In Part 1 I discussed the fact that we live in a safe universe, and that we should not fear death because we are eternal and one with the rest of the world. This concept is difficult to fully embody because most of us in the Western world live in a very individualistic mindset – one where every person is unique, separate, and self-contained.
For most of us, the dissolution of self that comes with death is one of our greatest fears. This is because we consider ourselves a self-contained being with unique thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. We are afraid for all of this uniqueness within us to be lost and destroyed. However, as Walpola Rahula, Nichiren, and other thinkers remind us, as long as the human race survives, others will think our same thoughts; they will feel the same things we do; they will see, explore, and experience many of the same things we have. One doesn’t have to have children to be embodied in others, because as a human being, our feelings, thoughts, and experiences are shared by others. Each of us is reflected endlessly in every other person on this earth.
When I was studying biology, we talked about some of the largest organisms on earth, which, despite what you might think, aren’t mammals like blue whales or fish like giant squid. In fact, some of the largest organisms on our planet are fungi, like this huge mushroom colony, or plants, such as this 100-acre forest of quaking aspen clones. This is fascinating because these are organisms made of thousands of smaller organisms: a collective being. The concept of a “collective being” is amazing, but we see it everywhere. We, ourselves, are collective beings, made up of trillions of microorganisms living in harmony with our own cells. We are actually sentient microbiomes, each organism pursuing its own goals in synergy with the rest. What an incredible concept!
Aren’t we humans much like this giant aspen colony? One can look carefully at a single tree and see many differences. You could take your microscope and view a single polyp of a coral reef and believe yourself to be looking at a single organism distinct from the rest. But that polyp could not exist outside of the reef, and the single aspen tree is actually simply one part of a larger being. So it is with humans. View us all from above and are there truly that many differences between us? Are we really as distinct as we seem?
As long as a human draws breath on this earth, we live on. Every single one of us is reflected endlessly in others, simply one part of a chain of being. We need not fear death because it is only us who is dying – the rest of the whole lives.
One of the best and most comforting things I have read came from 48 Hours to Enlightenment, which is the idea that God (or the Universe) became human in order to play and explore itself more fully. It was only when humans forgot that they were gods that they became afraid of death, and began to “play the game of life” for real. I have come across this idea in multiple readings, and each time I encounter it, the more I come to love and appreciate this concept. Each of us is a mirror for one another, a small piece of the Universe come to play.
I have mentioned the concept of Universal Enlightenment before, and it connects perfectly to this belief that we are all pieces of the Universe here to learn and explore. In Universal Enlightenment, we are the Universe here to learn all that we can and experience all that there is to experience, in order to help the Universe come closer and closer to perfect peace and enlightenment. All of our suffering, all of our joy, all of our mishaps and misfortunes, are to find the best ways to be at peace with one another. As we grow and learn, we bring the Universe toward greater peace and spread harmony throughout the living world. We are truly helping each other with every lesson in kindness that we share.
Our time here on earth is precious because this is the only time we will be this person, in this situation, with these opportunities to share and explore and interact with the whole. Instead of being afraid of it to end, we should be glad that we have this chance to better the Universe, this chance to touch other souls and to raise our world to a higher vibration.