Buddhism presents a model of twelve links of dependent arising to describe the causal relationships that give rise to suffering. It is usually depicted as a circle, with the cycle beginning with ignorance, and developing through a chain of causal conditions that include volitional formations (activities), consciousness, mentality/materiality, six sense bases, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth, aging and death. Circling around and around, beings wander through repeated existences affected by ignorance and suffering.

In yesterday’s class we discussed the shape of this model. A closed circle, although the most common presentation, appears too contained, with no way out from the round. A chain appears too linear since many of the factors loop and intertwine in non-linear sequences, affecting each other to reinforce or weaken the manifestation of suffering. A web design was more appealing with its multifaceted and non-sequential relations. Perhaps the most satisfying image to come out of the discussion was that of a knotted ball of string. A mind conditioned by ignorance is entangled in suffering through complex patterns that may be difficult to untie and bind the attention in unskillful pursuits. But when the causes of suffering are relinquished, and ignorance is abandoned, the knot may unravel and the string usable.

We have many opportunities to observe the mind as it encounters sensory experience. Are you experiencing seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking with the clear perception that the experience is impermanent, and ungraspable?

Notice when you feel a sensation in the body that it is changing. Know it without ignorance and perhaps you may see into some of the causal relationships that keep the mind knotted and stuck in cycles of suffering.