Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

2 truths


Published on

Published in: Spiritual
  • Hello there! Get Your Professional Job-Winning Resume Here!
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

2 truths

  1. 1. THE TWO TRUTHS IN BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY KHENPO MIGMAR TSERING IN CANBERRAToday, we will deal with the significance of the two truths inBuddhist philosophy. This is connected with all theteachings of the Buddha which can be divided into twocategories, that of the relative truth and that of the ultimatetruth. For example, with respect to the Four Noble Truths,the first two and the last one together are considered as therelative truth, ( that is, the truth of suffering, the truth of theorigin of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to thecessation of suffering.)Whereas, the third truth, the truth of the cessation ofsuffering is considered the ultimate truth. So before one isable to come to the realisation of ultimate truth, it isnecessary to go through the different levels of relative truth,as well as the practices concerned with this.From the point of view of the Madhyamika school ofthought, the nature of the two truths is established right fromthe beginning. The two truths serve as the condition forwhat we formulate and contemplate in the beginning of ourpractice. This means that before we are able to incorporatethe understanding of the two truths into our practice, wehave to engage in the study of what is actually meant byrelative and ultimate truth.In terms of how phenomena appear to the general mind, theyexists in two ways. This refers to firstly, the mind which isnot of a realised nature, has not reached the level oftranscendental knowledge, which is considered as therelative truth and then secondly, the mind when it reachesthe level of transcendental knowledge, which is consideredas the ultimate truth. So there is, in every phenomenon, (i)the ultimate nature and (ii) the appearance, (or the relative 1
  2. 2. nature), of that phenomenon. This does not mean that, infact, there are two natures, two substances, which existindependently, as their own objects, but because a particularthing appears in two ways to two different types of mind,then the levels of ultimate and relative truth are established.So, in the course of ones practice, there will be directcontact and study, as well as the putting into practice of therelative nature of things and then, the realisation of theultimate nature of that particular thing.According to the Madhyamika philosophy, every point ofstudy is understood or explained on the basis of what iscalled the Middle Way , (Madhyamika). This is alwaysunderstood and explained as the middle stance, not fallinginto any of the extremes. When it comes to the explanationof the two truths, then the explanation of the two truths isalso based on this idea of a middle way.This means that the establishment of relative truth, theestablishment of the ultimate truth and the unity, orcombination of these two truths are all based on this middleway.The explanation of relative truth through other modes ofthought may not be what is called the middle way. Forexample, other philosophical schools of thought, includingsome other Buddhist schools of thought, postulate that in therelative truth there exists an inherent nature of externalphenomena or, some say the mind has an inherent nature,(the mind exists inherently and external phenomena do not.)According to the Madhyamika viewpoint, whether both themind and phenomena or just the mind alone is considered asinherently existing, then as long as something is accepted aspossessing an inherent nature,one cannot have theunderstanding of the middle way as far as relative truth isconcerned, because this idea of the relative truth will be 2
  3. 3. aligned to either the extreme of existence, (eternalism), or tothe extreme of non-existence, (nihilism).For example, when one accepts a phenomenon, say a table,as truly existent and if this true existence of the table isconsidered as the relative truth, then because it is believed toexist as a truly existent entity, this cannot be sustained fromthe point of view of observed reality. There will be no roomfor change, either long term or momentary changes in thetable. This idea of considering the table as truly existent isknown as the view of the extreme of existence, that is, theextreme of eternalism, because something which existsinherently is not subject to any kind of change. The idea ofinherent existence is that it always remains so. That it willalways be the nature of that particular thing, so since therewill not be any change, since it cannot be explained asdepending on anything, then one will have an idea of thatthing as having a permanent nature. So as a result of this,this particular idea of relative truth will become the extremeof eternalism. This is considered a false view with regard tothe explanation of relative truth.Let us consider the situation where a particular phenomenais accepted as inherently existent initially and then, that itwill cease at a later point in time, from the viewpoint of theMadhyamika.Now, as the two truths are based on different levels of mind, first let us consider what is experienced from the point ofview of the ordinary, worldly mind.As one is still in the beginning of the process, or thebeginning of the practice, then whatever appears to thisworldly mind is to be established and accepted as therelative truth. 3
