The principle of oneness of life and its environment describes the inseparable relationship of the individual and the environment. People generally have a tendency to regard the environment as something separate from themselves, and from the viewpoint of that which we can observe, we are justified in drawing this distinction. However, from the viewpoint of ultimate reality, the individual and the environment are one and inseparable. Life manifests itself in both a living subjective and an objective environment.
Karma is derived from Sanskrit which originally means action. It is the accumulation of causes we make and their effects. These actions mean every mental, physical and verbal – that is everything we think, do or say. This in a way imprints a latent influence in one’s life. As such, it is a force which influences one’s present and future, lying deep within one’s life. This law of karmic cause and effect operates over the three existences of past, present and future. So our actions in the past have shaped our present, and our actions in the present in turn determine our future.
“Life” indicates a subjective “self” that experiences the karmic effects of past actions, while the environment is the objective realm where the karmic effects of life take shape. Environment here does not mean one overall context in which all beings live. Each living being has his or her own unique environment in which the effects of karma appear. The effects of one’s karma, both good and bad, manifest themselves both in one’s self and in the environment, because these are two integral phases of the same entity.
While we get entangled in our own problems all the time, we don’t realize that we are not only affecting our own self but also the environment around us. For example, a rage of anger not only creates discontent in our own mind but also it is transmitted to the people around us. In the same way when we are in a calm state the environment responds to us in the same way.
Moreover, as we accumulate good karma, the effects of the karma will become apparent not only in ourselves but also in our environment, in the form of improved material circumstances, greater respect from others, and so forth.
From this standpoint, one’s environment stretches out to encompass the whole dimension of space. Our enlightenment is therefore not confined to ourselves but exerts an influence on our families, communities, nations, and ultimately, all humanity. The principle of the oneness of life and its environment is the rationale for asserting that our own good deeds will work for a transformation in society.