Last Saturday, on Nov. 2, 2019, Stephen generously shared his research on a well-known Buddhist concept: Interdependence.
He led us through an inspiring discussion session after meditation. Following is the outline of ideas he presented, and a list of readings on Interdependence he recommends.
One can look at interdependence as a teaching about how things become what they are. Nothing causes itself to exist, or even stays the same from one moment to another. Rather, things are what they are because of causes from all of the other things in the world. And those things are what they are because of causes from all of the other things in the world, and so on. Different teachers emphasize different lessons from this. Interdependence can help foster compassion in us, in several different ways. Interdependence also helps us relate more skillfully to reality — mistaking things or ourselves as not interdependent leads to suffering for ourselves and for others. Be careful not to misinterpret interdependence! I am what I am because of everything else in the world, including you, but it is not right to say that you and I are one. (But it’s also not right to say that you and I are two.)
The teaching of interdependence is not something to hear and believe, it’s something to see and experience so that it can help you live your life.
- Take a few minutes to reflect — what brought you to read this? What people played a part in you seeing these words? What things? Think of your parents, your teachers, the person who runs the power plant that keeps your electronics going, the happenstance that led to you understanding English, and so forth. What are you? Is there anything in you which was not caused by something outside you?
- Consider what interdependence means for how you relate to others. Who or what are other people? Why do they act the way they do?
- Think about interdependence and how it relates to other teachings. Can you see the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path in it?
- “All things are interdependent”, by Brian Thompson
- This is a quick introduction to one perspective on interdependence, highlighting how seeing things in terms of interdependence can help us to act more skillfully and compassionately in daily life.
- “Understanding Emptiness & Interdependence” by The Karmapa
- This article talks about interdependence as the nature of reality, connecting it to the idea of “emptiness” (i.e. “empty of self” which is really not that different an idea than interdependence).
- “We Are Not One” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
- Here, a teacher warns against some misconceptions around the idea of interdependence, and puts forward a different perspective than that of the previous two articles.
- “The Heart of Understanding”, by Thich Nhat Hanh
- This is a short book, rather than an online article. It’s a commentary on the Heart Sutra, explaining it through the lens of interdependence (or “inter-being”, as Thich Nhat Hanh likes to say).