Once we have a little bit of an understanding of the twelve links of dependent arising and how our uncontrollably recurring rebirth, samsara, actually works, then we can focus with close placement of mindfulness on the feelings in terms of being the true origins of suffering. We can understand how they are the true causes of suffering in relation to how we respond to the various feelings of unhappiness, our ordinary type of unsatisfying happiness, and neutral feelings in the deep meditative absorptions. The general understanding of feelings is that they are all varieties of suffering.
The First Aspect of Close Placement of Mindfulness on the Feelings: Feelings as the Cause
The second noble truth, true origins or true causes of suffering, has four aspects. The first aspect or point is that feelings are causes. This is the term that is used. “Causes” mean specifically the causes of true suffering. We saw that true suffering is this impure body that we obtain each time with uncontrollably recurring rebirth. That is what feelings are the causes of; this is because, as explained, thirsting in relation to the feelings is the cause for the true sufferings in the sense that together with an obtainer disturbing attitude, it activates the throwing karma. The activated throwing karma ripens then into further samsaric rebirth with an impure, so-called “tainted” body. So, when we talk about true causes, it refers to this combination of factors in response to feelings that activate the karma, but we specify feelings as the actual cause. If we didn’t have these tainted feelings, we wouldn’t respond to them in an ignorant way.
This understanding that feelings are the cause of an unclean, impure body in lifetime after lifetime eliminates two distorted views. First, it eliminates the view that suffering happens for no reason at all, as asserted by one of the Indian non-Buddhist schools, the Charvaka school of Indian philosophy. That school doesn’t accept karma.
We should ask ourselves if we have this view, even though we may never have heard of this Indian school of philosophy. But, we might think that there is no reason at all for why I’m unhappy, for instance. Why do all these feelings of up and down occur? We might think that it happens for no reason at all. Why are we depressed? There is no reason. If there is no reason, then there is nothing that we can do about it, is there? That is a very unproductive way of looking at the causes of our suffering. Is there no cause for it at all? So, that’s one distorted view.
The other mistaken view that the understanding gets rid of is that suffering comes from a discordant cause. In other words, a cause that is not at all related to the effect. Cause and effect have to be related to each other. This is the mistaken view that you find in the Samkhya school of Indian philosophy. This school asserts that suffering comes from a perturbation or transformation of primal matter. It’s interesting. They have this idea of primal matter made up of three constituents, the so-called triguna, the three qualities of rajas, sattva, and tamas that you find in the Ayurveda system and which is used for classifying all sorts of things. This is a very extensive classification system. In this system, primal matter by nature has the three constituents in balance, but in fact it is always out of balance and because of that imbalance, that’s why you feel unhappy or feel happy. When one of these three is dominant you feel happy, when another is dominant you feel unhappy.
So, why do you feel happy or unhappy? According to this system, it’s because of an imbalance in these elements. Does that make any sense? Think about that. It might make sense in terms of sickness or the physical condition of the body. But, could that be a cause for feeling happy or unhappy while being sick and a cause for uncontrollably recurring rebirth? That doesn’t make any sense, so it’s a discordant cause.
The refutation is that they are two different types of phenomena. A form of physical phenomena cannot be the cause of a mental factor. It could be a condition that stimulates the occurrence of it or why it occurs. But, even then, for example with certain food one day you can experience eating it with happiness and the next day with unhappiness. So, the food is not the cause of your happy or unhappy state. The elements of your body can be out of balance when you’re sick, but you can still feel happy eating your favorite food or unhappy eating your favorite food. They are not related in that direct causal relationship.
The Second Aspect of Close Placement of Mindfulness on the Feelings: Feelings as the Origin
The next aspect is that feelings, which are all varieties of suffering, are the origins of true suffering. This sounds like synonyms, causes and origins, but these are different words and considered different aspects. The cause is that it’s the cause of uncontrollably recurring rebirth and the origin is that it is the origin of having that type of rebirth over and over again. That’s the second aspect of the second noble truth in relation to the feelings and our response to them with thirsting and an obtainer attitude and the karmic impulses activated by them. They are the origins from which arise, over and again, all the true sufferings of repeated samsaric rebirth.
