Chan and Modern Life

Where does the feeling of loneliness come from?

People who cannot connect themselves with the outside world in terms of space and time, who do not understand cause and effect, and causes and conditions, will feel lonely.
When I was in solitary retreat, I knew that I was together with all sentient beings in innumerable worlds. Even though I seemed to be alone in a small, enclosed room, actually I was in the company of many ants who found their way inside, and insects outside of the hut created all kinds of sounds in the evening.

When I opened the sutras, people thousands of years in the past were speaking to me. How could I feel lonely? Some people think that I must feel lonely being a monk without any wife or children; not at all. I have the five precepts and the ten virtuous deeds as my wife, and my children are all the people with whom I have developed a karmic affinity, and who call me Shifu (Teacher). It is only people who isolate themselves and cannot establish a relationship with the outside world who feel lonely. If you keep yourself enclosed, even if you live among thousands of people you will still feel very lonely. However, if you keep yourself open, then even if you are living alone, you will still have a very full life. So, open your mind and treat everyone you meet as your intimate, virtuous friend.
Emptiness and Loneliness, Chan Newsletter  No. 12, March, 1981