#15: On the way: The seven-fold cause and effect method

21 April 2010 - 10:13pm Comments Off

  1. Recognising that all of living beings are our mothers
  2. Remembering their kindness
  3. Repaying their kindness
  4. Developing affectionate love
  5. Generating great compassion
  6. Generating altruism
  7. Generating the awakening mind.

Each step is a cause for the succeeding effect, which in turn becomes the cause.

The Way of the Bodhisattva is a spiritual journey. We must therefore think in spiritual terms, and discard our ordinary limited views and ways of thinking. The spiritual need not always be fancy concepts which you have to swallow blindfolded. There are many methods to access objects of knowledge and to establish truths. We just need to have an open mind.

There are many levels of truths. Some, such as the physical truths or laws, can be established by examining and studying the objects themselves, and applying scientific methods and tools to establish their existence and nature. If you are interested in the nature of a bar of gold, you can use an electron microscope to look deeper into its structure and composition. The bulk of the familiar laws of physics, chemistry and biology are established in this way.

Science cannot measure the mind since the mind is non-material or formless

However, when an object or phenomenon becomes more subtle, scientific methods don’t do a good job. For example, science cannot measure the mind since the mind is non-material or formless. It cannot be trapped or sampled for measurements. Presently, mind can only be established via its close relationship with our brain. Mind is however, not the brain. Brain inactivity does not equate to absence of mind nor can the mind’s nature be studied via the brain. Here, science has reached its limit.

Fortunately, where science fails, there exist other empirical methods which can do a perfectly good job. In fact, many phenomena which we have come to accept as truths and depend on in our daily lives are established this way.

Even though most of us have never personally proven the existence of gravity, we will not jump from a 10-storey building

For example, even though most of us have never personally proven the existence of gravity, we will not jump from a 10-storey building.

How much knowledge have you consumed via newspapers, gossip, hearsay, etc. which you have taken as fact and real, and adopted them into your principles without subjecting them to proper investigation as to their source and validity?

What’s happening here?

Besides science, we can study phenomena and verify truths via observation, direct experience and inferential logic.

Many inventors, architects and engineers design things by relying on the above methods, not only during the conception stage, but to also check the final product. Some ascribe such methods as intuition-based.

Why do aeroplanes look like birds and not elephants? It is much more difficult for an inventor to come out with an elephant-shaped plane, and then try to work out the calculations or make it fly. An aeroplane that is designed to look like a bird will most likely fly because birds are observed to fly naturally. Elephants don’t, with the exception of Jumbo! But then Jumbo does not belong in the natural world…

When a building is very tall and slender, it does not look safe. To make it safe requires a lot of work and costs. It is unstable because it is behaving like a bamboo which sways naturally. This knowledge comes from the power of observation of things in their natural state.

When we see smoke coming from a building, we call the fire department without hesitation. When we hear thunder and see lightning, we open our umbrellas. This knowledge comes from inferential logic. You do not need to see the actual flames or get drenched before making a conclusion. It is said that if you have never touched water, you will not be able to swim no matter how much you read about it in books. Such knowledge of the properties of water has to come from direct experience.

These methods are not perfect and neither is science. However, they all serve to enrich our lives to make it more meaningful and one less filled with suffering.

How is it possible that all living beings have been our mothers before?

You do not need to see the actual flames or get drenched before making a conclusion.

This is not a joke. In fact we need to recognise this truth, or we will not get very far in our path. When you look at photos of yourself when you were a baby, would you say that you had a past life as a baby? Would you say there will be a tomorrow after today? For the most part, you can say yes; therefore there is such a thing as past and future lives.

However, we place limits on our lives – that is, between the two terminus of birth and death. Why should we do that in the first place, just because we do not know what happens to us before we are born and after we die?

There are many things we do not know but we readily accept as truth like the examples described above. Not knowing is not a reason to deny the existence or non-existence of something.

Everything is cyclical in nature. We can observe how everything exists as different forms of energy, and how they are transformed from one state to another, for example heat, light and electromagnetism. When the ocean heats up, water vaporises and rises in the air to form clouds. When cooled, it falls down as rain and rejoin the oceans to continue the cycle again.

Why should there be no similar continuity of our being?

A foetus is produced from the egg and sperm of parents. However, the life force or consciousness of the foetus did not come from them as their natures are different. The egg and sperm are mere causes, and the parents coming together are a condition. A physical object must be produced from another physical object. Since consciousness is non-physical, it must come from a previous moment of consciousness, from a mind belonging to an immediate previous life, Mr Past. This mind itself also came from the mind of a previous life, and so on without beginning. By the same logic, when we die, it is our physical body that is left behind. Our consciousness will condition the next moment of consciousness which will start a new life in a new body as Mr Future. If you can get through this, the rest is peanuts!

A physical object must be produced from another physical object. Since consciousness is non-physical, it must come from a previous moment of consciousness

Hence we have infinite past lives. It follows that we must have countless mothers who had taken rebirths a countless number of times, in all the different realms past and present. Statistically, this means everyone of us has been each others’ past life mothers, not only once but many times over. Believe it or not, that’s the truth, and it is not coming from Mr Ripley but the all-knowing Lord Buddha.

If logic fails, or you are not having as much faith in Lord Buddha as you would like others to think, at least we should have balanced doubt. This means we must also consider that there is also no method to prove that any living being has NOT been our mother. What happens if Buddha is right? What if the fish you ate or the person you slapped was your mother before? Perhaps it is wiser to err on the safe side? Weigh in the fact that a Buddha never lies and it make this advice even more sensible.

A big obstacle to gaining the above first recognition is because we have bias.

 

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