We have been speaking about voidness, which is an absence of impossible ways of existing, and we have been presenting it in a very general way, using the term a bit loosely, so that we can incorporate in our discussion of voidness the various levels of understanding of dependent arising.
And I have been basing this on the fact that there are two types of unawareness or ignorance. The first is unawareness about cause and effect, and this is referring specifically to behavioral cause and effect: the effects of our behavior on ourselves. And the second form of unawareness is unawareness of how things exist. And unawareness can be explained either as not knowing, or knowing these things incorrectly. And although voidness technically is used only in terms of an absence of impossible ways of existing – so with respect to countering the understanding of voidness; countering the second form of unawareness: unawareness of how things exist – we’ve been adopting the idea of voidness (in other words, an absence of what is impossible) to explain how we counter the unawareness about cause and effect.
And when we started to relate this presentation to the presentation of dependent arising, we saw that there are three levels of dependent arising. The first is things arise dependently on causes. This is referring to nonstatic phenomena – phenomena that change from moment to moment and are affected by things, namely causes and conditions. And then the second level of understanding dependent arising is that things arise dependently on parts. And that refers to everything, both static and nonstatic; in other words, things that don’t change from moment to moment and things that do change from moment to moment. And this understanding of these first two levels of dependent arising regard the conventional or relative truth of things: of what things are, how they function, etc. And then the third level of dependent arising is things arise dependently in terms of or in relation to mental labeling. And this deals with the deepest truth about things: how they exist. And it’s in this third area that voidness technically is applied.
So, anyway, that’s the theoretical framework within which our discussion has taken place. And when we get down to the actual discussion of these three levels of dependent arising, then we can see more easily the practical application. But I always think that it’s helpful – in any presentation – on a practical level to understand how it fits into the general picture of Buddhist theory, then one has a little bit of a sense of context. And when we have a sense of a larger context, then we can fit many different teachings together. Without that larger picture of the context, then it’s hard to see how different teachings from different texts or different teachers or different traditions fit together.
Now we have covered the first level of dependent arising. That is referring to things that change from moment to moment, whether we’re talking about situations or objects or people or types of behavior – whatever – that this arises dependently on causes and conditions. And the reality is that whatever arises, it has been influenced by an unbelievably large number of causal factors. In fact, one could say that everything is causally related to everything else in either a closer or more distant way. For example: if we drove a car here or took a bus here, then the dinosaurs and the vegetation of the period when the dinosaurs lived are one of the causes for our being able to get here because these substances decomposed and made the oil, the gasoline, that drove the car. So, without those dinosaurs and the vegetation of that time, we couldn’t have our ride in an automobile or a bus. And obviously the dinosaurs didn’t live their lives in order to be able to decompose so that we can drive our car now. And so these causal relationships don’t have necessarily to be conscious and intentional.
Now, of course, when we speak technically about unawareness of cause and effect, we are speaking specifically about behavioral cause and effect. In other words, what are the causes for primarily our experiences of happiness and unhappiness and of uncontrollably recurring samsara or rebirth. And when we speak about dependent arising in terms of causality, then it’s specifically the discussion of the twelve links of dependent arising that explains the whole mechanism of how we experience happiness, unhappiness, and recurring samsaric rebirth. And here when we speak in terms of dependent arising in terms of causes and conditions, then this explanation of the twelve links is just a subcategory within that, speaking about something specific. But when we talk about dependent arising in terms of causality, then we extend the scope of the discussion.
Just to repeat, if that’s not clear: When we speak about the dependent arising from causality, from causes and conditions, then the discussion of the twelve links is speaking about just one subcategory of this, particularly the category that’s involved with karma and the experience of the three types of suffering that are described in the first noble truth. But when we speak about dependent arising in terms of causality, it’s a larger scope of causality.