What the understanding of this gets rid of is the distorted view that suffering is created from just one cause. Rebirth doesn’t happen from just a singular cause. The first aspect, causes, was just because you have the feelings and the thirsting and these obtainer attitudes and so on in relation to them, that the feelings in that sense cause you to have repeated rebirth. The second aspect is that it is the combination of all these different factors that cause this uncontrollably recurring rebirth with this type of body. That’s through the mechanism of the twelve links. From understanding these first two aspects, we can understand that the all-pervasive suffering of uncontrollably repeating rebirth doesn’t come from one cause.
That’s a very important thing to understand. We tend to think that things come from one cause. Consider the example of cracking the screen on your computer. What is the one cause for that? You could say that your friend came in and startled you, and so then you banged into something in the cabinet and it fell down and smashed on your computer. You could say that the cause was if your friend didn’t disturb and surprise you, it wouldn’t have happened. But the breaking of the computer arose from a huge amount of causes and conditions, including the fact that somebody invented computers, the fact that somebody constructed them, the fact that you bought it, the fact that you put it down right there beneath the cabinet, the fact that you were going to open something in the cabinet, the fact that your friend came in and startled you, and the fact that you don’t have much control over your body, so your hand flung up and knocked something down from the cabinet. So, things don’t come from just one cause.
I remember my sister’s stepson had very low self-esteem when he was a young teenager. Fortunately he seems to have gotten over it. But, I remember if you took him to a ball game and his team lost, the reason why his team lost, he thought, was because he was there. This is an absolutely discordant cause as his being there had nothing to do with the team losing, did it? Plus thinking that it came from only one cause is incorrect, that the only reason that they lost was because he was there. So, all sorts of guilt stem from this type of incorrect thinking about the true cause of suffering.
I understand that there are lots of causes, but are they in one chain or are they more in networks and then they come together?
I would say it’s both. There is a chain or sequence. For example, somebody invented computers, somebody manufactured them, and then you bought one. That’s a sequence. Then you place it by the cabinet. If you never bought it or it was never invented, that wouldn’t have happened. Just the fact that it’s manufactured and put together from different parts means that at some point it is going to fall apart and break. But, each part of that sequence arose from a network of many causes. How was it manufactured for example? There are all the individual people who worked in the factory, there’s transportation, there’s how you got to the store, and the people who sold it. There is a huge network of causal factors.
The Third Aspect of Close Placement of Mindfulness on the Feelings: Feelings as Strong Producers
The third aspect is that feelings are strong producers of the true suffering of having these unclean and impure bodies and having these repeated rebirths. What that means is that is that it strongly brings about the production of strong sufferings as their result. What does that actually mean?
To understand these things, we need to see the incorrect view that it gets rid of. The incorrect view that it gets rid of is that suffering is created from its having been sent ahead by the mind of some other being such as Ishvara, the creator in these Indian Hindu systems. According to the view of the Vaisheshika school of Indian philosophy, suffering is sent from a previous plan by the mind of the creator god, Ishvara.
But, thirsting after the feelings of happiness and these obtainer attitudes are strong producers of suffering regardless of what any creator might do. That’s this point of feelings being a strong producer, that there isn’t some external higher being that out of some judgment or out of some previous plan, send us unhappiness or sends us happiness. If that were so, then all we have to do is pray and that’s another incorrect view of happiness and unhappiness – that if we pray we will get happiness.
That’s very interesting. When you are really suffering and unhappy, do you look to somebody else to solve it for you or to put the blame on something or someone else? Or is it really the disturbing emotions and attitudes that we have in relations to our feelings, are they much stronger than any type of being that might be able to send us suffering?
We Can Have Doctrinally Based Misconceptions Even If We’ve Never Heard of the Non-Buddhist Indian Systems of Belief
A lot of the work that we do to understand the four noble truths is to overcome, first the doctrinally based disturbing emotions and then the automatically arising ones. But, the doctrinally based ones are things that we’ve learned basically from the propaganda and the teachings of some different system and here it’s specifically one of these non-Buddhist Indian systems. That’s why they go into all the detail here of what is asserted by these different systems. We have these incorrect views of what happens because we have learned one of these systems and have accepted them as true and believed them to be fact. That means we believed that their description of “me” as an atman that we find in their system – whether that atman has a future life and whether it has karma or is under the influence of god. We want to overcome that whole package of misconception about the “me” who experiences the four noble truths and the disturbing emotions that arise from thinking of ourselves as existing in this impossible way.
