Links 4 through 7 of the 12 Links of Dependent Arising

At this point in the twelve links we have the mental continuum, referred to by its main component, consciousness – individual subjective mental activity – loaded with karmic aftermath and going on into a future lifetime. We have reached the second half of this third link, the resultant loaded level. Now, in a future lifetime, the next set of links describes the development of a fetus and the five aggregates, specifically when being reborn as a human or mammal. In other words, the next links describe the sequence with which the network of five aggregate factors develops in a rebirth, so that we will have the mechanism for the sequence of samsara to repeat itself yet again. The five aggregate factors make up what we experience in each moment.

Nothing Special

The provisional method for dealing with these samsaric feelings that I find the most useful and easiest to apply is the one of “nothing special.” “I’m unhappy or I’m happy, so what?” When we’re pursuing an aim with, hopefully, a positive motivation, it doesn’t matter how we feel while pursuing it, we just carry on. To use my own personal example, I work on my website. This is a huge undertaking with 21 language sections and 125 people working on it. I supervise and deal with all of that, as well as all the business and financial aspects, and all the grant writing. I do everything. I’m working on that a great deal of my waking hours. Do I feel happy doing it? Do I feel unhappy doing it? So what? I don’t feel joyously happy sitting there at my computer all day long, not at all.

Sometimes I don’t feel like doing this or that task, and the attitude I adopt is, “So what If I don’t feel like doing it?” It’s of benefit to others and extremely worthwhile to do. I’m 68 years old; death can come at any time, so I don’t mess around. I just do it. I reaffirm my aim, why I’m doing it and so on and just do it. If sometimes I feel unhappy, so what? What do I expect? It’s samsara, and of course sometimes I’m going to feel happy, sometimes I’m going to feel unhappy. 

We have to wash the dishes and we’re not very happy about it. So what? We still have to wash the dishes. We have to change the baby. The baby’s soiled; are we happy about it? No. Why would we experience happiness about it? “Oh, how wonderful, I have to change the diaper.” We wouldn’t feel happy about it. We’re unhappy, what a mess! But we do it anyway, so what? If we can carry that attitude into our daily life, we just get on with our business of what we need to do in terms of dealing with life in the most positive and constructive ways as we can. Don’t make a big deal out of anything. That is a very fundamental way of understanding voidness.

Often, we make a solid and monstrous big deal out of feeling “I’m unhappy.” That brings on the mentality of feeling that we need to be entertained all the time, which is really sick if you think about it. “Me, me, me. I have to be entertained.” Of course, underlying that drive is that everybody wants to be happy, but that doesn’t mean being entertained, as if entertainment will permanently solve our problems. We always want a different entertainment. We don’t want the same TV show over and over again forever just because it was entertaining the first time we watched it. It’s no longer entertaining, is it?