Everything is interdependent. One in all, all in one. When we open up to interbeing, we’re opening up to our true nature. It can’t be grasped and it can’t be lost. Suffering cannot dwell. Our true nature is boundless  compassion, and it’s no different from the Buddha’s. This is the foundation of Engaged Buddhism.

 

By Johnathon Lee

Thich Nhat Hanh was a truly beautiful person, and an astonishing teacher who introduced millions of people to the Path. He will be missed by the masses.

A lot of people are already writing articles about him that surpass anything I could come up with, so I’m going to focus on one of his teachings instead: interbeing. It’s an ancient Buddhist philosophy, but I first came across it in his commentary on the Heart Sutra. I wept. 

If you look deeply enough, you can find sunlight in each sheet of paper. The paper came from trees, the trees from sun, rain, and soil. The sun, rain and soil came from…the net goes on forever. The whole universe can fit into a single piece of paper. Everything’s like this, including the whole of space-time itself. 

Nothing is separate. No one’s alone.

When we experience something as isolated and independent, we’re experiencing a habituated illusion. A handy mirage. Then we grasp at it and suffer as it slips from our grip. Then the suffering makes us do all kinds of weird stuff—like dieting, listening to disco, and committing murder—and this usually creates more suffering. On and on. 

Everything is interdependent. One in all, all in one. When we open up to interbeing, we’re opening up to our true nature. It can’t be grasped and it can’t be lost. Suffering cannot dwell. Our true nature is boundless  compassion, and it’s no different from the Buddha’s. 

This is the foundation of Engaged Buddhism.

When you see your true nature, you naturally lend others a hand. When you lend others a hand, you’ll eventually see your true nature. Sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation aren’t different. 

Showing compassion to others also waters their Buddha-fields. Do you remember a time when someone did something kind for you, and then—maybe even years later—you did the same thing for someone else? That’s how interbeing works in daily life. 

Compassion and understanding aren’t different. Buddha got up from the Bodhi Tree because he saw that everyone was suffering, and he knew how it felt to suffer. He saw that suffering isn’t yours or mine, it’s a phenomenon that’s part of the whole. 

This is why Bodhisattvas vow to not enter nirvana. The work goes on. 

Thich Nhat Hanh goes on too.

His true nature, who he really was, wasn’t born, so it can’t die. This would sound insensitive if I was saying it to non-Buddhists, but if you’re on the Path, then this is what you need to hear. This is how we honor him. 

Thich Nhat Hanh was an appearance of interbeing, and he lived up to that truth. Even though his appearance is gone, everything he was is still thus. He’s the sunlight in the paper, and the ache in your heart. He’s in each smile, each moment of silence, and each act of human decency we encounter throughout the day. 

We’re like that too. May all beings feel happy, loved and at peace. 

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

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