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It is loosely translated from Pali as “The Chain of Causation”, or “The Chain of Dependent Origination”. It contains 12 links of interrelating events leading to another which cause suffering for beings, ultimately leading to endless births and deaths.

During the night of Enlightenment, Gotama Buddha realised this on the third watch of the night and gained supreme enlightenment. This profound realisation caused him to understand that all things in the universe are dependent on each other, thus eliminating that phenomenon arise from nowhere. This realisation also eliminated the misconception that all things are created by a Creator, thus also eliminating the misconception of an eternal soul.

The Chain of Causation is described below:
1) Ignorance
2) Dependent on Ignorance arise Reaction (Activities both moral and immoral)
3) Dependent on Reactions arises Consciousness (Re-birth Consciousness)
4) Dependent on Consciousness arise Mind and Matter
5) Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the six Spheres of Sense
6) Dependent on the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact
7) Dependent on Contact arises Sensations
8) Dependent on Sensations arises Craving and Aversion
9) Dependent on Craving and Aversion arises Attachment
10) Dependent on Attachment arise the Process of Becoming
11) Dependent on the process of Becoming arises Birth
12) Dependent on Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, Despair, Tribulations, Mental and Physical suffering and Rebirth.

Thus arises this entire mass of suffering

A summary of explanation is given;

The sense organs are lifeless unless consciousness comes into contact with them. For example, sight is not activated until there is something to see. The primary function of the sensory organs is to perceive, without prior differentiation of the source or outcome. The function of this part of the mind is to cognize, simply to know, without differentiating. A sound comes into contact with the ear, and the consciousness (Pali: viññana) notes only the fact that a sound has come.

Only then does the next stage of perception occur. (Pali: sañña). A sound has come, and from one’s past experience and memories, one recognizes it: a sound, such as praise or abuse. One gives an evaluation of good or bad, according to one’s past experience.

This is followed by a sensation (Pali: vedana). This is where the experience is accorded value according to its level of pleasantness. A word of praise, for example, elicits positive sensations. Abuse, however, results in the opposite. Sensations arise on the body, and are felt by the mind; this is the function called sensation (vedana).

These sensations are what lead to the fourth stage: sankhara, or reaction. This is a response to the myriad of outcomes that result from the complex process of sensory perception. Each of these steps encounters the same sequence of physical gatekeepers; eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body. These reactions are what lead you to crave more.

At each of the sense doors, the same process occurs; eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body. This process often ties knots in your psyche. Here is the real seed that bears the fruit – the mental reaction (Pali: sankhara). Similarly, when a thought or imagination comes into contact with the mind, in the same way, a sensation arises on the body, pleasant or unpleasant, and one starts reacting with liking or disliking. This momentary liking develops into great craving; this disliking develops into great aversion.

With each seed that is sown in the fertile ground of your consciousness, there branch more avenues of sorrow and uncertainty. Every moment one keeps sowing this seed keeps reacting with liking or disliking, craving or aversion, and by doing so makes oneself miserable. Grasping is the cause of Kamma which in its turn, conditions future birth. Birth is the inevitable cause of old age and death.

The cause is the result of the effect, the effect leads to the occurrence of the cause, and so on and so forth, the cycle continues, ad infinitum. The beginning of this process cannot be determined as it is impossible to say whence this life-flux was encompassed by nescience. But when this nescience is turned into knowledge, and the life-flux is diverted into the achievement of uprooting the roots of suffering, then the end of the life process of endless birth and death comes about.

Paticca-samuppada (Picture Reference: S.N. Goenka ( and Narada Mahathera (
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