The Two Truths

The two truths, the absolute and relative truths, which we speak of in Buddhist pedagogy, are a linguistic skilfull means to help teach, actually, the opposite. We want to be able to express “oneness” and “twoness” as a complete dynamic happening in the present moment. However we try to speak of this, we end up speaking dualistic as language is fundamentally dualistic. The Prajna Paramita sutras language this form is emptiness and emptiness is form. To prevent us from getting too hung up on oneness however, Dogen articulates an honoring of differentiation when he adds to this dialogue, form is form and emptiness is emptiness.

In studying Huineng’s Platform sutra, we begin to see how these ideas can actually manifest themselves in our practice. Our practice in Our Life. Huineng’s says, “Just act with a direct mind and have no clinging attachments to anything…. Then the Way will become fluid and free-flowing.” Living this idea, we can easily moving back and forth between the one and the many and its wholeness. Like a leaf falling from a tree, first you see the front side of the leaf and then the back side and yet the leaf is one whole piece. The front and back is actually a whole.

Later in the Platform Sutra , Huineng teaches about the two absorptions (concentrations). 

  1. Absorption in oneness
  2. Absorption in unified activity

Huineng is quoted as saying: 

“Good friends, absorption in one practice means always acting with a unified, direct mind in all situation, no matter what you are doing. The direct mind is the site of enlightenment.” 

This is a very direct instruction. When you are absorbed in oneness or non-differentiated space, you are simply absorbed in that. When you are in activity, you are simply absorbed in that. The simplicity of this concentration means that you fluidly can go back and forth from zazen to ordinary life in direct concentration.

A concentrated and stable mind is the mind that is capable of seeing no-self and staying with immediacy. It is the mind that can see through our ego-centricity.
A dispersed and unstable mind is always encouraging our false sense of a centralized self by digressing to stories and interpretations and then, clinging to them. We do have stories and karma because form is form and we take care of them through a direct mind that is not based on a separate self. We take care of them through concentration in unified activity in the Now.

Our practice is to merge subject and object and to be stably concentrated in what ever is the appearance of the moment. Whether it is sitting zazen in a very complete stillness or driving the kids to school our absorption is the site of enlightenment.