Thursday, August 6, 2009

Isolation or Unity

An inflamed match.Image via Wikipedia

In the past few days a man murdered three women, injured 10 more and then turned his gun on himself. He left behind many tracks declaring his intension, one of which was his blog. Amongst his many comments he said that he felt isolated and rejected. Sadly this is not an unusual reflection in today’s world. Rather it is a very understandable given the way in which we ordinarily consider ourselves and others.

Phenomenally we are all very different and separate. If that is all that we are then everyone can only experience themselves within that tight definition—isolated and estranged. That is a fairly accurate understanding of what phenomenal life means: As things appear. When we consider ourselves and others as purely phenomenal, the only possible conclusion is that we and they are mere objects, lacking intimacy and life. In that case shooting someone is not much different from a video game.

In our contemporary world too often this one sided view has become the standard—pure objectivity and nothing else. Buddhism holds a very different view. Not only are we (and all life) objective but we are also subjective and whatever is subjective contains an eternal spirit which is unborn and never dies. The unity of these two sides (phenomena and noumena, or subject and object) is accepted as a fundamental aspect of existence and given that unity all of life is sacred and without discrimination. The lowest of life form contains the same Buddha-Nature as the most enlightened person.

This understanding can radically transform anyone’s experience from isolation to unity and from a lack of caring to compassion.
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