A few years ago I was attracted to TNH, because of his "happy" take on things and also because he's a nice guy. It was only with introspection that I realised that it was not what I was looking for.
An example might be how TNH would describe interbeing...
The last line seems to say we are all one. Now I don't deny the beauty in TNH's writing but is this really what DO or emptiness is all about?
It was only as I discovered that if you look hard enough you see the "happy" dhamma that the Buddha taught, the escape from suffering by seeing DO. Its still a joyful path but without any self delusion.
Thank you, legolas, for providing a context (in the link) for your statement. I think you have a point here. And if I'm reading it correctly, I agree with its basic premise. Yet it depends upon how the reader reads and understands what TNH is saying in his definition of inter-being. Taken one way, it can be seen as a creative contemporary restatement of dependent arising (albeit, one that leaves out some important details). Taken another way, it can be seen as a gross misstatement of what the Buddha taught.
Thick Nhat Hahn wrote: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. . . .
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. . . . When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
The point you are making, if I am correct, is the same point I make when people want to conflate two seemingly similar ideas together and call them the same idea. The two similar ideas, in this case, are the idea that the Buddha expressed in the Pali suttas about two "conditioned phenomena" co-arising dependently, on the one hand. And the idea (albeit perhaps misguidedly, because he is not a native English speaker and therefore may not fully understand the nuances of the language when he is attempting to express himself) being expressed by Nhat Hahn that "without all these things" this or that cannot exist, on the other hand. Notice that he does not differentiate the cloud and the paper from substantiality in that he refers to them as "things." Had he brought into the statement the idea of the conditionality of the phenomena of the cloud and the paper, then the reader might not have any wiggle room to conflate this nuance with substantial beingness.
While Nhat Hahn may indeed correctly understand within his own mind
dependent co-arising in what he is endeavoring to say, the way he is wording it in English is not quite the same and does not have the same connotation as the translated discourses. When understood correctly, the standard definition for dependent co-arising given by the Buddha reads as follows: "When this [conditioned phenomenon] exists, that [conditioned phenomenon] comes to be; with the arising of this [conditioned phenomenon], that [conditioned phenomenon] ceases. When this [conditioned phenomenon] does not exist, that [conditioned phenomenon] does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases." (SN 12.37)
In another nearby sutta, the following is stated (in order to clarify my bracketed additions to the above quotation): "Bhikkhus, with ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness.... Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering." (SN 12.35; bracketed addition is that of the translator, Bhk. Bodhi) At another point in this same sutta, the following is stated: "If there is the view, 'The soul and the body are the same,' there is no living of the holy life; and if there is the view, 'The soul is one thing, the body is another,' there is no living of the holy life. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: 'With birth as condition, aging-and-death.' "
This is not the same as saying "without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist." He seems to be talking about substantial "things" and their conventional deportment rather than conditioned phenomena which are "without self."
To that extent, I agree with the statement given by beeblebrox: "I think that's really the fault of a conventional language..." Although I don't agree that this is at all clear for the reader who has only the definitions of the words given to go on and not his own pre-conditioned understanding of dependent co-arising as is
the case with beeblebrox.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV