Depth of Truth

Though we can understand the teachings of the Buddha with our average consciousness to some extent, it takes right meditative wakefulness and clarity to realize their deep and subtle wisdom. For example, no matter how much a color blind person understands about colors, it is not the same as the actual experience of seeing colors. We have to make a journey towards correcting our vision to see things correctly. So, it is important not coming to any conclusion based on a superficial understanding of the teachings. We can use our initial understanding with our questions, doubts, confusion, etc. as a first step towards the journey.

Nagarjuna (Buddhist philosopher, 2nd century CE) describes two levels of truths: the superficial truth (also referred as: lower truth, conventional truth or relative truth) and the ultimate truth (also referred as: higher truth or absolute truth). Initially what we understand is the lower truth, at best. Then we have to climb up the ladder towards the higher truth.

Further, it is very difficult and sometimes even impossible to explain deeper wisdom with words. At best, the words can point to the truth. So, it is equally important not clinging to the words. As Buddha says: "My teachings are a finger pointing to the moon. Don't get caught up in thinking that the finger is the moon."

Nagarjuna not only realized the limitations of the language, and also how words and concepts were often the sources of our deep misunderstanding. Nietzsche (19th century) arrives at the same realization: "Through words and concepts we are continually misled into imagining things as being simpler than they are, separate from one another, indivisible, each existing in and for itself. A philosophical mythology lies concealed in language that breaks out again every moment, however careful one may be otherwise."

Often our existing knowledge – of concepts, ideas and views (especially metaphysical ones) – stands in the way of seeing the truth clearly. When we are ignorant, we are bound to be lost in darkness; but when we merely gather more knowledge without real deep understanding, we are bound to be lost in a far more bigger darkness. So, Buddha discourages any rigid and dogmatic clinging to concepts, views and opinions – even to his own teachings.

"If you know much, you can't be taught anything. If you want wisdom, empty your mind." – Lao-Tzu

CK. Kamaraj

20 December 2020