It’s very interesting because the texts say then that even if we haven’t learned any of these systems, let’s say as a Western person who has never studied Indian philosophy and we’ve never even heard of these other Indian schools, we can still have doctrinally based ignorance about the self and the doctrinally based disturbing emotions. But that seems odd. So how is it that with a seeing pathway mind we get rid of these doctrinally based disturbing emotions based on believing in the impossible “me” taught by one of these Indian schools if we’ve never even heard of these Indian schools. It’s a very interesting question.
The usual way of explaining it is that there is no beginning, so in some previous lifetime we have heard of these things and accepted and believed them. Everybody then has the tendencies of the belief in these systems. That’s not so easy to accept, but that’s the usual explanation. But, if you look at the characteristics of this impossible “me” in the doctrinally based view of an atman – a self that is static, partless and that can exist independently – we do have various incorrect types of consideration that could be doctrinally based or automatically arising that are parts of that. We have the view of ourselves being static, we imagine that things about ourselves that do change don’t change. Although this belief might originally have come from one of these non-Buddhist systems in some previous lifetime, it can also be stimulated by advertizing and propaganda in this life, can’t it?
For example, eternal youth, the worship of eternal youth. “Be always young, use Botox to get rid of your wrinkles and you will be eternally young.” This body will always look the same. We could be convinced by that propaganda and then think that we are still young. “Just look at my face.” These different components are there. We could have this view of something like my team lost because I was there watching. This is a discordant cause. All my problems come from God or all my problems come from one cause not from the combination of many causes. Therefore, although originally the whole package of these doctrinally based wrong views might have come from learning one of these non-Buddhist Indian views, in this lifetime they can be stimulated by the condition of other types of propaganda and other types of systems.
We start to work with doctrinally based rather than automatically arising misbeliefs. It automatically arises also that we consider things that change from moment to moment not to change at all. Automatically we think that I went to sleep last night and then here I am this morning, the same “me.” It hasn’t changed. It’s still “me.” That automatically arises. We’re not aware of the moment-to-moment changes of things. Okay? But we work on that after getting rid of our beliefs based on the propaganda of advertizing.
That was the third aspect, that the feelings and our response to them are a strong producer of suffering, stronger than any god.
The Fourth Aspect of Close Placement of Mindfulness on the Feelings: Feelings as Conditions
The fourth aspect is that these feelings are the conditions for the true suffering of unclean and impure bodies and repeated rebirths to arise. In other words, thirsting in relation to the feelings and the obtainers are the simultaneously arising conditions for the arising of further samsaric rebirth.
What we need to understand is that from these two, we have activated throwing karma. The compulsion that drives us to take another rebirth is activated by the thirsting and an obtainer attitude toward the feelings. These are the conditions for the throwing karma to become activated and hurl us into another rebirth. It’s not as if there’s a thing, a “me” that’s being hurled into another rebirth, like a football. But the throwing karma generates the next phase of the continuum. Thirsting and an obtainer attitude in relation to the feelings are the conditions and then, the actual cause for continuing rebirth is this throwing karma.
This understanding eliminates the distorted view from the Jain school that the cause of suffering is the association of an eternal perfectly pure soul with matter. According to the Jain views, our souls are living beings and by nature are eternal perfect souls that experience peace forever. However, because of their association with matter, they experience temporary changing sufferings. This is the Jain view. The “me” is perfect and it doesn’t change; the only problem is that it gets associated with matter and matter causes all the problems. Our souls get dirty and contaminated in a sense. But that’s not the way that suffering arises. Suffering arises from a combination of causes and conditions in relation to feelings.
So, those are the four aspects of the second noble truth, the true causes of suffering. To understand them, we need to understand the twelve links of dependent arising. Our attitude toward these feelings is the cause of rebirth. It is also the cause of repeated rebirth over and over again. It is a strong producer. Nothing else is going to affect that like some god or so on. It’s a very complex arising of causes and conditions in relation of the feelings.
Underlying it all is unawareness of how we and others exist, although in this explanation we don’t really speak in terms of the unawareness that underlies it, but that really is where all these causal factors are coming from.
The Sixteen Aspects in Relation to the Philosophical Views in India at the Time of the Buddha
Are these explanations formulated about the sixteen aspects primarily in response to the current philosophical views that were available at the time in India?
