The Nature of Oneness

Oneness. The idea of Oneness is central to the Buddhadharma. In Buddhist practice, what is Oneness? Usually, in America, we speak of oneness as an ideal, a goal. Unity or harmony among all people is oneness. Equality regardless of race, nationality or gender is oneness. Compassion for those in need is oneness. Buddhist Oneness goes beyond these ideals. Buddhist Oneness is not a goal. It is the reality of life.

One of the best explanations of Oneness occurred at a Buddhist convention I attended. During the question and answer period after a seminar someone asked, “What is Oneness?” A panel member replied in a simple, understandable manner.

Holding up a sheet of paper he asked, “Do you see a cloud in this paper?” No one responded. Again he asked, “Do you see a cloud in this paper?” “You must see a cloud in this paper,” he continued, “because without a cloud there is no rain. Without rain there is no tree. Without a tree there is no paper.” He then asked, “Do you see a steel mill?” “You must see a steel mill because without the mill there is no steel. Without steel there is no ax or saw to cut the tree. No tree cut down, no paper.” The audience was beginning to understand his point. Chuckling he asked, “Do you see Wheaties?” “Loggers work hard and need a good breakfast. No loggers, no cut trees, no paper.” What was the point he made? First, nothing exists independent of outside conditions. Second, no single component is more important than another. These two points, along with the idea of impermanence, are the basis of Buddhism.

The legend of the birth of Gautama Buddha says that he took seven steps and cried, “Above the heavens and below the heavens I alone am most noble.” This is “The birth cry of the Buddha.” It is not a statement of superiority. Rather, it is the recognition that all people are unique. We all have a nobility that is not determined by others. Our nobility is ours by birth. It cannot be taken away from us. If all are unique then none are superior or inferior. This individual uniqueness is Oneness.

Respect for all living things is an expression of Oneness. Many Buddhists feel the taking of life is contrary to the teachings and choose to be vegetarians. Those who are not vegetarians respect the life taken to provide them with food. Mindfulness, the realization of the effect of our actions and appreciation of the present moment, is Oneness.

In his book Everyday Suchness Rev. Gyomay Kubose ends his discussion of Oneness with the following, “We have to see and understand things as they are. Each and all are unique and independent and, at the same time, all are interrelated and interdependent. We are all one.”

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