1. First, there
is Ignorance, which is the mistaken understanding of the true nature
of reality. It is represented [in the image of the Wheel of Life -
translator] by a blind man. One could speak of Ignorance " coloured
by emotions, " taking birth as the mind experiences emotion, some
form of attachment, aversion or jealousy…. And Ignorance which is
not coloured by emotion is very subtle, and will be the final veil
to be removed in order to attain Omniscience.
2. The second Link
is called Volitional Formations or Actions or Karmic Formations.
This is represented by a potter who is making things. One could also
call it " Mental Formations. " These Mental Formations can be
virtuous, unvirtuous or neutral, and can generate pleasant
exepriences or suffering, and create a connection to the three
realms of upper rebirth and three realms of lower rebirth. It is
said that the animal realm is dominated by stupidity, the hungry
ghost realm (or Pretas) is dominated by greed, and the hells by
3. The third link in the chain of interdependent
appearances is Consciousness. This is symbolised by a monkey playing
in a tree. What we call consciousness, the " stream of consciousness
" or " stream of thoughts" is the surface upon which we place the
karmic potentials which we create. It's a field in which we plant a
seed which will then remain in a latent form for a certain time, and
then when conditions are favourable this seed will ripen. The Law of
Cause and Effect functions in this way. When you get angry you won't
experience the consequences immediately, you won't fall into hell
immediately! But this karmic potential, this karmic seed has been
planted and will remain there. Whenever one gets involved in
negative states of mind again, such as anger, jealousy or other
negative emotions, this acts to water the seed, to give it manure;
the seed will grow and the fruit will ripen. The fruit will be a
phenomenon in your current life or in your future. So it is in this
Consciousness that all the potentials are deposited - the positive,
negative and neutral seeds that you create.
4. Once the karmic
seeds are deposited on the Consciousness they will give a result
which is called Name-and-Form. This is the point at which the
aggregates appear. Once the causes we have created have sent us to a
place where we take rebirth we take on a body. This is the
appearance of a form that can be named, and it is symbolised by a
man in a boat. These five aggregates are Form, Feeling,
Discrimination, Volition and Consciousness. We have a consciousness
of " I " on the basis of these aggregates; it's through grasping on
to these aggregates that we can say that " I exist, I am, this is my
name, I live here in my house. "
5. So far we have seen how the
five aggregates have been created, but they have had no chance yet
to come into contact with the outside world. The sense-organs were
there but the respective consciousness of each one only arises with
the fifth link: the Six Sense Consciousnesses, or Sources of
Perception, or even Cognitive Faculties. These are represented by a
monkey in a house with six windows. If I can see this flower, it's
because there is a visual consciousness which operates via the eye.
In the same way there are six consciousnesses: five which relate to
the body (touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing), and one mental
consciousness. When I place my finger, the organ of touch, on the
table I can only say " I am touching the table " if the touch
consciousness relays this to the main consciousness, the mind.
And to conclude the section containing the six Interdependent Links
relating to the Second Noble Truth, there is the Link which we call
Contact. Once Name-and-Form exist and the Six Sense Consciousnesses
have been created, we arrive at Contact. This contact comes into
being in the relationship between the sense organs, the sense
consciousnesses and sense objects. This Link is depicted as a man
and woman lying together.
7. Arising from the contact of a sense
faculty and an object the following Link appears: Sensation, which
is symbolised by a man with an arrow in his eye. Whether virtuous,
non-virtuous or neutral we can speak of five types of Sensation
(pleasant, painful, neutral, happiness (of mind) and unhappiness.)
8. Attachment arises next, represented by a person drinking.
This consists of attraction to pleasant experiences, aversion from
unpleasant experiences and simple acceptance of neutral
9. Stronger than attachment is Grasping, which comes
next. I find the English word " grasping " very expressive in the
image it conjures up of sinking one's hooks into something. It is
represented by a monkey gathering fruit. It is a motion of the mind
which seeks to try something out in order to hold on to or cut off
an experience, or simply let an experience continue.
10. As a
result of Grasping, we create a karmic cause which will manifest in
the future to determine a certain form of rebirth. This is the Link
of Becoming, represented by a pregnant woman.
11. The karma
accumulated by the process of becoming leads to Birth, symbolised
understandably enough by a woman giving birth. Birth can take place
in four different ways: from a womb, as we know well; from an egg,
such as a chicken or bird's egg; microscopically or by division, as
with certain forms of cell life; and spontaneous or " miraculous "
birth, in places where the body is subtle, and which is a
spontaneous birth with a fully-formed body.
12. Because a form
has appeared, Old Age and Death must eventually follow, which is
represented by an old man carrying a dead body on his back. Old Age
does not just mean being old, but is the progressive detrioration of
the body from the moment of birth, with its portion of sickness and
We could say, as
a way of remembering the Twelve Links : Ignorance leads to the
creation of Karma which are imprinted on the Mental Continuum from
which arise the Aggregates and the Six Consciousnesses which enable
Contact to result in Sensation, which produces Attachment followed
by Grasping, which creates Becoming generating Birth followed by Old
Age and Death.