This continues our series on Right View, or Right Understanding, as taught in Buddhism.
Today's Saying: When we say truth is like this or that, the opposite is more true. Hence, our ideas, all approximations, serve to enhance how unlike truth is from what we say truth is. When I say, "This is so and so," it is always more unlike so and so. In this way, beliefs can serve us well, reminding us of how limited and limiting are our ideas. Truth humiliates the arrogance of intellectualized self-posturing, so getting close to truth humbles us.
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NOTE: Below, "truth" refers to both the Truth, or the Absolute, and any truth reflecting Reality. However, truth as a reflection is still not a belief. Truth and its reflections are before belief. Belief is a means to frame an insight about something or Something. Hence, Right View is not right belief or correct idea. In fact, the conceptualization of truth will always be untrue, regardless of how well it mirrors the insight. Hence, through insight, one becomes free of ideology - idea-ology; any belief system is ideology.
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In Right View, or Right Understanding, the realization of truth, or having insight into the nature of Life, is welcoming wisdom beyond the mind. For the feeling inclined, the challenge may mean to realize truth beyond feeling.
Realization, from the French "to make real," indicates an encounter that cannot be conceptualized. We cannot form an accurate belief about it. Insight into the Sacred is un-believable. The only way to know something as real is to know it outside the mind. Otherwise, it remains unreal, an illusion. The illusion is a real illusion. We are not saying the illusion is not present. Yet, an illusion remains an illusion. Saying an illusion is real is like the shadow of a person being a real shadow but not the person.
Also, due to our reliance on the known, we can resist welcoming the Sacred we meet. The Unknown pulls us into Itself. And the Sacred is always unknown. Paradoxically, we know truth by it remaining unknown. In being known, God remains anonymous. God, to be God, is not god as we have ever thought god. So, clinging to "god" keeps God at a distance from us.
Even here, one might think, "I don't believe in God, so I don't like you mentioning God. God is not real." Well, there you go - rejection of a word based on an illusory idea of it. So, for many, such a word as "God" demonstrates how reactive they are to their illusion. That is, "God" points to something beyond both "yes" or "no," which are polarities. Truth is always a unity.
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Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Anam Thubten, shares, in Embracing Each Moment, of an incident of overpowering realization -
I grew up in Tibet and studied not only the Buddha's teachings but also astrology and poetry. I loved traditional Tibetan poetry, which originated in India. When I was studying poetry, we had to write lots of poems and also read a lot of things about the ocean. The ocean was the most popular metaphor in Indian Buddhist poems. So I wrote many hymns to the ocean without seeing it, because there is no ocean in Tibet. I even developed this affinity with the ocean, hoping that one day I would have a chance to see it. After many years, I finally had the opportunity not only to see the ocean but also to walk on the beach. The first beach I walked on in my life is near San Francisco. The morning I heard that I was going to walk on the beach, my heart was thrilled, filled with all this excitement because I am a devotee of the ocean and wrote many hymns to it. Yet when I got there, I was frightened. I was very afraid of the ocean. I was waiting for the moment when I could leave. This is because the knowledge I had was only an intellectual understanding of the ocean.
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Thubten points out a passage from fear of the unknowable to peace with it - truth is not out to hurt us but to help us, to bless us, enriching our lives. In San Francisco, he had been invited to meet the ocean as the ocean. He had not had a realization of the sea. He had an idea, a sentimental one. The sea was in his head; he had not become intimate with it. He knew of it; he did not know it.
Thubten could come to peace with the ocean by moving to intimacy with it, so knowing the ocean by the ocean. This intimacy pulls consciousness out of being located only in thought and feeling. He could still look out and say, "You're too much to know you, yet I know you." He could still have thoughts and feelings about the sea, knowing the sea as that evoking those thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings could dance within the direct knowing, being seen as celebrations of what they reflect. Hence, belief can represent how truth evokes reflections of itself.
So, to live beyond beliefs does not mean to jettison beliefs as somehow needless to human experience. Beliefs can, indeed, help condition us to realize what is outside believing. And realization, through intimacy with Life, introduces us to a receptivity to a continuing revision of our belief systems. In this release, we find increasing freedom to love and to celebrate diversity.
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Knowing is connection, is intimacy. In the knowing, there remains no space to speak of knower and known. Knower becomes the known, and the know knows itself as the knower.
However, there is no stopping point in this knowing. There is no point for saying, "I fully know" regarding any aspect of phenomena. Rather, phenomena witnesses to an underlying Reality. Truth-welcomers keep moving from depth to depth. Truth is a sea without a bottom.
Realization becomes easier over time. The more we welcome truth, becoming one with it in a single subjectivity of awareness, the less resistance we experience to it. Wisdom becomes our friend, and we become that friend. If we do not continue in demanding Life to fit into our presuppositions, we move from fearing truth to loving truth.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.