Gautama Siddhartha was clearly an extremely intelligent man. But his intelligence came from an observation of very simple things, those very things that we take for granted or dismiss. How much do we recognise the fundamental facts upon which the Buddha based all of his teachings? The Buddha based his teachings on his observation of life, decay and death. He said that all of life is ‘dukkha’, which means restlessness (not really suffering, more fluctuation). He said that by being awake to this fact, a person can still their mind, detach from fluctuations, and reach a state of total freedom from karma (the state known as nirvana). After this, a person would be liberated from reincarnation (they would achieve moksha). He did not mention the role of God in all this, or how the universe came to be. He very wisely detached himself from metaphysical conjecture, explaining that the truth can only be felt, not logically understood or explained.
I often compare the teachings of great sages in order to find the common thread of meaning running through each of their philosophies. Jesus Christ spoke the scripture of love – ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ and, instead of the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’, learn to ‘turn the other cheek’… In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun to see all things as equal: pleasure, pain, life, death…
What is the common thread? The stories are very different, and the focus keeps shifting. But overall, it seems like they are all saying that we should take a step back from the drama of life and see how everything is actually linked. Everything that appears foreign, contradictory, separate, is all actually made from the same energy, like intricately woven tapestry. Your enemy is not your opposition, he is your brother; pain and pleasure are not separate, they are linked. The only way you can see this, know it and really feel it is if you take a step back. Look at the whole picture. When you are amidst chaos, go up onto the roof of a tall building and look down. You will see an interdependent web of life. Your perspective changes when you zoom out of the drama.
If you are reading this blog, then you are probably already aware of how interdependent we are, but clearly the world at large is not aware of this. Otherwise, we would not sabotage each other’s countries, beliefs, cultures. We get so wrapped up in our own drama that we begin to think only our experience is authentic or valid. But our experience is nothing without the contribution of countless others. How can we detach from ourselves enough to really appreciate the magnanimous beauty of life, of ‘interdependent arising’? We could try doing what Gandhi did… ‘Every night when I go to sleep, I die. And in the morning when I awake, I am reborn.’