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Balance of Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth
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Balance of Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth (27 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
December 14, 2014 - Dallas, Texas

Well, I hear a theme, which is balance between our practice of ultimate truth and relative truth. This is not an easy topic to discuss, but I will do my best to do it in a simple way. So, we practice with the dual reality that we are not just one kind of reality. All of our mythologies of the past speak to this. You know, the use of stories was a way our ancestors tried to point to these truths. And we can learn a lot from them as long as we do not take it too literally.

For example, the mythology of Hercules being both human and divine, having a human mother and a divine father, Zeus, and his whole struggle of living a life. How do you live a life where both are real? And in the story of Jesus, we have a similar story. We have someone who is said to have a human mother and a divine father, and his whole life was all about how do you live life with these two realities together, not separate. And in fact, this is our story. There is a part of us that is infinite, ultimate reality, Buddha nature, divine, heavenly, angelic, and there's also a part of us that is very physical, very grounded, very earthy, very human.

So the journey, the hero's journey, the heroine's journey that we are all on is how do we live our lives in the balance of that dynamic tension of these two very different realities that are both part of the one reality for our lives. We are both the children of heaven and earth as human beings. We face the reality of life and death, masculine and feminine, yin and yang, light and dark, love and fear, etc. But see, the ultimate reality is even what we think of as light versus dark in the ultimate reality, it all simply just is. And when we say infinite light in the ultimate sense, that includes the dark and the light.

So I suppose you could think of it like this: We only see the spectrum of light of these lights in here, but if we were to turn them all off, for us it would feel dark, but in reality there is still light because there is radiation and light frequencies that we cannot see that are constantly present. And even if that was not there, there is the quantum—I said I wasn't going to talk about quantum physics—but there is the quantum field of energy that is the potentiality that makes all of this possible. So that is always there, whether perception is of light or dark. So in the relative realm of reality, there are perceptual differences and dualities—light and dark, life and death—but in the ultimate realm, which encompasses all of it, it is just infinite light, infinite love, infinite life.

Even that which does not look like love is still an aspect of love because in our human relative realm, we deal with okay, sometimes we see things, perceive things—wow, that is obviously love. And then we look at some other things, and that does not look like love at all, but actually it is still all about love from the ultimate point of view because when you see someone doing a kind act or whatever, that is the call of love. It is love calling you, like here I am. I am loving you or loving something. But then when someone is having a difficulty or is angry or is doing something violent or whatever, that is still related to love because it is a call for love. Underneath the violence or the anger or the seeming opposite the love is a soul who is crying out for love.

So everything you encounter in life, then, still relates to love. So from the ultimate point of view, it is still all about love. From the human relative point of view, it does look like the opposite, but they still relate to love. Either it is a call of love showing you what love is like or it is a call for love crying out for help in love. So it also boils down to love, and what we call infinite light, I am not necessarily talking about physical light. I'm talking about spiritual light. When we have blissful states of samadhi through our meditations once in a blue moon, that is definitely the infinite bliss of life.

But most of the time we are for it or having difficulty or just dealing with the everyday realities of human life. But that is also light, too. The light of wisdom and growth doesn't happen just in blissful moments. The light of wisdom and growth happens in the everyday ups and downs of life, too, and even in that which is just mundane and boring. So ultimately, it is all light even though relatively, there are different hues and valances. Some days you feel really great in your practice and other days, you're just doing it. And it is important to just to do it, too. If you only practice when you feel good about it, that is not teaching you the true wisdom that is available. The true wisdom comes from a consistent practice, no matter how you are feeling. Of course, if you never feel good in your practice, you should look at how your practice is, because there should be moments of peace or joy or love from time to time.

Bobbie, do you want to say anything about this topic? I know you have addressed this before.

Bobbie: Well, I actually used the practice, I have arrived. I am home. This speaks to relative and ultimate truth, depending on how you look at it. You can think I have arrived in this physical body, in this physical place, and I can be at home here. I can rest here or be comfortable here. But in the ultimate sense, we can remind ourselves that we come from, we are—I was thinking about this earlier. Each of us is like a stream of consciousness from the vast ocean of consciousness, and it is that ocean of consciousness that is the ultimate reality. And then when we come into this physical expression, we become a stream of consciousness, and ultimately we will enter that ocean of consciousness again. I think the challenge is to remember who we ultimately are when we are faced with the challenges of physical expression. So that is kind of how I think of it.

ChiSing: Yeah. And the dynamic challenge is how to honor both realities, because you can get extremist by only believing in the relative reality, and there is no such thing as anything else except what I can sense with my five senses. That is not correct thinking, according to the dharma. On the other hand, you can get all caught up in, oh, I don't want to be here anymore. I don't really want to try to live a human life. I just want to go back into the ultimate oneness and bliss out, and I don't care about helping to serve the world or anything. I just want to bliss out into infinite oneness or something. But that negates the importance of this relative reality, you see?

And of course, there are times in our lives when we need to emphasize one or the other just because we are out of balance. So sometimes people who are emphasizing one thing need to practice more on the other or vice versa. I know that that is true, but ultimately eventually it all needs to be in balance where both aspects of reality are honored. You know, it is interesting. When you look at church history and doctrinal disputes, for example, in Christianity, they were dealing with the struggle on a doctrinal level. How do we understand the human nature, the divine nature of Jesus? Was it just that he was pretending to be human, or maybe he is just really human only and the divine is just something I kind of came into him at his baptism and then left when he died or whatever. So how does this all work?

Unfortunately, they tried to think about this just from a human intellectual point of view rather than seeing it as a deep heart story that is universally applicable for all of us. But you see that struggle in the philosophy and theology as well. The truth is both ultimately need to be honored. Yes?

Bobbie: One of the things that helps me to achieve that balance is the reminder—and I read it recently—about what in Buddhism is called our precious human life. This privilege to be a human is precious. I mean, if you think about, even though there are—I don't know—seven billion humans on the planet now, we are actually in the minority considering all of the plants and animals, the insects, the life that is on the planet. So to have a human experience is really precious, and when I can remember that, then it is easy to be grateful. It is easier to find the balance. A lot of things fall into place when I can remember that this is a privilege to have this human experience. It helps me aspire to live the best human experience I can. And at the same time, it is a reminder of the ultimate. I find that helps me.

ChiSing: Thank you. When you were talking with your question on the forgiveness and the boundaries and things like that, it relates also because of course ultimately, there are no boundaries. Ultimately there is only one. We are all connected, so we cannot really separate, but on the human, relative level, we also have to honor that we do live in time-space and we have relative realities and that has to be honored. So you can't just let someone walk all over you. You can't just let someone take advantage of you. That doesn't do them any good. It doesn't do you any good.

To learn how to take care of yourself even as you are trying to be of service in the world is extremely important, because some people get the idea that they are only supposed to serve constantly and never replenish themselves, never take care of themselves, and never look at their own needs. But if you don't take care of yourself in your service in the world, you start to burn out, and you start to not be able to serve in the healthiest way. And so it is no longer—you see, we are not trying to just serve out of our human energy, human ego energy. What we are trying to do in service, we are trying to be open in our humanness and honor our unique human qualities but allow that to be sort of the channel through which the infinite reality has been served through us.

See, if we are just using only our human ego energy to serve, we are limited. But when we allow the human aspect of us to be honored and to be transparent and to be in the flow, then the infinite reality of who we really are, our Buddha nature, now can be expressed in manifested through the human aspect of ourselves. So that way the human and the infinite aspects of our reality are both honored.

So this reminds me of one particular teaching in another tradition which I disagree with. It is okay to disagree sometimes with different things, but in this one tradition, there is this emphasis on the fact that the only real reality is Buddha nature and that our human experience is essentially a delusion. And so, the only value is to just let go of all the things that create our delusions so that we can just come back to the ultimate original perfection of our Buddha nature.

That is partly true, but it is an incomplete teaching because when you think about it, if that is really the only truth, then there is no point in the human experience, is there? There is no point in the evolution of the earth. There is no point in the physical reality. There is no point in learning and growing and evolving. So to me, that is out of balance because it doesn't honor enough the other side of the truth, which is there is a reason why we are here. There is a reason for humanity. There is a reason for physicality. It is not an accident. It is not a delusion. There are delusions, and there are illusions, but it is not that the physical reality is the delusion. It is our understanding of it that is deluded, our misperception about why we are here.

So anyway, that is something to contemplate on because as you practice, you'll start hearing teachings. See if you can notice if a teaching is pointing to ultimate truth or pointing to a relative truth. Sometimes they are very different in the way you express them. And just know that sometimes things are pointing to ultimate truth, so you cannot really say things a certain way and make sense, you know? It just depends on the context.

