Ignorance is the essential precondition of sentience in its individualized or differentiated, i.e., desiring and suffering, mode. Thus, ignorance has no cause as such. It is synonymous with sentience itself. As to what causes sentience, the self-reflexivity of sentience that results from differentiation is an essential mode of transdual reality. Thus, reflexivity has no cause as such. It is synonymous with transdual reality. One might ask, why is reality transdual? The answer is that reality, the whole or the totality, must be transdual in its essence, for if it is not transdual it cannot be the whole or the totality.
To recapitulate, the real posits the transdual, for the dual cannot be the whole. The transdual itself posits the dual, which in turn posits differentiation, reflexivity, and so individuality. Thus, reflexivity posits consciousness, which posits ignorance as its root state. Thus, ignorance is an essential mode of reality, as stated correctly in the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment.
From this we deduce the Deathless, that is the goal of the Arahant – a state of individuality that is characterized by the conscious realization of the transdual, which exists simultaneously in the state of reflexive self-realization of the totality. This state can only exist as a telos. If this state, which is the state of enlightenment itself, were the root, then it would not exist, since differentiation would not arise. This is self-contradictory. Since this state can only exist as a telos, its root is ignorance.
One might ask, Why is the real not simply unitary – a homogeneous, undifferentiated state? But this too is self-contradictory, for how can the real be said to exist if the unreal or non-existence is not posited? Moreover, sentience itself posits its own self-contradiction as its essential mode, which is infinitely self-involving. Thus, the infinite self-involvement of sentience with itself that is the essence of reflexivity is conterminous with reality. The non-real or non-existent is samsara, characterized by essential differentiation. The very mirage-like character of samsara results from the mixture of the real and the non-real, for the truly non-real would not be experienced, and the truly real would not be subject to differentiation. Thus samsara itself is reality in its mode of negation. Samsara and suffering themselves posit and prove reality and enlightenment, for if it were not for the latter samsara would not be experienced.
One might then ask, Why is there “reality” at all? Why is there not simply nothing? But this too is self-contradictory, for nothing cannot be said “to be.”
Moreover, one cannot ask “why” of reality. This is not a legitimate question, for the mode of “why,” which is the mode of teleology, is always subordinate to the totality, just as a system can only be “explained” by a larger system that explains it. Therefore the real is not a system. The question of “why” always posits an origin, an unfulfilled state, and a goal, and therefore is essentially dual. Therefore, the transdual, the real, has no “why.” It simply is as it is, because to be it must be what it is.
This is the explanation of “if ignorance is the ultimate cause of desire and suffering, what is the ultimate cause of ignorance?” and “if samsara is a mirage, what is the reality to which it attests?”
Karma is the inescapable essence of the essentially mysterious and uncharacterizable activity of samsara, and thus extends to every aspect and detail of samsaric flux, absolutely and without exception. Since beginningless time, cause and effect have determined each other, all based on the ultimate cause of ignorance, in infinitely intervolving complexity. “Ignorance” is really not a noun but a verb, since nothing is static, everything is kinetic. The Chinese language, which makes no distinction between nouns and verbs, incorporates this principle very well. Everything is process. This is shown by the primacy of the samskaras in relation to consciousness, name and form (namarupa), etc. Thus, when we speak of ignorance we really speak of “ignoring,” i.e., differentiation or differentiating, etc. – the kinesis of the dual. Thus, there is no process by which karma/samsara can be “transcended,” including the negation of karma/samsara (i.e., the path of “purification” so-called), which is merely another process. Moreover, what is there to “purify”? What is “impurity”? Upon analysis, it is discovered to be – nothing at all. Thus, there are no rules, there is no training, there are no “skillful means,” no procedure or method by means of which karma can be “escaped” and no “saving grace.” There is no “escape” ultimately, for samsara, beginningless and endless, is not merely an essential aspect of reality, it is reality, in its mode of negation, which is the mode of the dual. And yet, reality is. Enlightenment is. Samsara itself attests to this.
We know that “ignorance,” or ignoring, is the root of codetermination. Codetermination (paticcasamuppāda) itself is samsara. Therefore the opposite of ignorance is the essence of enlightenment. This is called wisdom or “being wise,” i.e., being aware (prajna). But radical prajna also cannot be produced. The moment one attempts to produce wisdom or awareness by any means whatsoever, one enters into karma and thus samsara. Thus, the causalist path is always self-contradictory and self-defeating, a mode of ignorance in fact. Thus, the Buddha’s own enlightenment was synonymous with the act of renouncing all means, by entering into the state of direct apprehension or realization of reality without mode or measure. “Enlightenment” is not something that, not existing, is “produced.” Enlightenment is simply the realization of “what is,” i.e., reality itself. It was “there” all along. Otherwise it could not be experienced.
Similarly, samsara cannot be “ended” by any act of will. When one hears of the “end of samsara” what is really being referred to is the end of attachment, which is a mode of ignorance. Samsara, as the negation of the real, is conterminous with reality, and this is why it is infinite and eternal. Its “ending,” so-called, is the state of non-attachment that is the mode of enlightenment, and this is realized in the same way as stated above: by entering into the state of direct apprehension or realization of reality. Thus the individual is no longer subject to rebirth, nor can he or she “go back” to being subject to rebirth, for wisdom, once acquired, cannot be abandoned. One cannot “unknow” what one knows. One cannot “be” other than what one is! One abides in the state of perfect reflexive sentience, conterminous with the real, yet completely individual. Because samsara is infinite and eternal, this process too is infinite and eternal.
This is the explanation of the questions, “if all phenomena are caused by karma, how can samsara be transcended?” and “if samsara is beginningless, how can it have an end”?
In all of the foregoing we speak of causes and effects, preconditions and results, roots and modes, etc., but all of this is only an artifice of language. In fact, all of these things exist together simultaneously and are essentially intervolved to an infinite degree and extent. Thus, there is no essential or ultimate distinction or difference between any of them, except in the discerning (i.e., differentiating) mind. All is sentience itself and nothing else, the essential nature of which is differentiation and non-differentiation, 0 and 1 – the binary. All of this together constitutes reality because reality itself is just this and nothing else.