I look out my window and I see “my land,” three acres of mixed forest on a small lake in Wisconsin. But is it, “my land?” My wife and I have “owned” it for twenty years and before that it was Mr. Richie’s land and before that, well I’d have to look at the deed. It’s what conveys the illusion of “ownership.” And not long from now it will be someone else’s land, if we keep to this legal fiction. But for 12,000 years it “belonged” to indigenous people who hunted and fished and camped here, and we’ve no reason not to believe that some of them are buried here. Sacred land. And of course, it “belongs” even now to the bears, white tail deer, fox, rabbit, turtles, squirrels, a whole array of woodland birds, hognose snakes, chipmunks, eagles, crows and ravens, frogs, and many others who come by foraging, to say nothing of the millions of soil organisms going about the dark work of breaking down the leaves and pine needles and turning them to soil.
The Buddha said “The words ‘I’ and ‘mine’ do not occur to a wise man.” He also said: “Paradoxical though it may seem, there is a path to walk on, but there is no traveller; there are deeds being done, but there is no doer, there is a blowing of the air but there is no wind that does the blowing. All thought of self is an error. . . .” In plainer words—there is no such thing as an isolated, individual. We are all dependent on one another for our very physical, to say nothing of our mental existence. These trees are producing some of the oxygen that keeps me alive with every breath. The comparable Hindu teaching is: “The Greater Self in all beings and all beings in the Greater Self.”
We don’t even “own” our own bodies for very long and they, like everything else, is continually shifting and changing. So we have two of the great truths of Buddhism and Hinduism: impermanence, and dependent arising. Meaning what for my perception of “my land”? It’s not. It’s not that “I” am only here for a short while, but that “we” are, companions in a community that the world of Mara, the world of fearful materialistic possessiveness, defines with imaginary lines on a map. Meaning that the well-being of all of us is tied up with what we all do, and that this fluid and fairly boundary-less “I” person need to take their well-being into consideration and act as just one member of this community that stretches so far beyond the boundaries of “my” land. And if we all wake up to this reality, then all will be well.