruits. On the contrary, practitioners who use their wisdom to differentiate between good deeds and bad deeds are the one who take care of the root.
Now, we are sure to get the key of practice, so we can improve and develop our wisdom to differentiate the good and the bad. This is the Eight-Fold Path.