Law of the Twelve Causes  


THE WHEEL OF LIFE SHOWING THE TWELVE CAUSES OF
DEPENDENT ORIGINATION


he aw of the welve auses
is Law is also known as the Law of Dependent Origination
or the Wheel of Life (Paticca-Samuppada) and is a discourse on
the process of birth and death, and not a philosophical theory of
the evolution of the world. It deals with the cause of rebirth and
suffering with the view of helping mankind to get rid of their
il s of life. It is not an at empt to solve the riddle of an absolute
origin of life. It merely explains the `simple happening of a state,
dependent on its antecedent state'.
Ignorance of the truth of suffering, its cause, its end, and the way
to its end, is the main cause that sets the Wheel of Life in mo-
tion. e Buddha said: "Ignorance is the deep delusion wherein
we here so long are circling round'.
When ignorance is destroyed and turned into wisdom, al causal-
ity is shat ered as in the case of the Buddhas and the Arahants.
is Law was preached especial y for the benefit of those who
wish to at ain Pratyekabuddhahood. By contemplating on it, they
wil come to an understanding of the birth and death of al things
which results in the arising of their great inherent wisdom.
e Twelve Causes and their interdependent relationship are as
fol ows:
IGNORANCE causes ACTION (Karma)
ACTION causes CONSCIOUSNESS
CONSCIOUSNESS causes NAME and FORM (Individuality)
NAME and FORM causes the SIX ENTRANCES (Six spheres of Sense)
e SIX ENTRANCES causes CONTACT


CONTACT causes FEELING
FEELING causes CRAVING (Love)
CRAVING causes GRASPING (Attachment)
GRASPING causes EXISTENCE
EXISTENCE causes BIRTH, and
BIRTH causes OLD AGE and DEATH.
ese Twelve Causes of Dependent Origination when presented
in the reverse order, may perhaps explain itself in a much clearer
manner, therefore:
AGEING and DYING are caused by BIRTH, for without it there
would be no death.
e next questions that fol ows then is, "How does Birth
arise?"
BIRTH is caused by EXISTENCE.
EXISTENCE in turn is caused by GRASPING or ATTACHMENT.
GRASPING is caused by CRAVING.
CRAVING is caused by FEELING or SENSATION.
FEELING is caused by CONTACT.
CONTACT is caused by the SIX ENTRANCES or the Six Sense
Organs.
e SIX ENTRANCES are caused by NAME and FORM or Mind
and Body.
NAME and FORM are caused by CONSCIOUSNESS.
CONSCIOUSNESS is caused by ACTION or Karma (Conditioning
Activities).
ACTION is caused by IGNORANCE.


IGNORANCE is therefore the ultimate link in the chain, the source
from which our pain and suffering arise. Once Ignorance is de-
stroyed by the gaining of Wisdom and Insight, then the whole
Dependent Origination will col apse.
Pictorial representation of these Twelve Causes and Conditions
can best be seen from the Tibetan Wheel of Life. At the rim
of the Wheel are the twelve symbolic il ustrations, each repre-
senting one of the links of the Twelvefold Chain of Causation
whereby sentient beings are ensnared life after life. It can be ex-
plained thus:
1. A BLIND MAN as primordial IGNORANCE.
2. A POTTER as ACTIVITY which brings about Karmic
Formations.
3. AN ACTIVE MONKEY as CONSCIOUSNESS.
4. TWO MEN IN A BOAT as NAME and FORM.
5. HOUSES WITH SIX WINDOWS as SIX ENTRANCES
6. LOVE-MAKING as CONTACT
7. ARROW IN THE EYE as FEELING.
8. DRINKING as THIRST or CRAVING.
9. A MONKEY GRASPING FRUITS as GRASPING.
10. A PREGNANT WOMAN AS BECOMING or EXISTENCE.
11. CHILDBIRTH As BIRTH.
12. MAN CARRYING A CORPSE representing DECAY which
results in DEATH to be fol owed by rounds of birth and
death endlessly within the Samsaric existences.


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