And you may be pondering what the heck I’m talking about . . .
As Tibetan Buddhist practitioners from east and west agree, nothing has an inherent (separate) existence of its own. The natural law that everything is changing constantly—in other words, impermanence—is the opposite of reification. To reify is to make something solid and unchanging; to turn an object, a person, etc., into a permanent, singular perception.
As this unrealized being realizes intellectually, I have reified many objects and people in hopes of having ground under my feet, in hopes of not suffering, of being secure. Yet, Buddhism tells me that the tree is not separate from the roots, which are not separate from the earth, which is not separate from any other named object. It is the naming of an object that deludes us all into thinking that the planet is a huge pile of separate, named objects, a pile of separate things.
The more I realized, or imagined, no matter, that my very skin is the skin of the earth consisting of fine bending filaments of light overlapping with others’ and becoming woven and tangled and variably made smooth as an enormous fiber or web of billions
Just imagine the earth and all earthlings, as plays of porous light all webbed together like a fine net of light streams. When part of the net moves in the slightest, it impacts the entire net of light (like the movement of the butterfly’s wings can eventually be a cause for the tumbling down of a bookcase in China: we are talking about another natural law of the universe, that of cause and effect).
If the butterfly was separate from all else, unto itself, it would become a cause for nothing. Yet, can you name anything that does not have a cause? If we reify ourselves, we become isolated, rigid, afraid as we attempt not to change, cling to our youthful bodies, and cling desperately to any belief that helps us be grounded and “safe”.
Reification is a huge delusion in all our lives. Come on. Admit it.
Yet the wonderful possibility is that we all can eject the process of reification in our lives by embracing impermanence, contemplating impermanence (which leads to the conscious realization that someday we will change so much, we will enact that ultimate change: our own demise).
Back to reification: I have reified people in my mind, mostly relatives and ex-husbands and ex-lovers. I want them to stay exactly the way they were when we first communicated. Yet mickey today is not the mickey of yesterday anymore. Yes, I do have an inner essence (Buddha nature) that does not change. What changes is my accumulation of experiences day by day, year by year . . . so I have been changed by my experiences.
An example of reification of a person is the grasping attachment to a person who is there no longer. We tend to reify our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, etc., because we knew them at a much earlier age, and that perception of them is concrete and limited in our minds.For example a mother reifies her son as 7 years old though he is 30. Another mother may reify her daughter as 15 years old though she is nearly 59. It does not allow our dear ones to grow or change as is natural. So many life experiences radically change our later behavior. There truly is nothing to hang onto with any person or object.
The great challenge then is to become familiar and comfortable with groundlessness . . . nothing to hold on to, nothing. If we can prepare ourselves for the ultimate groundlessness of passing away, we can begin by being open to the changing person who is our relative or friend or . . . We can do this by feeling what Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King)—what this Master Teacher terms “Inter-being.” Interdependence is another important quality to engage, because there is no denying that one cannot live and grow without the help of others.All are one. I want to act as one with the planet, drift effortlessly into the flow of the river of impermanence. No easy task in a materially-oriented society and world.