2.3.2 Ignorance as Specified in the Solitary-realizer Dharma
In Vol. 12, No. 287 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra [Samyukta Agama], Buddha mentioned how He studied and practiced the Solitary-realizer Bodhi in the causal ground. He first observed and contemplated the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising in reverse order to infer and ascertain that mind-and-body came to be as the result of root consciousness’ entrance into the womb and the fact that all dharmas can only be traced back to the root consciousness because no any other dharma can give rise to this root consciousness. Based on this fact, the Buddha established the notion that all sentient beings possess eight consciousnesses.
After having ascertained and established this notion of eight consciousnesses, Buddha continued on to observe and contemplate the transmigration-gate of the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising in forward order all the way up to aging, illness, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and suffering in the phenomenal world and then turned next to the contemplation of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising in reverse order to find out why mind-and-body had been born out of the embryo-entering consciousness incessantly. He found out and realized that the answer is due to ignorance. Because of this ignorance, there is no end to the mental activities of the six consciousnesses, which continuously habituate attachment and induce the rebirth of mind-and-body in future lives from the embryo-entering consciousness. After completing such inference, Buddha further contemplated the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising in forward order and reaffirmed that there was no error in this conclusion. As a result, self-attachment was abandoned, the embryo-entering consciousness would no longer give rise to new mind-and-body after death, and the cycle of birth and death was eradicated.
Now that the incessant reappearance of mind-and-body is inferred to be the result of ignorance as deduced from the contemplation of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, what then is this ignorance specified in the Solitary-realizer Bodhi? This ignorance is the inability to infer or the unwillingness to believe that mind-and-body, also named the five aggregates, is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness; it is also the inability to accept the illusory nature of mind-and-body and the inability to infer and accept the fact that no dharma can give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness.
This explanation of ignorance can be found in the Buddha’s teachings as recorded in Vol. 12, No. 287 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra [Samyukta Agama]. In the sutra, The Buddha said: “When there is [embryo-entering] consciousness, mind-and-body comes to be; mind-and-body has [embryo-entering] consciousness as its condition.” He added: “When I reached this [embryo-entering] consciousness, I had to turn back and could not go beyond it.” These two sacred teachings can suitably be used to illustrate the ignorance in the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising.
Let us first look at the first teaching “When there is consciousness, mind-and-body comes to be; mind-and-body has consciousness as its condition”. If sentient beings are not aware that mind-and-body or the five aggregates are born out of the embryo-entering consciousness under the confluence of all necessary conditions and are not aware of the delusory nature of mind-and-body, they will tend to take the perceptive conscious mind (sixth consciousness) as everlasting and fail to see that this conscious mind is actually an arising and ceasing dharma, condition dependent, impermanent, and suffering. The arising and ceasing nature of the conscious mind can be easily observed and verified in our daily life. For example, the conscious mind ceases to exist during the period of dreamless sleep, accident induced coma or general surgical anesthesia. Hence, it is impermanent with a continuously arising and ceasing nature. However, why will this consciousness arise again in the next day after it ceases every night? Based on this, we can infer that there must be another permanent consciousness (the embryo-entering consciousness) that is capable of giving rise to the conscious mind again every morning after its cessation at night and allowing it to reconnect with the consciousness of the previous day. Therefore, we can conclude that “When there is consciousness, mind-and-body comes to be; mind-and-body has consciousness as its condition.”
From the second teaching “When I reached this consciousness, I had to turn back and could not go beyond it,” we learn that if there were another dharma that had given rise to the root consciousness—the embryo-entering consciousness tathāgatagarbha—then there would be yet another dharma that had given rise to this dharma and we would run into the fallacy of infinite regression. In this case, the practice of the emancipation-gate can never be accomplished because the fallacy creates an endless loop that explains nothing. Therefore, the teaching “When I reached this consciousness, I had to turn back and could not go beyond it” clearly tells us that mind-and-body is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness; no other dharma can produce the embryo-entering consciousness; nothing else exists primordially and everlastingly except this embryo-entering consciousness.
According to the above, we can conclude that the ignorance as specified in the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising in the Solitary-realizer Bodhi refers to the disbelief or denial of the permanent existence of the eighth consciousness and the firm insistence that all the sentient beings possess only mind-and-body or the six consciousnesses associated with the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and the mind.
