“Many of us consider growing up as a kind of increasing, and getting old as a kind of decreasing. When we say that humans go from ashes to ashes and from dust to dust, it doesn’t sound very joyful, because none of us wants to return to dust. It is our mind of discrimination that thinks this way, because we don’t know what dust really is. Every atom is a vast mystery. We still have not yet fully understood electrons and nuclei; for scientists, a speck of dust is very exciting. A particle of dust is a marvel…
We have the tendency to think that we are much more than a grain of dust; that we are greater and the dust is lesser. But looking deeply we see that a grain of dust is just as wonderful as a human being, and that the grain of dust contains the human being, just as the human being contains the grain of dust. We do not have to die in order to return to dust, we are the dust in this very moment. When you see the no-increasing, no-decreasing nature of reality, you will have no more fear, no more complexes.
There is an old proverb that says: Be humble; you are made of dust. Be noble; you are made of stars.
But the stars are also made of dust, and dust is made of ancient stars. There is the nature of interbeing between dust and stars. So nobility and humility must also have the nature of interbeing. Looking at the one, you can recognize the other.
We have become so arrogant that we not only think we understand what a speck of dust is, but we even pretend that we understand what a human being is—that same human being who will return to dust. When we have lived with someone for twenty or thirty years, we have the impression that we know everything about that person. While we drive the car with them sitting right next to us, we think about other things. We aren’t interested in him or her anymore. The person sitting there beside us is a real mystery! That person sitting there is a wonder of the cosmos, a child born of distant stars…
Even one hair of that person is the entire cosmos; one eyelash can be a door opening to the ultimate reality. One speck of dust can hold the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land. You, the speck of dust, and all things inter-are.”
Thich Nhat Hanh