On the back of our enemies – not by my effort alone.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Well not exactly our enemies, or at least I hope we don’t have enemies.  Maybe just folks that don’t view life the same way we do.

In Buddhism we often speak of interdependence, or dependent origination a concept that points out how we are connected on some level with everyone and everything else in the universe.  The visual analogy used it Indra’s net.  Picture if you will a fish net with a gem in each of the intersections of the cords of the net.  While each cord comes together to form an intersection of four cords, when we look at the gem at the intersection we see reflected in its radiant surface, the facets, the gems and intersections from other areas of the net.

Change Break Fast

Change Break Fast

Keeping in mind this interconnected relationship is important for us because it reminds us that our actions do not come without the expense or aid of others.  I attended a lecture this past June at Rissho University in Japan where the lecturer talked about how our life is not really our own, it belongs to many other people as well.  He pointed out how none of us came into life without the aid of at least two parents and we certainly didn’t live our first few years with out care and being fed by other people.  A few weeks ago I heard a story on the radio about whole departments in some major cities devoted to dealing with the deaths of individuals who die alone.  I think that I recall that in Los Angles there are over 1000 people who spend their days trying to wrap up the details of people who die alone, who die without any apparent family or friends, no next of kin or loved ones.  So while it may be obvious that we don’t come into life alone it isn’t always obvious that we also don’t die alone, even if we may think we are alone.

In our daily existence we are connected with other people and benefit from their efforts in ways that all too often we take for granted or may even ignore.  Almost none of us grow our own food anymore.  Instead we go to the store and buy packages or cans that contain what we wish to prepare.  Even we buy already prepared food, either something we need to heat up or something served to us ready-to-eat.

We travel, either in our own vehicle or in a public conveyance.  We travel on roads or surfaces that have been prepared by countless unnamed individuals.  The fuel our vehicles consume, either private or public, is transported from its original location to the point of distribution in our community.  The clothes we wear most likely were not made by ourselves so their manufacture and distribution also was dependent on other people.  The list goes on and on, we just are not here in this life without the aid of many many other people.  There really is no such thing as a self-made person.

Yet, how many of us, when we reflect on our lives have a certain amount of self-satisfaction with our accomplishments, our successes, our achievements ever think about how all of these things are made possible because of the efforts of others.  On the reverse though frequently it is very easy for us when we confront our failures to find countless ways in which to shift the blame to other things or even other people.  Why do we do that?

Are we less connected to other people when we succeed than when we fail?

For people who like to think that they are living their lives in wholesome, good, or mindful ways it is often easy to forget that even our ability to do good or live according to our own personal convictions is benefited by those who may not prescribe to our same values.  For a Buddhist who may try to practice Right Livelihood it isn’t as easy as saying that on a personal level we do so without truly considering the many ways in which that practice is aided by others who may not practice as we do.  Whether we are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or any other religion we do not practice our belief in a vacuum and without the aid of others who may not share our belief.  Do we extend our thanks and appreciation to those individuals?  do we even consider how we are able to live because of their efforts?

It is easy for us to become smug or complacent in our belief thinking that we are doing good, when in reality any good we do by our own standard comes about because of the effort of others that we may condemn as not living up to our belief or standard.

It is never as easy as saying well I am living good, or I am a believer, or I am faithful without also being willing to transfer our benefit to others knowingly or unknowingly.

I encourage everyone who has ever thought, “I am good” or “I am doing good” or “I am saved, or blessed or whatever” or “I am practicing correctly” to also consider how it is all made possible by others who may not believe as you do.  We need to also share our benefit our merit with them as well and realize that without countless others we could not live as we do.

Nothing we do is done without the aid of countless others – we do not live or be in isolation. Let us give thanks and be willing to transfer our merit to others with a generosity befitting our deeply held conviction, matching our desire to do good with our desire to pass on the benefit to others.