Now, of course, we can debate this because within the five aggregates of anyone’s experience can be included all nonstatic phenomena. So therefore all the causal factors that are involved in the arising of each of these factors would be included within the scope of this presentation of dependent arising. And so, of course, this brings in a whole complicated discussion (which I don’t want to get into) which is: absolutely everything that happens and that everyone experiences, is that arising dependently on karma? In other words, are all causal relations included within the discussion of karma? But this is far too complicated a debate. But we touched on that discussion when we raised the question of whether or not everything I experience is due to my own karma, or is everything that I experience due to the interaction of everybody’s karma? And the latter was the case: My karma doesn’t cause you to drive your car and hit me. My karma doesn’t cause my child to have anorexia.
And so there are many karmic reasons why somebody else – from their whole history, and the interaction of everything that has affected that, and their karma – which has caused them to drive that car and hit somebody, namely me. And then, of course, there are all the various causal factors of the people who invented cars, who built the cars, who built the roads, the dinosaurs that produced the petrol, and so on – that we could relate to the karma of the dinosaurs and the karma of the people who invented cars and built the cars, etc. So we find that the complex here is very, very vast – of causal factors.
The practical application of this is when we are faced with a situation of something happening, either to us or to one of our loved ones, that we don’t have misplaced guilt – I guess guilt is always misplaced, but that we don’t have a misplaced idea of causality. In other words, we realize the absence of what’s impossible. So here’s our concept of voidness being used in a loose sense. And what is impossible is that these tragedies which happened are due to either no cause whatsoever (they’re just sort of bad luck), or due to some irrelevant cause (like some higher being punishing us). And we don’t place the causality on just one factor, namely me – “It’s all my fault, therefore I am guilty” – and we don’t place the blame of causality on just one external thing either, like “It’s all because of the government policies. It’s all because of society.”
So if we see a much, much broader perspective of dependent things arising dependently on so many causes and so many conditions, then we are a little bit more relaxed; our minds are much more open and broad in facing a difficult situation. But we realize that we do contribute some of the causes; it’s not as though we don’t contribute anything to the causes. So there is a certain sense of responsibility for our behavior. Therefore we can add a few more new causal factors into the mixture here, by taking certain steps that could help the situation, but we don’t exaggerate the ability of what we do – of the causal factors that we add – to control and determine what is going to follow.
This is a very common mistake that people make. It’s the syndrome of being – to use the colloquial term – a “control freak,” that we think that somehow I should be able to control the situation; and just in terms of my own willpower and what I do, I will control what happens. But that’s impossible because whatever happens is arising dependently on a million different causes and conditions, not just on me and what I do. That’s very important to understand when especially we are a position of authority – we’re the manager of a business, or the director of some sort of enterprise, or a Dharma center, or whatever – to think that everything is my responsibility and what I do is going to totally determine the outcome of an event or our business. This is a perfect topic to apply voidness meditation to: That this is impossible. No such thing can possibly exist. So it’s like there’s a big stew pot and many people have thrown ingredients into it, and all we can do is maybe add a few ourselves, but what’s there in the pot is contributed by so many other factors.
Now the second level of dependent arising is that everything, both static and nonstatic, arises or exists or is established dependently on parts. So this is the case whether we speak of physical parts – getting down to atoms and subatomic parts, and so on – or we speak of grosser physical parts, like all the parts of our car engine. But also we need to speak in terms of the temporal, the time dimension. And so an event arises dependently on each tiny little moment. And so what is absent, if we use the word “voidness” here in a loose sense, is that an event arises and establishes itself all by itself, independently of its parts, each moment that makes up that event. Well, let’s look at some examples of this and the practical application.
