India is a country of lush plains, striking mountains, beautiful deserts, and dazzling bays. 2, 545 years ago, this incredible scenery served as the backdrop to Buddha’s life and eventual Enlightenment, from which Buddhist teachings would one day grow (Eckel 6). The impact of Buddha’s surroundings on Buddhist thinking is obvious, especially when one takes into consideration India’s dramatic seasonal climate changes. Every summer in India, the monsoons arrive. Every summer in India is monsoon season, a time of torrential downpours raging uninterrupted for months. Before these monsoons, the earth is dried and parched; food and water are scarce. It is, in every way, a season of death. Then, however, the rain arrives, harsh and relentless, but life giving nonetheless. The rain is the amniotic fluid catalyzing the re-entrance of life unto the barren earth. This annual cycle of death and rebirth presents the native people with a dire ultimatum: they must either obey nature or not survive. If they try to go against nature’s course, they will inevitably fail. Nature controls life. Observing this phenomenon, Buddhists learned from nature and realized that this cycle can be found everywhere. They realized that humans undergo an equivalent cycle called samsara, or reincarnation.
“He could no longer distinguish the many voices, the cheerful from the weeping, the children’s from the men’s: they all belonged together. The lament of the knower’s yearning and laughing, the screaming of the angry, the moaning of the dying- everything was one; everything was entwined and entwisted, was interwoven a thousand fold. And all of it together, all voices, all goals, all yearnings, all sufferings, all pleasures, all good and evil-the world was everything together. Everything together was the river of events, was the music of life. And when Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, listened to this song of a thousand voices, when he did not listen to sorrow or laughter, when he did not bring his soul to any one voice and did not enter them with his ego, but listened to all of them, heard the wholeness, the oneness- then the great song of the thousand voices consisted of a single word, which was ‘om’: perfection…belonging to the oneness” (Hesse 118-119). At the core of Buddhism lies an important lesson about maya and Enlightenment. To reach Enlightenment, one must understand all. One of the first steps towards such understanding is to understand maya, or illusion. Everything that one sees, feels, and tastes belongs to the world of maya. Even one does not exist but in the world of maya. Thus, if all does not exist, then all is equal. One is equal to everything in the surrounding world, especially nature. All are one in Atman, which is the heart of all of Buddhism.
Everything is one. All of...