Wheel of Sharp Weapons, part 5

Over the past few months I have been studying the ‘Wheel of Sharp Weapons’ by Dharmaraksita. This is the final part in a series about the text.

Verses #104 to #106 describe the emptiness of self and phenomena. Verse #105 describes the emptiness of a life and the emptiness of a lifetime as being “like a reflection in a mirror, it seems as if it were really true”. Verse #106 describes the emptiness of self-cherishing “it [self cherishing] seems as if it is really true, but it has never been really true anywhere”.

Verse #107 continues this investigation of emptiness by applying it to the “wheel of actions”. This refers to the emptiness of the 12 Links of Dependent Origination. In the same way as a life and a lifetime (verse #105) and self-cherishing (verse #106) are empty, the 12 Links of Dependent Origination “lacks an inherent nature”. This means that the 12 Links of Dependent Origination do not exist independently, intrinsically, or inherently.

The 12 Links of Dependent Origination describes the process of cyclic existence and suffering. This process starts with ignorance, taking a form and name in this life, suffering that is experienced through the 5 aggregates, performing negative actions through the 5 aggregates of this life, that are the causes for further rebirths and further suffering in samsara. Verse #107 describes this process of “actions and their consequences are a variegated multitude of falsehoods”. This reinforces the emptiness of the “wheel of actions” and that it “lacks an inherent nature”. As Geshe Lhundrub Sopa [1] pg.180 summarises that “whatever exists is empty of ultimate existence”.

However, verse #107 goes on to contrast emptiness with dependent arising. Verse #107 states that despite the emptiness of the 12 Links of Dependent Origination, “it appears, like the reflection of the moon in water”. Geshe Lhundrub Sopa [1] pg.180 explains the metaphor of “the moon in water” in this way:

The image of the moon in water may appear exactly like the moon in the sky, but the moon in the water is just a reflection; it exists as a reflection and a dependently arisen phenomenon, although not as the real moon, which it appears to be. In the same way, actions and their results … exist conventionally like the reflection of the moon in water, but not inherently.

By reflecting on the emptiness of the “wheel of actions” and that it “lacks an inherent nature”, there might be a temptation to behave as though the “wheel of actions” did not exist at all. Based on the assumption that the law of karma did not exist, we might perform non virtuous behaviour such as engaging in the 10 non virtuous actions. However, the “wheel of actions” does appear and it does function “like the reflection of the moon in water”. This is because the “wheel of actions” conventionally exists as a dependent arising phenomena. Dependent arising is understood at 3 levels:
Phenomena arise on the basis of causes and conditions, in the “wheel of actions” our rebirth would require a throwing karma and parents to host the rebirth.
Phenomena exist on the basis of their parts, in the “wheel of actions” the form of our body can be divided into arms, legs, head, torso, and the various organs.
Phenomena are merely labelled on a valid basis, in the “wheel of actions” the form is labelled with my name.

Verse #107 Dharmaraksita states that even though the “wheel of actions” “lacks an inherent nature”, he still concludes “I urge you to embrace virtue and avoid sin”. This is because the “wheel of actions” is a dependent arising phenomena that appears and functions. Therefore, we must adhere to conventional existence.
[1] ‘Peacock In The Poison Grove’ by Geshe Lhundrub Sopa; Wisdom Publications, 2001.
[2] ‘The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’ by Lama Tsongkapa; Snow Lion Publications, 2001.

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