We all have an innate sense of self or self-grasping – a sense of autonomy or independence from others. We feel that we can do without others, and hold on to a sense of ourselves as separate from them. Yet if we consider carefully the actual reality and ask whether or not there truly exists any such self-sufficient or autonomous self, we see that what we are mainly taking as a basis for this label ‘me’ is our body. This physical form that we can perceive serves as the primary point of reference for our sense of an independent self or ‘me’, yet our body is very clearly not something independent. On the contrary, it depended on our parents to bring it into existence, and, in a more subtle sense, it came from the substances of others. Moreover, just having a body is insufficient.
We also need to sustain that body. If we do not have clothes, food and the many other additional resources we need to stay alive, this body becomes nothing but a corpse. Where do the food and clothing our body depends upon come from? These too come from others. Particularly now in this context of globalisation, much of what we use comes from far away. We eat fruit grown in another country, and wear clothes manufactured in distant parts of the globe. We might live in a developed country, dressed in garments produced by people in an underdeveloped country or impoverished area. We do not see the people who make our clothes, or know them, yet we are wearing clothes that they worked to produce.
Nurturing Compassion: Teachings from the First Visit to Europe
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