Thoughts from Thich Naht Hahn

“We have great fear inside ourselves. We are afraid of everything–of our death, of being alone, of change. Fear is born from our concepts regarding life, death, being, and nonbeing. If we are able to get rid of all these concepts by touching the reality within ourselves, then nonfear will be there and the greatest relief will become possible.”

In the beginning we think that we have a beginning and an end, a birth and a death, and we might think that before our birth we were not there and after our death we will not be there, and we get caught up in the concept of being and nonbeing.

Let us look deeply at a wave in the ocean. It lives its life of a wave, but it lives the life of water at the same time. If the wave were able to turn toward itself and touch its substance, which is water, then it would be able to attain nonfear.
The wave does not have to search for water, because water is the very substance of the wave.

Concepts such as birth and death, being and nonbeing, might in some sense be applied to waves. As far as water is concerned, these qualifications cannot describe the nature of water. When we speak of birth, of death, of being and nonbeing, we are talking in terms of phenomena (similar as a wave is to an ocean).

In Buddhism, we call this the historic dimension. When we talk about waves, we are in the historical dimension, but when we talk about water, we are in the ultimate dimension in which we cannot speak of birth and death, of being and nonbeing. The wave might think that before its birth it was not there and that after its death it will not be there, but these are notions–concepts–that cannot be applied in the dimension of the ultimate.

The Buddha declared the following: “There is no world, but there is no birth and there is no death, there is no high and no low, no being and nonbeing.” If that world is not there, how could the world of birth and death, the world of being and nonbeing, be possible?