Oct 21, 2009

The Oneness of Life and Its Environment

The principle of the oneness of life and its environment describes the inseparable relationship of the individual and the environment. People generally have a tendency to regard the environment as something separate from themselves, and from the viewpoint of that which we can observe, we are justified in drawing this distinction. However, from the viewpoint of ultimate reality, the individual and the environment are one and inseparable. Life manifests itself in both a living subject and an objective environment.

"Life" indicates a subjective "self" that experiences the karmic effects of past actions. The environment is the objective realm where the karmic effects of life take shape. Environment here does not mean one overall context in which all beings live. Each living being has his or her own unique environment in which the effects of karma appear. The effects of one's karma, both good and bad, manifest themselves both in one's self and in the environment, because these are two integral phases of the same entity.

Since both life and its environment are one, whichever of the ten worlds an individual manifests internally will be mirrored in his or her environment. For example, a person in the state of Hell will perceive the environment to be hellish, while a person in the world of Animality will perceive the same environment as a jungle where only the strong survive. This idea has important implications. First, as already mentioned, we need not seek enlightenment in a particular place. Wherever we are, under whatever circumstances, we can bring forth our innate Buddhahood through the Buddhist practice, thus transforming our experience of our environment into the Buddha's land. This is an act of freedom whereby we liberate ourselves from control by circumstances. For example, if we sufficiently elevate our condition of life, we will not be crushed by adversity but can command the strength and wisdom to use it constructively for our own development.

Moreover, as we accumulate good karma through Buddhist practice, the effects of the karma will become apparent not only in ourselves but also in our environment, in the form of improved material circumstances, greater respect from others, and so forth.

From this standpoint, one's environment stretches out to encompass the whole dimension of space. Our enlightenment is therefore not confined to ourselves but exerts an influence on our families, communities, nations, and ultimately all humanity. The principle of the oneness of life and its environment is the rationale for asserting that the Buddhist practice of individuals will work a transformation in society. Buddhism expands the entire reality of life and shows the way to live a winning life -- the most fulfilled existence.

No comments: