I think everyone understands the relative and ultimate truths and only spoke of them because we cling to an apprehending subject and apprehended objects as discordant and real. Our erroneous cognition distracts us from engaging in practices to progress spiritually. We hear about the Buddhadharma, falsely shun the apparent world as “bad,” and chase after what we call “the absolute,” the “good.” Clinging to appearances as true existents is an extreme; clinging to an ultimate reality is another extreme. We need to be free of clinging to either the one or the other, altogether.
Some students learn about the Buddhadharma and then want to have nothing to do with the apparent world. It has even happened that they refuse to eat, defying anything they consider mundane. This isn’t the meaning of the Buddha’s words. Lord Buddha described apparent reality and never negated the concrete world we experience. He clarified the truth of reality in and around us and showed how it actually is. Many students think that fleeing from what appears within and without leads them to the truth, a fundamental mistake that I wish to warn you about.
The error that can arise is assuming once emptiness has been realized, nothing at all exists any more. While abiding in meditative composure of calmness, a knowledge arises which sees that all things are free of coming and going, of being and non-being, of both being and non-being, and of neither being nor non-being. After having rested in meditative equipoise, the apparent world is there, as it was and as it is, and does not disappear. A sincere practitioner understands and sees that existents are appearances and that what appears does not truly exist as it seemingly appears to do. We need to sincerely know that the two truths are inseparable – we need not divide them. Ascertaining this truth is realizing the ultimate view.
While a yogi rests in meditative equipoise, he or she naturally realizes that all things are empty of inherent existence, are actually beyond such mental formulations as “existent” and “non-existent.” During post-meditation, he or she apprehends phenomena with an understanding that all things are free of an own entity and therefore clearly appear. He experiences no contradiction or controversies, rather the truth of reality. I hope to have clarified that the two truths or two realities of being are inseparably one. Again, everything in and around us is there, which does not mean that what is there is not empty. Everything in and around us is empty, which does not mean that what is empty is not there. Things appear due to emptiness, a theme difficult to understand. For example, I have laid my mala on the table, so it is there. The non-existence of the mala on the table has ceased, i.e., existence and non-existence, there-ness and non-there-ness, exclude each other. Either there is an existent or there is no existent, in this example, the mala is on the table.
As far as the relative and ultimate truths are concerned, we need to know that while things appear they are by nature empty and that because of being empty they appear. The two truths do not imply that before a student treads the path of the Buddhadharma there is total there-ness and emptiness gradually slips in during meditation or a Lama brings it along and distributes it to the crowd. Emptiness does not mean that a practitioner meditates, realizes emptiness at a certain stage, and after practice sessions needs to put things back into place in order to be able to function again. Things appear because they are empty of inherent existence, therefore emptiness and clarity are not in opposition, rather they are one. Understanding the indivisibility of emptiness and clarity is the supreme view. If a student investigates how things are, he or she non-mistakenly comes to know that all phenomena are empty of inherent, self-supporting existence. Clinging to an analytical understanding of emptiness brings the danger of straying into an intellectual understanding that nothing exists.
I want everyone to know that emptiness is a central theme in Lord Buddha’s instructions and distinguishes it from other religions. In contrast to other religions, belief is of no relevance in Buddhism, rather Buddhism taught us to ascertain that all appearances are there since they are by nature empty of inherent existence. It is not the case that an opinion can become a belief in Buddhism, that Vajrayana once originated in Tibet, and is a religion one is now free to blindly follow. It is not the case that one believes in the yidams employed in Tantric practices. We need to understand the indivisibility of emptiness and clarity, then we can recognize that all meditation practices employed are skillful means to realize the truth of the Buddha’s instructions. Knowing this, a practitioner can – wakefully aware – tread the path that Lord Buddha showed.http://www.rinpoche.com/teachings/gpf.htm
We keep trying to tie knots in the vast, open sky, so we have something to hold onto to.