How Buddhism helps us in developing better relationships

by Karuna Tom, The Buddhist Channel, 23 March 2024

San Diego, CA (USA) -- Today I am going to share an idea about a way of thinking called "dialectics" which means the art of discussing the truth of opinions. The dialectical context I will use is from a school of Buddhism called Mādhyamaka, a Buddhist tradition founded by Nagarjuna some 600 years after the Buddha's parinirvana (the great passing).

This Mādhyamaka tradition posits that to understand the ultimate nature of reality is through the experience of meditation. It is only through this way that we are able to clearly comprehend with complete objectivity how inter-dependent and "empty" things really are.

In Mādhyamaka, it is believed that everything in the world is connected to everything else. That said, the philosophy posits that nothing exists all by itself. This idea is different from conventional thinking that things are separate and do not affect each other.

The philosopher who talked about this indepth was Nāgārjuna. He explained that things do not have their own special way of existing. Instead, they depend on and are related to one another. This way of thinking helps us see that all things are inter-connected and inter-dependent.

Mādhyamaka also teaches us to question what we believe and not just accept things without thinking. By asking questions and being curious, we can learn more about the world and how we fit into it, rather than fighting to change the way how the world fits into our worldview.

Nāgārjuna used something called negative dialectics to show that some ideas do not make sense when we really think about them. He showed that some ideas about how things exist are wrong because they do not match up with how we see the world. He uses logical reasoning to deconstruct these ideas, showing that they ultimately lead to contradictions or absurdities.

This approach leads us to understand the emptiness of phenomena, leading to a deeper insight into the true nature of reality. Essentially, it's about questioning our assumptions and recognizing the limitations of our conventional views to gain a more profound insight about the workings of ourselves and the world.

So, what does all this mean for us?

It means that we should learn to think and deeply reflect on how we are connected to other people and to nature. By understanding these connections, we can make better choices that helps everyone. It is like being sensitively aware that if we do something good or bad, it might have an effect on someone else in a near or faraway place.

When we apply such notions into international relations, we improve our sense of being by being aware of the pattern and nuances about how countries and people from different places interact with each other. When we see that everything is inter-connected, it helps us to determine how our actions affect people in other parts of the world. Through this lens of inter-dependency, we focus on our common humanity, rather than things that divide us such a religion, culture and language.

In a way, cultivating a habit of thinking about dialectics from Mādhyamaka Buddhism can really help us see the big picture. It teaches us to question our beliefs and understand how things are connected. Through this way of thinking, we can develop a sense of mindfulness that is more compassionate and reflective, ensuring that what we say, do or think will have a beneficial impact on the world.

Through such compassionate awareness, we can all play a role to help create a better world where everyone works together and cares for each other and the planet.

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