Nature of Reality
Cause and effect
When we see something or somebody, when we experience
an interaction or someone's action, we view it as having an independent
existence. In reality, all things arise in dependence on a complex
web of interrelated causes and conditions.
The Dalai Lama offers the example of a pot:
The pot is, to begin with, the result of a potter
taking clay and molding it. It is also the effect of many other
causes and conditions. To mention just a few of the many possible:
the presence of clay, living in a culture that knows pottery
making, the circumstances that lead to the potter's decision
to make this particular pot, perhaps a need or a request.
The pot is, in other words, dependently originated.
Consider an apple tree.
When you see this tree,
you may think of it as existing independently:
"That apple tree." Consider the causes
and conditions that bring about an apple tree.
The tree certainly
arises from a seed. But it also arises from other conditions
such as soil, climate, sunshine, nutrients, and water.
The tree also has many effects — it gives
rise to many apples, each of which contains many seeds, each
of which can become another tree, giving rise to more apples,
more trees. Each apple, if eaten, will have many effects, as
will the unpicked apples that decompose back into the soil.
What were the causes and conditions that lead
to your birth? What were the causes and conditions
that lead to living where you now live? What were
the causes and conditions that lead to you beginning
We also tend to think of the events (causes) as sequential — a
to b to c. In reality, when we look into cause and effect we
find a web (network) of causes and effects.
The mind's causes and conditions
mental states are generated in much the same way that objects
are generated in the physical world. In the same way that a
sprout is able to arise because of the combined force of causes
and conditions of seed, water, sunshine, and rich garden soil,
our states of mind also come about by causes and conditions.
The substantial cause of our present state of
mind is the previous moment of mind. Thus, each
moment of consciousness serves as the substantial
cause of our subsequent awareness. The stimuli
experienced by us, visual forms we enjoy or memories
we react to, are the cooperative conditions that
give our state of mind its character.
Stop reading for a moment. As thoughts arise
in your mind—many will—take one as an
experiment. Once you have identified the thought
thinking of needing to buy food for dinner..."),
trace the origination of the thought. What thoughts
gave rise to this thought? The conditions that
give rise to a thought may be mental and physical.
(For example, a picture of food might be part of
the origin of a thought about dinner.)