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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
28 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 to them emotionally. But if you examine this assumption, you can see how nothing in the world exists from its own side. Everything is the effect of causes and conditions. No effects arise through their own volition. Furthermore, each cause and condition has its own prior causes and conditions. If you try to trace back all of the causes and conditions, you can’t find a beginning to this sequence. So of all of the causes and con- ditions, which one will you hold on to? It would be arbitrary to choose one instead of another to react to. And for any effect that you observe, you are also one of the causes and conditions. You play a major role in bringing it about. Knowing this, you can’t reasonably respond to effects as if they only occur outside of you. Since nothing has inherent nature nor any singular, permanent qualities, it is as if all phe- nomena are magically produced by causes and conditions coming together—just like a rainbow, in which sunshine, rain, and moisture in the atmosphere produce arching colors in space. Like the rainbow, every phenomenon and experience is insubstantial, with nothing to grasp and hold on to; it is also essenceless, with nothing we can pinpoint as something to react to. It’s all as unreal as a movie. “Realness” is not out there at all. Nor is it here in the mind. It is merely a product of ignorance, an imputed quality imposed by igno- rant mind onto objects and subjective experience. If you understand this, then you see the two- fold character of everything that happens: the background and the foreground. In the back- ground, shunyata (emptiness) is present all of the time. In the foreground are the various appear- ances that rise and fall because of causes and conditions. The background is like the screen. The foreground is like the movie projected on the screen. They are not one and the same, nor are they separate. If they were one, while seeing the appearance of the phenomena, we would also realize their emptiness. Nor are they separate, since what is happening in the foreground is only possible because of emptiness as a background. Emptiness is the essence of everything that hap- pens; it is the essence of this dreamlike life and dreamlike experiences brought about by causes and conditions. Emptiness is the unfabricated state; appear- ance is the fabricated state. The unfabricated and the fabricated work together. From an unfabri- cated state, fabrications happen. All that is fab- ricated is impermanent and generated by causes and conditions. Conditions and appearances are always changing, moment to moment. If you look deeply, you see that the past is gone, the future has not arisen, and the present is just this very moment of appearance arising and dissolv- ing simultaneously. If phenomena didn’t arise and dissolve simul- taneously, then the universe would become static. If something continued, however briefly, then there would be no room for anything to arise in its place. If the next moment didn’t arise, then nothing could actually change. If nothing could change, then nothing could evolve, grow, or become different. Arising could no longer hap- pen. Ceasing could not happen. So everything arises and ceases at the same time, moment to moment. This is the condition of the universe and the condition of our own mind, percep- tions, and experiences, without exception. But because it is so subtle and the movement so rapid, because each moment is so similar to the one that just vanished, we make up a continuum. Just as we do when watching a movie, which is actually twenty-four frames flashing each second on a screen, we create substantial appearances. Since we don’t see each of those twenty-four frames separately, we think the house we see on the screen is the same as it was five minutes ago. But the house or character we’ve been watching changes twenty-four times per second. In the case of a movie, we know it’s a movie. If we didn’t have some sense that we were see- ing a movie, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. It wouldn’t be much fun to watch real people doing all sorts of things such as killing each other. We’re conscious that it’s a movie, at least in the beginning. Yet within minutes of watch- ing all of that magical interdependence on the screen—even knowing it’s not real—we can still sink our subjective mind into a state of igno- rance, a deliberate state of confusion. Then we regard the unfolding drama as real. We make this character good, that character bad; we side with one against another. Though there’s noth- ing real on the screen at all, the subjective mind can create something “real” out of it, imputing this reality so we can work up our emotional