We tend to take everything for granted. We take the world around us for granted. We take ourselves for granted. This is the world of ordinary appearances. In this way, we make ourselves, other beings and objects as solid and concrete.
How things are, and how we are, are dependent on each other. In fact everything is dependent on everything else. In other words, it is a mistake to see ourselves as solitary and apart from things and others. When we do, then there is a tendency to protect ourselves, to only consider and help ourselves. Even though we may appear to be concerned with other people, often the motives are to make our own situation more comfortable. This can appear as a subtle thing. Sometimes our concern for our family, our work situation, or our place in the world is based on our personal needs for security and love.
To get a sense of how each being knows the world so relatively we can look at how science tells us different animals know the world. Dogs can only see in black, gray and white. They cannot see color. Even though dogs and ourselves look at the same world it appears differently to each of us. Birds, we are told, can sense magnetic fields, see ultraviolet light, and hear deeper sounds than humans. Their world must appear very different from how we sense it. Of course, birds use this information for migration, but the point is that the world appears differently for different beings.
In the case of us humans, we sense the world through our five senses. These are hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching. In Buddhism the mind is regarded as a sixth sense, or door to the world. The state of our mind colors the way we perceive. This can be by an emotional or feeling coloring to the way we perceive and respond to the world. It can also be by how we think and have ideas or concepts about the world.
Hence the world and ourselves is not as concrete as we assume. In fact it does not have a permanent or objective size, coloring or form. In depends entirely on how it is sensed, perceived and considered.
In truth all things are as one family. Buddhism sees all things and all other beings as our brothers and sisters. On the one hand each being is unique as themselves. On the other hand we are all members of one family, of being part of something more than just our individual self.
Our true reality is in this inter-connectedness or inter-relatedness of all things. Buddhism states that when we are self concerned we will inevitably suffer, when we involve ourselves with others we have the opportunity to find our true self. People that are self concerned may feel that they do not suffer. Closer investigation will show that this is because they are dependent on something in their surroundings for this state. If this 'something' is not there, whether a comfortable house or partner for example, then suffering will arise. It can even be dependent on not being with others, wanting to be lonely. Self concerns will not free us fully from suffering. When we are involved in our life situation we are 'at home' in our true reality. Our life is ourselves, not the person. In fact Buddhism says that to hold the idea that we have a permanent, separate self is delusion.
Our real job in life is to practise being our life. This means fully involved in all situations that arise in our life. It also means not withdrawing into distractions, whether they are excessive material things or into our dreams and fantasies. In practising our life we find some occasions flow smoothly, some are difficult for us. This is why Buddhists say 'practise'. We do not start out perfect. By practising we can grow and develop as a person by learning from our mistakes and from the situations we are in. We can also grow and develop as a person by absorbing and manifesting the examples that Buddhism gives us. These examples can be people or teachings. Buddhism states all things are change. This is a topic for another article, it has so many ramifications, it cannot be covered here. At the moment it is enough to know we change and this allows us to develop. We develop by ceasing practices that cause us or others suffering. We develop by learning to help others and taking responsibility.
The remarkable qualities that are potentially in us can become manifest by practising. What we practice is the inter-connectedness and inter-relatedness that 'is' our lives. Potential qualities include loving kindness, compassion, clarity of mind, vitality, patience, and wisdom. The teaching of the Paramitas gives charity, good behavior, patience, zeal, thoughtfulness and wisdom as means to cross to our awakened, developed potential. We can also practise specific qualities. However, if these qualities are practised for our self esteem they will have a 'sour taste'. If they are practised for the sake of all other beings they will have a 'good taste' or 'sweet taste'.