- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
As I celebrate my birthday today I am reminded of something I found in one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books, as he meditates on a single sheet of paper and explains the Buddhist concept of "No-Birth and No-Death:"
Let's look at this piece of paper. It didn't come from nothing because from nothing you can't suddenly become something. Looking deeply into the sheet of paper, we can see the trees, the soil, sun, rain, and clouds that nourished the trees, the lumberjack and the paper mill. That is where the sheet of paper comes from. Taking the form of paper is only it's new manifestation, it's not really a birth.
And when you burn the paper it transforms into smoke, vapor, ash and heat into other forms. So the nature of this sheet paper is 'no-birth and no-death.'
That's why, when we celebrate someone's birthday, instead of singing 'Happy birthday to you, it may be better to sing, 'Happy continuation day to you.'
I find great wisdom in this teaching. My birthday today is indeed an occasion for me to mark my continuation in the endless flow of life. When I came into this world on this day in November, I was already rooted in and sprang forth from an intricate web of living relationships. My life not only sprung forth from my parents but from all my ancestors who ever went before me and it was connected to everyone and everything with whom they were connected, including the world of nature.
So in a very real sense, on that day in November when my life bubbled up into this earthly existence, I was a manifestation of the web of life. "Life" continued in me on that day, and when I die I will return again into that endless flow. Today is my "continuation day."
Today, I am also profoundly aware of my deep belief that "love" is the energy flowing at the core of all that "is." Love is the ONE that weaves the many together.
Since "God" is "love," today I celebrate a great truth - we are rooted in "God," we are connected in "God," we spring forth into life from "God," and we return back again to "God."
It makes my heart sing!
I think about a favorite hymn, an old Quaker song that seems so appropriate for my "Continuation Day:"
My life flows on in endless song,
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the clear, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to the rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?