Dust and the World

We commonly recognize large is different from small, and small is different from large, having is different from empty, and empty is different from having. However, in describing time, space, and the size of objects, the Flower Ornament Sutra [Avatamsaka Sutra] states that small is not small and large is not large, a ksana is not short and a kalpa is not long, and one is not few, and billions are not a many.

As the Heart Sutra [Prajnaparamitahrdaya Sutra] says, measurements in the world of Truth “do not increase nor decrease.” When the Truth involves matter, it “does not arise nor extinguish.” When it comes to quality, it becomes “neither defiled nor purified.” This does not mean Buddhism is distorted regarding relativity, nor is it intended to confuse people’s perceptions. In truth, this view of relativity is very reasonable. Let’s use the relationship between dust and the world to further examine the true meaning of this concept.

Dust is so small that even if we define it in terms of electrons, neurons, and protons, we cannot make an accurate measurement. Dust is the ultra-small unit of matter that cannot be further broken down. It does not have any shape or color, and cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, it is the most basic unit of the universe. The whole world is made of dust. People often view dust as small and the world as large. However, large as the universe may be, without the aggregation of “dusts,” how would the world come about? That is why we say large is not large, and small is not small.

A person can achieve greatness and success only when there is support from a large aggregation of “dusts.” A politician needs many supporters behind him or her in order to become a great leader. An army general’s success relies on the lives of thousands to win a battle. Therefore, the world should be grateful for “dusts.” Just as a executive needs to thank his or her workers, a leader must be grateful to his or her subordinates, for without workers and subordinates, executives and leaders could not rise to greatness. However, without executives and leaders, workers and subordinates would be left with no one to follow. That is the meaning of “the small is not small, and the large is not large.” Within the truth of equality, we should respect one another, tolerate each other, and work together as a team.

Our physical body is a world of its own. The different components—the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind—must cooperate in order for a person to function. The physical body is like the United Nations. All parts need to unite and cooperate. Within the U.N., small countries such as Luxembourg, Papua New Guinea, and Malta vote on the world’s affairs alongside large countries such as the United States, England, and France.

Being large or small in form does not matter, for all share equal rights. Through our equality, we enjoy the same benefits, and we bask in the same glory. Hopefully, our communities, religions, and even political parties will come to appreciate the importance of unity and cooperation.