We have an ongoing relationship with someone. We won’t talk about how the relationship exists – does it exist by itself independently of us? – let’s leave that discussion aside. How people sometimes make a big self-existent thing – “our relationship” – and then they talk about “You’re not relating to ‘our relationship,’” and “How do you relate to ‘our relationship?’” This is concretizing things that it’s not appropriate to concretize. But if we look in terms of the ongoing interaction that we have with another person that we are close with, then sometimes what happens is that we have an argument or the other person says some nasty cruel words, and then, all of a sudden, we identify that person with these cruel words that they said; and our whole relationship, we identify and characterize just by that one argument. “You did such a terrible thing. You said such a terrible thing. You don’t love me.” And we become very, very upset, which of course makes us very unhappy, and we may act on the basis of that and break the relationship, for example, or say something really nasty back. And what we need to understand here is that this relationship, this interaction with this other person, is made up of parts, of many, many, many moments, and we’ve lost sight of that here. We need to remember that we’ve had a thousand moments (just to use an arbitrary number) of interactions with each other: some have been very nice, some have been a little bit uncomfortable. There was this one argument – okay, that was really unpleasant, but we have to see that the relationship arises and continues to arise, moment to moment, dependently on this whole thing. And so we don’t exaggerate one little incident and characterize the entire relationship by that.
Let me speak a little bit more technically, but not absolutely precisely with technical language. This is the Buddhist method – when we explain something, then you give a provisional explanation that maybe is not so accurate but it’s easier to understand, and then you go to another level of provisional explanation that maybe also is not so accurate but it’s a little bit more accurate, and this way it becomes easier to understand. So sometimes when I’m explaining, I’m not explaining the most precise accurate description. So one has to understand the methodology here.
What I want to introduce here is the whole discussion of conceptual cognition. Conceptual cognition consists of thinking with a category. So here in our example we have the category “our relationship.” Now, in conceptual thought, what happens is that we have what’s called a “conceptual isolate” (ldog-pa). In other words, we isolate something that will represent that category of the relationship. So we have an isolate that isolates it, and then we use something – an image or whatever – to represent that category. This is quite easy to understand if we use an example.
I will ask everybody in the room to think of a dog. Now when we think of a dog, a dog is a category, isn’t it? But each of us has our own – what we would say in our Western language is our own “idea” of what a dog looks like, that represents the category of dog, don’t we? Or the category of a good meal, or whatever. We each have something that we isolate to represent the category. And then, of course, we perceive various things around us through this mixture of the category and what we think represents it, and then we judge things: “This is not a good meal; this is a good meal; that’s really a terrible looking dog; or whatever.” The category of a “real man”: a “real man” goes in the water even if it’s freezing cold. We judge ourselves and we judge others by these categories and what we isolate conceptually to represent that category.
And so this is the problem here in our example of the relationship. We think in terms of the category “our relationship,” and now we represent it and isolate just this one incident – the argument – and now, all of a sudden, this represents our relationship. And we look at the person and our whole interaction just in terms of that – “We have a terrible relationship” – and then we act on the basis of believing that. Now it would be equally misleading to isolate the really good time that we had with the person to represent the relationship, also, in the sense that it might deny and we are in denial of the difficult aspects in the relationship.
Now here’s where I’m not being 100% precise. But what would be better is, in this situation, would be to see that the relationship dependently arises, moment to moment, on all the different causal factors and all the different incidents; and then try to interact with this person – and here’s where I’m being a little bit imprecise – nonconceptually. In other words, don’t work through the concept, this category “our relationship,” and what it should be, what represents it, but just interact.
Now one has to be a little bit careful here – here’s where I’m saying the imprecision comes in my description – that one needs to not just interact blindly, but what I’m speaking about here is with an understanding of dependent arising. So it’s not as though we are ignoring the times when we are acting destructively, when the other person is acting destructively – we’re not ignoring that. So we do take measures to try to improve the relationship. Whether that’s conceptual or nonconceptual, we won’t go into that discussion. So we are aware of the basis here, of all the different moments, all the different episodes in our interaction. And we realize that if we want to speak about “our relationship,” the category – well, it’s arising dependently on all of this. You can’t say that any one incident represents “our relationship.” Therefore you don’t identify the relationship with just one incident that happens, whether it’s a horrible incident or a wonderful incident. And we also don’t interact in a conceptual way in which we represent a relationship by – we isolate something from a fairytale, of Prince and Princess Charming on white horses living happily ever after, and then we view our relationship in terms of that concept, and say, “But you’re not the perfect princess,” “You’re not the perfect prince.” And then we expect that they should be like that, and then we get very disappointed and angry when they are not like that, and so on. Then we have real suffering.
