Contemplating singlessness, no-birth and no-death by Thich Nhat Hanh

The purpose of contemplating singlessness is to help us avoid getting caught in the trap of external appearances. Where there is a sign, there is deception; the Buddha spoke about this in the Diamond Sutra. Water vapor, for instance, is there in front of us right now; just because we can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When a cloud turns into rain, we cannot rightly say the cloud has gone from being to
nonbeing. We don’t see water vapor, but as soon as it meets up with some cold air, it will turn into fog or frost that we can see; and we can’t say that that fog or frost has come into a state of “being” from one of “nonbeing.” It has simply changed its form, the sign by which we label it.

No-birth is another way to describe the true nature of reality, the nature of all that is. When we look at the outer appearances of things, we see birth and death, success and failure, being and nonbeing, coming and going. But when we look more deeply, we see the true nature of things is unborn and undying, not coming from anywhere or going anywhere, neither being nor nonbeing, not all one single entity yet not really separate and apart.

The cloud did not become something from nothing. Before it manifested in its current form, it was already there as water in the rivers and oceans. With the sun’s heat it became water vapor, and then those tiny droplets came together as a cloud. It didn’t pass from “nonbeing” into “being.” This is the meaning of no-birth.

Later, the cloud may cease that manifestation and assume other forms, such as rain, snow, hail, fog, or a little creek. The cloud will not have gone from “being” to “nonbeing.” Its nature is not only unborn, but also undying. The real nature of the cloud and of all that is, including you and me, is unborn and undying.

Once the insight of no-birth and no-death has arisen in you, you will experience fearlessness and a tremendous freedom. That is truly the most precious fruit of meditation

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