The Last 5 Links of the 12 Links of Dependent Arising

The next set of three links concern activation of the karmic tendencies at the time of death. The eighth and ninth links, thirsting and an obtainer attitude, activate the karmic tendencies, while the tenth link, further existence, refers to the activated tendencies themselves. When activated, a compelling drive arises that propels the mental continuum into further rebirth. It’s very important to recognize and understand these three links, particularly the first two, since they pertain as well to how we respond to our everyday feelings.

The Misconception about “Me”

We have a misconception about “me,” an unawareness of how we exist. To put it simply, it’s as if we imagine that we were some independently existing entity. We’re experiencing happiness or unhappiness or some neutral feeling, and it’s about “me,” that solid “me.” “I want not to be parted from that ordinary happiness. I want to be parted from unhappiness, and so on.” We don’t want to have to do anything differently. We just want to get our way and think that if we get this object, or a hug or something, then that is going to make that “me” feel better and more secure.

Perhaps, we think in terms of there being no consequences of our behavior – a form of naivety – and that is somehow going to work for us. 

In all these examples, underlying everything is always this thinking in terms of “me.” It is constant identification with what’s going on, identifying with our body, our depression, or our sickness. It can also be completely not identifying, “That’s not me!” We look in the mirror and see grey hair, a wrinkled face, and think, “That’s not me.”  we weigh ourselves on the scale and say, “Oh my gosh! That’s not me. I can’t weigh that much.”

We imagine that there’s a separate, independently existing “me” from all of this. That’s the problem and this is what’s going to be behind all of our compulsiveness that leads to further rebirth. That’s what we’re talking about, okay? It all hinges on this misconception of “me,” that wants to be not parted from happiness, that wants to be parted from unhappiness and doesn’t really know how that’s going to happen. It’s just, “Me, me, me. I want that.” We want it to be that we could be liberated somehow from it all and we have fanciful ideas of how we could achieve that; but none of them are going to work. Rather than liberating us, they just perpetuate our samsaric existence further. Our misconceptions about “me,” our unawareness of the voidness of “me” – that’s what we need to rid ourselves of in order to attain liberation. It is only with correct understanding that we can attain liberation.