Inter-being: a reflection on emptiness

I recently finished The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a wonderful little book offering a clear framework on traditional Buddhist thought: a perfect little refresher that was easy to read on the subway. What made this book special, however, was Thich Nhat Hanh’s own personal teaching on how to transform suffering with Buddhist thought. It is a great book if you are interested in learning more about Buddhist philosophy and how to apply it to your daily life.
One of my favorite concepts was the notion of Emptiness, which is oftentimes terribly misunderstood as nothingness. Emptiness, when reflected on, is a beautiful notion stating that we are empty of a separate, independent self because we “can only inter-be with everything else.” When you look at a tree, you see what is perceived to be a tree. What you are really seeing are the signs (leaves, bark, branches) that inter-be with each other to create our perception of a tree. In reality, these are actually non-tree elements. Again, when you look at a tree, you are only seeing what you perceive to be a tree, because the tree is empty of its own independent nature. Thich Nhat Hanh said we can eventually “see that the water is the sun, the earth, and the flower, that just by looking at the sun or the earth you can see the water.'” This Buddhist insight is given to us to help us live more deeply. The teaching here is that we are in everything and everything is in us. When you really contemplate this theory, it makes you think twice about how you treat the environment, animals, people, and even yourself, because we all contribute to the existence of each other. I am in you, and you are in me. Isn’t it nice to be reminded that we are all in this together? Food for thought. Happy Thursday!
jeanne and jenna yoga


  1. Didn’t hear about that book yet, and really appreciating Buddhist teachings, I’ll have to look into it, yet I don’t have time now, not even to blog or take things one step further on WordPress, but will in a not too distant future. Thank you again for visiting my blog and sharing this info with others!

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