Pakistani Buddha, Karachi Museum. Courtesy of Borronme/Art Resource, NY.
Pakistani Buddha, Karachi Museum. Courtesy of Borronme/Art Resource, NY.

This discourse on how the mind creates, reflects, and conditions the sense of self is excerpted from the Pali Canon, a collection of the Buddha’s teachings recorded by disciples after Shakyamuni Buddha died. Here, the Great Sage of India responds to the inquiries of Ananda, his cousin and most devoted follower.

Thus have I heard. Once the Lord was staying among the Kurus. There is a market town there called Kammasadhamma. And the Venerable Ananda came to the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said: “It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvelous how profound this dependent origination is, and how profound it appears! And yet it appears to me as clear as clear!”

“Do not say that, Ananda, do not say that! This dependent origination is profound and appears profound. It is through not understanding, not penetrating this doctrine that this generation has become like a tangled ball of string, covered as with a blight, tangled like coarse grass, unable to pass beyond states of woe, the ill destiny, ruin, and the round of birth-and-death.

“If, Ananda, you are asked: ‘Has aging-and-death a condition for its existence?’ you should answer: ‘Yes.’ If asked: ‘What conditions aging-and-death?’ you should answer ‘Aging-and-death is conditioned by birth.’ . . . ‘What conditions birth?’ . . . ‘Becoming conditions birth.’ . . . ‘Clinging conditions becoming.’ . . . ‘Craving conditions clinging.’ . . .  ‘Feeling conditions craving.’ . . . ‘Contact conditions feeling.’ . . . ‘Mind-and-body conditions contact.’ . . . ‘Consciousness conditions mind-and-body.’ . . . If asked: ‘Has consciousness a condition for its existence?’ you should answer: ‘Yes.’ If asked, ‘What conditions consciousness?’ you should answer: ‘Mind-and-body conditions consciousness.’

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