Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Universe in a Tea Cup

From Old Path, White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, by Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Buddha lifted the bowl and then looked at Ananda. "Ananda, among the interwoven elements that have given rise to the bowl, do you see water?"
     "Yes, Lord. Without water, the potter would not have been able to mix the clay he used to fashion the bowl."
     "Just so, Ananda. Looking deeply, we can see the presence of water in the bowl, even though we earlier stated that it is empty of water. The presence of the bowl depends on the presence of water. Ananda, can you see the fire element in this bowl?"
     "Yes, Lord. Fire was necessary to complete the bowl. Looking deeply, I can see the presence of heat and fire in the bowl."
     "What else can you see?"
     "I see the air. Without air, the fire could not have burned and the potter could not have lived. I see the potter and his skillful hands. I see his consciousness. I see the kiln and the wood stacked in the kiln. I see the trees the wood came from. I see the rain, sun, and earth which enabled the trees to grow. Lord, I can see thousands of interpenetrating elements which gave rise to this bowl."
     "Excellent, Ananda! Contemplating the bowl, it is possible to see the interdependent elements which gave rise to the bowl. Ananda, these elements are present within and without the bowl. Your own awareness is one of the elements. If you took away heat and returned it to the sun, if you returned the clay to the earth and the water to the river, if you returned the potter to his parents and the wood to the forest trees, could the bowl still exist?"
     "Lord, the bowl could no longer exist. If you returned the interdependent elements which gave rise to the bowl to their sources, the bowl would not longer be present..."
     "Bikkhus, look deeply at this bowl, and you can see the entire universe. This bowl contains the entire universe" (pp. 439 - 441).


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