T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.26. The Endlessness of Birth and Death

The king asked Nāgasena, “Revered Sir, you said that the birth and death of a person are empty, the root cause of it is also empty. Here what is the root cause?” Nāgasena replied, “When there is no root-cause, one will not be born again. But when there is a root-cause, once more one will pass onto another existence on account of this root-cause.”

“If there is no root-cause, one will not be born again. When there is root-cause, once more one will pass onto another existence. Thus there is no end to this root cause,” said the king.

“Yes, all have to pass on.”

(1) Other factors in the rebirth of a person

The king asked Nāgasena again, “Are there other factors which would help to continue one’s birth and death?”

Nāgasena said, “Are there other factors which help continue the birth and death of all birds and animals in the world?”

“I did not ask you the question with regard to birds and animals in the world. I just ask you, Sir, the root cause of the birth and death of a person.”

Then Nāgasena replied, “With reference to trees, they can grow and the seedling is their root cause. With reference to the five kinds of grain, they can grow and the grain is their root cause. Everything on the earth grows or rises, owing to its root cause. With regard to person, the six passions and craving are the root causes.”

“With regard to a person, there are eyes and also forms, there is eye-consciousness; there are ears and sounds, there is also ear-consciousness; there is the nose and smell, there is also nose-consciousness; there is the tongue and flavors, there is also tongue-consciousness; there is the body and softness and smoothness, then there is also body-consciousness; there is the mind and mind objects (dharmas), then there is mind-consciousness also. {Then from all these things, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, arise the aggregates of suffering which constitute a human being. The eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body, the mind, the consciousness and the mindfulness cause becoming to arise.} The coming together of all those things is called touch; from touch, painful or pleasant feelings arise; from painful and pleasant feelings, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, old age and sickness arise; from sickness, comes death; from death, arises grief; from grief, arises lamentation; from lamentation, arises pain in the heart. Thus is human life.”

(2) The conditions for arising and cessation

Then Nāgasena continued, “Where there are no eyes, no material forms to be seen, there is also no consciousness. Due to non-consciousness, there is no coming together, due to non-coming together, there are no painful, or pleasant feelings; due to no painful or pleasant feelings, there is no craving; due to no craving, there is no lustful desire; due to no lustful desire, there is no becoming; due to no becoming, there is no birth, no old age; due to no birth, there is no old age, due to no old age, there is no sickness and death; due to no sickness and death, there is no grief and lamentation; due to no grief and lamentation, there is no suffering in the inner heart; due to no such sufferings, one is emancipated and obtains the Path of nirvana. If there is no ear, there is also no hearing of sounds; if there is no nose, there is also no smelling of odors; if there is no tongue, there is also no tasting of flavor; …

... If there is no body, there is also no touch of softness and smoothness; if there is no mind, there is also no thinking of mind objects. Due to no thinking of mind objects, there is no contact or touch; due to no contact, there is no painful or pleasant feelings; due to no painful or pleasant feelings, there is no craving; due to no craving, there is no lustful desire; due to no lustful desire, there is no embryo; due to no embryo, there is no birth; due to no birth, there is no old age; due to no old age, there is no sickness; due to no sickness, there is no death; due to no death, there is no grief; due to no grief, there is no lamentation; due to no lamentation, there is no suffering in the inner heart. So abandoning all such sufferings, one obtains the Path of nirvana.”

“Excellent, Nagasena.”