Understanding Interbeing

interbeingThe idea of “Interbeing” – introduced by Thich Nhat Hanh into the North American Buddhist vocabulary – may be viewed as a formulation of the doctrine of  “dependant co-arising” in the Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta.

In the Heart of Understanding – Thay’s commentary on the Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra – he writes:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-“ with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.

The observation that we “inter-are”, while true and poetic is not really the most important element of “Interbeing”. The important part is the realization that there is no independant self – that the perception of self, of “me”, of “mine” is an illusion.  Awareness that “I” am made of “non-I” elements leads to the understanding of non-self and it is the realizaton of non-self that brings an end to suffering.



A few days ago my spouse went to hear Joan Halifax Roshi give a talk to paliative care workers in Ottawa.

Which got me thinking about death and about the Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection. Normally, these subjects (the first four anyway) are evoked to induce non-attachment.


I am subject to aging,
I am not exempt from aging.

I am subject to illness,
I am not exempt from illness.

I am subject to death,
I am not exempt from death.

There will be change and separation from all that I hold dear and near to me.

I am the owner of my actions (karma), Heir to my actions, I am born of my actions, I am related to my actions and I have my actions as refuge. Whatever I do, good or evil, of that I will be the heir.

I haven’t read it yet, but I am confident in recommending Larry Rosenberg’s book Living in the Light of Death explores these reflections in detail and also offers meditational practices on death. I also know of at least one MP3 recording of a guided medtiation on death by Ayya Medhanandi.

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eco-buddhismIt is so wonderful to at last see a site and a book (“A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency”) and a declaration (which you can sign) that reflects a thoughtful and heart-felt Buddhist response to the climate change problem.  The contributors are so eminent and across all traditions.  Here are a few:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa
Bhikkhu Bodhi
Robert Aitken
Joanna Macy
Joseph Goldstein
Matthieu Ricard
Thich Nhat Hanh

Retreat w/ Ajahn Kusalo, May 22-24, 2009



The Anapanasati Sutta – Mindfulness of Breathing; a sixteen step program

May 22 – 24, 2009


Friday: 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Tu-An Pagoda, 3591 Albion Road
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 pm Tu-An Pagoda, contribute to and share in potluck vegetarian lunch
Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Dieu Khong, 51 Slack Road, bring your own lunch and some food for the monk

The retreat will consist of sitting and walking meditation periods, instruction and Dhamma talks given by Ajahn Kusalo. Lunch will take place at between 11:15 and 11:30 AM in accordance with monastic rules. The precise schedule for the retreat will be given at the retreat itself.

See the Ottawa Buddhist Society web site for more information about this retreat. The registration form (Word format) must be filled out and sent to the retreat organizers at aj.coyote@hotmail.com.