I would say yes, if you look historically. Before Buddha became enlightened, he practiced with teachers from these other systems and he found that their explanations and their methods didn’t bring liberation. So, he investigated further and further and figured out what the true suffering was. It’s uncontrollably recurring rebirth; but, even though except for the Charvakas everybody else accepted rebirth, the way that they understood it was not accurate. He understood that the true problem was this type of body that comes about through the twelve links of dependent arising. He saw the true causes and although everybody else said that the true cause was also unawareness and ignorance, what they thought was the correct understanding didn’t get rid of this uncontrollably recurring rebirth.
Their ideas, which we will see with some of the incorrect views of the true stopping, was that if we just went into the deeper meditative absorptions, then we are free because we dissociate ourselves from gross matter and unhappy and ordinary happy feelings. But, that doesn’t work either because eventually we have to come back down.
So, it was in response to all of that. The other Indian schools didn’t correctly identify what really is going on with uncontrollably recurring rebirth and what is the problem. They didn’t correctly identify the true cause of it. That’s why they’re called “arya,” the “noble” truths: those who have had non-conceptual cognition of reality, and not through some category of a system, but who have actually seen what is happening in life, they see that these four facts – these four noble truths – are true.
The others thought that they could attain a true stopping of suffering and so on by their methods. Buddha saw that this wasn’t a true stopping. The problems came back. They didn’t go deeply enough. They thought that correct understanding would bring about a true stopping. Buddha said that this is true, but that their correct understanding was not correct. So, of course they would argue back that the Buddha is the one who is not correct. This is the whole debate within Indian philosophy about who is correct.
The only way of settling that is by logic, if you accept logic. Not everybody accepts logic in that some say it’s beyond logic, beyond that. So, if one thinks like that, there is no possible discussion. Another way of settling this is by actual experience and that’s not so easy, actually. All we can really understand, I suppose, is by working for a certain amount of time with a system – and a certain amount of time would be some years not just some days – and then evaluating did our practice actually make our problems less. Did it have some effect?
We can’t say that these other systems are useless; otherwise no one would ever have followed them if they were really useless. But, Buddha said to see for yourself what the effect is of what he taught and does it make more sense? Does it follow from your experience? But, for most of us, and that’s not so easy, this is why we have teachers. The teacher, if it’s a real teacher, is a good example of what it is that you are aiming to achieve and so it’s inspiring. Now, of course there are many teachers of various systems that are not good examples of those systems. So, you want to find an authentic teacher and that’s not so easy to find. That is actually very difficult to find. There aren’t many who are the real thing, so to speak.
But, you need to look around. Having studied at university Indian philosophy, non-Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophy, when I looked at the so-called masters of these traditions to see who it was that I would like to become like, what I found based on my experience of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama when I was twenty-four turning twenty-five, was that he was the only one who really impressed me. This was the real thing. This was what I would like to become. If I could become like that, it would be incredible. So, you get some sort of inspiration by seeing a living example. Whether this is a living example of a Buddha or not, well, that’s hard to say of course. If it really were a Buddha, as I always joke, the person would know the telephone number of everybody in the universe. Omniscient, so, come on; nevertheless, going in that direction is very inspiring. That is fairly convincing.
Therefore, if you meet someone who has been practicing Buddhism for a tremendous amount of time and really has done so seriously, not just fooling around, then see how is this person? How do they act? How do they deal with things and so on? And considering, as it says in the texts, that it’s almost impossible to meet somebody with all the good qualities that are described, then if they have more good qualities than bad qualities and they don’t deny that they have their shortcomings and are not pretending to be perfect, then this is somebody that is worthwhile to follow. Someone like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when he doesn’t know something, then he says, “I don’t know.” He has no hesitation in saying that when he doesn’t know, which then gives you confidence that when he says he does know and he explains, that he knows what he is talking about.
So, these four noble truths and their sixteen aspects were formulated to counter these incorrect views, which Buddha found to be incorrect and not effective to taking you all the way to liberation. These other systems can take you to a certain extent, but not all the way. It’s not that they are useless.
As my teacher, Serkong Rinpoche always said, don’t think that the people who made up these other systems and believe in them are stupid. That’s very arrogant. These are helpful. His Holiness always looks at all these other religions and so on and says how helpful they are. But, then the question is what suits you and what will bring you to the goal that is stated in your own system?
