Thursday, February 18, 2010

More on Non-Causation

Ida Heckler wrote, in response to The Dreaming Question:

I think I can follow you to an extent; however, even if X does not cause Y, isn't Y's existence dependent on the arrival of X? Isn't this a correlation between the rising and passing of X and Y?
One interpretation, I had written, of the Buddha's formula on dependent origination is that there is no cause. This is very tricky territory, and requires a little more explanation.

Imagine walking through the forest on a pleasant, summer day. Here and there is the twitter of a robin, or the song of a blue jay. You can smell the fresh spring, and feel the sun quietly warming your face. You might come to a clear path and see on this path what appears to be a rope. This rope might shimmering, as if flowing from one side of the path to the other. Curious, you look closely. Ah! What appeared to be a flowing rope is in fact a line of ants marching one after the other. If you look very closely, you will see a tiny space, or a gap between the ants. What appears to be one seamless thing from afar is actually, at a closer look, a series of ant - no ant - ant - no ant.

Likewise, in our experience, there seems to be a flow of one thing into another. With practice and meditation, it is possible to take a closer look at things and see how they arise in this manner.

Our experience is a series of events that we may string together in the form of a story. We may see a red face, hear a loud voice, and see a hand move rapidly. Or we may see some one yelling at us in anger. If you look closely, you cannot find where exactly this anger abides. Just like the rope, it doesn't exist--- it's really a bunch of ants.

A Taoist might say that what appears to be cause and effect is simply a play of the Tao. Things arise and pass into the Tao, just like sparks rise and pass from a fire. But from a human angle, we may string these things together into a story called "causation", "self", or a many other things. We may see the sparks are interacting with one another, causing one another. But in the end, it is just the lila, or play of the cosmos.

For the more logical among us, there is an excellent story on just this written by Louis Carroll. You can find it here.


  1. Awww, I believe I see the point... So, causation, as seen from the level of"utmost truth" is illusionary. The illusion is cast through the stories we spin as the universe is just doing it's "cosmic dance" thing and changing... Like the seed and the tree...Since we humans create the story of "this is a seed" and its a object, only then may it appear to mature into a "tree as a object". But in the utmost level the seed and the tree is just flowing matter in the universe. In other words, beyond the objectified concept of a seed or tree its all just a flux of matter engaging in the cosmic dance. Therefore, since all objects are really just flowing energy the cause and effect relationship is also illusionary!
    Yo,Buddhist texts are difficult to translate. Thank you for the clarification. This is a bit much for me to digest; nevertheless, this Blog helps a lot! However, if I seemed to miss your point please clarify this....

  2. Another question Mr. Matt J...

    It appears now that Karma is driven by perception of the "cosmic dance" rather than causation...What do you think?? Can you comment on Karma??

  3. Heckler,

    Short answer: I would agree that karma is driven more by a cosmic dance than a strict causation.

    For a longer answer, see my next few posts.