25 January 2017

The Causes of Happiness

There is a Chain of Causation
That Leads One to Pure Contentment

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

The Nidanas are usually defined as the causes of existence and suffering.

On the other hand, the process leading to happiness and liberation from suffering is described in the Noble Eightfold Path taught by philosophical Buddhism.

The ideas of interacting causes and interdependent results are essential to modern esoteric philosophy.  
In the first part of the 21st century, Buddhism in general and especially the so-called “Tibetan Buddhism” undergo a sadly radical decline in ethics, knowledge and wisdom.  The situation was different during the 19th century.  In the “The Mahatma Letters”, a Master of the Wisdom writes about the 12 Nidanas or the chain of causation by which men get attached to suffering.  While referring specifically to the Buddhist temples in Tibet during the 1880s, the Mahatma says:

“Our lamas accept food, never money, and it is in those temples that the origin of evil is preached and impressed upon the people. There they are taught the four noble truths - ariya sakka, and the chain of causation, (the 12 nidanas) gives them a solution of the problem of the origin and destruction of suffering.”

The Master proceeds: 

“Read the Mahavagga and try to understand not with the prejudiced Western mind but the spirit of intuition and truth what the Fully Enlightened one says in the 1st Khandhaka. Allow me to translate it for you.”

And the Master quotes these words from the Buddhist scripture:

 “At the time the blessed Buddha was at Uruvella on the shores of the river Nerovigara as he rested under the Boddhi tree of wisdom after he had become Sambuddha, at the end of the seventh day having his mind fixed on the chain of causation he spake thus: ‘from Ignorance spring the samkharas of threefold nature - productions of body, of speech, of thought. From the samkharas springs consciousness, from consciousness springs name and form, from this spring the six regions (of the six senses the seventh being the property of but the enlightened); from these springs contact from this sensation; from this springs thirst (or desire, Kama, tanha) from thirst attachment, existence, birth, old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair. Again by the destruction of ignorance, the Sankharas are destroyed, and their consciousness name and form, the six regions, contact, sensation, thirst, attachment (selfishness), existence, birth, old age, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection, and despair are destroyed. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

 “Knowing this”, adds the Mahatma, “the blessed one uttered this solemn utterance.”

And these are the words of the Buddha, the Enlightened One, as reproduced by the Master:

“When the real nature of things becomes clear to the meditating Bikshu [1], then all his doubts fade away since he has learned what is that nature and what its cause. From ignorance spring all the evils. From knowledge comes the cessation of this mass of misery, and then the meditating Brahmana stands dispelling the hosts of Mara like the sun that illuminates the sky.”

“Meditation here” - the Master says - “means the superhuman (not supernatural) qualities, or arhatship in its highest of spiritual powers.” [2]

The above is one among the passages of almost unfathomable depth and transcendent power of inspiration that students find in the Mahatma Letters.  It can be read as a philosophical poem, just as many an ancient scripture.  It also shows the theosophical importance of studying the mystery of the Nidanas.

The Causes of Liberation

“The Book of the Kindred Sayings”, translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids, M.A., offers valuable insight on the subject. It reveals something of that chain of causation that leads to inner happiness.

There is a musical and mantric dimension in the text:  

“I say that liberation is causally associated, not uncausally associated. And what is that which is the cause of liberation? Passionlessness [3] is the answer. Yea, I say that passionlessness is causally associated with liberation. And what is that which is the cause of passionlessness? Repulsion is the answer. Yea, I say that repulsion is causally associated with passionlessness.
And what is that which is the cause of repulsion? The knowledge and the vision of things as they really are is the answer. Yea, I say that the knowledge-and-vision of things as they really are is causally associated with repulsion.” [4]

The chain of factors proceeds:  

“And what is that which is the cause of the knowledge and insight of things as they really are? Concentration is the answer. Yea, I say that concentration is causally associated with the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. And what is that which is the cause of concentration? Happiness is the answer. Yea, I say that happiness is causally associated with concentration.  And what is that which is the cause of happiness? Serenity is the answer. Yea, I say that serenity is causally associated with happiness. And what is the cause of serenity? Rapture is the answer. Yea, I say that rapture is causally associated with serenity.” [5]

Now we come to bliss:

“And what is the cause of rapture? Joy [6] is the answer. Yea, I say that joy is causally associated with rapture.[7] And what is the cause of joy? Faith is the answer. Yea, I say that faith is causally associated with joy. And what is the cause of faith? Suffering is the answer. Yea, I say that suffering is causally associated with faith. And what is the cause of suffering? Birth is the answer. Yea, I say that birth is causally associated with suffering.” [8]

A little later, the text gives us a thorough image of the cycle of pain and liberation:

“Just as when, brethren, on some hilltop when rain is falling in thick drops, that water, coursing according to the slope, fills the hillside clefts and chasms and gullies, these being filled up fill the tarns, these being filled up fill the lakes, these being filled up fill the little rivers, these being filled up fill the great rivers, and the great rivers being filled up fill the sea, the ocean - even so, brethren, there is causal association of activities with ignorance, of consciousness with activities, of name-and-shape with consciousness, of the sixfold sense-sphere with name-and-shape, of contact with the sixfold sense-sphere, of feeling with contact, of craving with feeling, of grasping with craving, of [renewed] becoming with grasping, of birth with [renewed] becoming, of sorrow with birth, of faith with sorrow, of joy with faith, of rapture with joy, of serenity with rapture, of happiness with serenity, of concentration with happiness, of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are with concentration, of repulsion with the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, of passionlessness with repulsion, of  liberation with passionlessness, of knowledge about extinction with liberation.”[9]  

The topic deserves due research, meditation and contemplation, for theosophy points to the   unconditional happiness and lasting well-being of all.  

When the pedagogy of esoteric wisdom is correct, research includes one’s daily life.  The journey starts each moment wherever we are.  In the individual experience of any student, it is correct for him to use his own terms in naming the factors that make his particular chain of causes for suffering, and the interdependent causes of his inner learning and liberation, in the present stage.  


[1] Bikshu - disciple, monk. (CCA)

[2]The Mahatma Letters”, TUP edition, Pasadena, 494 pp., Letter 10, pp. 58-59. In the Chronological Edition  of the Philippines TPH, it is Letter 88. (CCA)

[3] Note by Mrs. Rhys Davids: Virago, translated in the Causal Law as fading away, its more literal meaning.

[4]The Book of the Kindred Sayings” (Samyutta - Nikaya) Or Grouped Suttas, Part II, “The Nidana Book” (Nidana - Vagga). Translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids, M.A. It was published in London for the Pali Text Society by Luzac & Company LTD, in 1952.  The volume has 205 pages. See p. 25. (CCA)

[5] The Book of the Kindred Sayings”, p. 26.  (CCA)

[6] Note by Mrs. Rhys Davids:  Joy (pamojja) [which] the Commentary rates as a less powerful state than rapture (pīti), leading on to it. This series has never yet won the notice it deserves as a sort of Casual Law formula in terms of happiness.

[7] In the 1952 edition of the book, we have a proof-reading mistake. It says “with serenity”, instead of the correct words “with rapture”.  We make the correction on the basis of the whole structure of the text, and also on the direct reproduction of the same chain of causation, rightly quoted from the same Scripture at p. IX of the volume by Mrs.  Rhys Davids in her “Editorial Notes”. (CCA)

[8] The Book of the Kindred Sayings”, p. 26. (CCA)

[9] The Book of the Kindred Sayings”, p. 27.  (CCA)


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