The WEB of CAUSE & EFFECT in Our Reality

It’s not a simple “CHAIN” of Cause and Effect.  

It is more a “WEB” of infinite interconnected consciousness pulsing through time, space, and the multiverse. Buddhism calls this concept “Dependent Co-Arising”, meaning things don’t just happen independently. They’re all intimately connected in the larger reality. Ha Ha!

Events don’t come into existence by themselves.

Everything that happens in the world is a result of complex interrelationships to other conditions and causes. There are no coincidences. Our multiverse is alive and in constant motion. How can we understand it better? Then we can begin to live harmoniously, and perhaps even guide our environment for the benefit of the ALL. 

“Dependent Co-Arising” describes the role of the MIND in creating your own reality. 

It explains how impermanent things such as thoughts, beliefs, and the senses, interact with ignorance and desire to bring about stress and Karma. It describes the source of events, the genesis of all phenomena, and Samsara, which is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. For many people this concept is awkward and uncomfortable. Yet it is deep, and it is the ultimate wake-up call. What did the Buddha say?

“Profound is this Dependent Co-arising.
And it seems unfathomable.
You do not understand the nature of reality,
Therefore your society is a tangled mess,
Like a knotted ball of yarn,
Unable to transcend suffering,
In the endless cycle of birth, and death.”

 Words of the Buddha, from the Pali Canon, Sutta Pitaka, Digha Nikaya, Maha-nidana Sutta


Everything is Interconnected. Nothing Exists Independently on Its Own 

The science of Buddhism reflects the Laws of Nature. Everything in life is connected. One thing affects other things in a complex web of causes leading to other causes and many effects. The key to practical understanding of this concept is simple:

The web of cause and effect is held together by CRAVING.
Craving and desire create a self-perpetuating cycle, that is,
until you break it.


All beings and phenomena exist because a chain of causes came before them. Everything is dependent and temporary. Things and beings perpetually arise and then cease, because they are caused by other things and beings that also arise and cease. Objects, people, even what you think of as your self—your personality and ego—are all temporary and will soon pass. So this event that you call “YOU” did not just “show up” independently. You are a collection of phenomena and habits caused by multiple events. Although it may give the illusion of a permanent and separate being“YOU”, your physical existence is temporary and connected to everything else.

Your thoughts and actions have power which resonates in the integrated field of reality. Every thought or action gives rise to some kind of result in you, in others, and in the web of reality. Imagine a circular arrangement of dominoes in which one domino falling will cause the next to fall, and the next, until all the dominoes in the circle capitulate. Likewise, one thought leads to another thought, which leads to an action, a reaction, and yet another, until the chain of causes and effects comes full circle, all the dominoes are down, and the chain of phenomena is complete. Now imagine many phenomena, or many dominoes in many rows of multiple causes and many effects branching out far and wide in all directions. This is your multi-dimensional reality that continues infinitely in time and space. It takes on a life of its own, a flow of almost unstoppable events that are probable and expected. The cycle may start with a flash of great intensity. That intense energy is never lost but is carried forward into future events. Like butterfly wings can cause a hurricane in a distant land, a small event can be a contributing cause of something large.

Dependent Co-Arising is the Root of Reality

On the night of my enlightenment, I discovered the origin of human stress and suffering. I saw how people become trapped in the self-perpetuating cycle of pain that leads to unhappiness. The concept of Dependent Co-Arisingshows exactly how suffering begins, and how to reverse the process to end it. 

The science of Buddhism holds that the world was not created by a supreme creator. Instead, it arises from pure consciousness, reflected and expressed in myriad ways throughout the universe. You participate in creating the world every day with your thoughts, actions, reactions, beliefs, and words. These interrelationships create a field of cause and effect. One thought, action, or reaction gives rise to another in a never-ending chain. Every thought, belief, action, reaction, or word has multiple consequences, some intended and many more unintended. You can see how the reality that you perpetuate continues indefinitely, creating a complex web of consequences that binds you moment by moment, lifetime after lifetime.

The law of Dependent Co-Arising shows that many impermanent, essentially made-up phenomena rely upon each other for their existence, and are fundamentally connected in your web of reality. This vision of things seems real, and to an extent it is very real. However since each impermanent phenomenon depends upon another impermanent, made-up phenomenon, it creates a reality matrix that binds you and blinds you, although it is nothing more than a chain of illusions. Dependent Co-Arising suggests that reality is not objective, that we are observers, creators, and participants in our own living field that can lead us to suffering, or to freedom.

The web of Dependent Co-Arising is also beautiful and joyful. It gives rise to everything from flowers to mountains to sunsets, joy, sharing, satisfaction, and indeed to the whole world. If this reality were less appealing, less intoxicating to the senses, it would be easier to see through the illusion and achieve your freedom. This is why most people prefer to stay trapped in the sensory cycle of suffering, life and death. However, when harnessed mindfully, the web of reality will help you move toward fulfillment.
What Are the Steps that Lead to Suffering and Pain?
          My teaching focuses on the removal of suffering and stress to achieve freedom. I was interested in the specific causes of the cycle of suffering. I taught Dependent Co-Arising to explain the origin of suffering in a linear or circular sequence. How otherwise could I describe the nature of reality, creation, Karma, and quantum physics to young monks in my time? However in truth, the web of interconnected phenomenon is multi-dimensional and unimaginably complex. Simple linear steps illustrate the concept in a practical way that everyone can easily understand. It shows how a chain of illusions or misunderstandings can lead to an unhappy, unfulfilling destiny.

