From the principle of cause and effect, Buddhism explains that the body
and mind activity of an individual, be it good or evil, will not only
affect the individual internally, creating potentially habitual
tendencies (karma), but also influence others externally. When our body
and mind disintegrate and death comes, our habitual tendencies (the
karma), with our desire to be reborn and attachment to life as the
conditions, propagates into a new composition of body and mind. This is
the beginning of a new life. From continuous causes and conditions and
their effects, impermanence and non-self, there is an infinite flow of
life which continues from one to another. (This is different from the
teachings of other religions that there is a permanent soul.) This is
like a country, where there is a continuous disintegration of dynasties
followed by the formation of new dynasties.

Life is dependent originated. For all the good and evil deeds we do,
their results will be experienced in this life, or in our new lives in
the future. The Law of Cause and Effect is the axiom. The combinations
of mind and body of this life will disintegrate and die. All our
actions, the good and evil deeds, will determine our future. The karma
of sentient beings is continuous, be it good or evil, has a positive or
negative significance which will influence our conditions in the
future. Therefore, death is part of the process of life; it is not a
sudden disappearance. Every act has its result, life after life, we
continue to create new karma. When we experience temporary suffering or
downfall, we should not feel disappointed. It will be only a temporary
phenomena. Our future may still be bright. The avoidance of suffering
and the attainment of happiness can only be achieved by avoiding evil
and doing good according to the Law of Cause and Effect. It cannot be
achieved by pure luck nor by the help of any God.

To be able to lead a human life is actually the result of the good
karma. The good or evil deeds of this life will determine the higher or
lower realms of our future life. The Buddha kept telling us that "It is
precious to be born as human". However, many Buddhists sometimes
misunderstand the teaching of the Buddha. They only brood over the
suffering of human beings, and do not appreciate that it is precious to
be born as a human being!

According to the Sutra, humans have three supreme characteristics.
These characteristics are not only better than animals, ghosts and
beings in the hells, but they are also better than the Devas in the
heavenly realms. What are these characteristics? They are morality,
knowledge and steadfast determination. In the human world, we know
about suffering and are able to help those who suffer. But morality,
knowledge and human determination is sometimes not completely
satisfactory. It has its side effects' sometimes including a tendency
for humans to self-destruct. But through these three qualities, human
beings are able to develop a sophisticated culture. This is a fact that
cannot be denied.

During the evolution of mankind, we have come to realize that there is
dissatisfaction and incompleteness in life. This prompts us to pursue
perfection and completion. Human beings can avoid evil deeds, perform
good deeds and accumulate merits. We can upgrade ourselves. According
to Buddhism, humans are the only beings that can renounce the world and
aspire to the mind of Bodhi (Bodhicitta). Only human beings can
transcend relativity and have the possibility to experience the
absolute state (which corresponds to the initial state of
enlightenment). How precious human life is! We should understand the
value of, "It is precious to be born as human". Then the significance
of life can be well understood. We should appreciate and utilize our
lives, and do our best not to waste it.

Let us talk about the significance of life from the perspective of
absolutes. Human beings are able to practice meritorious deeds and
upgrade themselves. But actually this may not be perfect. It does not
carry an eternal significance because any wisdom or merit will
disintegrate in time. We can only say that as humans, we are still
experiencing ups and downs in the cycle of transmigration. But we are
able to realize our weaknesses. From these unsatisfactoriness, the
ambition and the urge to attain perfection and completion arise. The
worry is, if our wish for perfection is unrealistic, we may be led to
believe in the imaginative eternal world of heaven by the followers of
a divinity.

According to Buddhism, the reality of life is dependent originated. The
only way to transcend the state of relativity and experience the state
of absoluteness, is to understand, grasp and experience the nature of
dependent-origination. Dependent-origination is a phenomenon of
impermanence and non-self. Life is also impermanent (not everlasting),
and non-self (not self-exists). Everything exists according to the Law
of Dependent-Origination. From the perspective of the Law of Cause and
Effect, why do we have to live life after life without a halt? The
reason is, sentient beings including human beings cling and become
attached to their own self, and they conduct all sorts of activity with
this self-attachment. These activities generate karma, resulting in the
individual's repertoire of cause and effect. This leads to their
continuous existence in the cycle of life and death. Conversely, if
these self-attachments can be eradicated, the conditions to live will
not arise. Then, we will be free from the cycle of live and death and
attain the state of:

"Free from the phenomena of birth and extinction,
Immersed in the bliss (s. sukha) of Nirvana."

