This was actually my old question that I still can’t answer
Have a look at SN15.19:
There’s a sutta where the Buddha goes far back in time countless aeons during meditation but still doesn’t find the housebuilder. Instead he shifts his attention to the present moment to see presently occurring conditions, and that’s how he found the housebuilder. This is why the dhamma is timeless, it’s not based on time but presently occurring phenomena.
A sotapanna confirms this theory experientially
When a noble disciple has clearly seen with right wisdom this dependent origination and these dependently originated phenomena as they are, it’s impossible for them to turn back to the past, thinking: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? After being what, what did I become in the past?’ Or to turn forward to the future, thinking: ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? After being what, what will I become in the future?’ Or to be undecided about the present, thinking: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being—where did it come from? And where will it go?’ Why is that? Because that noble disciple has clearly seen with right wisdom this dependent origination and these dependently originated phenomena as they are.”
- SN 12.20
Seeing how identity is fabricated and how the 5 aggregates are wrongfully taken ownership of, thus leading to becoming which results in birth, death and dukkha, one then attains experiential confidence in the dhamma and his “identity view” questions are answered.
So what leads to rebirth can be seen right here and now, one needs not to go back in time.
“Mendicants, transmigration has no known beginning. No first point is found of sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your daughter.
Why is that? Transmigration has no known beginning. No first point is found of sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. For such a long time you have undergone suffering, agony, and disaster, swelling the cemeteries. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.”
So gabriel what’s the first craving that fettered being ?
Do you think it’s possible for one with ignorance to not have craving ?
No. Craving and ambition for path progress is necessary to abandon ignorance. This is a painful feeling not of the flesh in terms of the second foundation of mindfulness. Those with ignorance remaining must use craving skilfully to abandon ignorance:
“This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, ‘The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.’ The thought occurs to him, ‘I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of the fermentations — enter & remain in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for myself in the here & now.’ Then he eventually abandons craving, having relied on craving.”—AN 4.159
Ignorance is abandoned in steps called fetters:
“He attends appropriately, This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by seeing.”—MN 2
Imagine you compare two photos of the same man with ten years in between, one of which the head is full of hair, and one with the head is bald. You can also imagine that the process of becoming bald has been gradual, but you cannot pinpoint the exact point in time when he became bald. Why? because to do that you would have to assume that eventually one hair made all the difference that justified the designation of being bald, which is absurd.
As the Buddha is said to have said, even awakened brings cannot discern a beginning to rebirth.
As the process of rebirth is, as per dependent origination, fueled by ignorance (avijja) and involves craving (tanha), then that means a first craving cannot be discerned.
The whole point of Buddha’s Dhamma is then to allow us to realise, verify and witness for ourselves the ending of that process.
Nothing more, nothing less.
By definition , an awakened being has freed himself/herself from the process of rebirth.
Hence, there is no more conditions and causes in himself/herself for craving to arise.
Now, all this pertains to the noble truth of cessation of suffering.
And its respective ennobling task is to verify or witness for ourselves that cessation of suffering.
If there’s a first rebirth, you must have thought of a state before you take birth. But if that state is so unstable like that, what makes sure that when you return back to that state, you don’t have to take birth again? This state before you take the first birth is itself the “without beginning” Avijja, and I believe that here we are mistaking it for Nibbana.
Is ignorance unconditioned ?
Ignorance is conditioned, if it weren’t conditioned you wouldn’t be able to stop it.
conditioned = Impermanent
I say, bhikkhus, that ignorance has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for ignorance? It should be said: the five hindrances. The five hindrances, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the five hindrances? It should be said: the three kinds of misconduct. The three kinds of misconduct, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the three kinds of misconduct? It should be said: non-restraint of the sense faculties. Non-restraint of the sense faculties, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for non-restraint of the sense faculties? It should be said: lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension. Lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension? It should be said: careless attention. Careless attention, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for careless attention? It should be said: lack of faith. Lack of faith, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for lack of faith? It should be said: not hearing the good Dhamma. Not hearing the good Dhamma, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for not hearing the good Dhamma? It should be said: not associating with good persons.
- AN 10.61
A normal ariya hears the true dhamma first, then attains proper attention (yoniso manasikara).
A bodhisatta attains proper attention first, then discovers the true dhamma.
The proper attention is the cataclysm for ariyahood. Proper Attention on the core axiom, that craving causes suffering, and not just that suffering causes craving, but specifically that craving leads to clinging, becoming, birth, aging. and death. I.e. the housebuilder.
Perhaps you just need to re-phrase the question to:
If rebirth IS true, what can I do NOW to live a better life?
Just a suggestion
This is basically the same question. If Ignorance (Avijja) is unconditioned, there’s no way anyone could make an end to it. But if it is condititioned, then you’re asking for the first birth (the cause) again. The Lord Buddha says, suffering comes from craving, craving comes from ignorance, he doesn’t continue to say where does Ignorance come from.
Well, suppose someone come to you and ask, Is “Blah blah bleh” a good thing? Or is it bad? Is it beautiful? Is it ugly? Is it conditioned, or is it unconditioned? Of course you don’t answer him “yes, it is”, or “no, it isn’t”, but asking him: Can you point to me where your “Blah blah bleh” is? The man hums and haws for a long time and when you continue to press him, finally he admits: “Well, that thing is not real, I made it up.”
Well then, you see, there’s no point of answering yes or no for the thing that’s not real, when the man sees for himself that this “Blah blah bleh” was his own made up and is not real, then all questions and problems right there solved. Hope this clear some of your doubts.
(How cool is it that the Buddha gave the perfect sermon for this question?!)
[Edit: I see now that @Thito already mentioned this sutta. There’s also a sutta in which I believe Sariputta explains that ignorance and … consciousness? sankara?.. condition each other… will look for it…]
If ignorance is conditioned by association with bad friends then assuming that our first birth was in formless realm how can then you explain the cause of their ignorance ?
What is this “first birth” thing you’re referring to?
Maybe The first defilement or the first craving or the first kamma that cause us to suffer,do you get it ?
I think To call it the first ignorance would not be correct but I may be wrong
Nope. I don’t get it. What do you mean by first defilement or first craving or first karma?
For example, what is the first number?
Zero? -1? -Inf? -w-1? -2w? …
If I answer infinite negative number then ignorance would be unconditioned, wouldn’t it ?
Consider the negative integers. Lets call the odds “ignorance” and the evens “samsara” Is negative infinity an even or an odd number?
The negative integers have no beginning, but they do have an end: 0
I become more confuse after reading your question I think this thread should be closed I don’t find satisfactory answer here