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Chris Krause
Pentola Eastern Philosophy
Dependent Origination and the Nature of Reality
By His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Content Summarized:
Page 35, Paragraph 1:
Unpleasant perceptions are often the main
creator of unhappiness and pain in the
modern era. Events as we perceive them
are not necessarily played out truthfully;
we can only rationalize what we are
viewing through our own senses.
Page 35, Paragraph 2:
We are unable to perceive the essential
reality before we can explain phenomena.
If we do not understand such, we are more
likely to lead to unskillful actions.
Page 36, Paragraph 1:
If we observe apparent reality it becomes
clear that it is impossible to remove a
single phenomenon from the context of
another phenomenon. Our own perceptions
of the world are clouded in relationships,
rationalizations and familiarity. Our own
perceptions narrow any possible insight; it
narrows our perspective and basically leads
to spiritual tunnel vision of sorts. Our own
perception is dwarfed by the monolithic
complexity of existence.
His Holiness speaks the obvious truth. Our
world is one predicated on illusory
assumptions and one-sided virtues, on false
pretense and fabricated necessity. Our own
perception is what fuels various negative
emotions such as hatred, lust, greed and
self-loathing – perception is the enemy.
Not much to say here, once again HH hits
it on right on the dot.
Modern meme vectors such as the media,
government and factions utilize the
apparent weakness in perceiving to push
their own agendas. Using sensational
rhetoric and fabricated threats a powerful
centralized entity is possible to mold any
exposed populace to its whim. Such
manipulation of one’s mind is not as
difficult as it sounds, the virus will selfreplicate as the first generation has been
incubated. Most Americans fear olive
skinned, Mongolian, towel heads because
of the twisted perceptions of a certain
unnamed pretzel-choking demagogue.
Page 36, Paragraph 2:
Dependant Origination is scientifically
Dependant Origination (“ten del” in
supported in the chaos theory (commonly
Tibetan, articulated in the Madhyamika or
known as the “Butterfly Effect”). The
“Middle Way”): The progression of causes
"butterfly effect" is a phrase that
and conditions is the reality which applies
encapsulates the more technical notion of
to all things, from the natural environment, sensitive dependence on initial conditions
which is an external, physical condition, to
in chaos theory. The idea is that small
the events of human society, ethical
variations in the initial conditions of a
principles, life events and the happiness
dynamical system can produce large
and suffering which manifest in our own
variations in the long term behavior of the
minds. These systems of causal
system. So powerful is the effect of a single
relationship are part of the one natural
butterfly flapping its wings that a tornado
truth. Our happiness within this natural
could be created after the nearly limitless
system depends on having some knowledge
number of matter relations has been
of how it works and practicing correctly
resolved. That is, a single gust of air from a
within it, through addressing problems on butterfly’s wing could change the future so
the personal, social, and environmental
much that entire continents could be
levels. Given that all things are
destroyed. The butterfly effect shows how
interconnected, and all are affecting each
truly dangerous time travel is, if even a
other, success in dealing with the world lies single variable (such as a different thought
in creating harmony within it.
in one’s mind creating a microscopic
charge across the brain or the rattling of
one’s shoe lace against leather) were to be
changed, the future (or present) would be
irrevocably shattered in the most severe
Page 37, Paragraphs 1-2:
Once again using science to reinforce
Mutual Dependence: A whole may not
Buddhist concepts- no one knows what
exist without parts; a part may not exist
makes up subatomic particles such as
without a whole. Everything is reduced to a quarks, but obviously something must take
truly minute unit – one which cannot be
up that space. We have no instrument
measured or understood by humans.
advanced enough to locate the smallest
division of any piece of matter. Even the
Independent identity is an illusion, only
idea of a quark is a concept, since quarks
predicated by popular rhetoric. For
only can be divided, in the smallest
example, a farmer belongs to his hand; a
instance, amongst other quarks (3-5 at
doctor has a grasp on dentistry.
Page 38, Paragraph 1:
Everything is interconnected. From the
(More on independent identity) Naming
looming hierarchies of centralized religion
things is just a provisional placeholder for
and institution to the thoughts we manage
their limitless parts and attributes. There is to formulate in our own mind, everything is
no defining factor which makes a pot a pot,
involved in a massive web of cause and
it is simply a naming convention used for
effect, of parts and wholes.
convenience. A pot cannot exist by itself; it
must be dependently originated – that is,
put together by a theoretically limitless
number of elements.
Page 38, Paragraph 2:
As I have brought up numerous times in
Perception is predicated on the sense
class- what we sense is actually rendered
organ- an unreliable medium for neural
by our brain. What we see or smell is our
input. In the end it is impossible to
own brain’s physical attempt at relaying
understand what we are sensing, and can
data to us through cognition. This is
only understand it as a massive web of
essentially what HH is hinting at, but as
interaction and complex events.
before, we can bring science into the
picture to support spiritual maxims.
Page 39, Paragraphs 1-2:
Pulling out the scientific support once more
Exactly as hinted prior, HH uses alternative
we can observe quantum and chaos
terminology to refer to a rendered
mathematics concept of time. Just as in
consciousness, one which is dependently
dependant origination, time is not linear
originated and not entirely reliable.
and is simply an endless array of matter
relations and potentially infinite relations.
