"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, August 29, 2011

Interdependence: An Eastern Perspective

"For a table to exist," writes renowned Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, "we need wood, a carpenter, time, skillfulness and many other causes. And each of these causes needs other causes in order to be. The wood needs the forest, the sunshine, the rain and so on. The carpenter needs his parents, breakfast fresh air, and so on. And each of these things, in turn, has to be brought about by other conditions. If we continue to look in this way, we will see that nothing has been left out; everything in the cosmos has come together to bring us this table."

In explaining the Buddhist concept of dependent origination, Thich Nhat Hanh points out that there is no separation in reality, despite what our egos would tell us, and that in fact everything is in a state of perpetual interbeing.

"Looking deeply at the sunshine, the leaves of the tree and the clouds, we can see the table," he points out. "The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one."

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu writes:

As soon as one begins to divide things up,
      there are names;
Once there are names,
      one should also know when to stop;
Knowing when to stop,
      one thereby avoids peril.

In metaphorical terms,
      The relationship of all under heaven
         to the Way
            is like that of valley streams
               to the river and the sea.

"One cause is never enough to bring about an effect," Thich Nhat Hanh observes. "A cause must, at the same time, be an effect, and every effect must also be the cause of something else."

"Cause and effect interare," he notes. "They give rise to each other."

"Our difficulties," he points out, "arise when we forget this teaching and become attached to ideas and things, believing that they are independent and permanent. When we embrace the interdependent nature of all things, forsaking all extremes, we will be on the path of a more peaceful and joy-filled existence."

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