Some Buddhists I encounter seem to be on the right track (notice, I said ‘seem’). They will say something like:
Through ignorance, sentient beings perceive originated things, when in fact nothing has actually originated at all. The view of dependent origination is a means to reveal that origination of conditioned phenomena has never occurred in the first place.
Such words, however, may need some unpacking—terms are still too indefinite. We might first of all ask, “What is avidya?” I am sorry to say this but a Sanskrit dictionary is not going to be of much help. It would be better to understand avidya as the confusion between the born and the unborn, or the same, the conditioned and the unconditioned—or even the dependently originated and the unoriginated (we could even say the ‘increate’). Simple enough?
Okay, go outside and take a look at the forest. Can you distinguish between the dependently originated and the unoriginated? Be honest. I bet you can’t. Someone awakened—believe it or not—can. We could call this prajñâ, but this is beside the point.
The important thing is that we can actually discern between conditioned things and unconditioned reality. Being able to do such, we are no longer caught in avidya. We can distinguish spiritual light from the material darkness; essence from mode. In fact, if we really think about it there is only the unconditioned. The conditioned world is just the torsion waves of the unconditioned. They have merely an illusory existence.
What the Buddha is teaching us about dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) is that phenomena (samutpada) are relative to what they are based upon (pratitya). In an absolute sense, phenomena are configurations of absolute Mind. Mind is the substance. It alone is self-generating (svayambhu) like the lotus. Its phenomenalizations are not.
Awakening is, you might say, a rebooting of the entire system. We go from being entrapped in conditionality, blindly following it, eventually, to seeing the unconditioned which is unchanging and most real. After seeing the unconditioned, the world we once took to be real becomes gradually more and more illusory. Over time, we pass away, fearlessly, stepping from the dream into absolute reality.