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Monthly Dharma Thoughts

Seeing life ‘as it is’


The problem with us is, whenever we try to decide what to do, we think to ourselves, ‘So, what’s best for me?’ When locked into this ‘me’-centered mode, you can bet we will fail to see things as they really are. And this is true in almost every case. As a result we end up making one dumb mistake after another. Someone might approach us with perfectly good intentions, but we think they intend us harm. Life itself is presenting itself to us ‘as it is’, but we are hardly in any position to sense its ‘As-it-is-ness’,* as it were, when we look at things from our self-centered mode of being.
Sakyamuni Buddha clarifies that we end up causing a lot of confusion in our life when we do not truly know what is real and what is not. He teaches us the importance of discerning reality as such, to see things and events in their true light. To see things in their true light is Wisdom. What Buddhism calls satori, or awakening, thus marks the point where Wisdom comes into our life.
So, how is the world different when we see it through the eyes of Wisdom? One thing that the eyes of Wisdom reveal to us is that all things undergo change, ourselves included. This is called anitya, or impermanence.
Once we better come to understand this truth, we have a sense of how rare and precious indeed it is for us to have the life we do, and how rare and precious indeed it is for every living thing to have the same life they do.
Again, through the eyes of Wisdom, we see Life is such that ‘every living thing there is’ arises interwoven in a great tapestry of mutual support. Buddhism calls this relationship pratitya samutpada, or interdependent coorigination.
Once we better come to understand this truth, we have a sense of how we do not each exist alone as separate unrelated units, and at last wake up to the fact it is through the kindness of everyone around us that we are alive at all.
In light of this truth, the world of gratitude opens up. It is thanks to the kindness of others around us we are alive, and never would we think to inflict harm on those who have come to our aid.
Buddhism’s long-range goal is to establish a world of peaceful coexistence where we can live as such. Through listening to the Buddhist teachings, we come to understand how rare and precious it is to be born in this world! And though we feel remorse for our mistakes in life, we hope to make a positive effort to follow a way of life leading to a better world.
*‘As-it-is-ness’. A term coined by D. T. Suzuki 1870–1966 to signify the nondualistic nature of true reality in contrast to our ordinary dualistic mode of thinking.