So this type of analysis applies not just to relationships with others but it applies to our job: Our job should be perfect. Or we have a tough day at the office and “Oh, my job is so terrible.” These types of applications are very helpful. And the same thing in terms of moods, or “I’m an unhappy person,” or “I’mthis,” or “I’m that.” We have the category of “me” and then we’re representing it by something that we isolate which is just, whether it’s true or not true – I mean, this is the point. It could be either an accurate thing that we use to represent ourselves – in other words, some aspect – or something totally unreal. But, nevertheless, we are not open to the whole scope of everything that happens. So this is another facet of things arising dependently on parts. And our application of voidness type of understanding here is that it’s impossible. This is an impossible way of existing, that the whole is identical to just one part – in other words, the category is identical to one thing that represents it.
Another application of this analysis of things arising dependently on parts can also be understood with the example of a relationship with someone. Often we have the misconception or the misunderstanding that I am the only person in this other person’s life – in other words, their whole life revolves around me – and we are totally oblivious to the fact that they have many other friends and relatives and other relationships. So, with great attachment, we don’t want the other person to have anything to do with anybody else. Just me.
Or a classic example is that if we are the person at home in a partnership. Let’s say a traditional one in which the woman might be at home, although nowadays it could be the man at home – whatever, it doesn’t matter. But the worker comes home and we’re totally oblivious that they’ve had a whole day with interacting with other people, and we only think in terms of: “Now you’re here. So now you should be totally enthusiastic to be with me,” and so on. And the other way around: the worker comes home, and the one who is at home – totally oblivious that they had a day dealing with the children and shopping, and all these other things, and: “Now you should have the dinner ready on the table. And you should be totally there just for me.”
This is ignorance. This is impossible, that somebody’s life is just restricted to me and the relationship with me. A person’s life arises dependently on all the parts, and so all the different relationships with all the different people that are involved in this person’s life, and therefore they have obligations to spend time with their parents, with their relatives, with other friends, etc., not just with me. So this is a big problem that arises when we have attachment to somebody. So, again, something similar to voidness: There’s no such thing as somebody having a life that is only restricted to a relationship with one person.
Now we need to apply that same understanding to ourselves when we have attachment to somebody and we think just in terms of this relationship. Let me explain that a little bit more clearly. We may have many people in our lives who like us, who even love us. But there’s this one special person and “I wantyou to love me,” and “If you don’t love me, then that’s the end of everything” – and that all these other people love me, that doesn’t really count. And if that relationship ends with this special person, then it’s like our whole life is over, and we have great difficulty acknowledging that we still have friends and we still have our dog who loves us, and we still have relatives, or whatever. And so, again, we have to see that a life filled with relationships with others arises dependently on parts; not just identify it with one part, like this relationship with this special person.
Okay. That’s the discussion of the second level of dependent arising. Do you have any questions? Let’s first take a few moments to reflect on what we have been discussing.
Okay. Now please keep in mind that when we talk about voidness style meditation here, what we’re focusing on is “this is impossible.” This is impossible that I’m the only person in this other person’s life, or that this person is the only one in my life. That’s impossible. That is the style of meditation here. No such thing. Pop the balloon of this projection of fantasy, and then accept the reality of dependent arising – or the truth of dependent arising (we don’t want to make it into a solid thing).
The question is: do I have this topic on my website? Not yet. It will be on the website as soon as this lecture gets edited. But these two levels of dependent arising, and the examples that I’ve been using in terms of an analysis of relationships, this is in my book Developing Balanced Sensitivity. I developed it in there in terms of, again, popping the balloon of our fantasies. So there is a presentation there already.
So we have a situation (we were talking about these relationships). If there is a person who considers that relationship is the most important thing in life, and family is the top priority in their work and in their life, and nothing outside that’s important, but this other person does not consider it exactly like that. Then should that person, the other one, try to change this relationship through changing himself or herself? Or, in addition to that, should he explain that to the other person?
