to Buddhism, nothing can exist by itself except, but only in relation
to other causally-related events: a particular result always has a cause.
For example, cause A results in B, and B then acts as a cause for another
result C. The patticca-samuppada is an important discourse on the
process of birth and death of beings that operates within the above law. It deals
with the cause of rebirth and suffering with the purpose of releasing
beings from the cycle of life(samsara). It should be noted that it is not a theory
of the evolution of the world.
1.Ignorance (avijja) of the truth of dukkha, its cause, its end and the way to its end is the chief cause that sets the wheel of life in motion. In other words, it is the lack of understanding of things* as they really are which makes us cling onto these very things that result in being trapped in the cycle of birth, death and re-birth (samsara). It should be noted that understanding here is not mere book knowledge, but a true intuitive realisation of the processes of life as they really are.
a result of this lack of understanding, there arises samkhara.
The Pali word samkhara has many meanings and does not translate
directly into English. But in the context of Dependent Origination, it
may be termed mental formations which generate kamma.
3.Dependent on past conditioning activities (samkhara) arises re-linking or re-birth consciousness (patisandhi-vinnana) in a subsequent birth. It is so called because it links the past life with the next one.
4.Simultaneously with the arising of the re-birth consciousness, there is the formation of mind and matter (nama-rupa). This interdependent combination is what constitutes a sentient living being. It follows that in order for a fertilized egg to develop into a living being, an essential factor is the re-birth consciousness. In this consciousness are latent all the past impressions and characteristics of that particular life-stream.
5.The mind-matter combination then goes on to develop the six senses (salayatana), comprising eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch and mind. In this context, mind is included as the sixth sense organ as it a receptor for thoughts and functions as a co-ordinater of the information received from other five senses.
6.Each of these senses gives rise to contact (phassa). Contact is the interaction of the particular sense organ with a corresponding external objects. For example, when the eye sees an object, its image falls on the retina, which produces visual stimulation. This is visual contact **. Similarly, when a sound falls on the ear, auditory contact takes place. It should be noted that no identification of the object takes place at this stage: it is simply an awareness of the presence of the object.
7.Dependent on contact, sensation or feeling (vedana) arises. The feeling can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
8.Dependent on feelings, craving (tanha) arises. Cravings or desires take three forms: craving for sensual pleasures (kama-tanha), craving for continuation (bhava-tanha) and craving for self-destruction (vibhava-tanha). It is this craving which is deep rooted in all sentient beings that conditions the future.
9.As a result of craving, attachment (upadana) arises, which takes form of sensuality, false views, attachment to rites and ceremonies, and belief in a permanent soul.
10.Attachment results in bhava, which literally means becoming (the drive for a life to come into being).
11.Dependent on becoming, birth (jati) takes place in a subsequent life. This is essentially the formation of the mind and matter (nama-rupa) combination.
being so formed will be subject to change, undergo old age and eventually
end in death (jara-marana).
**It is interesting to note that the ancient Greeks and even the European philosophers until a few centuries ago thought that in order to see, the eye projects the visual stimulus to the object. The Buddha's analysis of the visual process was ahead of Western thought by over two thousand years!