Friday, July 15, 2011

Standing on our heads

Duality is of course a mental divide—the conclusive belief that one thing is separate and different from something else. From within the realm of “normal life” it is impossible to deny that things are different and separate, thus discrimination (and corresponding judgements) has become normative and conflicts inevitable.

Buddhism has long taught a different message—Unity of all things. From the perspective of normal life this seems absurd and impractical. Our eyes alone tell us that such a premise is flawed. But Buddhism asks no one to accept what appears illogical, so where is the missing logic? The logic is that “All things are unified”, even the things which are not apparent.

What the eye can’t see is still there, regardless of our inability to see them. Our eye sees a very limited range of energy. X-rays are not visible. Infrared is not visible. Ultraviolet is not visible. Would we include these invisible forms of light in “All things”? Likewise we can’t see space but we exist within space every moment of our lives. The list might go on but the point is that we trust our perceptions too much and assume that what we can’t see doesn’t exist.

Nagarjuna helped our understanding of this seeming anomaly by pointing out that we live in two realms at once, and referred to these two realms as The Two Truth Doctrine. The two realms he spoke of are the Conventional and the Sublime. The Conventional realm is of course our normally perceived realm and the Sublime realm is our imperceptible realm. The nature of these two realms is the flip-side of the other and together they make up one indivisible true nature of us all.

The context of the Conventional realm is completely illusive and the context of the Sublime realm is completely fixed. These different contexts define whatever exists within those contexts. It would be irrational to suggest that something could be fixed if the context is illusive. It would be equally irrational to suggest that something could be illusive if the context is fixed. The nature of the context limits and defines whatever exists in that realm.

Thus what appears normal and concrete within our “normal life” is anything but concrete since the context is illusive. We take it for granted that an ego (a self-image) is concrete. We take it for granted that a mind is concrete, but if we accept the illusive nature of our “normal life”, how is such a thing possible? And to assume that our true nature (discernable only within the Sublime realm) doesn’t exist, is likewise impossible since that context is fixed.

Of course there are those who argue that this Buddhist view is wrongheaded—That the context of our normal life is fixed and that there is no such thing as a Sublime realm, so how could a non-existent realm have a context? Perhaps we can better understand why our world is so messed up by understanding how wrongheaded this wrongheaded perspective is.
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