  4. 4. In the case of the relationship between a cause and a result,then the result is said to arise by depending on its cause.However, it is not that the cause has completely come to anend or inherently ceased after the arising of this phenomena.This establishes that there is no notion of the non-existenceof the cause. This means that when a result arises, we donot say that the cause has completely become extinct andthat there is nothing left of the cause in the result.So,the cause is not accepted as being either non-existent orexistent at the time of the result.In the next moment, since it is subject to momentarychanges, the cause does not remain exactly the same at thetime of the result.As it does not remain the same, then the idea of a cause isnot aligned to the extreme of existence, (eternalism), or theextreme of non-existence, (nihilism).On the basis of this one particular phenomenum, one is thenable to explain it from the point of the middle way, withoutbeing aligned to any of these two extremes.Now this is with regard to the relationship of two things,cause and result. If one was to explain this line of reasoningon the basis of one entity, or one substance, then stating thata substance does not arise without depending on its causeand condition is the view which is not aligned to the extremeof existence, (eternalism).Whereas stating that it has arisen as a result of dependence,in such a manner as it will change, it will not remain thesame in the next moment, is looking at the thing from the 4
  5. 5. view of not aligning to the extreme of non-existence,(nihilism).The idea that a thing arises as a result of cause andconditions is not having the view of the extreme of nihilism.That it is subject to change is the view which is not alignedto the extreme of eternalism.So every single phenomenum, as well as every collection ofphenomena in the relative truth is explained or understoodon the basis of this middle way.All the various aspects of the relative truth are also to beunderstood from the point of view of the middle way.Similarly, when it comes to ultimate truth then, sinceultimate truth is established as a state of being free from allthe four extremes, then one has to again rely on this line ofreasoning.For example, when it comes to explaining the ultimatenature of a table, then the view of looking at , or grasping the table as something existent, non-existent, both or neither,are all considered as false notions because the ultimatenature of the table does not remain in any form of existenceor non-existence.As the ultimate nature of the table is free from existence,then the view of ultimate truth is free from the extreme ofeternalism. As it is also not non-existent, then the view ofultimate truth is free from the idea of the extreme ofnihilism. So the explanation of the ultimate truth is alsobased on the middle way, in which both extremes areavoided.Then, when it comes to the explanation of the combinationof the two truths in terms of the the middle way, thenbecause there are phenomena in the relative truth and theseare accepted on a relative level, 5
  6. 6. the viewpoint of the Madhyamika with respect to things isnot aligned to the extreme of nihilism. Even though we talkabout all phenomena not existing in any way, which meansthey have the ultimate nature of emptiness, this establishingeverything as empty of inherent existence does not meanthat from the beginning when one is within the worldlymind, in the process of practice, that one has to completelynegate everything which appears, because there is thisrelative truth which is to be used, which one has to take intoaccount in order to understand and realise the ultimate truth,to gain the complete realisation which is a result ofunderstanding both truths.Since relative truth cannot be avoided or negated justbecause something possesses this ultimate nature, thenphenomena do exist in the relative truth within theparameters of dependent arising.Either a phenomenum is established as something originatedby depending on a cause, or it is imputed as depending onother conditions. When we establish what is called acompounded thing, such as a table or a rice sprout, thenthese are established as existent in relative truth becausethey have originated by depending on causes. The idea ofthe existence of a particular thing, a rice sprout in this case,is based on dependence, but a dependence originated fromcause and conditions.Whereas, when we establish what is called anuncompounded thing, such as space, this may notneccesarily be established as originating from cause andconditions, but is established on the basis of having beenimputed by depending on other conditions. 6
  7. 7. Not every phenomenon in relative truth is considered as anoriginated phenomena, as a compounded thing which is aproduct and has an impermanent nature.There are also phenomena which we have to explain on thebasis of permanence, which are what are calleduncompounded things. These cannot be explained on thebasis of dependent origination, of having originated bydepending on causes and conditions, but are established asexistent in the relative truth because they are imputed asexistent by depending on other factors.For example, the uncompounded phenomenon of space isconsidered as existent in the relative truth as the mind hasimputed something, which is a state of the negation of form.This has been imputed as space.Although space does not originate from any cause andcondition, its existence is based on the dependence on otherconditions because the mind has imputed it as being so.So generally, since all phenomena in relative truth can beestablished on this basis, that is, things do exist in therelative truth, then the nature of phenomena is not aligned tothe extreme of nihilism.Now with regards to the ultimate truth, when we analysethese same phenomena which exist in the relative truth, theycannot be established as truly existent since the ultimatenature of these very phenomena is to be understood as astate free from all conceptual elaborations, free from allextremes.This understanding is on the basis of the view which is freefrom the extreme of eternalism.Since one accepts all things as they appear in the relativetruth, ones understanding of things, or one’s viewpoint isnot aligned to the extreme of nihilism. Since one does not 7
  8. 8. accept anything as inherently existent, which means oneviews all things as being interdependent, onesunderstanding or viewpoint is not aligned to the extreme ofeternalism,(or existence).So when one is engaged in the study of the two truths, thenthe very foundation of this is to be understood on the basisof the viewpoint of this middle way.When the actual nature of the relative truth is explained,then it can be understood on two levels. Whatever appearsto the worldly mind is considered as a relative truth, buteven to this worldly mind there are things which appear astrue and things which appear as false. So we divide therelative truth into the perfect relative truth and false relativetruth.For example, the phenomena which are grasped or whichbecome objects of unmistaken consciousness, like a visualform which is seen by unmistaken eye consciousness, isconsidered as aperfect relative truth. It is a phenomenon which exists as itappears to the worldly mind.However, if the phenomena that is grasped is a visual formwhich is seen by a mistaken eye consciousness, it isclassified as false relative truth. For example, if the eye seessomething which is actually white but is seen as yellowbecause of the eye function being defective due to an illness,then that visual form is also in the relative truth, it alsoappears, but because it is not considered as true in thegeneral worldly mind, it is considered as false relative truth.These false appearances to the faulty or defectiveconsciousness is also relative truth, but it is not consideredas perfect relative truth. 8
  9. 9. In the false relative truth we also include all those falsenotions which are created by different philosophical ideas,as there are many different ideas with respect to particularthings. For example, let us take the example of a table,according to the Vaibashika school, what appears as a tableis an actual table which is an external thing, having nothingto do with the mind, which exists in its own way as itappears. However, according to the Sautantrika school oflogic, that table appears as external, but it is not the actualexternal table, it is only the appearance of another externalthing, which causes the generation of the eye consciousness,which in turn will then have an image of that thing. In otherwords what is now seen by the eye as a table is only theimage of the mind which is created by the actual externaltable. So the table is not considered as a completely externalthing. It is a part of the mind which appears in an externalway.Now according to the Yogacarya school, as far as it isviewed as part of the mind, it is the same as the Sautantrikaschool, the difference being that the Sautantrika schoolacccepts another external thing besides what appears now.What appears is a simultaneous thing with the eyeconsciousness, but the actual external object is the onewhich existed one moment before, which functions as acause, as a result of which the eye consciousness isproduced. Then this eye consciousness comes into directcontact with the present appearance but not the actualexternal thing. So the difference is that they believe in theexistence of an external thing, though it is not what appearsnow to the eye consciousnesssThe Yogacarya school does not accept any external thing, inany form what so ever. So what appears now is the image 9
  10. 10. of the mind and there is nothing external other than that. Sotheir notion of the table is that it is completely an image orprojection of the mind.According to the Madhyamika school of thought, there is astage where we establish things as images of the mind, butin the ultimate analysis, this is not the final explanation, it isalso refuted and then one proceeds further. But in therelative case, what is accepted by Madhyamika is that thistable is an external thing because it appears so to the worldlymind and it is an external thing which arises as a result of itscauses and conditions. So it is accepted or understood as adependent arising, as an external thing.So these different understandings with respect to theidentification of a table in the relative truth, are there. In thesame way, there are many other ideologies which havedifferent notions with respect to what a table really is. Sinceall these ideologies are not in agreement with the actual waythe thing manifests, with the actual nature of the thing, thenthese are considered false, as the false relative truth.Theunderstanding of the table as an image of the mind, butaccepting that there is another table which is actuallyexternal and which does not appear to the eyeconsciousness, is a false notion according to Madhyamika.So this false idea is also a relative form, it also is aphenomenon in the relative truth. We have two types offalse relative truth: apparent false relative truth, which arethe false appearances with respect to the five senseconsciousnesses, and then the imputed false relative truth,which is the false object or false ideas imputed by the mindconsciousness, by the conceptual thought of the mindconsciousness. This is how relative truth is understoodaccording to the Madhyamika school. 10
  11. 11. When it comes to the ultimate state, as far as studying orlearning of the ultimate truth is concerned, in fact the actualdefinition of the ultimate truth is the state of being free fromall types of extremes or conceptual elaborations. There canbe two versions of this kind of ultimate truth, one which is amental image, which is formed in the conceptual mind of alower practitioner, of an ordinary person and then the actualultimate truth, which becomes an object of transcendental,ultimate and final knowledge.The first level of this is called the ultimate truth ofexpression, or the expressible ultimate truth. When it comesto explaining the ultimate truth to another person, then thatwhich is explained by the teacher to their student is not thefinal ultimate truth which is understood directly bytranscendental knowledge, as, in the case of learning fromanother person, it is explained through conceptual mind, soit cannot be the ultimate truth of the object of transcendentalknowledge. So it is not the actual ultimate truth which isunderstood directly by the transcendental knowledge, whichis called the ultimate truth of realisation. When it comesto the ultimate truth of realisation, then that particularultimate truth cannot be taught in a direct way because theunderstanding cannot be transferred to the mind of anotherperson. There is no way in which one can show it tosomeone in an ordinary way, because ultimate truth is thestate free from all conceptual elaborations.When, in an ordinary way it is explained to one, then there isa mental image or form of this ultimate truth. For example,when we examine a particular phenomena and come to theconclusion that it is free from existence, from non-existence, from both and from neither, then we know that it 11
  12. 12. is a state of being free from all the four extremes. The objectof this understanding is also considered an ultimate truth,but it is not the actual ultimate truth, but only a form ofultimate truth which is used when it is expressed to anotherperson. So it is an object of expression and of thought, so itis called the object of nomination, which means theexpression through words and then grasping through theconceptual mind.In the beginning one cannot have a direct contact with thisactual ultimate truth of realisation,one can only approach it through the ultimate truth ofexpression. So it is on this basis that the differentphilosophical reasonings are mentioned in the texts to helpto establish the ultimate truth of phenomena and one pursuesthis understanding of the ultimate truth through theconceptual mind, by depending on these differentreasonings. One’s understanding of the ultimate truth in thisconceptual way will become better and better and finallythere will be a direct realisation of the ultimate truth. Theultimate truth of expression, which is the basis on which anexplanation of ultimate truth is given is necessary as afoundation and with regards to one who is on the path ofpractice, it is called the middle way of foundation. Thisexplanation is in terms of dividing the practices into threesections of 1)ground or foundation,2) path and 3) result orfruition, also sometimes described as 1) view ,2) meditation and 3) action.The actual understanding of the two truths as free from twoextremes of eternalism and nihilism, is the understanding ofthe middle way of foundation. When one has established thismiddle way of foundation, then the next step, which is againlinked with the two truths, is the actual practice, which is 12
