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Volume 4  No 3

The Voice of Bliss

On Causes and Conditions

A farmer sows a seed and it sprouts: the seed is the cause and the farmer, soil, water, sunlight are the conditions. When causes and conditions come together, an event or several events will take place. All things originate because of causes and conditions. By the same token, all things cease because of causes and conditions. Since causes and conditions govern all aspects of our life, we need to know about creating good causes and conditions.

The Law of Causes and Conditions is omnipresent. It covers the entire universe and it is inseparable from all things, matters and forms. For example, a group people want to go to the city and they do so by the same train: wishing to go to the city is the 'cause' and going by the train is the 'condition'. When they arrive at the destination, they all disperse in different directions. This is the 'unity and dispersion of conditions'. However, in reality the 'causes and conditions' have not been dispersed because new causes and conditions are being created. Upon disembarkation, they go in different directions to their own destinations. Therefore, new causes and conditions are created and united. Causes and conditions do not remain unchanged forever. Thus, there is 'origination and cessation of causes and conditions'. It is also because of this law that in every family, parents, children and siblings co-exist.

'All things originate because of causes and conditions. By the same token, all things cease because of causes and conditions.' Suppose we need a building. Because of this 'cause', a building is constructed. After a long passage of time, the building may not be needed anymore. Its 'condition' begins to change, deteriorate and decay. Ultimately it becomes destroyed. Regardless of what the matters are, they are inseparable from the way of causes and conditions. This is the universal truth.

There are both good and negative causes and conditions. When we encounter the good ones, then there will be good effects. On the other hand, negative effects await negative causes and conditions. There is yet another category in which 'good causes and conditions are negative causes and conditions, and negative causes and conditions are good causes and conditions'. This can be explained as follows. If a person suffers a misfortune or he becomes orphaned, then the causes and conditions are negative. He is therefore driven by such adversities to be self-sufficient and independent, and he strives for advancement and knowledge. As a result of his diligence, he succeeds in life. Therefore, he reaps a bountiful harvest of wealth and prosperity. Thus, a negative set of causes and conditions is transformed into a good one. Still, some others may be born into wealthy families. They only know a good life: good food, drink and amusement. Come the day when their parents are no longer around, the environment will be different. Their wealth diminishes. As they grow old, they face poverty and hardship. Thus, 'good causes and conditions are negative causes and conditions'.

There is nothing superstitious about causes and conditions. If, for example, a member of the family is abducted by some bandits and we simply consider this to be a set of causes and conditions sowed in a previous life and give in to the demands of the bandits, then our action does not accord with the Law of Causes and Conditions. This is because abduction is a crime. If a youth refuses to be gainfully employed and mixes with bad company, and we consider the bad company to be his destined causes and conditions, then it is also a mistake. We need to transform negative causes and conditions, and create the good ones.

When we understand the Law of Causes and Conditions, we need to create new causes and conditions rather than wait for them to happen. If we can create new causes and conditions, and understand their value, and we are diligent in our endeavours, then naturally our causes will change for the better. Each person, from aeons of many births, has within the fields of his eight consciousness, good and negative seeds. These seeds are causes. When good causes are met with good conditions, such as encountering with virtuous people or when we perform good deeds, then it puts us in a favourable position. The appropriate thing to do is to nurture good causes and conditions, and allow them to grow. However, when we encounter negative causes and conditions, we should always transform them into good causes.

As human beings, we are like the crops in the fields. We should remove the rocks, weeds and other undesirable objects from the crops. The crops need fertiliser, water and nurture. If we are superstitious about causes and conditions, and treat both the weeds and crops as good causes and conditions, then we end up with nothing to harvest. Therefore, although Buddhism speaks of causes and conditions, we need wisdom. And, if we wish to have wisdom, then we need to cultivate diligently in order it will unfold and develop.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre