The Waves and The Ocean
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:21AM
Salley Trefethen

Courtesy Sarah Slaughton

During one of his lectures, Thích Nhất Hạnh used a metaphor that involved an ocean with a multitude of waves.

The waves, he said, are you and me and all that appears in the phenomenal world. When we think we are just a wave, we compare ourselves to other waves, hope that our wave lasts a long time, worry about the final down-swing, and feel somewhat small and insignificant.

But if we look further, we see that each wave contains all other waves and they all exist because of each other. We see this in nature, too: what we call a tree is really just a combination of other forms — earth, carbon dioxide, sunlight, elements, etc. — and these too exist only because of other things, in a vast web of total, inexorable interdependence. Looking even further we see that all waves are made of the same water. And though the end of being-a-wave may be terrifying to any given wave, it needn't be, because it is still that same infinite ocean that is the source of all things. We always forget, Thích Nhất Hạnh said politely and kindly, that we are water. We are all manifestations of the eternal, mysterious, beautiful Source. And suffering is a signal — it is a call to come back to this knowledge, to touch it. It is the universe telling us we've forgotten our true nature.

Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.

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