Ok so I have tried to explain the Buddhist theory of Universal Oneness before and failed miserably at it. That is until I read this Koan Story and the later dissatisfaction Dogen had with it. Fist my explanation, then the koan, then the karma of being a dick.
Universal Oneness is the idea that there is no you or I, that there is only you and I, only us. You are I and I are You. (yes I know grammatically that is an abomination but it helps one to understand)
Life is a calm pond, and for this example there are only two beings in it, you and I. You and I are cups in the pond. The only thing that you can define as $YOU is the cup itself. But inside that cup is the same water that makes up the rest of the pond. You don’t normally define $YOU as a meaty shell, but $YOU are something that is inside of you.
Nansen Kills the Cat
(The Gateless Gate, Case 14)
Once the monks of the eastern and western Zen halls were quarrelling about a cat. Nansen held up the cat and said, “You monks! If one of you can say a word, I will spare the cat. If you can’t say anything, I will put it to the sword.” No one could answer, so Nansen finally slew it. In the evening, when Joshu returned, Nansen told him what had happened. Joshu, thereupon, took off his sandals, put them on his head and walked off. Nansen said, “If you had been there, I could have spared the cat.”
Master Dogen wrote
“If I had been Nansen, I would have said, ‘If you cannot speak, I will kill it; even if you can speak, I will kill it. Who would fight over a cat? Who can save the cat? On behalf of the students, I would have said, ‘We are not able to speak, Master. Go ahead and kill the cat!’ Or, I would have said for them, ‘Master, you only know about cutting it (the cat) into two with one stroke, yet you do not know about cutting it into one with one stroke.’”
Ejo asked, “How do you cut it into one with one stroke?”
Dogen said, “The cat itself.”
Ok even if you didn’t let’s move on to another thought I had around this premise.
So here you are floating just under the surface of the pond, full of the pond. When you decide to whip the pond water inside of you, the cup, into a frenzy. Will the frenzied pond water in your cup leave the top and disrupt the rest of the pond? Hell yeah it will. It will make a ripple (at least one) in the whole pond.
Just like the old Choas Theory thought experiment (koan?) about the butterfly that flaps its wings, your frenzy water has an effect on everything else. That is karma, the understanding of Cause and Effect. So when you are in a bad mood 1. It’s your own fault (a still pond can’t stir itself) and 2. your badattude goes beyond you.
Let’s take something really horrible like WW2 and watch the ripples. Hitler was a dick, his badattude rippled. But he wasn’t the only person who caused a ripple every soldier, every medic, every civilian, every P.O.W., every person in the concentration camps, every who killed and was killed caused a ripple in the pond. But the only ones who suffered were those causing the ripples, and the ones who let the rippling effect them. One would be wise to keep “your own” water calm, and do not create ripples. A wise person indeed.