What we mean by cessation is a state where even when you are confronted with the causes and conditions which would normally lead to afflictions and give rise to suffering, cessation refers to a state where these causes and conditions would not have the power to create afflictions and suffering anymore. That is the truth of cessation. There are three types of suffering, evident (obvious) suffering suffering of change, suffering of pervasive conditioning. By engaging in the path and living in an ethically sound way of life, one will be gradually able to eliminate the causes and conditions which give rise to these three levels of suffering beginning with preventing the most obvious suffering. What becomes important is to inquire into the causes and conditions which lead to these degrees of suffering.
This leads into the second truth, the origin of suffering, where there are two primary factors. One is the karma, volitional intentional actions, and afflictions, which are the basis from which these actions arise. When we talk about karmic action, we are really talking about a subset of the larger cause and effects, events. What is unique about the karmic causation is the involvement of a sentient being and his or her intention. When intention gets involved in a chain of causation, a new chain of causation is created and that new chain is referred to as the karmic causation. It is the motivational intention that determines the quality of the action that we engage in. When we talk about the motivation, we are already talking about our states of mind that give rise to these actions. Here, the afflictions have a very important role in creating the intentions and the motivation that we have.
All of these afflictions is ignorance because there is not a single sentient being who would willfully, knowingly, create the causes and conditions of their own suffering because our basic aspiration is for happiness and to overcome suffering. We still continue to experience suffering because somewhere there is an ignorance involved of the casual conditions that give rise to suffering and pain. There is the ignorance of karmic law of cause and effect and then there is a deeper ignorance pertaining to the nature of reality. In other words, much of our actions are driven by, at a fundamental level, a grasping at a false sense of selfhood, at a concrete self. If one is interested in the project of attaining freedom from suffering, it becomes crucial to understand whether or not there is a possibility of getting rid of that fundamental ignorance.
It is in this context, the Buddha’s teaching on the no-self, anātman, becomes important because it is only by cultivating insight into the true nature of reality of no-self that will overcome this fundamental ignorance. When we are talking about ignorance, we’re talking about a specific state of mind that is either a mere form of un-knowing or a state of mind that is a distorted form of knowing, a perspective that is contrary to reality. If that is the case, this suggests a possibility of removing that ignorance by cultivating it’s opposite perspective, which is a correct perspective on reality. Here, the teaching of no-self , which can arise by understanding all phenomena as being empty of intrinsic independent existence, becomes crucial.
On the second turning of the wheel of Dharma, including the perfection of Wisdom, there developed a further understanding on dependent origination, which was previously only understood by cause and effect. Now here, when we bring the teaching on emptiness, it is much more extensive, it is not confined only to conditioned phenomena, it embraces the entire perspective of all phenomena. All phenomena are not only dependently originated, but also that none of them possess an independent identity of their own, their existence can only be posited on the basis of dependent relation. Because they are devoid of independent existence, they are devoid of any substantial reality and the state of mind that perceives them to possess such intrinsic objective existence will there be distorted and by eliminating that distorted state of mind, which is ignorance, one will there be able to attain the true cessation. It is in this way, the teaching on emptiness and no-self becomes directly related to the teaching on cessation, the third noble truth.