Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Truth & Nothing But The Truth

Have spent the past few days working my way through the first half of Geshe Tashi Tsering's book Relative Truth, Ultimate Truth. Most likely i won't get through the whole book until late next week; it's a tough slog through the philosophical differences between the Maibhashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra, & Madhyamaka schools of Buddhism (from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective).

But there were are few things of note this morning, both on the same page.

First was:

"The Sautrantika scholars cite certain phenomena that can be fully expressed by language, such as space or selflessness. Space is the mere absence of obstruction, nothing more. And because it is neither more nor less that that, language is able to express it. Thus, it is a conventional truth. Selflessness is the lack of an intrinsic or inherent self, nothing more; cessation is the absence of suffering, nothing more. These can all be fully expressed by language; hence they are conventional truths."

This made me stop and think just for the definition of space. I don't see space as "the mere absence of obstruction." In my view, space is everything and everywhere. In one place it is empty (unless you get technical and talk to a physicist), in another it is manifesting as a human body, in another it is manifesting as a building, or a book, or a tree, or a cup, with the space inside that manifesting as tea, and so on.

I don't see space as some inherent "thing" making up the universe into which everything else manifests and functions. Space is simply the label we have given to everything that is "out there," in whatever form, or no form, it is making itself available to our perceptions at any given moment and place. Hmmmm....

It will be interesting to see how this definition changes, if it does, as i work into the Cittamatra and Madhyamaka schools. I'll also have to go back and try to look somewhere (i don't know where yet), but i think Dōgen would agree with my definition. But, that's probably where i got it anyhow. :-)

A few paragraphs later he goes on to make sure the reader has a clear understanding of something that i think is very important:

"Please don't think that this school is saying that concepts are essentially bad; it is saying, however, that concepts by their very nature obscure the truth. We couldn't make sense of the world without concepts. Imagine a world without labels. There would be no language, no communication, no transfer of knowledge such as this; spiritual attainment would be very difficult. ... The most important thing a child can learn is language, which will enable her to make generalities about the world around her. As adults, however, we need to see the uses and traps of the conceptual mind—something so few of us do."

A very difficult lesson to learn, remember, and effectively put to use throughout our days. What percentage of our daily thoughts are nothing but our version of the truth, traps ensnaring us and obscuring the real truth behind them?

And lastly, for those who love that wonderful person who is Pema Chodron, BetterListen! is offering a free hour and a half download of her CD Practicing Peace In Times of War on their web site. Complete the purchase process and they will mail you the download link. Enjoy it.

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