I think that everything, of course, depends on the individuals who are involved, how open-minded they are, and so on. This can be a big source of conflict in a relationship. I’m thinking of a specific example of a relationship in which one person considers friends in their life very important, and spending time with their friends. And the other partner says, “You spend too much time with your friends. You don’t consider me important enough. You should spend all your time with me.” And so big arguments go on about that, and the person who considers other friendships important in his life is certainly not willing to give that up and stop spending time with his friends. He’s invited the partner to come with, but the partner’s not interested. And the partner is willing to spend a little bit more time with the partner, but not totally give up the friends. And the one who’s so attached, who says “Spend all the time with me” – although she might say, “Well, I’ll try to change,” and “It’s all right,” but still the argument comes up. She feels very badly and lets the other person know that she feels badly and neglected.
So explaining to the other person, and even if the other person says, “Okay, I’ll compromise. I’ll try to change,” doesn’t mean that they will change. We have to go back to our discussion of things arising dependently on causes and conditions. Someone has a deep habit of attachment and insecurity, and so on – just somebody saying “Well, change,” and then you say “Oh yeah. I’ll change,” is not going to break the syndrome. It might improve it for a couple of days, but then the old patterns relapse.
So if the relationship is an important one and one that we want to sustain, particularly if it happens to be with our family, like our parents insisting that we spend more time with them and with our relatives, then we certainly need to make some compromises. But both sides need to compromise. But without the misconception that making a compromise is going to totally change each side’s feeling and tendencies.
But what is a helpful method in this type of situation is to give some security by giving a guarantee of a special time. “I can’t give you all my time, but every Sunday I’ll come to visit,” or “We’ll have breakfast together every day,” or whatever it is. So we offer something and we make it secure – as much as possible, I will do that – so that the other person feels secure in that they are getting at least something. You see, what is most difficult in this situation is the insecurity of the person feeling neglected: “I don’t know when you’re going to come.” But if there is a guarantee that at least there’s some time that they can count on, that they will get, that helps in most cases. Not always, of course. And, of course, a little trick that we can use is – if we’re the person that needs to give the guarantee – is that if I have a dog, I have to walk the dog every day. So if I have parents, I have to visit them every week or call them at least every week. In other words, don’t take it as a punishment or a big “I’m the martyr. I have to do this.” It’s just part of the package of having a dog or having parents, or having children for that matter. We need to guarantee that we spend some time with the children.
A friend of mine, not Buddhist – one doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to be able to give good advice – gave very good advice. He said that if you’re in a partnership relation with somebody, whether it’s a marriage or not necessarily a marriage, one of the ways to help that relationship to succeed is every day spend at least a half hour with your partner. Not with anybody else, just alone with your partner. And that, I think, is very, very good advice.
Okay. Let us go to the last topic. We don’t have too much time, but this is traditional: one doesn’t spend too much time on the most sophisticated level. And this is dependent arising in terms of mental labeling. How do we establish the existence of anything? Is there something on the side of the object that is establishing itself? Or is it established dependently on other things?
Well, we have seen that things are established dependently on causes and conditions, if they are nonstatic, and everything arises dependently on parts. But when we speak really about the topic of voidness as it’s used technically, and we speak in terms of the Gelug Prasangika understanding of it, then we have to get more precise. Now one thing that we have to remember is that in the Buddhist tenet systems there are many different presentations of what are impossible ways of establishing the existence of something. In other words, the voidness is understood on many, many different levels – in terms of negating something impossible. And in each of the Tibetan traditions, and sometimes even within one Tibetan tradition, various authors will have different interpretations and understandings of each of these Indian philosophical positions within Buddhism. And, of course, all of them are useful. We can’t say that only one is correct. In other words, when we try to get rid of our belief in impossible things, we have to realize that we project and believe many, many different levels of impossible ways of existing. You have to negate – you have to get rid of – all of them. So let’s speak about the Gelug interpretation of the Indian system called Prasangika.