This also means that the practice of contemplation of the emancipation-gate of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising has to be based on the affirmation and acceptance of the tenet of the eight consciousnesses deduced from the contemplation of the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising as a prerequisite. Without this premise that mind-and-body is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness inferred from the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising, the practice of the emancipation-gate through the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising will be futile. Thus, it is necessary to deduce from the Principle of the Ten Links of Dependent Arising that mind-and-body is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness and no other dharma can give rise to this root consciousness. Only then can the ignorance of self-view and self-attachment in the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising be eradicated and uprooted.
After having verified that the five aggregates of mind-and-body arise and cease incessantly and are delusory, and believing as well as accepting that it is not the state of nihilism after their elimination due to the existence of the eighth consciousness, practitioners can then subsequently and sequentially eliminate the self-view of believing in the permanent existence of the conscious mind and the further eliminate the self-attachment derived from the unwillingness to abandon the self-view. The practice of the Principle of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising can then be accomplished.
Under the premise of the affirmation and acceptance of the tenet of the everlasting embryo-entering consciousness, practitioners will no longer cling to the consciousness aggregate (the six consciousnesses) or the states in which the consciousnesses dwell. Hence, the conscious mind and the mental faculty are willing to be eliminated. Consequently, the embryo-entering consciousness will no longer give flow to the seeds of self-view, self-attachment, karmic commitment, and retribution. As these seeds cease to manifest their functions, the body in the intermediate existence between death and rebirth will not arise again. As a result, the embryo-entering consciousness will never reenter an embryo after the five aggregates as well as the eighteen elements are completely eradicated upon death and no new life of five aggregates will ever be born again in the three realms. Hence, there is no further rebirth of the five aggregates from the embryo-entering consciousness and the cycle of birth and death will be forever eradicated.
Hence, we know from Buddha’s teachings that the ignorance specified in the Sound-hearer Bodhi refers to the disbelief or the denial of the tenet of the eight consciousnesses that emphasizes the eternal existence of the eighth consciousness and the insistence on the tenet of the six consciousnesses instead. Such insistence will lead to the erroneous view of believing in the existence of the intrinsic nature of the six consciousnesses, i.e., self-view. When self-view has not been eliminated, self-attachment can never be eradicated. Without the elimination of self-view and self-attachment, we cannot realize liberation or liberate ourselves from the transmigration of birth and death in the three realms.
Next, we will introduce and elaborate on another aspect of the ignorance specified in the Principle of Dependent Arising. We have explained before that the goal of both the Solitary-realizer Bodhi and Sound-hearer Bodhi is to first eliminate self-view and self-attachment, followed next by the attainment of emancipation from the three realms. We have also mentioned that the premise to the eradication of self-view and self-attachment is the affirmation of the impermanence and selflessness of the aggregates, sense-field, and elements in addition to confirming the existence of the embryo-entering consciousness and accepting the tenet of eight consciousnesses. After having accepted the tenet of eight consciousnesses, we will understand that mind-and-body is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness and that the embryo-entering consciousness will exist by itself after the elimination of mind-and-body instead of total nothingness. In addition to the knowledge about this premise, we have to further eliminate both self-view and self-attachment. The elimination of self-attachment, however, can only be accomplished after self-view has been eliminated.
Sentient beings often erroneously think that the realization of no-self is accomplished when the conscious perceptive mind no longer engages in discursive thoughts or attaches to anything when encountering the sense objects. However, even when the conscious mind is void of any discursive thought or attachment, it is still a perceptive mind that clearly discerns and differentiates the various encountered sense objects. In Vol. 9 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra, Buddha said: “All kinds of conscious mind arise depending on the confluence of the manas [mental faculty] and the mental object as causes and conditions.” From this, we know that all kinds of consciousness mind, be them coarse, subtle, or extremely subtle, are all born out of the contact of the mental faculty and the mental object and are the conditioned arising-and-ceasing dharmas that belong to the consciousness aggregate of the five aggregates. Taking such consciousness mind as eternal and non-extinguishable constitutes self-view that takes the six consciousnesses of the consciousness aggregate as the true-self. So taking the conscious mind that is void of any discursive thought when encountering sense objects as no-self is mistaking the no-self in the Three-Vehicle Bodhi. Taking such no-self as a true dharma is exactly self-view. Elimination of self-attachment will be impossible without the elimination of such self-view.
