In a world that seemingly grows smaller as we grow older, it becomes easier to experience and understand our connectedness and dependence on others, many others. In Buddhist teachings, this realization translates into realistic and enlightened thinking about the nature of oneself and winds up in the conclusion that actually there is no oneself at all, there is only parts of the whole. In other words, we are not only interdependent and interconnected; we are one.
And not only is our conviction to our separateness a delusion, it is a harmful conclusion and leads us into acting upon this false belief. It leads us into taking the poisons that make us sick. Buddhism calls this sickness dukkha, which means suffering and that includes pain, frustration, anxiety and just plain unsatisfactoriness. How does thinking of ourselves as separate have the consequences of poisoning ourselves and making ourselves sick?
It is because the poisons are basically selfish desire, anger and ignorance. When we want things for just ourselves, when we get angry over things that displease us, and when we even unintentionally hurt others and ourselves, it is because we are ignorant of the fact that what we do to the least of us we do to ourselves. Test yourself: Do you want to end poverty, war, suffering? Do you feel good or bad when you are angry? Do you think you already know it all or enough and don’t need or want to learn more?
Feeling compassion for those in need of whatever it is, is an innate feeling of our oneness. Mentally we put ourselves in the shoes of others so we can better feel their feelings. Compassion is called karuna in Buddhism, but it includes an action or a physical reflection of the feeling. It isn’t enough to just feel sorry for someone or some thing; you have to do something about what you feel. That’s called “engaged” Buddhism. Like in marriage, one is engaged before one gets married and becomes one.
To better understand this concept of oneness, try imagining you are far out in space looking at the planet Earth. You see the Earth as one object, even though you know it has lots of parts . . . land, water, trees, rocks, fish, animals and people. Or look at your hand; it has five fingers, but all of them are part of the hand. And the hand is a part of the arm, the arm a part of the body and the body a part of you. And you are a conglomeration of not just your body and its parts, but also your personality, your characteristics, your likes and dislikes, your relationships, etc., etc. Look deeply enough and you will see those relationships as a part of your oneness. Depending on how many relationships you have or feel, your realization of your oneness is affected.
Try loving everyone, all the animals, the beauty of the mountain scenery and the ocean waves as they break upon the shore. The more you love, the more you realize that you are not separate from what you love. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and you will be reflecting your oneness. You will be an engaged Buddhist along with all the other things you are. The word Buddhist means someone who has awakened. Waking up to the reality of who you are is like waking up from a night’s sleep feeling refreshed and ready to face the day positively, knowing you’re going to experience what people are always telling you to do: “Have a nice day.”