You Can’t Make this Stuff Up
Ignorance gives rise to fabrication as discussed above. The Buddha calls the process of Dependent Origination ‘this/that causality’:
“When this is, that is… When this isn’t, that isn’t.”
— Vera Sutta [SN 10.92]
So the root cause of all of our suffering is ignorance. And what is that ignorance?
“What is ignorance? Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origination of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called ignorance.
In other words, ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. And ignorance automatically gives rise to fabrication by this/that causality.
“And what are fabrications? These three are fabrications: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, mental fabrications. These are called fabrications.” — Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta [SN 12]
And how are bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications and mental fabrications defined?
“In-and-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought and evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions and feelings are mental fabrications.” — Culavedalla Sutta [MN 44]
Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the process of Dependent Origination is the cause of fabrication and thus, the cause of all suffering.
Why is ignorance the cause of fabrication? If we don’t know how suffering is caused and created, we still have to do something about our suffering: so we make something up! If you don’t know how to stop suffering, then you’re going to make stuff up. “Oh, I know; I’ll create an ‘I’! Hmm, that didn’t work—I’ll create another ‘I’, a different ‘I’. I’ll create so many ‘I’s and ‘selves’ and identities.”
All of this creates kamma. And by the law of kamma, every time we create an ‘I’ in the mode of ignorance, we’re going to suffer in the mode of ignorance. Every time we create an ‘I’ in the mode of desire or passion, we’re going to suffer in the mode of passion. Every time we create an ‘I’ in the mode of goodness, we’re going to experience goodness—and that’s what the Noble Eightfold Path is all about. It begins from goodness and approaches the transcendental.
If you don’t know how to stop ignorance, you’re going to make stuff up. Therefore:
“From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
— Avijjapaccaya Sutta [SN 12]
How to get out of ignorance and stop fabrication?
“When a disciple of the noble ones discerns fabrication, the origination of fabrication, the cessation of fabrication, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication, then he is a person of right view—one whose view is made straight, who is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma—and who has arrived at this true Dhamma.
Notice how similar this quote is to the Four Noble Truths.
“And what is fabrication? What is the origination of fabrication? What is the cessation of fabrication? What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication?
From the origination of ignorance comes the origination of fabrication. From the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of fabrication. And the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication is just this very Noble Eightfold Path.”— Sammaditthi Sutta [MN 9]
So by following the Noble Eightfold Path, we can eliminate the ignorance that leads to fabrication of a false ego, a false ‘self’, which is the cause of suffering. How do we do that?
We can see that there is a reciprocal relation between the elements of ignorance and fabrication in Dependent Origination, and faith or integrity and contentment or confidence in the Buddha’s teaching on the Noble Eightfold Path. We discuss this relation further in the next section.