by Thich Nhat Hanh

Original Language English

You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.

-- from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem by the great modern Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh was written during a retreat for psychotherapists held in Colorado in response to someone else's statement, "You are you, and I am me, and if by chance we meet, that's wonderful. If not, it couldn't be helped."

This is a brief meditation on the Buddhist teaching of "inter-being." Within the nondual awareness cultivated in Buddhism, especially the Zen Buddhism practiced by Thich Nhat Hanh, nothing exists separately of anything else. Everything, ourselves included, is recognized as being a meeting point of shifting forces, environment, time, and perception. It is only in that touching, that interaction, that forms arise and individuals are said to exist. Remove those forces, and individual beings and objects cannot exist. In this sense, as individuals we are not spots that occupy space on the blank field of creation, rather we are empty spaces that are only suggested by the confluence of various forces. Discover that empty space, and we discover the eternal, blissful Void that is the true Self -- void of form and "thingness," but filled with life and awareness.

To return to Thich Nhat Hanh's poem, as individuals with a certain body form and name and history, we exist only in the perception of each other. This is how he can pose the question, "Isn't it obvious that we 'inter-are'?"

By cultivating pure and compassionate awareness within ourselves, we transform those who perceive us, for their perception of us is a part of what they are composed of. And the more we "transform the garbage" in ourselves, the less that garbage shows up in those around us.

In this way of inter-being, the more we discover peace, the more we offer peace; the more we find joy, the more we bring joy.

Recommended Books: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation