Interbeing

The following excerpt is from the book Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

In the Psalms, it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” “Be still” means to become peaceful and concentrated. The Buddhist term is samatha (stopping, calming, concentrating). “Know” means to acquire wisdom, insight, or understanding. The Buddhist term is vipasyana (insight, or looking deeply). “Looking deeply” means observing something or someone with so much concentration that the distinction between observer and observed disappears. The result is insight into the true nature of the object. When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower. Without time, the flower could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements; it has no independent, individual existence. It “inter-is” with everything else in the universe. Interbeing is a new term, but I believe it will be in the dictionary soon because it is such an important word. When we see the nature of interbeing, barriers between ourselves and others are dissolved, and peace, love, and understanding are possible. Whenever there is understanding, compassion is born.

Just as a flower is made only of non-flower elements, Buddhism is made only of non-Buddhist elements, including Christian ones, and Christianity is made of non-Christian elements, including Buddhist ones. We have different roots, traditions, and ways of seeing, but we share the common qualities of love, understanding, and acceptance. For our dialogue to be open, we need to open our hearts, set aside our prejudices, listen deeply, represent truthfully what we know and understand. To do this, we need a certain amount of faith. In Buddhism, faith means confidence in our and others’ abilities to wake up to our deepest capacity of loving and understanding. In Christianity, faith means trust in God, the One who represents love, understanding, dignity, and truth. When we are still, looking deeply, and touching the source of our true wisdom, we touch the living Buddha and the living Christ in ourselves and in each person we meet.

2 comments

  1. Hi Lesley, This was one of the first books I read by Thich Nhat Hanh. It was definitely one of my favorites. I really appreciated his ability to draw the connections between faiths. I also studied the work of the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Not only are these two men great friends, the foundations of their beliefs are similar, just framed up differently. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mark. I just started it this morning and I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy it. As I’ve been reading about Buddhist teaching, it struck me how similar it is to the things Jesus taught. I’m really excited by this! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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