A Reflection on Interbeing

There’s a Zen meal chant that says, “Innumerable labors brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.”

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine having a salad for lunch. You could ask, “What did it take for that lettuce to appear on my plate?” Of course, there’s the sun, and the soil, and the water, and the clouds. That’s all right there in the lettuce. But also, who planted the lettuce? How did that person get to work that day? Where did the rubber on the tires of the truck come from? Who cooked them breakfast? Where was the cotton of that person’s shirt grown and who chose to dye it that particular blue?

The weave of interrelatedness is far more complex than any story our minds could tell. And everything is like this.

If you’d like, try looking around you and choosing one thing in your environment and imagining its story. Where did it come from and how did it get there? This is the Buddha’s teaching of dependent co-arising, or what Thich Nhat Hanh called interbeing. How could we ever say that anything is separate?