The correct way to cultivate the Path to Liberation is to first ascertain and accept the tenet of eight consciousnesses, followed by the acceptance of the fact that mind-and-body is born out of the embryo-entering consciousness and that no other dharma can give rise to the embryo-entering consciousness. After having accepted the tenet of eight consciousnesses, the impermanent and illusory nature of the perceptive mind will need to be contemplated in addition to contemplating the impermanent and arising-and-ceasing nature of the material body. Moreover, the illusory nature of the mental faculty that constantly evaluates and makes decisions, even during dreamful and dreamless sleep, has to be contemplated as well. After having eradicated all these variant of self-view, the Three Fetters can then be eliminated to realize the first fruition of liberation. Subsequently, the ultimate fruition of liberation—the Solitary-realizer’s fruition of liberation through insight—can then be realized after prolonged observation and pondering while encountering circumstances as they arise so as to really eradicate the clinging and attachment to desire for the persistent and perpetual existence of the self.
The following excerpt from the Increasing-by-One Agama Sutra [Ekottara Agama] provides further elaboration:
What is the truth of the habituation of suffering? The so called discernment on sensations and craving, habituated tirelessly and craved and attached to constantly by the mental faculty, is the truth of the habituation suffering.
It means sentient beings crave for and attach to the subtle taste of the three sensations of pain, pleasure, and indifference or the five sensations of pain, pleasure, sorrow, joy, and indifference encountered in various states. Such attachment to and unwillingness to relinquish the various sensations will induce incessant and tireless habituation due to the imaginary nature (pervasive attachment to erroneous discrimination) of the mental faculty that craves and attaches to the subtle tastes of the various sensations. Such is the reason for the incessant agglomeration of various sufferings, the so called truth of the habituation of suffering or the truth of the origination of suffering.
The above sutra excerpt tells us the truth that if both the conscious mind and the mental faculty no longer crave for and attach to the sensations derived from the various sensual states, then all kinds of suffering caused by such craving and attachment can be eradicated. The non-craving and non-attachment of the conscious mind and mental faculty require not only the extinction of attachment to the five external sensations associated with sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch as well as the five self-belongings of money, sex, fame, food, and sleep, but also the eradication of the craving for and attachment to a self. When attachment to the self has been eradicated and the craving for self-view and self-attachment from the conscious mind and mental faculty have been subdued, the cycle of birth and death will end and there will no longer be transmigration in the three realms. Take smoking as an example; smokers crave for the sensation and taste of smoking. Such craving will tirelessly habituate them to continue to smoke, which will, in turn, intensify their craving for the sensation and taste of smoking. This is the reason why it is very difficult for smokers to quit smoking although they know very well the damage to their health caused by smoking. Likewise for drug addicts. They, of course, know the harmful consequences of drug abuse but have a hard time quitting because the numbing effect, pleasurable high, and induced hallucination will entice them to further crave for the sensation derived from continual drug use. Hence, as long as craving has not yet been eradicated, transmigration of birth and death will continue.
Likewise, the lustful desire of sexual intercourse between men and women practiced in the sexual yoga as propagated by the false Tibetan Buddhism has a similar nature because the sensation of sexual intercourse through such practice will reinforce the craving and attachment to sexual desire that is very hard to eliminate. In Vol.1 of the Expanded Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, a Book of Definitive Meaning, Buddha taught us: “Since time immemorial, all sentient beings have been going through transmigration due to their various lustful desire and greed. Sentient beings, regardless of their lineage, be them oviparous, viviparous, moisture-born or metamorphic, all have acquired their lives as the result of sexual desire; they should know that craving is the basic driving force of transmigration. Because of the various lustful desires that trigger the craving for sex, birth and death recur perpetually.” Hence, the obsessed attachment to the tactile sensational experienced during sexual intercourse perpetrated by the false Tibetan Buddhism is the basic driving force of transmigration. The reason for such obsession is due to ignorance: the inability to realize the impermanent and unreal nature of the contact and feeling of the six sense objects and the inability to realize the illusory and impermanent nature of the conscious mind, which result in taking the awareness of the conscious mind (the sixth consciousness) and the awareness void of discursive thoughts during sexual intercourse as the True Mind. The false Tibetan Buddhism establishes the lustful sexual intercourse between men and women to be their only and highest dharma-door (method of cultivation). In fact, such practice will continuously accumulate sufferings, not only making the transcendence from the transmigration between birth and death impossible but also planting the seed for the immense suffering experienced in hell after death as the result of adultery and incest. How could learners not be aware of this?