Two truths

Let’s be honest, most of us are self-centered. We believe what we think or perceive is nothing less than perfect, or close to perfection. We subscribe to our own set of thoughts and values. That’s natural. But all of us have different perspective, different views about what is right and wrong. So what actually is the truth? What is the reality?

Let’s drag this confusion further.

According to Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, there’s conventional (kunzob) and ultimate (dhon dhumpa) truth. Conventional truth indicates mistaken awareness. Ultimate truth is about emptiness, that everything is empty of inherent and concrete existence. Most of our sufferings come from validating the conventional truth.

Nothing is absolute. What we see around us is mostly a distorted set of perceptions. Don’t get carried away by it. Be aware of the true nature of every existing phenomena.

I don’t claim to fully understand the ultimate truth. I’m still confused. But then, confusion takes you closer to clarity. Right?

On that note, here’s an insightful thought by His Holiness the 3rd Karmapa

May we receive the flawless teachings, the foundation of which are the two truths
Which are free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism,
And through the supreme path of the two accumulations, free from the extremes of negation and affirmation,
May we obtain the fruit which is free from the extremes of either,
Dwelling in the conditioned state or in the state of only peace.

4 thoughts on “Two truths

  1. Well written, Tsering lak. I’m also confused, confused about the “ultimate truth” you’ve talked about. I’m confused between the “emptiness” and “fullness”. Proponents of emptiness (or Buddhist philosophy) argue that any matter in the universe, being composed with different elements and particles, can likewise be disintegrated, endless disintegration results in disappearance of the matters. Sounds logical.

    However, with a second thought, what I wonder is the contrary, on the other side of emptiness is the “fullness” or “existence” of things. However endless a matter is disintegrated, how can it possibly disappear? Ok, say, let a grain of rice keep disintegrating with the fastest possible speed for a million years, the resulting particles may not be seen even with an eye a billion times more powerful that ours, still we can’t logically say it has disappeared or non-existent. It still has to be there, the problem here is not with the disintegrated particles of rice, but it’s our problem not to see or even feel it, or, may be even think of its existence…lol.

    It’s like the scientific theory on Energy – “Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”

    It happened to me many times in the past that I pondered over this and finally came to the conclusion that the main issue is with human brain that cannot digest terms like “endless” or “limitless”. I’ve just talked about “disintegrating endlessly” above, we know what “endless” means, but hardly (I use “hardly” here because Lord Buddha may possibly be an exception) anyone knows how it feels like and nobody can ever experience it. Ok, for a thousand years, a million, a billion….Centillion (10 raise power to 303) the largest number humans have ever created, but still that can’t be the end, there has to be something beyond that, and beyond, and beyond… No one can grasp this concept. Human brain is helpless here, nothing can be done. The same thing applies to anything, like, we say the universe is boundless, again, what is “boundless”. It’s all mysteries and to understand these mysteries, the only thing is we need to overcome “time”, because this “endless” is closely associated with time. I hope you are following me here. That’s why Stephen Hawking in his book “A Brief History of Time” talks about “time” being the answer to everything.

    That’s why, i’m really convinced by the verses by the 3rd karmapa, suggesting us to pursue the Middle Way, free from the two extremes, eternalism and nihilism, negation and affirmation, really enlightening!!!

  2. Though I have no clue, that’s also could be what the great Buddhist master Nagarjuna’s “Middle Way” talks about.

    1. Thanks Ogyen la for your comment. I think I can put it this way. Emptiness as the nature of every phenomena boils down to interdependent existence, that nothing is fully concrete or inherent. When I was initially struggling to comprehend, I thought emptiness meant non-existing nature of every phenomena, which is not. They exist, in their fullness, but their real nature is interdependent. So, why do we know this. That’s where the secret lies. Take anything that disturbs your peace of mind, anger, attachment or hatred. They seem like an independent emotion, but if you dig deeper, there are reasons how it developed in the first place. So you go deeper with each reason, they all are interdependent. You, perhaps, then realize, the futility and mistaken awareness we unknowingly harbor in our mind.

  3. Well said! Yes, the immediate intention of Emptiness is to attempt realizing our misperceptions about things or phenomena as they are or appear to be. Nothing is independent, everything exists dependently, Buddhist phylosophical terms like “dependent origination”, “conditionality”, “law of causality” etc. all explain this fact. “Imperanence” too defines the same thing, that eveything is endlessly undergoing process of change/decay though we don’t feel or see it, thus what appears to us now is not the same the very next instant.

    The ultimate aim of uncovering this truth, or, including this scientific reality in a religious phylosophy, i think, is to enlighten the ignorance/misperceptions that it is foolish to be attached to something or someone which and who we think are but actually not; likewise, it’s wrong to hate somebody that we mistakenly think is our enemy. The grand objective here is to be free of major vices/poisons of human emotions – ignorance, hatred and attachement, so as to achieve eternal peace, harmony and happiness.

    However, the question I raised in my previous comment still remains. Things are stoplessly and indefinitely undergoing decaying process, what will this process finally lead to? Nobody can tell. Will it lead to none or disappearance of the phenomena? It has to be the case. But on the other hand, how can something which is there can simply disaapear, even though it’ll take billions of years? This too has to be the case. That’s why I said human brain is helpless here. The only option or choice we have is not to pursue any extremes that are beyond the grasp of human intelligence but to moderately take the middle path, not to be absolute but relative about anything.

    We don’t know this just because we are simply living in a perceived and imagined world, where we understand nothing thoroughly and relying totally upon our own perceptions. Like, what is “end”, “indefinite”, we don’t know how it is like. “Tsering Dolma”, “beautiful”, “sad”…nothing is real … 🙂

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