For example, there is a practical example. You are in a hospital in the emergency room and someone just had an accident and someone lost a limb and they are bleeding. You don't say, "All is well." You don't. All is well is true, but only on an ultimate truth reality level. They are not operating right now at that level of consciousness, okay? Be with them where they are. I mean, a true bodhisattva, true beings on the path of enlightenment know when to talk on which level at what time with the beings they are with. You know what I'm saying? So don't say, "All is well," right in the midst of something like that. That is not practical. What you do is you speak to the situation, and then in that kind of situation, it is relative reality that is called for. So you speak to what is necessary there: compassion, lovingkindness, practical. Be with the person where they are at, and that is how you be a bodhisattva.

See, a bodhisattva is the one who knows that they are both heaven and earth together, and so they use upaya, skillful means, on how to communicate truth on whichever level. Now of course, when we are in a state of deep meditation and we have a revelation of the oneness of all reality and we can see how all the joys and sufferings of life actually all fit together in some bigger picture, when we are in that state of consciousness, then it is fine to say, "All is well." Okay? Because then you really mean it and you understand the meaning, but you do not say that in the emergency room like that. A bodhisattva probably would be saying, "I am so sorry what you are going through. It is just awful, and my heart is breaking for you. I'm here for you." You see? It is always in that moment you have to have enough practice under your belt that you can discern what is appropriate. You see? So I think it really will depend on what you feel called to do in that moment in your spirit.

So that is why we practice ahead of time, because it is kind of like martial arts or even piano. When you practice any art form, when you practice the things over and over and over again, then even though it is hard work to practice, when you actually are in a situation where you need to use it, like either in a concert or in some sort of a competition, then all of the moves naturally come out, don't they? They just naturally flow out. You do not have to try so hard because you did all the trying and the practicing beforehand.

So when we meditate like this, yeah, sometimes it is hard to do it every day and every week with the group, but it pays off because when you get into a situation where you need to know and discern quickly how do I respond, what is the best response, then because you have been meditating and practicing spirituality for many days, weeks, months, years, then in that moment you just have a lot more resources available to you to make the right decision in that moment. To discern what should I say, if anything? What should I do, if anything?

Sometimes you are called to just observe and pray and not touch it and then just trust the universe will bring you someone else to help. Otherwise, you will just mess it up more, you know? But then other times you are called to do something. But at the very least, we can all do positive intention. You know, whenever I pass by an accident on the highway, usually it is not appropriate for me to stop and try to help because I will stop the traffic behind me and I will probably make the job of the firemen and the policeman even harder because now they're trying to deal with me. So it is not always appropriate to do direct action.

What I always do is I always say a prayer as I am passing by, and I send a beam of light from the heart to the accident site. We can all do that. And then of course if it ever does become appropriate for me to get out of my car and help in some way, then of course I will do that.

There are many different beings at many different levels of human reality. Even though we all ultimately come from the one Buddha nature of infinite love, in our human experience, we are at very different levels of maturation. All of us come to this planet not as blank slates, but with some history, however you want to conceive of that, whether heavenly realm or other dimensions or reincarnation or however you want to think of it or just ancestral baggage. We all come into this life not as blank slates at all. We all have different levels of our human realities. So we do have to work with that. But really, we are all here (to me) ultimately to learn how to grow together.

For those who are more mature, we want to learn how to find them, respect them, learn from them. They are our teachers, and we support them. Those who are younger spiritually than us who are kind of a little bit more troubled. We want to be able to be of service somehow to them. And sometimes being of service means really, really helping them in a direct, loving way. But sometimes service means locking them up so they don't harm themselves or others, you see? You don't have to lock someone up with anger and hatred and violence in your heart. You can do it with compassion. So there are police officers who practice meditation and mindfulness, and they try to learn how to be tough on the outside but still compassionate on the inside. This is a practice, how to have tough love but still not let your heart close up. This is our practice.

And then the third—so we have our spiritual elders, spiritual youngers who may need a little bit extra help in the world, and then we have people who are generally kind of on our similar level, our peers, our spiritual peers. What is our responsibility there? It is to connect with each other and make community and practice together, make families and projects together and work together to create a better world together. This is what we are doing as a sangha. So really, it boils down to that in my opinion, those three things. Learn from your teachers, respect and honor and support them, be of service to those who are little bit less mature spiritually, and then those who are generally like our peers, we just learn how to love and create bonds of affection and community, community-building, sangha-building to create projects that can help the world.

Thank you.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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