Some persons routinely fall in love with the same type of man or woman, even though their previous relationships have not been successful. Others repeatedly become involved in situations at work that lead to discomfort with the job, conflict with co-workers, or termination. Still others develop great initial enthusiasm for new projects again and again, only to lose interest a short time later, or to become exhausted and overwhelmed by the effort.
We call these ‘vicious cycles’, the repetition of actions whose negative outcomes we seem unable to avoid. They are manifestations of the coming together of causes and conditions, or what the Buddha Shakyamuni called dependent origination. Whenever our tendencies meet suitable conditions for their expression, these cycles manifest.
The particular elements and events of these cycles are always different, but the pattern is recognizable. And frustrating. What repeats is precisely the pattern, the combination of elements and the progression of events leading to a familiar outcome.
All life is cyclical. We experience the alternation of day and night, the fluctuation of the tides and the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year, the stages of our lives –in short, birth, disease, aging, death and rebirth.
Because of the cyclic nature of experience, the external conditions that we meet along the way are necessarily similar (if not identical) to those we have experienced in the past. Whenever those similar conditions arise, our tendencies and inclinations (our views and habitual emotions) find suitable circumstances for their expression.
Recognizing the elements of dependent origination (the internal causes and external conditions) is the first step in our attempt to interrupt repetitive patterns.