The Second Noble Truth: Causality
The truth of universal origination is an English translation of the name Buddha himself gave to this noble truth. It means "that which is the cause or origin of absolutely everything." The truth of universal origination indicates that the root cause of suffering is karma and the kleshas. Karma is a Sanskrit word which means "activity" and klesha in Sanskrit means "mental defilement" or "mental poison." If one does not understand the Buddha's teachings, one would most likely attribute all happiness and suffering to some external cause.
One might think that happiness and suffering come from the environment, or from the gods, and that everything that happens originates in some source outside of ones control. If one believes this, then it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to eliminate suffering and its causes. On the other hand, when one realizes that the experience of suffering is a product of what one has done, that is, a result of one’s karma, eliminating suffering becomes possible.
Once one is aware of how suffering takes place, then one can begin to remove the causes of suffering. First one must realize that our experiences are not dependent on external forces, but on what one has done previously, on how one has handled external situations previously. This is the understanding of karma. Karma produces suffering and is driven by the defilements. The term "defilement" refers mainly to one’s negative motivation and negative thoughts, which produce negative actions.
The truth of interdependent origination means that if we do non-virtuous actions, we are creating suffering. It also means if we abandon non-virtuous actions, we remove the possibility of experiencing suffering in the future. What we experience is entirely in our hands. Therefore, the Buddha has said that we should give up the causes of karma and the defilements.
Virtuous actions result in the external state of happiness and non-virtuous actions result in suffering. This idea is not particularly easy to grasp because one cannot see the whole process that takes place from beginning to end. There are three kinds of actions: mental, verbal, and physical. These are subdivided into virtuous and non-virtuous physical actions; virtuous and non-virtuous verbal actions, and virtuous and non-virtuous mental actions. If one abandons these three types of non-virtuous actions, then ones actions become automatically virtuous.
There are three non-virtuous physical actions: the harming of life, sexual misconduct, and stealing. The results of these three non-virtuous actions can be observed immediately. For example, when there is a virtuous relationship between a man and woman who care about each other, protect each other, and have a great deal of love and affection for each other. They will be happy because they look after each other. Their wealth will usually increase and if they have children, their love and care will bring mutual love in the family.
In the ordinary sense, happiness develops out of this deep commitment and bond they have promised to keep. Whereas, when there is an absence of commitment, there is also little care or love and sexual misconduct arises. This is not the ground out of which, love arises, or upon which, a nice home can be built in which children can develop happiness. One can readily see that from the lack of commitment to sexual fidelity, many kinds of difficulties will arise.
One can also see the immediate consequences of other non-virtuous physical actions. One can see that those who steal have difficulties and suffer; those who don't steal experience happiness and have a good state of mind. Likewise, those who kill create many problems and unhappiness for themselves while those who support life are happy.
The same applies to one’s speech, although it is not so obvious. But on closer examination, one can also see how happiness develops out of virtuous speech and unhappiness from non-virtuous kinds of speech. At first lying may seem to be useful because one might think that one can deceive others through lies and gain some advantage.
But Sakya Pandita said that this is not true. If one lies to one’s enemies or persons one doesn't get along with, very well, because they are one’s enemies, they are not going to take notice of what one is saying anyway. It will be quite hard to deceive them. If they are one’s friends, one might be able to deceive them at first by telling a lie. But after the first time, they won’t trust you anymore and may think that you have been a hypocrite. Lying doesn't really work.
Then if one looks at the opposite, a person who takes pains to speak the truth will develop a reputation of being a truthful person who can be relied on and out of this trust, many good things will emerge. Once we have considered the example of the consequences of lying, we can think of similar consequences relating to other kinds of damaging speech: slander, and coarse, aggressive, and useless speech. Except for the immediate and the short-termed consequences virtuous speech produces happiness and non-virtuous speech produces suffering.
When we say useless speech, we mean speech that is really useless, not just conversational. So, if we have a good mind and want someone to relax and be happy, even though the words may not be of great meaning, then its useful speech based on the idea of benefit and goodness. When we say, "useless speech," we mean chatter for no reason at all. Worse than that is "chatter rooted in the defilements" when one is saying bad things about other people because of dislike or is jealous of them or one sets people against each other. One just gossips about the character of people. That is really useless speech. Besides being useless, this very often causes trouble because it sets people against each other and causes bad feelings.
The same applies with "harmful speech." If there is really a loving and beneficial reason for talking, for example, scolding a child when the child is doing something dangerous or scolding a child for not studying in school, that is not harmful speech because it is devoid of the defilements, being a skillful way of helping someone. If there is that really genuine, beneficial attitude and love behind what one says, it is not harmful speech. But if speech were related to the defilements such as aggression or jealousy, then it is harmful speech and is something to give up.
We can go on to examine the various states of mind and see that a virtuous mind produces happiness and non-virtuous states of mind create unhappiness. For instance, strong aggression will cause us to lose our friends. Because of our aggressiveness, our enemies will become even worse enemies and the situation will become inflamed. If we are aggressive and hurt others and they have friends, then eventually friends will also become enemies.
On the other hand, if we wish to benefit others, goodness will come out of it through the power of caring for our loved ones and then through wishing to help them develop goodness. Through this they will become close and helpful friends. Through the power of our love and care, our enemies and the people one doesn't get along with will improve their behavior and maybe those enemies will eventually become friends. If we have companions and wish to benefit others, we can end up with very good friends and all the benefits which that brings. In this way we can see how cause and effect operate, how a virtuous mind brings about happiness and how non-virtuous mind brings about suffering and problems.