Pratītyasamutpāda, commonly translated as dependent origination or dependent arising, states that all dharmas ("things") arise in dependence upon other dharmas: "if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist." It is a pragmatic teaching, which is applied to dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.
A famous application of dependent origination is the Twelve Nidana, or 12 inter-dependences, which describes the chain of causes which result in rebirth. By reverting the chain, liberation from rebirth can be attained. They are:
- Ignorance creates Mental Formation
- Mental Formation creates Consciousness
- Consciousness creates Name & Form
- Name & Form create Sense Gates
- Sense Gates create Contact
- Contact creates Feeling
- Feeling creates Craving
- Craving creates Clinging
- Clinging creates Becoming
- Becoming creates Birth
- Birth leads to Aging & Death
In the Tibetan Gelugpa school, pratītyasamutpāda is complementary to the concept of śūnyatā "emptiness," which means that no dharma has an existence of its own, and that there is no such "thing" as an "ultimate truth" or "ultimate reality."