Alone In A Crowded World

One of the primary illnesses in the West, at least in the United States, is isolation. Traditional social structures have broken down. Families are more insular and we have lost many of the ways in which we traditionally connected with those around us. Technological advances have allowed us, to a great extent, to tailor our information, entertainment, and social interactions, to our specific wants. While there are many positives associated with these changes, one negative is that loneliness and isolation has increased in the midst of all of this autonomy and technological interactivity.

From a Buddhist perspective this is a very interesting dilemma because we as Buddhists are supposedly practicing for the benefit of all beings. Almost by definition, being a Buddhist means turning away from “self-ness” and awakening to that which is “not-self” (other). We strive to become aware of the suffering of others, generate compassion for others, and work for the easing and elimination of suffering of others. Being a Buddhist is about connecting with others. As Buddhists we should never feel alone.  Each encounter is an opportunity to practice the Dharma and seek to fulfill our vows to benefit all beings.

None of us is truly separate and isolated.  Every moment we depend on others. Everything that we are today has been received from others: our many past selves, our parents, our friends, and the many unknowns who provide us with food, clothing, shelter, fuel and the many things of this life. Even the Dharma, that we are fortunate to practice, would not exist with out the work of the Buddhas.

Furthermore, the beings that surround us in this life we have encountered many times before: as friends, lovers, enemies, fathers, mothers, etc. Keeping this in mind, how can we feel alone and isolated?

Being ignorant and deluded beings, we forget the above and feel lonely, isolated, and even afraid of others.  So the question is how do we turn away from our own insecurity (self-ness) and embrace the many beings (others) that surround us with both gratitude and compassion?

Nothing heroic is involved.  We must simply embrace the Nembutsu. Recollect Amida Buddha and his vow to save all beings that contemplate and recite the name, “Namo Amida Bu”.

That name, “Namo Amida Bu”, is a prayer for the salvation of all beings. It is the prayer that beings be freed from suffering, be freed even from the fruits of their own evil actions, and be born is the in Amida’s Dharma realm. “Namo Amida Bu” is the prayer that we, who are not yet Buddhas, may awaken fully to the Dharma.

Most importantly, “Namo Amida Bu”, is the cry of all beings who are tired of suffering, pain and dissatisfaction, and who want to find another way. Amida offers a way.  It is not a way for just our selves as individuals.  Amida offers the way of collective awakening, the liberation from suffering of all beings.

The liberation of all beings begins by reciting “Namo Amida Bu”.  We then begin to see the beings in our lives through the Amida’s vow instead of our many little insecurities, doubts, and fears, which are the cause of our loneliness.  Every encounter becomes “Namo Amida Bu”, an opportunity to connect with others who are also seeking to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

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