We’re All Cookie Dough

I once heard the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tell this story:

In one of his early trips to the United States, he greatly enjoyed his first taste of a peanut butter cookie. After asking how it was made and then reflecting on the process, he imagined the cookies talking to each other as they baked.

“Hey, I’m browner than you.”

“Yeah, but I’m taller.”

And so on.

They were under the illusion that they were different, but they were all made from the same dough.

Buddhists use various images to describe how we are all one. Nhat Hanh used peanut butter cookies that time. Some compare our misleading sense of individual differentiation to waves and ripples on a lake, all made of water. My blogging honorary granddaughter, Amie Zor, says we are starlings, made from the same stardust. I sometimes talk, less poetically, about us as various clumps of cosmic dust.The point is the same, as we are the same.

Cookie doughWe are all combinations of the same subatomic particles, and my tiny stuff dances with your tiny stuff. Once we know that, loving kindness and compassion for others follow naturally from loving kindness and compassion for ourselves.  It may take practice to feel that oneness with others who look different, but knowing that we are one will get us there.

Some people see the early, Theravada Buddhism as selfish because it focused on individual enlightenment. Later, Mahayana Buddhists elevated the importance of compassion for others. But while there are differences between the two waves of Buddhism, some early practitioners understood the Buddha’s core message — ending needless suffering for all sentient beings. While the practice may start with the individual, the goal was loving kindness for all.

Some early practitioners did in fact dismiss “good works” as not terribly important, but I  think that was, and is, a misreading of the Buddha’s teachings.

I tend to believe that we help others most by focusing first on awakening our own Buddha within. Compassion for others is part of how we do that, but true compassion comes not from doing compassionate things but by being compassion. When we accept and love ourselves, and when we recognize the oneness of existence, then we become compassion.

As my teacher, Lama Surya Das, often says: “We are human beings, not human doings.”

— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)

Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine


10 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the cookie dough analogy–and the picture.

    The tension between being and doing goes round and round, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. melhpine says:

    It’s ac actually chocolate chip cookie dough. Couldn’t find a photo of peanut butter cookie dough.


  3. Mel now I am jonesing for cookie dough ice cream. My diet is not happy with you!
    Any how here is a quantum question, whats the difference between say my tiny stuff, your tiny stuff and the tiny stuff of the of the chair you are siting on when you read my comment?

    Just a side note Lama Surya Das’ book Awakening the Buddha within was the first book about Buddhism that really met me on a level where I did not feel talked down too, but I still learned heeps.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. melhpine says:

      I think all the tiny stuff is the same, so I’m one with nen-sentiate things, too.


      1. Ok I get that as well, atoms quirks and quarks, but somehow we are a little different. I believe that there is something seeing through my eyes and hearing through my ears, etc, the me that is conscious of something. What is so special about your and my arraignment of tiny stuff that makes us conscious and the chair not?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. melhpine says:

        I don’t have a sense of being connected to a chair, but I do feel connected to rocks. On some level, for me the rock is alive and maybe not the chair. I do sometimes wonder where the connectedness stops, or whether it does at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good question where does the connectedness stop or does it at all? For me it would be somewhere between plants and trees, trees are for me almost conscious, but my salad not so much. The earth yes but not my polyester t shirt. My colleagues but not my boss 🙂
        There is a divide but it’s fuzzy, is the complexity of the organism important or the amount or processing involved in making something? Do you sit on a wooden chair or a plastic one?


      4. melhpine says:

        The chair I was in when I replied was upholstered, so it had a wooden frame, fabric, filling, etc. I feel especially connected to trees, but I guess less to to the framing in my chair.


      5. Ok so complexity and human production have an impact, what else might?
        Beauty or attraction?


  4. amiezor says:

    When I learned about molecules and atoms in school for the first time, I remember my hand being placed on the top of the desk, and the distinct feeling of separateness – even though I was just told that the molecules of my hand were intermingling with the desktop… That was my first acute memory that we might feel totally separate, but that our experience can betray us. For really, we intermingle with the air, the chair, the thoughts – everything.
    Now I am off to eat a cookie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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