Time is a convention and is illusory,
Time travel, albeit physically possible, is
dependently originated on the
effectively impossible. To time travel, one
rationalizations of past and future. We
would have to physically “rewind” every
experience the present at all times, linear
variable in existence – not really time
time does not exist.
traveling at all (in the classical sense), more
like tampering with matter states. This
being said, time does not exist in a calm
state but is constantly developing at the
now. This is where quantum physics
suggests that every new variable in
existence ever effective creates a parallel
Page 40, Paragraphs 1-2, Page 41,
The only way to live is to live
Paragraph 1:
compassionately. To live with
The present exists but we cannot perceive it unconditional love for all living beings is
objectively. The present is dependant on
the only way to create a harmonious
the state of the past and future.
presence within the present. When one
reverts to vileness and the less lawful
Every action, no matter how insubstantial, tendencies of emotional living he is unable
affects the whole of existence. With this
to grasp the true essence of what it means
being said, it is perhaps best to develop a
to live. To reach this level of unconditional
harmonious relationship with the present. It
concern one must discipline himself to
is useless to perceive anything as being
restrain from hedonistic acts and emotional
solid, immovable, discrete or permanent.
subjectivity, to renounce all idols and
When one considers dependant origination
obligations to a memetic society and live
he is drawn away from the tendency to
exaggerate a single entity to represent
existence when in truth a much wider
perspective exists.
Page 41, Paragraph 2:
Traditional modern logic is only acceptable
Dependent origination is iconoclastic in
for the bovine. So much must be cast aside
that it demands the perceiver discount all
as useless before even the most primeval
use in subjective black and white
baby steps can be taken to unlock the mind.
rationality and concept of a self (Anatta).
The merit of a soul has long since passed, a
The concept of absolutes and concrete
human fear veiled in ignorance and
rhetoric dissolve, the awkward and mystic
instituted by the Vatican and its
idea of a soul fades and classifying
benefactors to represent the pinnacle of
“others” becomes pointless.
human spirituality. No!
Page 42, Paragraphs 1-2:
This is where HH runs into the most
(More evidence that the concept of Self is
controversy with many Buddhist
illusory)The Self cannot be represented by
philosophers. Many philosophers believe
one’s mind or physical self. We refer to
that the consciousness (mind) may very
such in terms of ownership: “my body,”
well represent the self. HH manages to
“my speech,” “my mind.” It is more
skillfully debunk this notion as absurd.
appropriate to think of the self as an
interconnected web of interrelated
Page 43, Paragraphs 1-2:
The convention of “I” is acceptable in
everyday communication. However, it is
unacceptable for anything said to be
observed as being true. HH uses the
example “No one has seen a unicorn.”
Conventions may be acceptable when they
do not interfere with the experience of the
present and do not infringe upon the
sincere presentation of knowledge.
Perception rouses emotion, thought and
preconception on the way something
supposedly appears to us. Our perception is
typically tainted by our past experiences
and sensory dependency and will never
come out objectively. HH uses the example
of a coiled rope mistakenly perceived as a
snake to arouse fear. Herein lies the
concept of independently existing self.
Page 44, Paragraphs 1-2:
This brings up the concept of linear
incarnations of the persona and the identity
of the self as an indistinguishable, remote
duplex of the perceiver and perceived. For
example when one says “I hate myself” he
is speaking of a remote self, not the actual
self existing at the present – two selves, a
duplex. In this instance we are once again
unable to define the self (because it does
not exist) or anything else for that matter,
only as a never-ending matrix of related
Page 45, Paragraph 1:
Entities and events (without an intrinsic
classical reality) can only be defined by
their dependently originated elements. This
does not suggest nihilism (or the
philosophy that nothing exists) but on the
contrary simply observes phenomena as the
only distinguishable experience. Dependant
Origination is the basis of all Buddhist
Personally, I concur with the concept that
the self, really, the present, is more an
interconnected web of phenomena.
Pretty much common sense stuff here.
Rhetorical conventions will always be
utilized (unless we find a magical way of
communicating purely) in modern speech.
HH argues these are acceptable as long as
what is being said is not being perceived as
an absolute truth. Since we have
established that absolutes cannot exist,
what is being said or perceived is not
absolute, we live in a world of relativities.
[Insert redundancy here]
It is impossible to pinpoint the self as
anything else but the dependently
originated fabrication of our own senses.
With the concept of self debunked, there is
no intrinsic value to the atman or any other
mystical Hindu teachings which are all
predicated on the existence of a fragile soul
which decides one’s reincarnation as a
dung beetle or Brahmin priest.
[Insert redundancy here]
To create true happiness it is of utmost
importance that we not only reflect on the
interrelationship of all things in the natural
order, but also see ourselves clearly as one
system of causal relationships within that
natural order, becoming aware first of the
internal mental factors, then those in our
life experiences, in society, and ultimately
in the world around us. This is why, of all
philosophy, and while itself only being a
convention, proposes a robust framework
for understanding the experience in which
we all are a part of.
the systems of causal relationship based on
the law "because there is this, that arises;
when this ceases that ceases," the teachings
of Buddhism begin with, and stress
throughout, the factors involved in the
creation of suffering in individual
awareness -- "because there is ignorance,
there are volitional formations."
- P. A. Payutto
I couldn’t have put it better myself if I