Now when we speak about mental labeling, we are talking about a conceptual phenomenon. It is talking about names and concepts; concepts referring to categories. Names or mental labels apply to a basis. Right? We give a name to something. We name it. That’s mental labeling. And, of course, the basis is made of many, many different parts, and so on. And we have to make a difference here between what the name refers to and a referent thing that could be found that is corresponding to the name.
Let’s use an example. I often use the same example because I think it illustrates this quite easily. Colors. Now there’s a whole spectrum of light, and we have names and concepts of different colors. So we have red, we have orange, we have yellow, we have blue, we have green, we have purple. We have all these colors. So these are mental labels that are labeled onto certain wavelengths, from this wavelength to that wavelength of light. And the referent object (btags-chos) – in other words, what the name is referring to – is red, yellow, orange. There is such a thing as red, yellow, and orange.
Now if we talk about a referent “thing” (btags-don) – these are difficult words to translate, but I’m making a difference between a referent object and referent “thing”: you know, in quotations; a “thing” out there – that would be… Okay, so there is conventionally red, yellow and orange. We have, by convention, by mutual agreement within a society, we have the conventions of these different colors. But a referent “thing” would be that on the side of the light, that there is such a thing as red, yellow, and orange. In other words, there’s the spectrum of light, and there’s a big wall making a boundary at one wavelength and at another wavelength, and that, from the side of the light, is red. And then there’s another wall further down, and within those two walls is orange; and then the next one is yellow. In other words, that there is something on the side of the basis that’s establishing these colors. Obviously there’s no such thing. There are no such walls on the side of the spectrum of light that establishes, from the side of the spectrum of light, the different colors. But does that mean that there are no colors? No. There are colors. Red, orange, and yellow. What establishes red, orange, and yellow? Merely the name or concept of “red,” “orange,” and “yellow.” And even the defining characteristic of red, orange, and yellow is just a convention. Some people just decided that from this wavelength to that wavelength we’re going to call this name. So that even the defining characteristic is mentally labeled.
Okay. So this is not so easy to understand, obviously. But I think if we work with this example of colors it’s a little bit easier to approach. Different societies are going to divide the light spectrum differently. Some societies may have three colors there: red, orange, and yellow. Other societies might have only two colors there. And the boundaries of what’s really red and what gets into the color of violet – that could change with different societies, and not only does it change with societies but with individuals as well. In other words, remember we isolate something to represent… If you think of red, each of us will have a different image of what represents red.
So when we speak about mental labeling, mental labeling doesn’t create things. Things are created by causes and conditions. All right? The colors are created in terms of atmosphere and the refraction of light, and light sources, and all these sort of things. But that’s why I emphasize, in our translation here, we’re talking about what establishes the existence of something, not what makes it exist. What establishes – how do you prove that there is such a thing as red? Well, there’s a word for it, and it’s what the word refers to on the basis of light waves. But is there a red existing out there between two boundaries? No. So whether we mentally label it “red” or “orange” doesn’t make any difference. You don’t have to actively label something to make the true statement that what establishes red and yellow is the word or concept “red” or “yellow.” We don’t have to go around saying, “Red, red, red, red…” in order for Boris’s shirt to look red. A Buddha doesn’t have conceptual cognition. A Buddha doesn’t mentally label anything. However, a Buddha would agree that what establishes red, orange, and yellow is mental labeling.
Now we can apply the same type of analysis and understanding to emotions. There’s this broad spectrum of emotions, and then we have the concepts within it of loyalty, jealousy, pride, attachment, and so on. Is there such a thing as jealousy or pride or anger? Sure. What establishes it? Well, the words and concepts. What the words and concepts refer to. That’s the only thing that we could say. What establishes that there’s anger? Well, it’s what the word “anger” refers to, the concept that “anger” refers to. But is there something on the side of emotions, in absolutely everybody, that sort of is walls – that from this side to that side, that’s anger; and then, on the other side of that, is hatred, and so on. I mean, there are no walls there. There are no – remember we were using the example of solid lines around things, or things encapsulated in plastic – there’s nothing like that in terms of emotions. Even the defining characteristics of anger or jealousy or hatred, that’s mentally created by a group of people, cave people or whatever, who decided that within human emotion – and animal emotion as well – we’re going to categorize in some sort of way in order to communicate. But, nevertheless, there are emotions. There is jealousy. There is anger. So what’s impossible, when we talk about voidness, is that there is a referent “thing” out there, on the side of the basis, that is establishing love, or establishing anger, or establishing orange.
