Friday, March 29, 2013

The Eight Minds

               One of the most interesting teachings within the Dharma when I was first learning was on the topic of the Eight Minds. The Eight Minds are also known as the Eight Consciousnesses. It's about the psychology of our brain from the perspective of Buddhism.

Original Art by Identity Photogr@phy availble on

              To begin our look on the Eight Minds, I'd like to share with you an excerpt from the book, The Purpose of Life by Tamotsu Asakura.

              The science of psychology deals with the structure of our minds.
              Modern psychology teaches that there is subconsciousness beneath our consciousness and that further below that, lies "depth psychology."
              You may have heard about the subconscious but you may not have heard of the term "depth psychology." Would anyone believe if he was told that Sakyamuni Buddha had already revealed this level of psychology 2,600 years ago, although 20th Century psychology, at long last, has just begun to elucidate it?

               In the 80s, Japan and the United States were seriously competing with each other on the development of a fifth generation computer, also called artificial intelligence or A.I. for short.

              Professor Marvin Minsky, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a worldwide authority on A.I., is engaged in researching Buddhist scriptures -- stating that the study of Buddhism is essential for experimenting on the development of A.I. Why Buddhism in the computer?

              He explained that for the development of A.I., it became naturally necessary to do the research on the nature of man's mind. However, modern psychology did not give thorough instructions on it. He therefore researched the religions of the world -- since they specialized in the mind -- to see if there was any religion that gave instructions regarding the structure of the mind. As a consequence, he found that most religions hardly gave any information on it. However, in the Buddhist scriptures, it was taught in detail. Sakyamuni Buddha was truly an exceptional psychologist. [Minsky] found that Buddhist scriptures were unsurpassed texts for the development of computers.

Original Photo by isforinsects available on

               What Professor Minsky, pictured above, used for his thesis on A.I. was the teaching on the Eight Minds. Let's look at what he discovered.

The Eight Minds

1.) Sight Consciousness - Mind of the eyes. This is the mind that perceives what we see and enjoys from all the sights

2.) Hearing Consciousness -  Mind of our ears. The mind that detects the sounds we hear. We listen through this mind and with it can enjoy music.

3.) Smell Consciousness - Mind of the nose. The mind that detects odors and pleasing fragrances. 

4.) Taste Consciousness - Mind of the tongue. The mind that perceives and tastes between sweet and savory. The joy experienced from fine cuisine.

5.) Touch Consciousness - Mind of the body. The mind that discriminates between textures and temperatures. It perceives between hot and cold also between tough and soft. The Mind of the Body also includes the exhilaration from sports and dancing. It also includes the soothing sensation of silk or a cool breeze.

6.) Thought Consciousness - This is the mind that thinks, memorizes, and dreams. It is also the mind that integrates the first five consciousness and judges collectively between them. It is the mind that enjoys reading.

7.) Manas Consciouness - It is the mind that makes us feel attachment to various people and things. It is the mind of "I." It goes hand-in-hand with the Alaya Consciousness.

8.) Alaya Consciousness - If you read over my posts on the Law and Cause and Effect, you learned about this as Alaya Mind. It's also known as Storehouse Consciousness as it is the storehouse of our karma.

               You may have heard of the Himalaya Mountains. Well, the meaning there is Snow Storehouse. I thought that was really amazing. Just imagine how vast our karma storehouse is! Alaya Consciousness is our True Mind.

                The first six minds are widely-known and easy to understand because we can recognize them. Here's another excerpt from Mr. Asakura's book so we can get a better grasp on the last two minds. (Note: words in brackets are English translations of the Japanese terms used in the original work. )


              [Manas Consciousness] and [Alaya Consciousness] do not appear on the surface, and therefore we are not aware that we have such minds. They are, so to speak, the minds that are concealed at the bottom of [Thought Consciousness].

              Buddhism is the study of the mind, but Buddhist universities put strong emphasis on the subjects of [Manas Consciousness] and [Alaya Consciousness]. These two complicated minds, it is said, take eight years to comprehend, even if one should study with serious determination. It is that difficult.

              Then what sort of mind is [Alaya Consciousness]? ... What things are stored in the [Alaya Consciousness]? Our karma is stored in it. What is karma? In plain language, it is the energy of the deeds produced by the body, mouth, and mind.

              In Buddhism what we think in our mind is considered as one kind of deed. We perform all sorts of deeds, both good and evil, and they are all stored as seeds which, in the future, produce effects in accordance with the Law of Cause and Effect. A good act produces a good effect; an evil act produces an evil effect, accordingly. One's acts bring the effects back to oneself.

              In Buddhism, these effects are called karma-seeds, and the storage of these seeds is the [Alaya Consciousness]. A karma-seed is energy which is colorless and formless from the beginning ... the [Alaya Consciousness] is also a colorless and formless existence. Within the [Alaya Consciousness] are stored all the karma-seeds one has practiced from his beginningless past as well as the karma-seeds of his acts since his birth into the human world of his present.

              The eight kinds of consciousness may be divided into two categories -- [Thought Consciousness] and [Alaya Consciousness]. The first five kinds of consciousness are subordinate to [Thought Consciousness] and the seventh, [Manas Consciousness], could be incorporated into [Alaya Consciousness].

                People today are only aware of [Thought Consciousness].


              Mr. Asakura goes on to explain that the Alaya Mind is our fundamental consciousness. It is at the very bottom of our Thought Consciousness and even controls it.

             We are taught right and wrong through our education and our upbringing by our parents. This knowledge is stored in our Thought Consciousness. However, the Alaya Consciousness ignores all ethics and morals because it is a deeper mind. Although one may be aware through Thought Consciousness that it's wrong to do something, the Alaya Mind still has the command to say, "Do it anyway."

             As we age, the pleasures of the six senses begins to decline. However, people will always keep looking for something stimulating as there is no end to our desire while we're alive. These six minds will finally perish with the body at the time of death. But the Alaya Consciousness, "filled with one's lifetime karmic-evils, continues to journey into the world of the afterlife."

               That is why in Buddhism, the goal is to awaken this Alaya Consciousness before we die. Once we deeply realize the existence of this mind, we can feel pure joy and fulfill our true life's purpose. It is how we come to know our True Self and receive absolute happiness.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything

              When you really think about it, how much time do you actually spend caring and thinking about others and how much time do you spend on yourself? A real, honest look might reveal that we're probably spending about 90% of our time getting our own needs met.

              Take the example of a large bath tub. You want more warmth, so you begin to bring in with your hands all the warm water toward you. But what happens? It escapes pushing the warm water around and away from you. However, when you push the warm water away with your hands, the warmth circulates bringing more to you. (Try it the next time you have a bath. It actually works!) This example embodies the concept of Benefiting Others, Benefits the Self within Buddhism.

Original Art by Tim Green aka atoach, available on

               According to the Law of Cause and Effect, doing good deeds only brings more good effects for us. So we should give generously to others more than we did yesterday. This all sounds really logical and seems quite simple, but there's definitely more to the story!

            Long ago, there was once a famous meeting between Bird's Nest Monk, a Zen priest, and Bai Juyi, a scholar of Confucianism.

               Bai Juyi was taking a walk on a mountainside, deep in the forest. He was lost in thought when he saw something curious. Up in a large tree there was someone with their eyes closed doing meditation.

               "Excuse me!" Bai Juyi said, "Don't you think it's a little dangerous to be up there with your eyes closed?"

               Bird's Nest Monk replied, "The one who is in danger is you!"

               Bai Juyi got the sense that this priest was no ordinary man, so he decided to introduce himself. "You know, I'm just a nobody. It's nice to meet you. They call me Bai Juyi."

                "I'm Bird's Nest Monk. I'm also nameless. A pleasure."

                "You know, this is a rather rare opportunity. I always wanted to know what Buddhism is all about," Bai Juyi said."In a few words, could you sum it up for me please?"

                 "Refrain from doing bad deeds and practice various good deeds. In short, 'stop evil; do good.'"

                  Bai Juyi became bemused. "But even a little kid knows this. Is this all the Buddha teaches?"

                  Bird's Nest Monk replied, "Even though a three-year-old boy knows it, it's difficult to practice even for an 80-year-old man."

                   At this Bai Juyi began to think more seriously about Buddhism, and the two carried on a discussion.

Update: Previously, this post originally ran with the names Hakurakuten (Bai Juyi) and Torinosu (Bird's Nest Monk). These are the Japanese names, but I decided to switch them to the original Chinese and English translations for ease of reference. 

Giving Another Look at Giving

                Even though the core concepts of Buddhism seem easy for us to understand, we have to try hard to put them into practice. In a previous post, we went over the Six Good Deeds that Make You Happy (Six Paramitas).

                Sakyamuni Buddha narrowed down all the virtuous acts we could possibly perform into just six categories. He did this to make it easy for us to choose one and perform it to the very best of our ability and with all our hearts. By doing one with the strongest of intentions, you end up doing them all.

                  But for today let's focus on the first paramita of Generosity.

1.) Generosity -- Making Offerings to Others

        a.) Dharma -- Sharing Buddhism will bring happiness in this life and beyond into eternity.

           b.) Materials -- Giving money or things of value that make people happy in this life

               However, for those who have nothing to give as far as materials or compensation, there are still generosities that we can still offer even without a penny, yen, ruble, pound, or rupee!

Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything 

1.) Kind Eyes -- Send others good thoughts and intentions with your eyes

2.) Peaceful, Friendly Smile -- A friendly facial expression promotes harmony, smooths tensions, makes people feel comfortable in their environment

Original Photo by mknobil available on

3.) Kind Words -- A simple, warm "Hello!" can brighten someone's day and also make sure to say positive comments to people who have gone through difficult situations

4.) Physical Labor -- Doing chores, helping someone out for free and volunteering are great examples

5.) Heartfelt Gratitude -- Being grateful to others, apologizing for mistakes, and excusing ourselves when we inconvenience others makes us become more thankful in life

6.) Offer Your Seat (position/role/title) -- Giving up an advantage to someone in need like the coveted front seat in a car

7.) Share Food / Shelter -- Offer visitors to your home and those in need of help a place to spend the night and share a meal with them

                All seven of the above examples of generosity can be performed everyday, and they are all aimed to awaken the mind of a bodhisattva within us. 

                A bodhisattva is one who is seeking for true happiness. If you sincerely practice these good deeds with keeping these paramitas in mind, you will be happier and even come closer to knowing the meaning of life. Just give it a try and choose one today -- Generosity, Keeping Your Word, Patience, Making Effort, Self-Reflection, or Wisdom!

                 But we just can't perform good acts to anyone. Sakyamuni Buddha taught that we should plant seeds in the Three Fields of Fortune.

Original Photo by irokurcazbah available on

Field of Respect -- Someone with virtue that deserves respect

Field of Gratitude -- Someone who we owe a debt of gratitude

Field of Compassion -- Someone who is suffering and/or less fortunate 

               We are encouraged to practice as many of these good deeds as possible in these fields and to listen to the Law of Cause and Effect frequently. We think because we've heard about karma before that we already know it.

                But by not putting it into practice -- we don't really know it at all. 

Two Reasons Why People Are Not Practicing Good Deeds

1.) They don't understand the teachings.

2.) They think it doesn't matter if they do them or not.

                 Buddhism teaches us not just to know, but to practice as well. At a red traffic light, everyone stops. Knowing isn't good enough; you have to stop at the light to avoid disaster.

                 What goes around really does come around. Everything little thing we do influences our future karma. So we should reflect deeply and choose wisely to plant seeds of happiness with all our decisions in life.

The Inability to See Our Own Evils

                 Doing good brings us closer to seeing hidden evils concealed within our nature. To help us refrain from these wrongdoings, we are taught to learn and avoid the Ten Bad Deeds.

 Ten Evils

 Karma of the Mind
          1.) Greed
          2.) Anger
          3.) Foolishness -- Not Knowing the Law of Cause and Effect

Karma of the Mouth
          4.) Lying
          5.) Double-Tongue -- Telling one person one thing, and another something else
          6.) Flattery
          7.) Bad Mouth -- Using foul language and speaking ill of others

Karma of the Body
          8.) Killing
          9.) Stealing
          10.) Adultery -- Being unfaithful to one's partner

               The more of the Ten Bad Deeds we allow ourselves to perform, especially killing, stealing, or adultery, the more we also lose ourselves. And we're committing evils like these all the time with our words and thoughts... and most of that time we're not even noticing!

                 On the surface level as human beings we seem to be good-natured, but the Buddha's perspective reveals otherwise to us.

The mind is constantly thinking evil.
The mouth is constantly speaking evil.
The body is constantly doing evil.
Never has there been a single good deed.
--Great Sutra

               As we realize this definition of evil through listening to the teachings of Buddhism, the intention to refrain from doing evil then naturally arises within us. It is this mindset that drives us forward on the path.

              However, we can't see anything evil or wrong in our nature at all unless we first perform good deeds like the Six Paramitas with the utmost sincerity and dedication.

    Mirror       |                                        <---- Move Closer
        of          |<-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------X----------------
    Dharma    |                                        <---- Perform Good Deeds    You are Here

               Seeking for good is the barometer for how much one understands Buddhism. It is also the fear of committing evil.

               Along the way, conceit is the hardest obstruction and distraction while seeking for the truth.  It's our own inability to see clearly who we are and what we do.

                We must go forward by performing good deeds and listening closely to the teachings of Buddhism. By doing so, we get closer to realizing our true image in the Mirror of Dharma.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Schools of Buddhism

               Buddhism is the study of happiness. It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, a prince in India who was born in 560 B.C. At age 35, he became enlightened.

Original Photo by soham_pablo available on

               In Japan, he is more widely known by the honorific title, Sakyamuni Buddha. Sakyamuni means "Sage of the Sakyas," and Sakya was the name of his family's clan. Buddha means "Enlightened One" or "Awakened One." Sakyamuni's teachings were later compiled into 84,000 written works known as sutras. These lessons lead us toward becoming enlightened.

               We are all moving forward on this path to enlightenment. You may have heard the word nirvana to describe this state of absolute happiness.

                The teachings of the Buddha are known as the Mirror of Dharma because they reflect our true nature to us. They do this in order for us to achieve a state of everlasting, supreme joy.

               Just as there are many branches or sects within other major religions, there are many different schools of Buddhism. Some schools have more emphasis on certain sutras or lessons while others schools have a more graduated approach to the teachings of Buddha.

               All branches of Buddhism freely welcome anyone to attend services regardless of affiliations to other religions. In this way, it is a religion that promotes harmony with everyone.

               All Buddhist philosophy revolves around an understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect. In short, this principle is condensed in the following three lines:

Good deeds bring good results.
Bad deeds bring bad results.
Your own deeds bring your own results.

               By understanding this law deeply, you can accept responsibility of your actions and transform your future destiny by performing as many good deeds as you can now.

               Beyond these introductory concepts, many differences arise in each school's method of instruction of how to ultimately arrive at absolute happiness.

               There are two major categories within Buddhist schools, Theravada and Mahayana.

|                                                                   |
Mahayana                                                  Theravada
          "Great Vehicle"                                      "Teaching of the Elders"

               Theravada Buddhism arose in Southeast Asia and is the oldest school of Buddhism. It is also known as the small vehicle because only a few can follow the difficult practices. This teaching is centered around benefiting yourself and being happy yourself above others.

Original Photo by fyunkie available on

                Mahayana Buddhism became popular in India, China, and Japan. It is known as the great vehicle because it aims to include as many as possible in achieving enlightenment. Its principle philosophy could be stated as "my happiness makes you happy." It follows the core concept: benefit self, benefit others.

Original Photo by rahuldlucca available on

               Sakyamuni Buddha passed away at the age of 80. Nine hundred years later, a figure known as Ryuju-Bosatsu was born. His arrival was foretold by Sakyamuni. Ryuju-Bosatsu helped clarify the essence of the Dharma. He was also known as Nagarjuna and is respected in India and many places around the world as "Little Buddha."

                Ryuju-bosatsu taught that the purpose of Buddhism was not to benefit only yourself but to benefit all people and make everyone happy. This concept of benefit self, benefit others helped to increase the popularity of the Mahayana school throughout Asia.

               Within Mahayana Buddhism, there are two kinds of schools, the difficult path and the easy path.

Easy Path                                                            Difficult Path
|                                                                               |

               There are 52 levels of enlightenment, and according to Pure Land Buddhism, only Sakyamuni Buddha has reached the highest level of supreme enlightenment. Each path has a different approach on how to reach this level. The difficult path teaches us to reach the 52nd level one by one, whereas the easy path teaches us to jump a multitude at once.

               Nagarjuna had a very strong will and painstakingly made it to the 41st level one by one. Only two other figures have been able to do such extreme ascetic practices. Once at this level, he realized he couldn't go any further. Nagarjuna learned at this state that it was too difficult to obtain Buddhahood in the way Sakyamuni had. Because so few could achieve this type of enlightenment, he discovered it was not true Mahayana.

               The easy path is Pure Land Buddhism. In this method, one can jump all the way up to the 51st level from the very bottom. It is the shortest, most direct path toward enlightenment. Nagarjuna said that this was true Mahayana. He then abandoned his 41 levels of self-power Buddhism, and jumped to the 51st level through other-power Buddhism. This other-power is made possible through the wonder of Amida's Vow. This easy path is True Buddhism.

               The difficult path includes schools like Zen and Tibetan Buddhism which both practice meditation. Many people around the world often practice their meditations in order to just take a rest, reflect on themselves, or obtain calm for a few minutes here and there between work and study. But true Zen is not this simple type of relaxation exercise that one can start and stop so quickly. It involves very hard work. You can't hold full-time work, marry, or eat meat in order to practice it fully. 

                Another historical person within Buddhism is Bodhi-Daruma. Often he is depicted in round-shaped figurines known as Daruma dolls. The reason for this shape is that Daruma practiced ascetic training for nine years staring at a wall without moving.

Original Photo by Macskafaraok available on

               As a result of this activity, he lost both his arms and legs due to poor blood circulation. This extreme type of meditation has no room for Disneyland, music, going out, eating meat, or marriage. It is a concentration with all of one's will power to eliminate all desire. One must observe the mind and all the thoughts it harbors.

               Thus the true teaching of Zen is to climb the ladder of enlightenment by eliminating all desire. Such a person must seriously dedicate their whole life to such a practice and have very little to no free time. 

               After all his efforts, Daruma established the Zen school at attaining only the 30th level of enlightenment. This practice is so rigorous that one has to cut off all ties to the normal world, foregoing career, loved ones, family, and all the things we enjoy in life.

               It may be a way to calm the mind, but for Pure Land Buddhists, it is not suited well for attaining Buddha's enlightenment. In such a difficult path, only a few can be saved.

               The easy path is Amida's Vow, the Pure Land Way. Once we are 100% sure of Amida Buddha's salvation, only then can we be truly happy in this life. This type of other-power faith allows us to jump to the 51st level of enlightenment, just one under Buddhahood, and while still alive. Then after death, we are born in the Pure Land and attain enlightenment there.

               No type of rigorous training or ascetic practice is required for this absolute form of happiness. We only have to listen to Amida's Vow from a true Buddhist master. The current living master of Pure Land Buddhism is Kentetsu Takamori from Japan. A few of his works published in English are displayed below.

                To know True Buddhism clearly and concisely, make all efforts to listen to his teachings directly in order for you to obtain the purpose of life as quickly as possible. 

                In this Mirror of Dharma blog, I am sharing what I have learned from his lectures in order to bring awareness and exposure to the Pure Land way and so that one and all may obtain absolute happiness in this lifetime.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Law of Cause and Effect -- Past Karma & Conditions

             Now that you have learned the basics on the Law of Cause and Effect, we can go into some of the more technical aspects of how it functions. Let's review an important passage before we go further.

Good deeds bring good results.
Bad deeds bring bad results.
Your own deeds bring your own results.

           Each deed you perform through mind, mouth, and body remains as invisible, indestructible energy called karma, and this karmic power is stored within what's known as the Alaya Mind

           Alaya is a word in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, meaning storehouse. Back in the day, all precious goods from homes were kept outside in storehouses made of strong, fire-proof material. The picture below displays an old storehouse near Tokyo, Japan.

Original Photo by shig2006 available on

            Similarly, good and bad deeds are protected and stored in the Alaya Mind for eternity because this is the part of us that lives on forever, our True Self.

            This karmic energy from the beginning-less past flows to the present moment, carries on into the endless future, and never disappears. 

             Many people think that reincarnation means their personalities have gone through various lives just like in the recent movie, Cloud Atlas. But egos exist only within the physical self which last only from birth to death.

             This physical self can be compared to a bubble that forms on the surface of a great river. It floats just a short while in this Present World and then disappears.

Original Photo by LollyKnit available on
Original Photo by ikewinski available on

                            Our Alaya Mind and the Three Worlds

                                      Birth                                 Death
Past World (Before Birth)      Present World (This Life)         Future World (After Death)

               Our Alaya Mind (represented by the arrow above) is what travels through various lives of past, present, and future storing all of our deeds.

               Deeds remain stored in the Alaya Mind as causes until they encounter a condition

               Every effect requires a condition.

               For this reason, the Law of Cause and Effect could be called:

The Law of Cause, Condition, and Effect

               A condition combines with a cause to develop into an effect. Take rice for example. In order for a rice seed to grow, many conditions are required. 

               These include water, sunlight, soil, and proper temperature. Without them, the rice simply cannot grow.

                Q: So, can a cause without a condition still take effect?

                 A: Nope, it cannot take effect.

                No condition = No effect!

                 It's like planting seeds on a table. There's no way they will grow there without soil.

Original Photo by Phil and Pam available on

                 Let's take a look at another example of how cause and condition combine into an effect.
                 Imagine that you were just involved in a serious car crash.

Original Photo by snof_grof available on

                  A reckless driver sped through a red light while you were crossing the intersection with the right of way. There were many other cars in vicinity, but let's say you were the only one badly injured. Why were you hurt while others weren't? You could have avoided the accident if you had left your house just seconds earlier or a few seconds later. Why did you have to be right there at that exact moment?

                  Having received that effect indicates there was some cause for you to be in the accident other people didn't have. 

Bad deeds bring bad results.
Your own deeds bring your own results.

   Bad Past Deeds  -------------------> Bad Car Accident \ Suffering
                                                   (Cause)                                          (Effect)

                  A bad deed from your past brought you to that exact moment of that intersection where the reckless driver was headed. This is the Law of Cause and Effect. Your suffering from the accident was the effect.

                  But an effect can occur only when our past karma combines with a condition. This means the bad driver who ran the red light was the condition.

                                          Cause: Bad Past Deeds ------------------------ Condition: Bad Driver
                                                                   Effect: Bad Car Accident \ Suffering

                   The cause for your suffering was something bad you did from your past. The Law of Cause and Effect reveals that everything that occurs to us, good or bad, happens for a reason. It occurs because of our own deeds. That means we accept responsibility that our own actions define our destiny. We don't see others as the main source of our misfortune.

                   Of course, the driver who ran the red light must face legal accountability for his actions. But on a karmic level, we accept responsibility that something we did brought us into that situation. 

Original Photo by Anas Qtiesh available on

                   Once you realize how the Law of Cause and Effect really works, you'll begin to see how pointless anger, hatred, envy, and jealousy against others truly is. They only bring about more negative karma for your own future.

                   When one embraces the Law of Cause and Effect, every time good happens it makes you want to do more good. And when bad happens, it becomes a time to reflect and correct yourself. In times of great suffering, tragedy, or misfortune, you focus on just doing as much good as possible in the moment to improve your situation.

                   There is an old story that illustrates the mysterious nature of cause and effect.

                  A rancher had three horses that helped him earn his livelihood. He awoke one morning to find that one of them was missing. This caused him great suffering as his income would now greatly decrease. Then later that day, the horse returned with a wild mustang. To his surprise, the rancher now had four horses! He was brimming with excitement.

Original Photo by A.Davey available on

                The rancher instructed his son to tame the horse in preparation for the expansion of his business. But this mustang was very wild in spirit and it threw his son out from the saddle onto the ground. The son suffered severe injuries to his back.

               The rancher worried for his son and now again for the livelihood of his business. How could he run it by himself?

               Within just a short time, a savage war broke out and all the young men in the kingdom were drafted. Many of the youth ended up being killed in the war, but the rancher's son was spared from duty because of injury. The rancher rejoiced that he could still be with his son.

                    From this fable, we come to understand that their is such a vast, interconnected web of causes and effects in our world. It is impossible for us to fathom them all.

                    But by learning the Law of Cause and Effect, we understand how our actions shape our world. Crimes, war, violence would cease to exist if everyone realized this Universal Truth.

Original Photo by RyanKemmers available on

                     As we continue to listen to the teachings of Buddhism, we'll be closer to discovering more about our True Self. Please continue to read more on this blog about this very profound subject, as it takes much more than just one or two short lessons to master.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Law of Cause and Effect -- Foundation of Buddhism

               Buddhism was taught in India by Sakyamuni Buddha 2,600 years ago. Buddha's teachings were compiled in more than 7,000 written works known as sutras.

Original Photo by Wonderlane available on

                The foundation for all those sutras is the Law of Cause and Effect. If Buddhism is likened to a tree, the Law of Cause and Effect is like the trunk and the roots.

               If the roots or the trunk are cut, the tree dies. Likewise without knowing the Law of Cause and Effect, you can't really understand Buddhism.

                So what exactly is a law?

               The true essence of a law in Buddhism is something that applies everywhere, all the time.

                Everywhere = Ten Directions (Up, down, and the eight directions on a compass)

                All the Time = Three Worlds (Past, Present, Future)

                A scientific law can be disproved with new data or proper evidence, and one country's law may not apply or may even be illegal in a foreign state.

               The Law of Cause and Effect, according to Buddhism, represents Universal Truth.

               The Cause and Effect Sutra explains that every event, action, or moment in this lifetime has its own cause and effect.

         Cause -------------------------------> Effect

Word Art by QuotesEverlasting available on

                      Even great scientific mind Albert Einstein knew the importance of causality in our understanding of the world and how it operates. Causality is a word used for describing how things affect each other.

Examples of Causality

                  Let's look at a technical example within one of the most tragic airline crashes in history, Japan Airlines Flight 123. Years prior to the incident, the plane had what's known as a tail strike during a landing. 

Original Graphic by Wikimedia Commons user Anynobody

                       This caused the plane to have a weakened structural defect in the rear of the plane. A repair was carried out, but it did not meet proper safety requirements. However, the plane was still cleared to fly.

Original Graphic Art by Wikimedia Commons user Phoenix7777

                       Years later when JAL Flight 123 departed Tokyo headed for Osaka, the metal structure from the repairs tore open under pressure, resulting in loss of control. The aircraft then crashed into nearby Mount Osutaka.

Original Graphic Art by Wikimedia Commons users Eluveitie and Gauravjuvekar

                  CAUSE                       EFFECT
                 Tail strike -----------------------> Weakened Structure

                 Weakened Structure -----------> Faulty repair

                  Faulty repair -------------------> Mechanical failure

                  Mechanical failure ------------> Crash

                     The same principle applies to our own efforts in our day-to-day to lives. Say you're in college, and you do all your homework and study hard for every quiz and exam. 
Original Photo by Sean MacEntee available on
                     You receive internships allowing you to network with many different employers and gain valuable experience. 

Original Photo by UC Davis College of Engineering available on
                     Because of all this effort, you are able to find work easily after graduation.

Original Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video available on

       CAUSE                                 EFFECT 
         Study for test ----------------------------> Knowledge

         Knowledge -------------------------------> Internship

         Internship ---------------------------------> Experience

         Experience --------------------------------> Land a job

                      In these two examples, you can clearly see the relationship between the causes and the effects. The plane had a defect, and so it crashed. The student put in a lot of effort, so she got hired.

                      Not all relationships between causes and effects are this easy to spot. But no matter how big or how small, every event in the universe is carried out through the Law of Cause and Effect.

                      From a hair falling off your head and landing on the floor to the creation of the grand Himalayas Mountains rising up from the bottom of the sea floor. There is not one effect in a even a trillion cases that did not begin with a cause.

                    Buddha further clarified cause and effect to guide us in this essential passage:

Good deeds bring good results.

Bad deeds bring bad results.

Your own deeds bring your own results.

                        Let's think about a farm to illustrate this point.

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                       If you were a farmer and you planted sunflower seeds, there is no way you could expect in your right mind to grow watermelons. It's simply impossible.

Sunflower seeds --------------------X-------------------> Watermelons

                             Obviously, the only way to grow watermelons is to plant watermelon seeds. And without planting any seeds, you can't get any fruits.

Watermelon seeds ------------------------------------> Watermelon

                       The seeds we plant with our thoughts, words, and actions are known as karma.

   Karma is what determines our destiny.

                          You may know about karma from before as...  

                                                     "What goes around comes around."

                         Or you might have heard one of these famous quotes:

"Our life is what our thoughts make it." - Marcus Aurelius

"Luck is a word devoid of sense. Nothing can exist without a cause." - Voltaire

"Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else." - Leonardo DaVinci

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

"I’m a true believer in karma. You get what you give, whether it’s bad or good."  - Sandra Bullock

                 Though these are great examples, it's important to remember that in Buddhism your fate is never given or never chosen by a god. According to the Law of Cause and Effect, it's determined by you and your own actions.

               We usually go along with this concept when we have good karma.

"I must have done something great to deserve this!"

               But when tides turn and we have bad karma, the last thing we do is go over all the bad things we've done. Instead it's,

"Why me?"

               Yet everything in your life is tied to your past actions, words, or even thoughts. The place you were born, the country you live in, being male or female, the people you love or meet on the street, are all determined by karma.

              Because the Law of Cause and Effect is so vast, there are many more factors to consider like the concept of the Three Worlds and also varying conditions. It takes time to fully grasp and understand this Universal Truth on a deep level.

But in short, it means...

Stop Evil; Do Good.

               We all want favorable effects and are afraid of negative outcomes. So once we understand the Law of Cause and Effect, it's only natural to refrain from committing evil, the cause of future sorrow, and to do more good, the cause of future happiness. 

               In the next post, I will review the more advanced concepts of the Law of Cause and Effect. By listening to Buddhism, we come to know ourselves by observing our true self within the teachings.