Following the recent death of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, we honour his memory with the publication today of the seventh in our series of his Ten Love Letters to Earth, with another next Sunday...
These meditations are an invitation to engage in intimate conversation, a living dialogue, with our Earth.
Love Letter VII: Your Ultimate Reality
Dear Mother Earth,
You were born from the dust of distant supernovas and ancient stars. Your manifestation is but a continuation and when you cease to exist in this current form you too will continue in another. Your true nature is the ultimate dimension of reality - the nature of no-coming and no-going, no-birth and no-death. This is also our true nature. If we’re able to touch this we can experience the peace and freedom of non-fear.
And yet, because of our limited view, we still wonder what will happen to us when our physical form disintegrates. When we die, we merely return to you. You have given birth to us in the past, and we know that you will continue to give birth to us time and time again in the future. We know we can never die. Each time we manifest, we’re fresh and new; each time we return to the Earth, you receive and embrace us with great compassion. We promise to train ourselves to look deeply, to see and touch this truth - that our lifespan is your lifespan, and your lifespan is limitless.
We know that the ultimate and the historical - the noumenal and the phenomenal—are two dimensions of the same reality. Touching the historical dimension - a leaf, a flower, a pebble, a beam of light, a mountain, a river, a bird, or our own body - we can touch the ultimate. When we deeply touch the one, we touch the all. This is interbeing.
Dear Mother, we vow to see you as our body, and to see the sun as our heart. We will train ourselves to recognize you and the sun in every cell of our body. We will find you both, Mother Earth and Father Sun, in each tender leaf, in each flash of lightning, in each drop of water. Diligently, we will practice to see the ultimate and realize our own true nature. We will practice to see that we have never been born and we will never die.
We know that in the ultimate dimension there is no birth and no death, no being and no nonbeing, no suffering and no happiness, and no good and no evil. We will train ourselves to look deeply into the world of signs and appearances with the insight of interbeing, in order to see that if there were no death, there could be no birth; without suffering, there could be no happiness; without the mud, the lotus can’t grow. We know that happiness and suffering, birth and death, lean on each other. These pairs of opposites are only concepts. When we transcend these dualistic views of reality, we’re freed from all anxiety and fear.
Touching the ultimate we’re happy and at ease - we’re in our element, free from all notions and concepts. We’re as free as a bird soaring in the sky, as free as a deer leaping through the woods. Living deeply in mindfulness, we touch our true nature of interdependence and interbeing. We know we are one with you and with the whole cosmos. The ultimate reality transcends all notions and concepts. It can’t be described as personal or impersonal, material or spiritual, nor as the object or subject of mind. Ultimate reality is always shining and shining on itself. We don’t need to look for the ultimate outside of ourselves. We touch the ultimate in the very here and now.
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