‘In the agamas, the early Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha said, “This arises, therefore that arises; this perishes, therefore that perishes.” The Buddha meant that when ignorance and vexation arise, we do certain deeds, and then we receive the retribution from those deeds. In receiving retribution our vexation causes us to commit more deeds, prolonging this long chain of suffering, which is ultimately the chain of birth and death. This is the meaning of “This arises, therefore that arises.”
What does “This perishes, therefore that perishes” mean? Ignorance is the root cause of our vexation. When ignorance perishes, all vexations in the rest of the chain perish. Therefore as one practices towards enlightenment and ignorance is eliminated, the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death also perish, along with worry, sorrow, agony and emotional affliction.’
While I was reading this in the sun on the front steps yesterday, a man came down the steps from Koshland Park, crossed the street, took his small water bottle out of his pack, and poured a little water on a small plant in one of the sidewalk flower beds we have on this block before taking a drink himself and walking on.
I worry that some people might read the strong words like retribution and shrink away from the meaning. In reality, it can look very simple.