mikenz66 wrote: In the Rig Veda :
1. First there is nothing, not even existence or non-existence. This corresponds to ignorance.
2. A volitional impulse (kama - desire) initiates the process of creation.
3. Desire, 'the first seed of the mind', creates consciousness.
The term consciousness shouldn't be understood according to the Vedic definition. Consciousness is not the true self or atman in Buddhism, but merely a combination of many moments of awareness that happens very quickly to give the illusion of the observer.
The first link in Dependent Origination is Avijja. It is commonly translated as " ignorance". From the term " ignorance" we make the assumption that it means " nothing" or " nothingness " in Vedic cosmology. However, if we look at the Buddha's own explanation for what he meant by the term Avijja, it has nothing to do with " nothingness" . It has more to do with not seeing things the way they truly are while we are living , and not being able to penetrate the Four Noble Truths, which then lead to volitional formation. The Buddhist first link Avijja does not correspond with " 1. First there is nothing, not even existence or non-existence." of the Vedic teaching .
According to SN 12.1. 3:
“Monks, what is Avijja ? Monks, if someone does not know dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha. To that is said avijja.
Note: Avijj is consistently explained as not fully understanding the Four Noble Truths.
Here he is referring to a living , breathing person like me and you living in a fully formed world that we are in right now. It has nothing to do with a state where "there is nothing, not even existence or non-existence".
The Vedic and Buddhist tradition originated from the same location , so it shouldn't surprise us that they share similar vocabulary. However, we need to be careful about interpreting the same terms that both teaching share according to the Vedic context. For example, the term karma and rebirth. Although both religion has this term in their teaching, but it would be a mistake to understand the Buddhist concept of karma according to Vedic karma. They both have very different explanation for the term karma. The Vedic teaching on karma leads to rituals, killing of animals and binding people to caste system. The Buddhist explanation of the same term has nothing to do with these practices. We shouldn't understand other similar terms in the context of Vedic teaching:
"The Pāli term Avijja is usually translated as ignorance is avijjā, which might be better translated as delusion. The problem is not so much that we lack knowledge, as the word ignorance might suggest, but that we have a distorted understanding of how things work. Because of our fundamentally deluded or distorted outlook, we don’t see things as they actually are. This distorted outlook is nothing other than our inability to see the three characteristics of existence: our tendency to see things as permanent when in fact they are impermanent, to see happiness where in fact there is suffering, and to see things as self when in fact they are non-self. This is the basic delusion that we live under and it is this misconception which is at the root of this entire chain of dependent origination.
The good news is that ignorance/delusion is itself conditioned by other factors; it is not a monolithic entity that exists independently of everything else. …When we understand the conditions that support delusion we also understand what sort of practice we need to undertake to reduce it and eventually abandon it altogether. So what are the conditions that prop up and perpetuate delusion? They are nothing other than the five hindrances: desire for sense objects, ill will, dullness and lethargy, restlessness and worry, and doubt. This means that the stronger these five hindrances are, the more powerful our delusion is going to be. ..Why is this so? Because the hindrances themselves distort how we see things. …Sense desire has a similar distorting effect. ….So the five hindrances, particularly anger and desire, distort our view of the world. The stronger the five hindrances are, the greater is our delusion, and the more distorted is our outlook. The less we have of these five hindrances, the less is the distortion and the clearer is our view of the world. And because dependent origination is a causal chain, the effect of the hindrances feeds the whole chain all the way down to suffering. So the weaker the hindrances are, the less suffering we experience, and the stronger the hindrances are, the greater is the suffering. It follows that if you want to reduce ignorance and suffering in your life, you have to reduce the five hindrances, that is, the defilements of the mind.
How do we reduce the defilements of the mind? In no other way than by practising the noble eightfold path." - Ven. Brahmali
Regarding to pre-existing theory Gombrich mentioned , the Buddha explained how they arrive that that theory:
“There comes a time, monks, sooner or later after a long period, when this world contracts. At a time of contraction, beings are mostly reborn in the Abhassara Brahma world. ....But the time comes, sooner or later after a long period, when this world begins to expand. In this expanding world an empty palace of Brahma appears. And then one being, from exhaustion of his life-span or of his merits, falls from the Abhassara world and arises in the empty Brahma-palace." The first one that fell thought that he is the creator of the ones that fell ( for the same reason) after him.
SEMI-ETERNALIST : The Buddha lists 4 ways in which people arrived at the Semi-eternalist views:
“There are, monks, some ascetics and Brahmins who are partly Eternalists and partly Non-Eternalists, who proclaim the partial eternity and the partial non-eternity of the self and the world in four ways. On what grounds?”
5. “But the time comes, sooner or later after a long period, when this world begins to expand. In this expanding world an empty palace of Brahma appears. And then one being, from exhaustion of his life-span or of his merits, falls from the Abhassara world and arises in the empty Brahma-palace. And there he dwells, mind-made, feeding on delight, self-luminous, moving through the air, glorious - and he stays like that for a very long time.”
“Then in this being who has been alone for so long there arises unrest, discontent and worry, and he thinks: ‘Oh, if only some other beings would come here!’ And other beings, from exhaustion of their life-span or of their merits, fall from the Abhassara world and arise in the Brahma palace as companions for this being. And there they dwell, mind-made, … and they stay like that for a very long time.”
“And then, monks, that being who first arose there thinks: “I am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, the All-Powerful, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, Ruler, Appointer and Orderer, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. These beings were created by me. How so? Because I first had this thought: ‘Oh, if only some other beings would come here!’ That was my wish, and then these beings came into this existence!” But those beings who arose subsequently think: “This, friends, is Brahma, Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, the All-Powerful, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, Ruler, Appointer and Orderer, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. How so? We have seen that he was here first, and that we arose after him.”
“And this being that arose first is longer-lived, more beautiful and more powerful than they are. And it may happen that some being falls from that realm and arises in this world. Having arisen in this world, he goes forth from the household life into homelessness. Having gone forth, he by means of effort, exertion, application, earnestness and right attention attains to such a degree of mental concentration that he thereby recalls his last existence, but recalls none before that. And he thinks: ‘That Brahma, … he made us, and he is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, the same for ever and ever. But we who were created by that Brahma, we are impermanent, unstable, short-lived, fated to fall away, and we have come to this world.’ This is the first case where-by some ascetics and Brahmins are partly Eternalists and partly Non-Eternalists.”- Brahmajala Sutta