Interdependence Always Arising
A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
Find a comfortable place to sit, on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Gently close your eyes & bring your attention to the direct sensorial experience of your breath for a few moments. Now visualizing or in some way sensing an enormous jeweled net, a net of boundless proportions, letting this fill your mind & heart. This net is woven of an infinite variety of brilliant crystal gems, each with countless facets. At each point where the strings of the net meet there is a brilliant, highly reflective, multi-faceted gem, with each jewel reflecting within itself every other jewel in the net. At the same time its image is reflected in each of the other gems.
In this vision, each jewel contains all the other jewels. To look at one gem at any point, is to see the reflection of all the gems at all points in the net… a boundless net of beginningless, endless radiating aliveness.
This practice is a metaphor for the intricately interwoven tapestry of life, with everything constantly changing & everything reflecting everything in this many hued & faceted jeweled net of life. This is the relative side of selflessness or ‘not-self’ & is the ground of understanding from which compassion springs.
This understanding that lies at the heart of all the Buddha’s teaching arises from his teaching of Interdependent Co-arising. It’s our growing understanding that no thing spontaneously exists all on its own. All phenomena, including both physical & mental experience, have many, even infinite, contributing factors & conditions of causation. Within each thing are many things.
This sublime teaching is clearly expressed through the following verse from the Buddha:
‘This is, because that is.
This is not, because that is not.
This ceases to be, because that ceases to be.’
An ordinary, everyday way to touch into this truth is seeing that the cup of coffee or tea in our hands could not exist without the person who ordered the bag of beans for her store. Looking deeper, we see the truck that the beans arrived on & its driver. We see the fuel in the truck’s tank & person who pumped it. We see the person who roasted the beans or carefully dried the tea leaves & packaged them. We see the ship the beans or the tea leaves sailed on from Peru or China & all the hands on deck who ensured it’s safe arrival. We see the farmer who cared for the soil & planted the crops & picked the beans or tea leaves. We see the sunshine & the rain that made the plants grow. And of course, each & every one of these conditions had their own complex web of factors that contributed to their unique arising as well. Maybe we see some of the decisions in each of the people’s lives that led to their interaction with the tea leaf or the coffee bean & maybe we see some of the things that influenced each of those decisions as well. It all infinitely goes on. Everything impacts everything else.
Seeing the world in such a way can demystify things greatly for us. It unites us & brings us together. It offers us the wisdom to make ethical decisions with more skill & compassion. It allows us to better see the potential repercussions of our seemingly harmless actions & reactions in relationship to ourselves & to others. It can give us mindful insight into seeing the impact that we have on others & on our environment.
And so importantly, we also learn to have more patience with ourselves & with others. With our practice & the ensuing insight that arises, we better understand the origin of our thoughts, emotions & actions. We learn to sense, see & know the interdependence between our reactions & our moods, between our moods & our decisions, between our decisions & our contracted resistance, and between our resistance & our fears. We truly begin to learn how it all arises interdependently, with each experience flowing into the next.
One of the greatest gifts of our mindfulness-based insight practice is our growing ability to intervene in the process of reactivity. So rather than immediately & ignorantly reacting in a way that causes more suffering for ourselves & others, our practice can give us some breathing space between what may be a strong or subtle unpleasant experience & our habitual reaction to unpleasant experience.
Maybe we still feel angry or upset, but there is now a few second gap in our mind/heart. Over time, this gap will increase to a few more seconds, allowing time for our reactivity to cool off. Consequently, and maybe at first seeming miraculously, we now have a broader range of choices for how to respond internally & externally. It can be quite an incredible change for us when mindfulness intervenes in our habitual conditioned ‘chain of causation’ that leads from ignorance to suffering. There is a wonderful freedom that we experience with this change as it develops, deepens & matures within our life as a whole.
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