Well, on a practical level, we start to apply these things. Like “good mood,” “bad mood.” What’s a good mood? What’s a bad mood? Well, I mentally labeled something as a “bad mood.” Was there something solid there, “Ohhh, a bad mood,” a big heavy cloud over our head? No. So we may conventionally be in a bad mood – what we have labeled “bad mood” or somebody, in the dictionary, has labeled this “bad mood” – but we realize that, with the understanding of voidness, it’s not that there’s this heavy black solid mood that I’m in. But we see – now we combine the other levels of dependent arising – that it’s arisen from all these causes and conditions, and it changes from moment to moment, so there’s all these different parts, and so on. Well, maybe I don’t feel so nice, but this understanding, this deconstruction, allows us to have equanimity toward it. So what? So who cares if I have a bad mood? Whether it’s arisen from this or from that, it’s not “Ohhh, this heavy bad mood,” that’s there solidly. And then I can change. In the stew pot, throw in more different causes and conditions to change what I feel like.
We feel sick. There is the convention of what it means to be sick. And so what is being sick? It’s what the word “sick” refers to. Obviously there’s a wide basis here of labeling. So I’m sick. So, okay, then you lie down, or you go to bed, or you go to the doctor, or whatever. You don’t make a big deal out of it. This is what is so helpful with this understanding of voidness, if we speak just on a very superficial beginning level. And then we extend this analysis to other things, like what about “friend,” what about “partner”? What is a friend? What is a partner? Well, it’s what the word “friend” or “partner” refers to, on the basis of a convention that somehow has either been defined in the dictionary, or maybe we have our own definition of what a partner should be or what a friend should be. Do we have friends? Do we have partners? Sure. But is there something on the side of the person that should make them like that, and if they don’t have it then there is something wrong with them, and so on? No.
So, in the end, what we need to do is combine our understanding of all these different levels of dependent arising. Someone has become our friend or our partner dependent on so many causes and conditions, and there’s so many different parts and aspects to the relationship, and it’s merely – well, partner, the relationship, the friendship, whatever, that’s just what the word refers to. Because the only thing that – It’s established by all these things, but there’s nothing actually sitting there solid: “Ohhh, friend!” “Partner!” Everything is fluid; everything is flowing. We tend to want to take a still picture, a still photograph, and sort of stop it at one thing and make it – whatever exists is this still photograph. Whereas everything is a movie – if I can speak in a very broad generalization – and affected by a million different things, including our concepts of how we label things, parts, causes, conditions, etc.
Okay. So that brings us to the end of our session; the end of our lecture. And these are topics that require a great deal of thought and reflection, but if we wish to achieve a true stopping of our confusion, and the disturbing emotions, and all the karmic junk that follows from acting out these disturbing emotions, etc., the understanding of voidness in terms of dependent arising is utterly essential. And it’s important not just merely to understand these points about voidness and dependent arising. We need to be convinced that it is correct. And not just be convinced that it’s correct, but then actually internalize it and apply it in our daily lives. And if we do this with the aim of ourselves overcoming our own suffering, our own samsaric existence, and so on, then it acts as a cause for reaching liberation – obviously in connection with many other causes. And if our mind that understands voidness has the force of bodhichitta behind it – we want to reach enlightenment in order to benefit everyone – the basis of great compassion and love, then that understanding acts as a cause for reaching the enlightenment of a Buddha.
Now let’s end here with a dedication. We think whatever understanding, whatever positive force has come from this, may it grow greater and greater and act as a cause for not only my own enlightenment but the enlightenment of everyone for the benefit of all.