Buddhism and transcendence

- through Henry Oudin

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On the way to the truth

Spirituality often evokes a qualitative difference with the simple training of the mind, for example, because it opens up to something that transcends the limitations of the individual. It is supposed to take us to a larger dimension, free from our conditioning. The great spiritual traditions differ in how they view this transcendence. The main distinction is of course between theistic religions and non-theistic traditions. For a non-theistic tradition, such as Buddhism or Jainism, this transcendence is that of the ultimate truth which is beyond all mental fabrications and deceptive illusions of conventional truth.

From the perspective of Buddhism, discursive thought and conceptual elaborations are incapable of apprehending ultimate reality because this transcends discursive thought. This does not mean, however, that the ultimate truth is an unfathomable and unattainable mystery. It is possible to experience this directly by resting in the fundamental, non-dual and luminous nature of consciousness.

If I have understood correctly, in the case of theistic religions, the mystery of God forever eludes human beings. In the case of Buddhism, one can speak of a form of mystery, the ultimate nature cannot be fully described by words, images or symbols. However, it is not a mystery that remains forever out of reach. By progressing along the spiritual path, one can ultimately directly experience the basic nature of mind and absolute truth. This is a mode of experience that is free from subject-object duality. It is a pure mode of knowing, a truth that the Buddha himself described after his enlightenment as "deep, peaceful, luminous, free from concepts and uncompounded." The Buddha then remained silent for forty-nine days, as he thought this truth was too deep for most sentient beings to understand. It was his ultimate teaching and he could have stopped there. But, in order to guide sentient beings towards this truth, he finally agreed to transmit his knowledge in a gradual and conventional way, in order to guide sentient beings, step by step, towards the ultimate truth.

"He who realized"

Relative, or conventional, truth corresponds to our empirical experience of the world, to the ordinary way in which we apprehend it, that is, by attributing to things an objective reality. For Buddhism, this perception is misleading. Ultimately, we come to understand that phenomena are devoid of their own existence.

Buddhism refutes the existence of independent entities existing autonomously. It is only in relation and dependence on other factors that an event can occur. This notion of interdependence is synonymous with the emptiness of self-existence. This term does not indicate a nihilistic denial of the world of phenomena, but the absence of autonomous entities.

“From a mixture of shadows and lights, we have moved to a state where there is no longer the slightest gray area. »

The ultimate truth is beyond the distinctions between being and non-being, one and many, coming and going, etc. What is more, the two truths, relative and ultimate, are inseparable: relative truth corresponds to the manifestation of phenomena; ultimate truth to their own emptiness of existence.

Transcending the mind conditioned by ignorance is probably what one might call “spirituality” in Buddhism. It is a fundamentally liberating process. The Sanskrit word "buddha" means "one who has realized", one who has integrated the truth. The word by which Buddha is translated into Tibetan, "blood", is composed of two syllables: "blood" means that he "dispelled" all that obscures knowledge, while "guie" indicates that he "developed all qualities, like a fully blossomed lotus. From a mixture of shadows and lights, we have moved to a state where there is no longer the slightest gray area. The path leading to this spiritual realization is certainly long, but it is accessible to all.

See the sky through the eye of a needle

In general, we consider that we progress along a continuum that leads from ignorance to knowledge, from suffering to liberation from the causes of suffering. But it can also happen that certain aspects of knowledge arise suddenly, like a ripe fruit falling off the branch. One can thus have openings on the ultimate nature of things, which are not yet this ultimate reality, but which are in harmony with it, just as a painting representing a candle represents in a correct way the aspect of a real candle. We can therefore have, on the way, flashes of understanding which are in harmony with the nature of the Buddha, present in each of us, without being equivalent to the full realization of this nature.

As we strive to progress along the spiritual path, we may feel we have a better understanding of the nature of our mind. The spiritual masters tell us that it is like the sky seen through the eye of a needle. It is indeed the real sky, but a very small part of its immensity. Then, little by little, this understanding becomes vast and luminous. These advances are only possible because the Buddha nature is present in us. If it weren't, we wouldn't get anywhere, just like a plastic seed will never give a flower.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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