  13. 13. also explained on the basis of middle way, and is called themiddle way of the path or the middle path. This is theunderstanding of the two truths in terms of the variouspractices of method.In other words, the two practices of wisdom,(prajna) andmethod, (upaya) are considered as the middle path or themiddle way with respect to path. The practice of thedevelopment of wisdom includes the practice ofmeditation,divided into single-pointedness or calm-abidingmeditation,(shamatha) and insight meditation,(vippashyana)or the understanding of the ultimate truth of emptiness.The understanding as far as foundation is concerned is onlya conceptual understanding of the two truths. Since this isnot enough for a practitioner, then what one needs is toattain transcendental knowledge or the wisdom which canhave a direct realisation of the ultimate truth, a wisdomwhich can have a complete understanding of the relativetruth as well as the final direct realisation of the ultimatetruth. In order to generate that kind of wisdom, practice isneeded and this is called the practice of generating wisdomor the accumulation of wisdom.As the practice in the formof the path includes these two, the practices of wisdom andmethod are in fact parallel and the same as the twoaccumulations of wisdom and merit.The accumulation of wisdom requires the practices of one-pointed absorption,(shamata) and transcendental knowledgeor wisdom,(vippashyana). To attain these, one has to engagein the practice of mind training, the practices which requirecontrolling the mind, as a result of which one will then cometo the point of one-pointed concentration in the mind.After this is attained, one can place one’s mind on any typeof object one-pointedly and since one has this characteristic 13
  14. 14. of one-pointed concentration, whatever is concentrated onwill become perfectly concentrated on. Then, one’s one-pointed concentration can use the ultimate truth as an object.Now, the point should be made that one-pointedconcentration may have any kind of object as the subject ofattention, a table, or any other relative phenomenon, forinstance. But since, in terms of real lasting benefit, there isno purpose in focussing one’s mind one-pointedly on anyrelative object, the purpose being to attain some realisation,one will naturally place one’s mind on the ultimate truth asthe object of meditation. This practise of placing one’s mindone-pointedly on the ultimate truth is the practice of theperfection of wisdom, the accumulation of wisdom. Thiswill continue in the course of one’s practice at the differentlevels of realisation, the different levels of the paths.At the same time, one also has to engage in the path of theaccumulation of merit, which means the practice of themethod aspect and this includes dealing with the relativetruth. Even though, as it was explained earlier, the relativetruth is as it appears to the worldly mind, which may be anunmistaken or undeluded mind, but also may be a deludedmind, it can still be used. This very mind, as well as theappearances to that mind, can be used as a form of practiceto help in the realisation of ultimate enlightenment. This isthe reasoning why the practitioner engages in the practicesof loving kindness, compassion and the generation ofbodhicitta.This is the reason that the relative truth is considered as ameans for understanding the ultimate truth. It is said byAcharya Chandrakirti in his Madhyamika Avatara that thenominal truth, or to be precise, the perfect relative truth,serves as a means for attaining the understanding of ultimatetruth. This means that one needs to engage in the practices 14
  15. 15. related to the nominal truth, such as the practice of lovingkindness, compassion and the generation of bodhicitta. Thisis especially necessary in the course of Mahayana practice.As the ultimate purpose of the Mahayana practitioner is notjust to have a direct understanding of the ultimate truthalone, ignoring all aspects of relative truth, but to have theunderstanding of the ultimate truth of all phenomena and tobenefit all sentient beings.By making every effort to benefit sentient beings, one willensure that when the result is finally attained, that this resultwill consist of both aspects of the truth, the ultimate and therelative.From the point of view of path, we have the twoaccumulations of wisdom and merit, which are explained onthe basis of the middle way. This means that through thecultivation of the accumulation of wisdom, one is notaligned to the extreme of eternalism and through one’saccumulation of practices,the accumulation of merit, one isnot aligned to the extreme of nihilism. In the practice of theaccumulation of merit, one accepts all phenomena as theyappear and then engages in the activities involving this veryrelative truth.This stance is very different from those ideologies whonegate appearances even in the relative truth and negatesuch things as past and the future lives, or from those whonegate anything which is not a direct object of one of thesense consciousnesses. Such ideologies state that whateveris not understood or known by an ordinary or deluded minddoes not exist, and this is clearly aligned to the extreme ofnihilism. However, if one is engaged in the practise of theaccumulation of merit, although one accepts the existence ofall appearances, now, all sentient beings become the object 15
