We may not be solid, separate entities but we sure are moving in an ocean of relationships! We are communities of interbeing, on every level of our experience, inner and outer, and the great delusion is the belief that we are isolated, alone and out-of-place in our world.
We are most subject to this delusion when we are feeling depressed, anxious or powerless but this sense of separation and individuality is pervasive at all times and tends to be strongly supported in modern Western and consumer-driven cultures. As many of us “good Buddhists” know, this concept of separation, one from the other, this from that, is seen as fatally flawed and the manifestation of ignorance that causes so much pain and suffering in our lives.
So, imagine my relief, when at the eight day retreat with Tarchin Hearn that I have just returned from, he spoke of little else than the complex weavings of inter-relationship – interbeing – that is our experience, moment to moment, past, present and future! I don’t think he spoke once of the concepts of ‘no-self’ or emptiness. And yet his colourful, poetic descriptions of how we and our present environment have been, and continue to be shaped by the flow of learnings from past and present teachers; the genetic and historic ground of our ancestors, with all their many talents; and the ecological ground of immeasurable, inter-relating life-forms and elements, speaks powerfully of the mystery of no separate self and no separate entities, described as anatta and often translated as ’emptiness’. What a full emptiness!
As the Heart Sutra says:
“… Form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form;
emptiness does not differ from form,
form does not differ from emptiness;
whatever is form,
that is emptiness,
whatever is emptiness,
that is form.
The same is true of feelings,
On this retreat, Tarchin invited us to remember the forms of the many teachers and beings that have inspired, supported and shaped our feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness just as we, in turn, are inspiring, supporting and shaping all around us. Through this exploration he encouraged us to see the continuity of the creative action of interbeing that is a continual flow of relationship, leaving no room for separate existence.
As Tarchin puts it, so succinctly, when describing the refuge to be found in a deep sense of belonging:
Ripening in faith and trust and wonderment,
this matrix of seamless creativity;
the miracle of community that you are,
communing with a community of myriad beings
living around you and through you.
Beginningless – endless;
a mandala of unfathomable knowing,
a mode of experiencing that is utterly inclusive,
a way of abiding, singing with awakeness and capacities for vast engagement,
a solid ephemerality,
a fusion of immense presence and compassion-filled interest;
in the great river of buddhist teaching, such knowings and experiencings
are the ground and source of true refuge.
And now, here I am back at home, sitting on my swing seat contemplating some of the communities of beings visible in my immediate surroundings. Below me, enjoying our pond, is a family of ducks.
A little closer, I can see two wallabies (frequent visitors to our place) spotted in close relationship.
Closer still, hanging from the deck’s rafters, are three strings of communities of native wasps that seem to be lazily but continually multiplying and, in their strange, slow-motion way, demonstrate a truly laid back building of community!
All around me there are communities of birds, butterflies, moths, spiders, ants, lizards and frogs – all easy to see – and these are just a fraction of the many beings living and dying in my immediate environment. If I include the insects, mites, bacteria and flora living in and on my body, it is clear that the “I” that I have constructed is a very small part of the picture even before closer examination reveals this “I” as having no inherent substance!
And so these reflections on some of the non-human forms of community that I belong to give some small indication of the enhanced sense of interbeing that I have gained from this retreat. The reverberations will go on developing – like the ever-widening circles from a stone thrown in the water – and the singing of thanks and of joy are part of these reverberations.
If anyone else has reflections to share on their sense of interbeing, we would all love to hear them!
With warm wishes,