The Insight of Interbeing

The insight of interbeing has played a major role in many of the articles on this site.

The insight suggests that all conditioned things are interconnected in a web of causes and conditions that defy critical analysis.

It relates to the insight that the earth and it’s inhabitants are all connected and indivisible component parts of the reality of life on earth.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who coined the word, “interbeing,” puts it this way:

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on the Deck of his Hermitage in Plum Village

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on the Deck of his Hermitage in Plum Village< br/>Photo © Jerome Freedman, Ph. D.

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-“ with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.

The observation that we “inter-are”, while true and poetic is not really the most important element of “Interbeing”. The important part is the realization that there is no independent self – that the perception of self, of “me”, of “mine” is an illusion. Awareness that “I” am made of “non-I” elements leads to the understanding of non-self and it is the realization of non-self that brings an end to suffering.”

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding


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