  16. 16. of that practice through one’s practice of loving kindess,compassion and the generation of bodhicitta.In one attempts to familiarise oneself with these practices,there is always the opportunity of meditating on all sentientbeings and having a detailed approach with respect togenerating loving kindess and wishing happiness for allsentient beings, followed by the arising of compassion inwhich you do not wish suffering for all sentient beings. Soall these practices involve the existence or acceptance ofrelative truth, which is necessary for the achievement of theultimate result, which consists of the result of both thetruths. As in the foundation and in the path, the result alsoconsists of what is called the two bodies of enlightenedbeings, the truth body, (dharmakaya) and the form body,(rupakaya).This is the same as the division into the arupakaya and therupakaya, the former being the dharmakaya and the latterbeing the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya together.The truth body is one’s accu,ulated understanding, theaspect of transcendental knowledge, which is a state ofultimate abandonment, and is the result connected to theultimate truth.The form body, which has the thirty major and eighty minorsigns of an enlightened being, is the result of theaccumulation of merit, which is based on the relative truth.So, based on the knowledge or learning of relative truth,as afoundation, one can approach the ultimate truth. Then oneengages in the pratcice of the accumulation of wisdomduring the course of path, as a result of which one achievesthe result of the truth body,the transcendental result, theultimate transcendental knowledge of the enlightened being. 16
  17. 17. As a result of studying the relative truth as a foundation,then in the course of one’s path, one engages in the practiceof the accumulation of merit, as a result of which then theultimate result one achieves is the form body, by which theenlightened being manifests in many different emanations,to work for the sake of all sentient beings on a continualbasis. There is another form of practice, another level, inwhich a the practitioner gets rid of one’s personal sufferingsof one’s form and attains a certain level of realisation, butbecause it is not reinforced by a solid practice of theaccumulation of merit, as in the case of a Mahayanapractitioner, it cannot lead to the ultimate result.So , such an enlightened being may not be able to benefitother beings as a bodhisattva, as the ultimate enlightenedbeing would do. It is due to the fact that the accumulation ofmerit is lacking more in this particular case, that is, theaccumulation of wisdom is not complete as there is stillsomething which this particular enlightened being has notunderstood, so one’s accumulation of wisdom is notcomplete, in terms of in this case,the aspect of theaccumulation of merit.What we are referring to here, is that the practise of lovingkindness and compassion in which all sentient beings aretaken as the object of one’s meditation is not practised inthis category of practice that covers the the lower levels ofrealistion. So because of this lacking, the accumulation ofmerit which leads to the result will also be incomplete.There is another stage where it can be a level higher thanthis lower level of enlightenment, but also not the ultimate.This means that the final realisation or attainment of theresult depends on both accumulations which of coursedepend on the understanding or learning of the two truths as 17
  18. 18. a foundation. So, from the Madhyamika point of view, studyof two truths is used as a foundation and then these arerelated to the two accumulations which one engages induring practice, as a result of which the two aspects of theresult are attained.As a result of the final understanding of the ultimate truth,the enlightened mind of the enlightened being, in this case aBuddha, always remains in this understanding of theultimate truth, but because of one’s practice of theaccumulation of merit, the understanding of all relativephenomena is also concurrently existent, as a result of whicha Buddha can give teachings according to the differentlevels of minds of sentient beings. It is because thekowledge of both the truths has been acomplished that aBuddha can lead every type of sentient being throughdifferent means or different methods, because the path orpractice which a Buddha followed included the practice ofthe method and since this is the accumulation of merit,whichhas become the ultimate accumulation of merit, then as aresult of this one can display all types of methods and meansfor different levels of disciples.This is the explanation why the the teachings of the Buddha,the sutras taught by the Buddha, encapsulate many differenttypes of teachings, which are not meant for one particulartype of disciple or one particular level of mind, becausewhat is said in one sutra may not be appear to be inagreement with what is said in another sutra, on a relativelevel.The Buddha stated in one particular sutra, that he taught thedifferent approaches to the teachings for the sake of differentlevels of disciples. So for every level of mind of those whoare in search of the truth, there is an appropriate method, or 18
