Seeing Oneness

“Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.”  – Isa Upanishad

Ninety-six percent of our body consists of four elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.  The other four percent is a smorgasbord of the periodic table, from sulfur to chlorine to zinc.  Even though we have an understandable tendency to view ourselves as an organic whole, in reality we are simply a very complicated and extended chemical compound that has managed to become self-conscious.  Once your consciousness disappears, everything else returns to whence it came.  Your body dissolves to dust, melts into the earth, and when the earth is destroyed, will be sent back into the universe, from where it all arrived in the first place.

Those elements and chemicals didn’t begin with us, and so it’s fitting if they become stardust again someday.  Hydrogen was formed by the Big Bang itself, and the rest was forged in the nucleus of stars.  Eventually stars die, exploding their essence into space, which then congeals into new planets and stars, and all the organisms they nurture to life.  The entire world, and our awareness of it, is literally made from dead suns.

As different as we may seem from each other, the fact is that we’re made from the exact same stuff.  We’re a long-shot come to life, cobbled together from stellar detritus that made both the water that fills us and the membranes that hold us together.  Welcome to the solar system!

Evidence also indicates we’re descendants from a common female ancestor called Mitochondrial Eve.  About 200,000 years ago a feminine primate in East Africa gave birth to humans.  Anyone with mother issues can begin with her, because genetic research indicates that all humans belong to the same extended family.  We are literally brothers and sisters.

As dissimilar as we generally believe we are, those differences are ultimately superficial.  Beneath the various skin colors, hair types, eye shapes, languages, religions, and cultural deviations, people are basically the same.  We were birthed by the same mother.

Our commonness as humans is easy to ignore.  We learn to divide ourselves, to focus on dissimilarities, and even to deny the humanity of others.  But the truth is both more prosaic and more profound.  All people have a shared origin and underlying mutual bond.

The great spiritual traditions recognize this fact.  Humans are encouraged to recognize their common humanity and care for each other.  Always do good, Muhammad said, to people you know and people you don’t know.  According to Lao Tzu, the Way of Heaven is to share with others, not injure them.  It’s why the Dalai Lama said his religion is simply kindness.  Both Confucius and Jesus said to love others as you wish to be loved.

The underlying rationale for these consistent teachings to show compassion and acceptance for humanity is our shared nature as created beings.  We’re all family, and to believe anything else is ignorance.  Hostility, intolerance, and bigotry result from a myopic view of our existence, somehow supposing that we’re different or better than others.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

“Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear,” we’re told in the Isa Upanishad.  The Hindu scripture states clearly the basis for the kind of love Jesus said God required, because there can be no fear in love.  Recognizing our common natures and mutual debts to powers far beyond ourselves is the key for a spirit-filled life, knowing that we all have come from the stars.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

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