Dependent Origination is a central concept shared by all schools of Buddhism. Dependent Origination suggests that all phenomena are a product of causes. That is to say, they have no independent existence but are dependent on additional elements. Fundamentally nothing can be created out of nothing. Phenomena arise, and then they disappear. There is no permanency, no sovereignty, no sovereignty. Yet, everything is interconnected. The world is like a gigantic cardhouse, a balance of uncountable parts; each part in itself is composed of uncountable parts. The process of Dependent Origination happens on an individual level and other levels, including political, social and cultural.
The idea of Dependent Origination traditionally presents in the form of the Twelve Links. These links can either be seen as linear, one condition leading to the next. However, depending on determinants, the links can also be dynamically associated in every possible way. It all depends on the causes and conditions at play on the specific occasion. Being aware of this dynamic process can help in decision making. Knowing that each individual is subject to the environment of constant change suggests that maybe one should not disregard this state. That would be genuinely ignorant because ignoring the obvious fact is the essence of ignorance. Ignorance is the fundamental starting point of the subsequent degeneration away from liberation.
Nothing Exists Independently
The classic example of the oil lamp can easily demonstrate the principle of Dependent Origination. The oil lamp has three essential components: flame, wick and oil. The flame depends on the wick and the oil. There cannot be a flame without a wick, as there cannot be a flame without the oil. Oil and wick are two factors the flame requires for its existence. Identically, all phenomena abide by the same law of causality. Interdependent factors determine the reality of things. Nothing stands on its own.
The Twelve-Fold Chain Of Dependent Origination
IGNORANCE: imagining self and the world to have intrinsic existence.
ACTION, VOLITION: actions of body, speech and mind that arise from ignorance.
CONSCIOUSNESS: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness.
NAME AND FORM: the totality of an individual’s mental and physical constituents, including feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention.
SIX SENSES: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mental faculty.
CONTACT: the meeting of the senses to identify an object as pleasurable, painful or neutral.
FEELING: the mental factor that sorts experiences into pleasure, pain or neutral.
CRAVING: cravings for form, sound, smell, taste, touch and mental objects.
GRASPING, CLINGING: clinging to desired objects, views of self, wrong conduct and wrong views.
BECOMING: the coming into existence that results from grasping.
BIRTH: manifesting in one of the six realms. Birth is the burden of death.
OLD AGE AND DEATH: beings suffer the cycle of birth, aging, death and rebirth; it applies to everyone. The Twelve Links chart every moment of life. Growing aware of this process presents immense possibilities towards liberation.