  19. 19. form of teaching to be found in the sutras. All thesemethods and means are ultimately ,of course, to assist in therealisation of the ultimate truth, but on a relative level, onehas to depend on these means and methods, one has toaccept and depend on the relative truth, on the appearancesor phenomena which appear to one in the relative truth.Q: Could you explain a little more how the view of theMadhyamika school looks at eternalism and nihilism ?Khenpo: Just by the act of recognising phenomena asdependent arising, that they arise from cause condition andresult, and not grasping onto things as being inherentlyexistent, then this is an understanding or a view ofphenomena which is not aligned to the two extremes ofeternalism or nihilism. The understanding of theMadhyamika viewpoint is that one looks at everything fromthe point of view of the middle way. One’s understandingand viewpoint should not be aligned to either of the twoextremes.If one accepts a phenomenon as inherentlyexistent, then one is aligned to the extreme of eternalism,(that is, existence) and there is no more extreme view ofexistence than this, of accepting something as truly existent.On the other hand, if one says that whatever appears to theworldly mind does not exist at all, if one negates theappearances of the world, then this is a view aligned to theextreme of nihilism, non-existence. However, theMadhyamika approach to the viewpoint of relative truth isthat it is dependent arising and as such,is free from bothextremes. By asserting that it is not accepted as trulyexistent, one is not aligned to the extreme of existence, butdue to the fact that something is accepted, that is, dependentarising, one is not also falling into the extreme of nhilism. 19
  20. 20. Q: Could you explain how I can approach understandingdependent arising in my everyday practice ?Khenpo: Well, the understanding of something asdependent arising will serve as a skillful means. You see,getting rid of grasping is not something that happensinstantly. It requires gradual practices, the process ofpractice. With respect to the different levels of mind, forthose who are very attached to the inherent existence ofthings, then the teaching that they do not exist inherentlywill help to get rid of that attachment and then thepractitioner can continue from there. Now, if one is attachedto the non-existence of mind, thinking that nothing existsultimately, then one is again attached to a particular stance,one is aligned to the other extreme of nihilism. One has torelinquish this grasping also and realise that it is not so.Through this process of reasoning one can come to theunderstanding of the ultimate state where one will know thatthere is nothing to grasp at, that it is beyond the grasping ofall samsaric conceptualisations or formulations.So it is a matter of the process. So the understanding ofinterdependent origination, (dependent arising) will help agreat deal as this is the very basis of the Madhyamika pointof view.Without having this understanding, nothing morecan be imputed as to the nature of phenomena.Emptiness is also imputed on this as we have what is calledthe ‘emptiness of emptiness ‘. There are different types ofemptiness mentioned in the texts. However, if one thinksthat what is called emptiness is inherently existent, then thisis also a false notion. This is a Vajrayana practise.The practice of Sutrayana and the practice of Vajrayana aredifferent means of getting to the same ultimateresult.Vajrayana is also a method which deals with the 20
  21. 21. relative truth. The various levels and different methods arethere to stimulate one’s realisation. Even in the ordinarysense there are different methods or different roads that onecan take to reach the same destination. For example, theremay be different roads leading to the same town. One cantake the circuitous route or the short cut to arrive at the sametown, but both roads are made of the same material. In thesame way the Vajrayana path, which involves thevisualisation of and meditation on particular deities, is also apractice in the form of the relative truth, it can also betermed the accumulation of merit. It is a faster method dueto many reasons which cannot be elaborated on here, so theresult of enlightenment is said to be attained in less time.This is why it is considered as the most superior of the manyskillful means, (Sanskrit;Upaya, Tibetan:Thabs) which areavailable to the practitioner. 21