As one of the fundamental ideas in Buddhism, Syakamuni Buddha tells us that everything in this world is related to the other in direct and indirect ways, changing and disappearing in the relationship.
Here’s a question posed by Thich Nhat Hanh, who was a known Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, to the participants at his lecture in Japan: “Can you see cloud in this paper?” He suddenly showed the participants a piece of paper and asked this question. When the audience gave a blank look, he continued like this: “It doesn’t rain without any cloud. Trees never grow without any rain. We can’t produce any piece of paper. This is called ‘dependent co-arising’.” Rev. Hanh also clearly explains the idea of dependent co-arising through visualizing the image of cloud from a piece of paper in his writing ‘Being Peace (1987)’.
This idea fits not only in the case of paper but also our lives. We exist here at this moment in this world thanks to the lives of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and countless connections of each life. Other than that, our human body consists of many invisible and different substances such as protein, calcium and phosphorus. We live our lives by by taking the lives of plants and animals.
The same may be true for the spread of coronavirus all over the world. One small thing that happened in China now threatens people’s lives all over the world. Invisible virus has passed from one person to another. I may possibly threaten someone’s life through my careless behavior. This is not something that just happens to other people anymore because we are connected with each other under the radar. So, taking care of our own lives can be taking care of other’s lives.
The idea of dependent co-arising is the wisdom Buddha shows us to allow us to see not only the visible parts of the world but also the whole part of the world including the invisible parts as they are. You may take it for granted. It may be hard for us to realize this in our busy daily lives. However, we now have a great chance to reconsider our own lives and the lives surrounding us.
When we appreciate every relationship and connection which nurtures us through the teaching of Buddhism, we may be able to live a colorful life conscientiously.
Reverend Etsuko Mikame