Why do we have self-attachment? Self-attachment (it is the cause of
selfishness in human beings) arises from our ignorance. We are being
deluded and confused by worldly phenomena and unable to recognize the
truth of dependent-origination of all phenomena, i.e. not knowing
things as they truly are. From this phenomena of birth and extinction,
Buddha shows us the eternal nature of dependent origination through
various profound skilful means. With reference to the worldly
phenomena, this Law of Dependent Origination is beyond time and space,
beyond relativity and beyond birth and extinction. The Law of Dependent
Origination is always as such. It is because of the defilement of
self-clinging and self-attachment that human beings are deluded. With
our morality, wisdom, and determination, and the guidance of the
Buddha, we may develop our practice and transcend the mundane state of
human beings. Then we may realise and experience the ultimate absolute
from the dependent originated worldly conditions. If we can attain this
blissful state, we will find that although life is still life, every
present state of life is eternal, and every moment is a moment of
liberation. There may be some difference between the teaching of
Sravakayana and Mahayana, but the core principles are the same.

Life is meaningful. Not only should we discover its worthiness, we
should also realize its ultimate significance. With this human life, we
can progress to the attainment of Buddhahood. How precious our lives
are! (Translated by Mok Chung, edited by Ke Rong, proofread by Shi Neng
Rony. (18-10-96))

1. Ultimativity here refers to an ultimate beginning, end, or permanent


Author: Ven. Yin Shun
Publisher: Hwa Tsang Monastery Inc.
Address: 29, Mackenzie Street, Homebush
NSW 2140, Australia.
Tel: (02)7466334
Fax (02)7642973
Cover Design: Khoo Cheang Jin

Translators & Editorial Board: Lin Yang,
Mok Chung,
Chai Gao Mao
Neng Rong

For reprint please contact the publisher at
the address above.


Author: Ven. Shi Yin Shun
Publisher: Hwa Tsang Monastery Inc.
Address: 29, Mackenzie Street, Homebush
NSW 2140, Australia
Tel: (02)97466334
Fax: (02)97642973
Graphic Design: Khoo Cheang Jin

Shi Neng Rong
Mok Chung
Tan Beng Tiong
Lim Yang
Loh Wai Heen
Loh Wai Sim
Low Boon Wee
Chen I-Chen
Mick Kiddle (Ke Rong)

First Print : December,1996

For reprint please contact the publisher at
the address above.

1 In the History of the Han Dynasty thirty-six works on therapeutics
are mentioned. Some of this material is attributed to Shen Nung, a
mythical hero of China's legendary period. The Bao Pu Zi is an
alchemical work by Ko Hung of the fourth century A.D.

1 The first of these works is a didactic treatise written in the
twelfth century; the second is a work on the Diamond Sutra; the third
is a compilation of the Sung Dynasty which sets forth essential
doctrines of five Ch'an (Zen) schools; the fourth is the work known as
The Transmission of the Lamp; the fifth is the Lotus Sutra; the sixth
is a work on the Avatamsaka Sutra which is the basic text of the
Hua-yen (Kegon) sect, and the seventh is the Madhyamika Sastra.

1 The practice of men, devas, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas and the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

2 The practice of the Sravakas, Pratyeka-buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

3 The personal disciples during Buddha's time, viz. 'the hearer'

4 Those who attain enlightenment through private contemplation of the
meaning of life.

5 The Mahayana which contains the final or complete law of the Buddha.

6 Literally the 'Being essentially enlightened'. One capable of
escaping this world of suffering but who voluntarily remains active
here out of compassion for all deluded beings. The 'Bodhisattva Vow' to
do likewise is the central feature of Mahayana practice and the
expression of its highest ideal.

1 The determination to attain perfect enlightenment (Buddhahood).

2 The Sravakas and Pratyeka-buddhas.

1 Virtues of perfect wisdom, compassion and detachment.

2 The thirty two marks or sign on the physical body of Buddha after
Buddha attained Buddhahood.

3 The truth of emptiness.