A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

We are all one and interdependant

I’m going to start off with two quotes, one from H.H. The Dalai Lama, the other by Albert Einstein. I’m going to show that on interdependence both the left brain and right brain see it the same way, just use different language to describe it.

“Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others’ happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace — anxiety, doubt, disappointment — these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense.

What does this tell us? Firstly, because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others’ happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others’ happiness.”

Dalai Lama in his book: Ethics for the New Millennium:Page, 62

“How strange is the lot of us mortals!  Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it.  But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people – first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies are bound by the ties of sympathy.”

Albert Einstein in his book: The World as I see it: page 8

So here we have the Buddha who looked to find a treatment to unhappiness, and a scientist who wanted to discover how the world worked, both coming to the same conclusion, that everything is interdependent. The tree that is cut down to make way for a new road, provides shade for other plants that can’t take the direct sun. It’s roots help hold the soil together, and shelter animals and plants from strong winds. The birds, and perhaps a squirrel may call it home, and many insects will be found on it, or under it. Take away one tree, it makes a small difference, clear cut miles upon miles and you can devastate an ecosystem, perhaps destroy the last of a species. Closer to home, who among us does not depend on another human for their daily survival. Very few id any of us, don’t depend on someone else, for our food supply, our clothing and out water. Even a hermit living far from civilization, depends on others upstream, not to pollute this water supply. The monk depends on the lay person to give him sustenance when he goes on his alms rounds. As a newly born child, we depend on others to protect us, and feed us for the first few years of our lives. If we can keep the thought that we all need each other, perhaps we can stop the grasping to accumulate more than our fair share of this planets resources. Making a billion dollars, will not do any of us much good, if we destroy the planets ability to support us. Killing other beings lessens us, in moral and potentially physical ways. Just as many diseases that strike humans are the result of zoonosis, or the result of a disease being transferred from another species to humans. So is the ability to find a cure to these disease often dependent on studying the original source of the infection. Every decision we make must take into account the web of conections that surrounds every being.


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