Current Relevance of Meditation on the Sixteen Aspects of the Four Noble Truths
In your personal experience, do you still experience these sixteen aspects formulated back then as being timely today in modern times?
Certainly; the example of our foot that we were using – it doesn’t matter if we are a caveman, or living now or in the future. The nature of a foot is the same. The nature of feeling happy and unhappy is the same. Where does it come from? How do you deal with your feelings of happy and unhappy? This is a very basic fundamental issue. A dog feels happy and unhappy as well. Dogs cry, don’t they, if their master goes away and they are tied up outside? Imagine what that’s like, to be tied up outside and you have no idea if the person is going to come back and there you are. It’s horrible.
So, these are very basic things that we all experience and we need to understand properly. Why do I feel happy or unhappy? Why is it changing all the time? Why is it so frustrating? Where does it come from? Those are very natural questions for anybody who thinks deeply about life’s issues. Maybe the dog here doesn’t think that (for those who are reading this transcript, there’s a dog present here), but if you do think about it, then you would start to think, “Why am I happy and why am I unhappy?”
Then you would try to find ways to make yourself happy, because that is one of the basic axioms that is there in Buddhism. It’s just assumed that everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to be unhappy. You can understand that things grow toward the sun and things go in that direction. Who can say that the plant experiences happy or unhappy. But, it’s in the sense of seeking happiness that plants go toward something that is positive for their welfare.
So, we want to be happy and we don’t want to be unhappy. But, we experience being happy and unhappy and how do we deal with them? Where is the problem? We try to find methods to make ourselves happy and get rid of suffering and they don’t work or they work only for a short time. Then we are unhappy again. We eat and it satisfies our hunger, but then we get hungry again. How boring; that is, if we think about that. That’s really boring that it’s just going on and on and on every day. We get tired every day and we have to go to sleep every day and we have to go to the toilet every day. So, there we are; there’s no way to just negate that. We have to deal with it. That was part of the understanding of the first noble truth of the body. We have to deal with it. We can’t just dissociate ourselves from our body.
So, where is the problem? The problem is how we deal with our feelings. We need to learn where the feelings are coming from and how to respond to them. First, just as with the true cause, we have to understand how these feelings arise and how the response that I have toward them perpetuates more feelings arising. The thing is just perpetuating and perpetuating and perpetuating and it’s all coming from our unawareness of how we exist. It’s that “I” want to be happy and “I” don’t want to be parted from happiness and “I” want to be parted from unhappiness. The “me” who is experiencing this, we trace it back and how do I understand that “me?”
(Dog barking) See, the dog is unhappy. How do we respond? How did the dog respond to being unhappy? We analyze; the dog responded to the unhappiness by barking very loudly. Now, did that make the cause of the unhappiness go away so that the dog will never have to bark again? We analyze? What is the cause? The dog is very limited in knowing any methods for stopping being unhappy. It just thinks that barking will make it go away and maybe growling and maybe attacking will make its unhappiness go away. It thinks that the cause of its unhappiness is whatever it is, a strange sound or a strange smell. If we are going to analyze properly, we analyze not just in terms of our own experience, but also even that of the dog.
Yes, all of this is very relevant nowadays as well. As I said, even if we haven’t studied one of these Indian systems or never have even heard of them, there are aspects of them that we have that are stimulated by propaganda now. For example, “Make enough money and you’ll always be happy”; or in a traditional Asian culture, “Get married and have children and then you’ll be happy. Everybody has to get married and if you have a family, you will be happy.” There are many different ways in which we are taught that this is the way to gain happiness. Become rich and famous, for example. Look at all these movie stars and pop stars that die from overdoses of drugs. They are rich and famous, but they certainly aren’t happy.
Then we try to find out the cause. Why am I unhappy? It’s not just that I am unhappy because the restaurant ran out of my favorite food. The fact is that I have this body and I’m so attached to whatever pleasure I get from the food, which is not going to last anyway. I will want to eat again and there’s no certainty that they made the food nicely in the way that I like it. You have to look more and more deeply to find where the problems are coming from.
What is the real troublemaker? Identify clearly that it is this uncontrollably recurring rebirth with a body and mind and all the limitations that they have and that this is the basis for all the sufferings and problems that we have, including these unsatisfying feelings. We want to stop that rebirth process that’s occurring like that. There will be a continuum of me, a continuum of the mind, mental activity, but it is not going to be under that influence of unawareness, disturbing emotions, and the compulsiveness of karma if we gain liberation and enlightenment. We want it to be under the influence of compassion and the wish to help everybody to overcome their sufferings and attain true stoppings; and on the way to liberation, for each of us to be free from all that ourselves.
