Against The Stream ~ TRUTH

WE OFTEN HEAR TALK about Truth. Most religions claim that they—each of them, exclusively—possess Truth (otherwise how could they justify their existence, and get and keep devotees?) But who can demonstrate It? When questioned about It, they insist that we must believe before we can see It.

The myriad sects of Christianity are in conflict not only with non-Christians, but even among themselves about their ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways. The Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Methodists, etc., etc., all claim that they alone are right and have Truth (else why would there be so many sects?), while others do not. But who is right? Are they all right, or are they all wrong? Are they partly right or partly wrong? How can we know? Perhaps we can know by trying to find out what is right, instead of who is right.

First of all, Truth must be universal, otherwise it wouldn’t be Truth, would it? For example, fire is hot and water is wet; they were so before, they are so now, and they will be so; no-one can dispute this. Secondly, being all-pervasive and vast, it cannot be grasped and monopolized by any grubby little hands; nor can extremely-limited minds—like frogs in a well—claim it, like a material possession. It is far beyond anything we can refer to by the possessive ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ terms. No boxes, barriers, walls or names can hold it. The word ‘Truth’, likewise, is not Truth.

What did the Buddha say about Truth? He explained how all things, from a pebble to the greatest star in this incomprehensible Universe, are subject to laws. The greatest and all-inclusive of these laws is that of Cause-and-Effect. There is nothing—animate or inanimate—outside this Law. It follows that—as modern science has demonstrated—everything is in a state of flux, of becoming other than it is.

There are no accidents—things that happen by themselves—in the Universe; everything is the result of causes—innumerable causes. Think of a grain of sand and what is involved in its being: one thing leads to another in a chain-like connection; it’s not simply a sand-grain. If you try to trace its origins, you will find the whole Universe involved in it, and still not get to its beginning. Buddhism says that the Universe can be found in a grain of sand—and in everything else, too!

This means everything is interconnected, and that, somehow, everything depends upon everything else, though we usually do not see this, as it requires deep insight, penetrating and clear. We may compare the Universe to a fishing-net: pick up a single knot, and you pick up the whole net. Everything is a part—great or small—of the Whole, being composed of atoms which, in turn, are composed of even smaller particles—electrons, protons, neutrons—that are in constant motion. Therefore, what we call ‘solid matter’ is not solid at all, but merely energy; nothing exists in and by itself, and therefore, everything is devoid of self.

This, however, is something that most people do not want at all; what they want is something they can hold onto, possess, and claim as ‘mine, not yours’; they wish to be able to exclude others from their Truth; hence the existence of so many theories about Truth.

Whether we know it or not, like it or not, believe it or not, is immaterial; we are all subject to the laws, being swept inexorably onwards, becoming something else. Moreover, these laws are not holy or sacred; prayer to them for mercy or forgiveness will change nothing; there will be no answer. When we understand about these laws and learn how to use them, to work with them instead of against them, we will know how to bring some direction into our lives; we will have our hands on the steering-wheel.

To see the working of these laws does not require belief at all, because it is always going on in and around us, non-stop. If we choose to ignore it—as most of us do—and pretend it is otherwise, that is not the fault of what is there, but of our own immaturity.

About the numerous people who claim to have found Truth (or who talk about God), the Buddha gave an illustration; He said: "Suppose there is a man who says he loves the most beautiful woman in the world, but who, when asked her name, says he doesn’t know. When further questioned as to where she lives, who her parents are, her age, the color of her hair and skin, etc., he also says he doesn’t know. From such questions and answers, therefore, it is revealed that the man who says he loves he most beautiful woman in the world, without as much as having seen her, or knowing anything about her, is just talking nonsense".

People suppose much, but have little, if any, knowledge of the things they suppose about. What is written in a book, or in books as high as a mountain, can never be conclusive evidence about Truth, as Truth must be experienced directly, by the individual himself. Zen, the apex of Buddhism, teaches: "No reliance upon scriptures or external authority, but a direct seeing into the heart of man!" Anyone can write a book—just look at this one!—but does that mean its contents are true?

This is the way Buddhism approaches life: by observation of the way things are, not by belief or supposition. It makes no attempt to explain the origin of things, and smiles at those who do, for no-one knows, nor ever can know. Moreover, it regards attempts to find out as useless and a waste of time, as a first beginning of things is not to be seen. The end of something is always the beginning of something else, one thing changes into another, and therefore there really is no beginning or end of anything. Since the past has gone, and the only time there ever is NOW, emphasis is laid on LIVING—not just existing—in the Present.

The search for Truth is funny and paradoxical. It is like taking a candle to search for the Sun. Is it necessary to search for the Sun? Does not the Sun shine whether we search for it or not? Why do we make mysteries out of everything? Truth is not an idea; ideas about Truth are not Truth. Everyone has ideas about Truth—crude or sophisticated—but they are usually subjective, self-centered imaginings.

Truth must be omnipresent, in everything, but we do not see it because we look for it in the wrong way—because, in fact, we are absent. Our minds are usually somewhere else than in the present, dreaming about the past or the future, worrying about Truth or Enlightenment, Heaven or Hell. And perhaps we do not want to see Truth, as it might not conform to our ideas about It. So we turn away, and look for other truths, and others, and others, and we never find the Real.



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