In my first lecture after my enlightenment, I explained the steps that cause suffering, and how to release craving. An experience of suffering is usually preceded by a thought, emotion, or action. I used various ways to define the steps in the chain of cause and effect in my school. At different points I spoke of five, ten, or twelve steps. These steps, called Nidanas, are all valid. This sequence is sometimes depicted as a Wheel of Life with twelve sections representing each Nidana, or step in the cycle.

To understand the birth of suffering, I described the steps by which the mind creates it. If you look closely, you will see how a misunderstanding in one of the links causes the cycle to move toward a negative end. For example, pure spirit as the original source of all, gives rise to consciousness. This may lead to an awareness, a definition of name, form, and the idea that you are a separate and permanent being, ignorant of the dependent nature of reality. Distractions of touch and senses may give rise to personal likes and dislikes. This in turn leads to desire, craving, and clinging to objects or experiences. The most critical steps to notice and eliminate are likes, dislikes, craving, and clinging. From these follow complaints, arguments, sorrow, selfishness, envy, pride, anger, and entrapment in the cycle of suffering, birth and death.

The Way to End Suffering

Once you know the steps in the chain of cause and effects, you can recognize the link you are perpetuating. By eliminating faulty thought patterns, you can remove the critical step and end the whole cycle. Try playing a game in your mind. When you experience a thought or an emotion, look backwards and try to discover its source. Did your thought arise from something you saw? From another person’s words or actions? Or did it spring from another thought, from tendency in you? Perhaps it comes from a habit. If you see any desire or craving in your mind, simply stop that desire or clinging to anything. This can be an amusing mental practice which will help you to observe yourself with greater insight. You can play this little game to yourself all day. Although it is very simplistic, it is a powerful training to purify the mind.

The first step is to understand that your reality is a web of illusions and dependent phenomenon. Then you can begin to extract yourself from Karmic bonds, to end the cycle of birth and death. There are two ways to do this. One is to reverse the chain of cause-and-effect, to move backwards from an event to its cause, and to its prior cause, as if knocking the dominoes over in the opposite direction. For example, in some cases it is possible to undo a negative action before it causes a result. If you feel genuine remorse for an action, if you offer a sincere apology, this may soften the circle of fate. When you see clearly the sequence of misunderstandings or emotions that perpetuate the cycle within you, you may be able to eradicate all the steps simultaneously. This method requires precise mental control, focus, and detached observation.

A second, easier way to stop the cycle of suffering is to observe and self-correct yourself one step at a time. Every time you can turn an emotional reaction into love, reverse a misunderstanding, change an opinion, quell a desire, or see through your erroneous belief in a false thought form, you are weakening the negative chain of cause-and-effect, and training your mind. You are effectively lifting a domino from the lineup to prevent the others from falling, ending a chain of events. In time you begin to see things clearly as they really are without false preconceptions, without reaching or clinging. With patience and persistence, you will become a careful observer of your own thoughts and actions. This is an excellent way to make progress on your path to freedom, and it will benefit everyone around you. 

This causes that.
When this doesn’t happen,
That doesn’t happen.
Stopping this stops that. 

Sutta Pitaka, Anguttara Nikaya 10.92, Vera Sutta


Of course, this is easier said than done. However, when you mindfully observe and cease any thoughts of craving or clinging, then soon you don’t need to know the steps. You just end the cycle permanently. This is called Right Mindfulness. You observe and stop the old mental habit pattern, to prevent the cycle from moving on to the next step of craving, clinging, pain, death, and rebirth. You are training your mind to a correct mode of thinking

Most humans share a goal of happiness, joy, and liberation. And they experience suffering as an impediment to that joy. The usual response is to pursue things they can see, which they believe will bring more joy and less pain, looking to money, appearance, status, food, substances, etc. Yet any attempt to eliminate suffering through craving and gratification of sensory or impermanent phenomenon, is doomed to fail, only leading to more suffering. The best way to stop the cycle is to cut it at the source. Once you understand the futility of pursuing illusions, you begin to cultivate dispassion, inner wisdom and mindfulness as the primary goals of life.

            Divisive efforts to stir division and disagreement create much stress in your world. Misunderstanding gives way to fear, like a contagious pattern in the energy field. To react in anger only perpetuates the illusion. Your best course of action is to cultivate dispassionate awareness, to notice your own reactions, to mindfully eliminate any lower habits which perpetuate the web of misunderstanding in yourself. Selfish desire is the main culprit, so I suggest you observe yourself carefully there. Use the chapters “Ten Lower Habits to Dissolve” and “The Eightfold Path in a Nutshell”. These fundamental tools of the Buddhist path will help you purify thoughts and actions throughout your life. Your example will open the door for others to do the same.

Dependent Arising Continues through Time

The web of interdependent events includes time, the past and the future. When you are truly present in the moment, it is powerful, because the past and future are encompassed in the present. Thus being in the present moment can transcend all of time. When you cease craving, you pull the plug on the cycle forever, and you are free.

            Dependent Co-Arising is a law of Nature. It describes a web of cause and effect that forms an illusory reality and explains the root of suffering. It is a part of every event, every lifetime, every experience of suffering or joy, and every step to freedom. I invite you to ponder it deeply. Use this understanding to train your mind to stop the patterns of desire, to permanently remove yourself from the cycle of suffering. And in your path, I wish you well.

“All phenomena that arise from causes,

The Buddha has taught their cause,

And that which ceases them.

Thus teaches the Great Renunciant.”



The Sūtra on Dependent Arising

Tibetan Kangyur, Pratītya­samutpāda­sutra


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