Buddhist teachings say that there is no separate self, and I find that difficult to embrace all the time. I think most Westerners do. I don’t know that it matters whether it always makes sense to me as much as I hear what that teaching offers me. As a “separate self” it is so easy for me to stand back, look at you and find fault. Once I’ve found fault with you, then I become superior to you. Being superior to you (in my mind), my behavior toward you changes, even if subtly, and sooner or later, I will cause you suffering. You, in turn, will see me as a separate self who has caused you harm. You will fault me for that and see me as inferior. As a superior being, you will change your behavior toward me and sooner or later . . .
See where this goes? If I can look at you as some part of what we call the “interconnected web of all Being” then your fault and your gift are connected to me. I cannot try to rise above you, because you rise with me, and I cannot place you below me because I drop there with you. We are connected.
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh expresses this renewing vision:
“Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.”
Catholic mystic Anthony De Mello brings it home:
“You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. ”