I think we can all agree that feeling lonely is one of the most challenging human experiences that almost all of us need to face at some point in our lives.
It’s no different for Zen Buddhist Masters. Due to their Buddhist practices, they have had many opportunities to meditate on what it means to be alone.
Here’s the key point:
If you’re feeling lonely, these three quotes from Zen Buddhist Masters will help to shift your perspective on what it means to be alone.
The Buddha says nothing is ever alone
“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”
Shih-fu Sheng-ye says what matters is what happens inside you
“When I was in solitary retreat, I knew that I was together with all sentient beings in innumerable worlds. Even though I seemed to be alone in a small, enclosed room, actually I was in company with many ants who found their way inside, and there were many insects around the hut who created all kinds of sounds in the evening. When I opened the Sutras, people thousands of years in the past were talking to me. How could I feel lonely? Some people think I must feel lonely being a monk without any wife or children. Not at all. I have the 5 precepts and the 10 Virtuous Deeds as my wife, and my children are all the people who I have developed a karmic affinity with and who call me Shih-fu. It is only those pitiable people who enclose themselves and cannot establish a relationship with the outside world who feel lonely. If you keep yourself enclosed, even if you live among thousands of people you will still feel very lonely. However, if you keep yourself open, then even if you are living alone, you will still have a very full life. So open your mind and treat everyone as your intimate, virtuous friend.”
From a lecture by Shih-fu Sheng-ye
Lama Yeshe on having the strength to live from the heart
“Why are we bored, lonely and lazy? Because we don’t have the will to totally open our hearts to others. If you have the strength of will to totally open your heart to others, you will eliminate laziness, selfishness and loneliness. Actually, the reason you get lonely is that you are not doing anything. If you were busy, you wouldn’t have time to get lonely. Loneliness can only enter an inactive mind. If your mind is dull and your body inactive, then you get lonely. Basically, this comes from a selfish attitude, concern for yourself alone. That is the cause of loneliness, laziness and a closed heart.”
Lama Yeshe in “Becoming Vajrasattva, the Tantric Path of Purification“