We see all the various problems that come up and try to identify their true cause more and more. Let’s say we are trying to concentrate on something and then we feel unhappy. Surely that happens all the time. I experience that all the time. I’m working on the computer most of the time and I’m not terribly happy sitting there. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I enjoy it. A lot of the time, though, I don’t enjoy it.
The Karmapa was in Berlin recently; it was wonderful. One of his lectures was a lecture on happiness. The key to happiness is one of the traditional topics that great lamas are asked to speak about. He said, “Am I happy? No, I’m not happy.” He continued, “It’s irrelevant whether I’m happy or unhappy. It doesn’t matter. At least I’m trying to do what’s of benefit for others and so what if I am unhappy. That’s not the point. As long as I am doing what is of benefit to others, this is meaningful and worthwhile to do.” Although he didn’t say it, implicit in that is while you are still a samsaric being, of course you are going to feel unhappy sometimes. So, it’s nothing special.
But, what happens when you feel unhappy? How do you deal with it when you’re sitting at the computer, for example, and feeling like you don’t want to work and then you start surfing and have all other thoughts come up so it distracts you. You don’t concentrate anymore and you go surfing for something more interesting on the Internet or you get up and go get something from the refrigerator. Is that going to solve the problem of unhappiness so that you are never going to feel unhappy again? No. Is it a temporary reprieve? Well, a little bit, but even then you get bored surfing, constantly going from one site to another, because nothing is interesting, especially if you do it for too long.
These are very relevant problems for us. The issue is how you deal with your unhappiness, and understanding where that unhappiness is coming from. Ultimately, unhappiness is coming from destructive behavior. You’re causing yourself unhappiness by acting destructively, so you yourself experience unhappiness. So, you have to eliminate the compulsiveness with which you act, speak and think – whether it’s in a destructive way or in a compulsively neurotic, obsessive constructive way.
Being a perfectionist, I think is the best example that most of us can relate to for that later one. You’re constantly cleaning the house. You’re never satisfied. You always have to clean it again. You always have to wash your hands. Always have to correct your paper that you’re writing for school. You are never satisfied that you can put it aside, that it’s done. No, you have to go over it again and again and again. This is a type of compulsiveness that is constructive, but the happiness you get from it is never going to satisfy you. You can never be satisfied because you are never going to feel that you are perfect. It’s always not good enough.
Brief Review of the Four Aspects of Feelings as the Second Noble Truth
To recapitulate, how we deal with our tainted feelings of unhappiness, happiness and neutral is a cause for uncontrollably recurring rebirth. They are the origin of the suffering of rebirth, in the sense that rebirth comes from a combination of many different factors, such as thirsting, an obtainer attitude and the activated throwing karma. Feelings are a strong producer in that the way we deal with them has the power to bring about uncontrollably recurring rebirth and more of these unsatisfactory types of bodies, regardless of any creator or such things. Lastly, feelings are a condition in the sense that how we deal with them is a network of all different factors. There’s the actual throwing karma that brings about the next rebirth; but, our response to the feelings are the conditions for activating that. So, understand how this activation process works. Those are the four aspects.
Understanding the true cause or origin of suffering basically requires understanding the whole mechanism of how rebirth works. Although the traditional presentation of the sixteen aspects doesn’t mention specifically the unawareness that underlies the true cause of suffering, if you understand the twelve links, you understand that it’s all coming from that unawareness. But that unawareness isn’t the singular cause. Again, that’s the myth, the incorrect view that suffering comes from one cause. There is the root cause, which is the main cause that everything else comes from. But, that cause by itself doesn’t produce this samsaric rebirth. It’s with all the things that come from that and the network of these causes and conditions that brings about this uncontrollably recurring rebirth.
If you want to stop that rebirth process, you have to stop the whole chain of the twelve links. You can’t just stop unawareness, thinking that it functions by itself. This is all part of understanding the true causes of suffering. It’s working with that system of the twelve links. As complicated as the twelve links of dependent arising are, they are a very essential part of the Buddhist teachings and not something to ignore.