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Flying Monk

 article about monks and buddha
I am on the plane to Atlanta. I have been reflecting upon the Buddhist concept of Emptiness over and over. If you are not familiar with Emptiness, it is one of the major facets of Buddhism, and also one of the most enigmatic. I can perceive it intellectually, though somehow I cannot experience it emotionally.

It has a great deal to do with the concept of Self, or rather Non-Self. Something to do with what really makes up a human personality and its connection with the outside world. We are supposed to be kind to each other because we are part of each other. Yet, somehow the idea of all of us living as one entity is a bit much for my Westernized mind to wrap itself around. My first instinct is to separate my world into "mine" and "theirs." I am completely at a loss.

Then, I look out of my window. From up here everything makes sense. As we ascend into the air, I try to focus on individual cars until my eyes cant strain to see them anymore. Then I look at house lots with buildings that are so similar it appears to be a Monopoly board: trees blocked into unnaturally geometric boundaries.

I look beyond and see the vastness of everything. The world is so big, and yet I can still see the small dots of cars plodding along the road. Inside the cars and Monopoly houses dwell people with their own lives, their own triumphs, and their own struggles and pains.

I see people going through the motions of life seemingly unaware of the other little dots, unaware that they all have the same end. I see countless people denying their own death. If there is a god, this must be the way he sees the world.

Are we really as unique as we like to think we are? Each battle we fight has been fought before us: breakups, life decisions, poverty, losing a loved one. Although these can all be life changing events to an individual, its comforting to note that this battle has been fought and won hundreds of times before and perhaps is being fought at the moment you are fighting it. This is the nature of a personal battle. Nothing is really new.

The only new triumphs to be made are the triumphs of society as a whole: global alliances, scientific epiphanies, and integration. None of these can be done alone. We move as a single organism. When humanity makes a change, this is new. This is lasting.

As I look at the world below me, I look into myself. I cannot pinpoint myself. I am a thought. I am a sensory experience. I am a feeling. A physical characteristic.* Really, I am very little other than a piece of a global puzzle. Some of us spend our lives searching for the other pieces in the form of soul mates or work.

Little do we know that the pieces surround us every day, and all the pieces search for us.

*(Batchelor, Stephen. Buddhism without Beliefs).

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