Dependent Origination and Rebirth
Just as the flame of an oil lamp depend upon the wick and the oil for its existence , so rebirth and suffering occur dependent on an impure mind and actions (karma).
The mind is impure so long as it is not free from ignorance, craving and clinging. Ignorance is failing to see thing as they really are. Out of ignorance, people crave for pleasant experience arise, they cling to them. They fail to understand that pleasant experience such as wealth, friendship, youth and even life, are impermanent. All these will eventually slip through their fingers like a handful of sand.
As a result of an impure mind, people commit unwholesome acts to obtain the things they crave for and soon become used to acting in the same way. If some people find that they can obtain what they want by dishonest means on one occasion, they may be tempted to do it again on future occasions. Eventually, dishonesty becomes a habit. However, other may find that they can succeed by hard work. As a result, they are encouraged to work hard at each task and hard work becomes a habit for them.
In the same way, other habits are formed and become part of the personality. When people come face to face with a new situation, they will respond to it in their accustomed way and so reinforce their habits. At death, an impure mind with its habitual actions becomes the cause of a personís rebirth just as the seed which is supplied with soil, moisture, air and sunlight, is the cause of a sprout. So long as peopleís minds are not freed from ignorance, craving and clinging, they will continue to act in their accustomed way, and so long as they act in this way, they will be reborn.
Rebirth is suffering because experience conditioned by ignorance, craving and cling is never satisfactory. Even the pleasant experience which people crave for and cling to, are impermanent. Consequently, people experience the suffering of loss, ageing, death, sorrow and grief.
To end rebirth and suffering, people need to purify their minds of ignorance, craving and clinging. When they have freed their minds of impurities, action (karma) will not take place. Then rebirth and suffering will also cease and freedom from the cycle of birth and death is achieved
Dependent Origination and Relativity
At the beginning of this topic, it was seen how a sprout and the flame of an oil lamp depend on a combination of causes and conditions for their existence. this means that the sprout and the flame, like all things, do not exist independently. They exist only in relation to other things. This is called relativity or "emptiness" in Buddhism and is another aspect of Dependent Origination.
Things are what they are, only in relation to other things, for instance, the same man is a father to his son and a son to his father. His identity depends upon his relation to another, and is relative.
The distance between London and Italy is long in relation to the distance between London to Ireland, but in relation to the distance between London and New York, it is short. Short and long, like father and son, are therefore relative. They exist and make sense only in relation to other things.
Relativity or "emptiness" means that because things do not exist independently, they do not have an unchanging nature of their own. One is not independently or by nature a father. A man becomes a father of his relation to his son. "Emptiness" does not mean nothingness. On the contrary, it means openness and infinite possibility. Any son can become a father if the right combination of causes and conditions is present. Similarly, anyone can be enlightened if he cultivates Good Conduct, Mental Development and Wisdom **.
The principle of Dependent Origination is the central teaching of the Buddha. Through the understanding of Dependent Origination, the Buddha attained Enlightenment. He said, "Deep indeed is Dependent Origination. It is by not realising this principle that all men have become entangled like a ball of thread, unable to stop suffering and rebirth" .
** Good Conduct: Right Speech,
Right Action, Right
Mental Development: Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.
Wisdom : Right Understanding, Right Thoughts.
Law of Dependent Origination
It states that all phenomenon arise depending upon a number of casual
factors. In other word, it exists in condition that the other exist; it
has in condition that others have; it extinguishes in condition that others
extinguish; it has not in condition that others have not. For existence,
there are twelve links in the chain: