The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Dependent Origination and Impermanence
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Interdependence is one of the core realities of life . Look around; there is no one thing that exists wholly independent of anything else. Everything about our lives arises in context - supported and affected by external factors.
In Buddhism this idea is expressed as conditioned reality . That is, everything depends upon the right conditions to occur. We see a chair because of light . Sadness occurs because of a loss, or the memory of a loss. A flower grows because of the sun, earth and water. And so on. What we normally experience is always a duality of cause and effect, contrast and distinction.
The corollary to interdependence is Impermanence . All things change; nothing is permanent. Everything is in a constant state of movement. We watch things grow and die in nature every day. Even some of the most resilient things like metals eventually break down. Western science has revealed through quantum physics that not only are the smallest molecules of matter in constant motion, but that they in fact can change their nature from "particle to wave" depending on the circumstance.
In order to make sense of the world around us, our mind assembles a structure of concepts; we label and explain everything. We make distinctions, see separations, and experience a world apart from ourselves. We forget that each concept, each thought arises as a result of a set of conditions. And our experience of those conditions may differ from the experience of others based on the filter we use for interpreting those conditions - the emotional , physical and psychological background we bring to the situation.
That is the heart of Dependent Origination : our experience of reality is dependent on other factors just as everything around us depends on other factors to come into being. And it is all happening in a state of constant movement, change and Impermanence . Ultimately, dependent origination describes the progression that fuels the endless cycle of re-birth .
Understanding this process allows a practitioner to start letting go, to experience reality as a fluid interdependent whole. We are able to see our thoughts and emotions as momentary, less solid, not representative of a solid truth or hard reality . This is a key understanding in order to be able to see the absolute realities of selflessness and emptiness .