Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Nothing creates itself

(6.27) Neither that which is asserted as the “independent creator of all”
Nor that which is asserted as the “independent permanent self”
Can come into being through intentionally thinking,
“Now I will arise.”

There tends to be two extremes when thinking about God, either he inherently exists or he doesn’t exist at all.  Those who assert he inherently exists say he is the creator of all.  But then the question arises, “what created God?”  If something else created God, then that thing is the creator of all.  Some say God created himself, but that denies the fundamental tenet that all causes must precede their effect (how can the effect exist before its cause?).  Some say God is permanent, but if that were the case how could he create anything since to create something is necessarily to change?  Clearly all of these conceptions of God are illogical.  People then wrongly conclude God does not exist at all.

Geshe-la himself refuted this at a festival many years back.  He said Kadampas do not deny that God exist, they simply have a different understanding of what that means.  We say mind is the creator of all, and the contemplations on emptiness prove why this is so.  Quantum physics is gradually catching up to what Buddha explained 2,500 years ago when it says objects come into existence when the mind engages them.  If we understand God to be the Dharmakaya, which is itself inseparable from our own mind of bliss and emptiness, then we can easily believe in God, understand the mind is the creator of all and appreciate the religious teachings of other traditions.  Many people come into the Dharma by rejecting Christianity or the like, but if our understanding of the Kadampa teachings is correct we will later come to appreciate their beauty.

Just as there is no independent creator of all, so too there is no independent creator of ourself.  We did not bring ourselves into existence, rather we emerged from a variety of causes and conditions.  Some people think that our very subtle mind which goes from life to life is our independent self, but that too arises in dependence upon causes and conditions, namely the substantial cause of the previous moment of mind and the circumstantial causes bring about change in that mind.  While the very subtle mind changes continuously, it always remains equally empty.  But this emptiness does not exist independent of the very subtle mind, rather it is the very nature of that mind.  Emptiness itself cannot exist in a vacuum, it is always the emptiness of something.  Without an object, you cannot have its emptiness.

 (6.28) If the independent creator itself is not produced,
Then how can it produce anything?
If the self were permanent, then it would follow
That experiences cannot be changed from unpleasant to pleasant.

Permanent in a Dharma context means unchanging.  If something is unchanging, how can it produce anything?  To produce something is to act in some way upon something else, which necessarily implies some change of the thing acting.  If the thing doing the acting doesn’t change, then how does it go from a state of not creating to something to a state of creating that thing?  It would have to either eternally be creating it or eternally not creating it.  The same is true with all things:  nothing creates itself.

Likewise, if the self were indeed permanent then how could it possibly experiencing anything different?  How could it go from not experiencing an object to experiencing it?  Wouldn’t that imply a change of state?  But a permanent object never changes.  If the self were permanent, it couldn’t experience anything, or if it did, it would have to experience the same thing in the same way forever.  Since clearly that is not our experience of the self, a permanent self cannot exist.

Why does any of this matter?  The point is two-fold.  First, all anger requires an object.  The object of anger we grasp at is permanent others, the harmed object is a permanent self, or maybe we blame a permanent God.  But none of these things exist.  By removing the object of anger, the mind of anger has nothing to hold on to and leaves our mind.

The second point is these sorts of contemplations quite often give rise to all sorts of feelings of discouragement and misunderstanding.  Shantideva uses these verses to help us identify within our own mind our impatience associated with thinking about Dharma.  We don’t understand, and this makes us unhappy.  Or we read the words, but fail to grasp their meaning and conclude it is a bunch of intellectual masturbation.  Or perhaps we just fall asleep because it seems so boring.  All of these reactions are examples of the impatience of thinking about Dharma.  By bringing this impatience to the surface, we can then work on generating a mind of patience towards profound topics.  It takes time, and that is OK.  If we contemplate them again and again with a positive mind, and we do so in the context of applying this sort of reasoning against the delusions that arise in our mind, then we will train in the patience of definitely thinking about Dharma.

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