Excerpt from “No Death, No Fear” by Thich Nhat Hanh
A French scientist, whose name is Lavosier, declared, “Rien ne se cree, rien ne se perd.” “Nothing is born, nothing dies.” Although he did not practice as a Buddhist but as a scientist, he found the same truth the Buddha discovered.
Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Only when we touch our true nature can we transcend the fear of non-being, the fear of annihilation.
The Buddha said that when conditions are sufficient something manifests and we say it exists. When one or two conditions fail and the thing does not manifest in the same way, we then say it does not exist. According to the Buddha, to qualify something as existing or not existing is wrong. In reality, there is no such thing as totally existing or totally not existing.
We can see this very easily with television and radio. We may be in a room that has no television or radio. And while we are in that room, we may think that television programs and radio programs do not exist in that room. But all of us know that the space in the room is full of signals. The signals of these programs are filling the air everywhere. We need only one more condition, a radio or television set, and may forms, colors and sounds will appear.
It would have been wrong to say that the signals do not exist because we did not have a radio or television to receive and manifest them. They only seemed not to exist because the causes and conditions were not enough to make the television program manifest. So at that moment, in that room, they do not exist. Just because we do not perceive something, it is not correct to say it doesn’t exist. It is only our notion of being and non-being that makes us think something exists or doesn’t exist. Notions of being and non-being cannot be applied to reality.