12 Links of Transcendental Arising

Here are all of the 12 Links of Transcendental Dependent Arising:

  1. Suffering (dukkha)
  2. Trust (saddha)
  3. Joy (pamojja)
  4. Rapture (piti)
  5. Tranquillity (passaddhi)
  6. Wellbeing (sukha)
  7. Concentration (samadhi)
  8. Vision of things as they are (yathabhutañanadassana)
  9. Disenchantment (nibbida)
  10. Non-Grasping (viraga)
  11. Awakening (vimutti)
  12. Knowledge of destruction of afflictions (asavakkhaye ñana)

Here’s a slightly altered version of the list:

  1. Suffering
  2. Trust
  3. Joy
  4. Disenchantment
  5. Concentration
  6. Bliss
  7. Wellbeing
  8. Tranquility
  9. Vision of things as they are
  10. Non-Grasping
  11. ???
  12. ???

Before you get out your pitch forks and accuse me of fuckery, let’s remember that there’s nothing sacred in Buddhism. Even the original list is just one of dozens of alternatives “Siddhartha” developed. I put his name in quotes, since no one actually knows what the historical Buddha taught.

The second version of the list is more in line with my experiences—yours might be different.

The point of Transcendental Arising is to lay out a coherent path for people to follow on their own without relying on monks and gurus. There’s honestly so much info on Buddhist views and methods, that you could do this totally on your own as long as your intention is skillful and your committed to the practice.

Joy here means the strength, resolve, and passion that come with hope. It’s the realization that—unless you’re on Jupiter—storms always pass, and that above the clouds, it’s always clear.

It’s the joy of finally having a sense of direction, a map through the swamp.

Disenchantment is the realization that thoughts and forms can’t satisfy us, no matter what they are. It doesn’t matter if we win the lottery, get married, get that promotion, or buy a nice house—the glimmer is gonna wear off and the rot is gonna start to set in.

Months later, once the new is the new ordinary, we’re gonna find ourselves with that same familiar longing.

Disenchantment means we’re wise to the ways of the merry-go-round; we’re aware of the unreliability of thoughts and forms. We’ve glimpsed the absurdity and futility of trying to find lasting happiness in fleeting experiences.

We’re aware that the apples the witch brought us are poisonous. If we want to satisfy our hunger, we’re gonna have to look elsewhere.

Disenchantment is later on the original list, but for me it was definitely closer to the beginning. I might even put it right after the suffering link.

I’m not entirely sure why the original list has concentration as the seventh link; that doesn’t make any sense. Bliss, satisfaction, and tranquility are aspects of the jhanas, they’re related to concentration.

As we practice anapanasati, we move through those states of mind. Anapanasati is concentration. Technically, we’re always using concentration, it’s just undeveloped. Without concentration, it’d be impossible to read these words.

Practice doesn’t give us anything, it doesn’t ask us to pick anything up. We use what’s already available and what comes naturally to us.

As we fine tune concentration, we start to feel bliss rise up for no apparent reason. It expands until it seems boundless. This is an insight in itself, and some even mistake it for Complete Awakening because it’s an extremely deep and life changing experience.

Then, the same thing happens with a sense of wellbeing. Wellbeing is a subtle, less intense but more enduring awareness. It’s the opposite of dukkha, suffering. It’s easy to get kinda lazy at this point.

But bliss and wellbeing are still dependent, they depend on all those other links that conditioned them. That means they’re unsteady. We’re still on the merry-go-round, we’ve just learned to kind of appreciate the ride. That can change at any minute.

So we can’t cling to these insights. We’ve gotta keep moving.

When we stop clinging to bliss and wellbeing, then tranquility and equanimity start to appear. This isn’t an opioid kinda tranquilizerility; it’s crisp, infused with sati and concentration. It also seems boundless.

Boundlessness is the basic wisdom of Buddhism. That’s why anyone who disses the jhanas could use a good whack from the Zen stick.

Theravada and Secular Buddhism have all but thrown jhana in the trash, equated it with Samatha practice, and called it unnecessary.

There’s no such thing as Samatha or Vipassana practice. Samatha (calm abiding) and Vipassana (Insight or clarity) are natural aspects of jhana practice, fucking nitwits.

Zen is jhana. It comes from the term Chan, which is short for channa, which came from the Sanskrit word dhyana, which originated from the Pali term jhana. Even in Zen, students tend to ignore jhana practice and strive for that mythical jewel of wisdom and knowledge instead.

But that wisdom isn’t something we can put into words, and we can’t uncover it via tedious analysis. In boundless tranquility, there’s nothing that isn’t It.

This is the jump from the 30 foot pole as the old Chan metaphor goes. Surrendering our self-concepts and self-interest (which were already weakened by bliss and joy) to that crisp tranquility.

That opens up the view of things as they are, which is ungraspable. Since thoughts and forms aren’t graspable, we don’t try to grasp them.

As to the last few links, I’m not qualified to say anything about them. I can say that, “Knowledge of the end of affliction,” isn’t part of the Zen path. The belief, “I’m free of affliction,” is itself an affliction if it isn’t handled with care.

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