A Snapshot of Special Insight – Our Deepest Nature
What is the deepest nature of things, including ourselves? There are many ways of understanding this word. Nature could refer to the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; its identity or essential character. We also use nature to refer to the disposition or character of a person or thing. We may say that someone is by nature kind or bad, implying that he or she is essentially or innately such.
The idea of an essence is intimately tied to this way of viewing the nature of things. And although all these may sound very philosophical, it is really the way we perceive and relate to things in our daily life. It is here that the Buddha challenges our most cherished opinions regarding the natures of various phenomena, such as self, people, possessions, political parties, food, places for vacation, and so on. The deepest nature of all phenomena is that they do not have an essential, unchanging nature of their own.
The classic example to illustrate such essenceless existence is the rainbow. Radiant, beautiful and real (as in you didn’t just imagine seeing one), a rainbow is, nonetheless, a dependent phenomenon arising out of a combination of different elements–raindrops, light and our eyes. Out there in the sky, there is not even an “atom” that is a rainbow by nature to be found.
According to the Buddha, all of us and all things are just like a rainbow, even though some of us may look a bit more substantial. We are equally lacking of such essential, unchanging nature, being dependently arising phenomena that rely on the coming together and juxtapositioning of various different elements. At the heart of things is an absence of an unchanging, independent core, which is really a piece of very good news. We really don’t have to walk around carrying the heavy burden of thinking that we are intrinsically this or that, good or bad, happy or unhappy.
Just as a rainbow is empty of an essence and still functions perfectly as a beautiful object, likewise we are fully capable of acting in the world to create happiness or suffering, while at the same time, our deepest nature is as empty as that of a rainbow.
Published on February 16, 2011.
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