We often hear the phrase, “It doesn’t matter.” Today, let’s interpret it from a Buddhist perspective.

“It doesn’t matter.” That’s a way to get rid of afflictions. If you stop pursuing something, it doesn’t matter anymore – and then your afflictions will be gone. You must look beyond the superficial nature of things. If you don’t, and you’re unable to let go, then it becomes something that matters to you. Remember: everything in this world arises from a combination of causes and conditions, and us being alive in this world is just a part of all that. Causes and conditions are both self-born and self-ceased. When something is born due to a cause, it will also cease to be as the conditions ripen. It’s just like the way in which our mother gave birth to us. Then, when we become adults and she passes away, so too does our relationship with her disappear – it ceases. In fact, the relationship we have with our mother in this lifetime is just a manifestation of a karmic affinity (conditions). This is what causes and conditions are all about. Causes and conditions are self-born and self-ceased. Also, when there is birth, there is also cessation. These two concepts are equivalent. For instance, when a person is born, they will eventually die one day. Or when you eat something bad, you have sowed a cause and will experience stomach irritation as a consequence. Where there’s a cause, there will be a consequence.

In Buddhism, causes and conditions are known as Dharma-affinity. True causes and conditions will continue for decades – even centuries – and it’s a kind of natural occurrence. But they will also cease naturally after a few centuries. For example, no matter how deep you love your parents, when the time comes they will pass away naturally. Take note: causes and conditions occur naturally, and they will cease and disappear naturally. Therefore, don’t take anything too seriously, or grow any attachment to them. In the eyes of an awakened person or a sage, there is neither birth nor cessation when it comes to causes and conditions. Why? Because both birth and cessation have been taking place continuously. That’s why you should be indifferent to whatever happens naturally. So whatever comes naturally, just treat it indifferently. Everything comes and go naturally. It doesn’t matter. By doing this, you dispense with the concept of birth and cessation altogether. If nothing was born, then nothing will cease. We must comprehend this thoroughly.

Now, there clearly is birth and cessation, so why should we say there is neither birth nor cessation? I did mention that causes and conditions have both birth and cessation. Why would I say now that they have no birth or cessation? Condition is a Dharma-affinity; its birth and cessation are endless and boundless. When one affinity or condition ends, another affinity will arise in its place. For example, imagine a man has divorced his wife and thinks to himself that he will not be able to re-marry in this life. But then, a friend introduces a lady to him and he falls head over heels once again and marries her. So what do you think: is there birth and cession?

You must thoroughly comprehend the concept of birth and cessation. It is clear that ignorance does indeed exist in the mind: there are things that we do not understand and we get confused about. So why do we say there is “no cessation of ignorance”? It’s because there is no end to ignorance. There is no birth, nor is there cessation. For instance, it’s clear that there is such a thing as old age, and there is such a thing as death. When we grow old, death is not far away. But in the Heart Sutra, a verse says: “There is no cessation of old age and death.” What that means is that there is no end to it. A person’s hardships have no end, either. Your present life ends when you die, and you will be reborn again in the next life. This goes on perpetually. Afflictions clearly exist, like the afflictions of sentient beings, or afflictions from karma, and the like. It’s clear that a multitude of afflictions exist – so why do we say that “afflictions do not exist”? It’s because you are equipped with great fearlessness. You are indifferent. Therefore, the fundamental nature of that affliction has changed.

Today, my lesson is about indifference, but from another viewpoint. It can also be interpreted as fearlessness. Being fearless means possessing the ability to see through the nature of everything – and being able to let go of it. Why? Because nothing really matters. What is there to be concerned about? If nothing matters to you, there are therefore no afflictions. But how many people can really act indifferently with no afflictions? Everything in this world does not possess a nature of its own, and having no self-nature means having no nature of its own. It’s the absence of intrinsic existence. In Buddhism, this is known as no self-nature. Everything lacks self-nature – empty by nature and not truly existing. If something doesn’t come from inner heart, it’s therefore not related to the inherent nature. In other words, it is a void – the lack of self-nature.

Affliction is like a spider that weaves a net for itself. This net is an affliction trap. The more afflictions you have, the bigger this net becomes. If you keep all those afflictions by your side, the trap will only become bigger – and the more inherent nature you will lose. That ‘s why you should refrain from weaving a net of afflictions inside your mind. This spider web-like net is also called a net of karmic knots, because every affliction stems from your karmic affinities – or causes and conditions. For instance, some children don’t get along with their parents. They bear grievances towards each other. As the hatred intensifies, the net grows bigger – the net that is created from karmic affinities. Children disrespect their parents due to the karmic causes that were sowed in the past. When you feel the karmic affinity – the causes and conditions – as something real, you’ll develop a sense of gains and losses. As I often say, everything that has birth and cessation cannot last forever in this world. Things that are not permanent are illusory. However, karmic affinities can be taken as real and illusory. If you take your mind off afflictions, there will be no affliction. But how you do end up with afflictions? It’s because you have held on to an affliction, putting it in a special place inside your mind. That’s how it then gives rise to even more afflictions.

BPT Vol 1.30: When Affliction Approaches, Be Indifferent