What if I told you that what you are now and what you are doing at this moment is the culmination of all events from the beginning of creation? What if I told you that if you did not exist, the universe would be irrevocably different to what it will be because you do exist? The future is completely dependent on who you are now and what you do.
Imagine 3 sticks leaning against each other, supporting each other to hold each other up. The structure the three sticks create together is dependent on each stick being present and being positioned the way it is. If one of these sticks was not present or positioned differently, the structure would not be able to stand up the way it does. This image perfectly describes an Eastern concept that describes reality as a chain of causation.
This idea expounds on the belief that nothing exists as an independent entity. All things exist as a consequence of all the different causes that have contributed to it being the way it is. If we look at a ceramic pot, the pot is not an independent entity that exists on its own. The pot is the consequence of a series of events that trace the material it is made from all the way back to the big bang and before, and the potter that created it and his or her lineage all the way back to the big bang and before. If one small thing in these histories was different, this pot would not have been created.
Now, it is important to note that this isn’t a simple description of cause and effect as it is taught generally. Cause and effect is usually described as one thing arising from another in a linear way. This idea teaches instead that cause and effect arise together: the cause is the effect of something else, and the effect is the cause of something to come, ad infinitum.
So how does this apply to our day-to-day lives? When we contemplate this view of interdependency, it is very difficult to argue against, as it is an evident truth. We can begin to look at our view of who we are and how we relate to everything around us. The thing that we believe we are is dependent on an almost infinite number of factors that have synchronised in a specific way for us to be here in the current way we are. For this reason, it can be concluded that our existence is not inherently independent. We are simply a symptom of how everything before us has been. We are not separate or different from everything else that has synchronised to get us here, just like the apple is not separate from the tree that it grows from, the seed the tree grew from, the soil the seed grew in, the water that nourished it, the sun that grew it, and so on and so forth.
If we truly understand this, we have to conclude that there is no distinction between an individual and the environment that it exists in. By harming the environment that we exist in, we are actually harming ourselves. We are not separate from the environment we exist in, we are a product of it.
Another important conclusion that arises as a result of this form of thinking is that everything we say or do matters. Every action, however insignificant it may seem now, is pregnant with all the fruits that it will bear. The smallest cruelty can destroy an empire and the smallest kindness can lead one to liberation. We cannot know what our actions will result in, but we can make ourselves aware of our intentions through mindfulness. We need to ask ourselves, are our intentions and reactions rooted in the Bramaviharas, or are they rooted in our need to control and solidify our sense of self?
The future of the universe is dependent on our every word and action. Let’s take that responsibility seriously.
Shkar Sharif is the head instructor at Tiger Crane Kung Fu in London. Any other questions, ask!