No Birth, No Death

This is another cool passage from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Opening the Heart of the Cosmos:

One day while practicing walking meditation in the Upper Hamlet, I looked down and saw that I was about to step on a golden-yellow leaf.  It was in the autumn, when the golden leaves are very beautiful.  When I saw that beautiful golden leaf I did not eat to step on it and so I hesitated briefly.  But then I smiled and thought, “This leaf is only pretending to be gold, pretending to fall.”  In terms of the historical dimension, that leaf was born on a branch as a new green bud in spring, had clung to that branch for many months, changed color in autumn, and one day when a cold wind blew it fell to the ground.  But looking deeply into its ultimate dimension, we can see that the leaf is only pretending to be born, to exist for a while, and to grow old and die.  The teachings of interdependence and no-self reveal to us the true unborn and undying nature of all phenomena.  One day that leaf will pretend to be born again on the branch of another tree, but she is really just playing a game of hide and seek with us. (pg. 75)

This idea of “no birth, no death” is not unique to Thich Nhat Hanh.  The Perfection of Wisdom series of sutras talk a lot about this, including the Heart Sutra, where we see passages such as:

Listen Shariputra,
all dharmas are marked with emptiness.
They are neither produced nor destroyed,
neither defiled nor immaculate,
neither increasing nor decreasing.  (trans. Thich Nhat Hanh)

Not surprisingly you see this kind of teaching a lot in Zen, and to some degree in Shingon Buddhism as well, but I find it has a kind of universal appeal.   Next he writes:

…It is not only the Buddha who pretends to be born and to enter nirvana, we also pretend to be born, to live for a while, and to pass away.  You may think that your mother has passed away and is no longer here with you.  But her passing away was just a pretense, and one day, when the causes and conditions are sufficient, she will reappear in one form or another. (pg. 75-76)

 Something we can all appreciate. 🙂


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “No Birth, No Death”

    1. Ha, you found me. 🙂

      Yeah, as I explained in a recent video on my Youtube channel, I felt I had to make a clean break from the old blog and my old life in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. I kept all the content, but wanted to start over with a different emphasis, etc. It’s been nice to start over without actually losing all the hard work you did in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

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