The Buddha presented a causal chain of activity spurred on by greed, hate and ignorance that is responsible for the endless cycle of suffering. Once realized and understood, this chain was capable of being broken and the cycle ended. Each of the nidanas is causally linked to the next, with one step laying the groundwork for the following in the chain. Whether starting at the beginning of the chain, in the middle or end; the result is the same, rebirth and suffering.
A sapling in the woods didn’t come into being without certain antecedent factors that led to its current state. The sapling required water from the sky, nourishment from the earth, sunlight to warm it and a seed from which to sprout. All these factors led to the sapling’s growth and its current state. In turn, each of the precipitating factors also did not simply spring forth from nowhere. The soil is filled with nutrients from decaying organic matter and minerals leeched from older rocks. The sunlight is filtered through our atmosphere and results from chemical reactions within the sun. The rain is due to weather patterns alternating atmospheric conditions. Each of these things led, in part, to the seed being dropped from a tree. Everything is due to the causal factors that preceded them. [read rest here]
I wrote the above text as a supplement to the images drawn by Jeff Wigman. Each image describes one of the nidanas.