The Absolute and the Relative
of Daily Life
By Yin Zhi Shakya
from the Spanish by Zhèng chún (Fernando Valencia) from Colombia,
It was a Sunday and since the day was beautiful, my husband
and I decided to go for a drive. We thought we'd visit a recently opened Book
Fair at which different vendors were exhibiting paintings, assorted art objects,
and of course, books. So we got into the car and drove up to Coconut Grove where
the Fair was being held. After we parked, we strolled through streets that had
been temporarily closed to automobile traffic. The vendors had decorated their
stalls and kiosks in colorful pennants that sparkled in the sun as they trembled
in the gentle January breezes.
Many people crowded the fairgrounds. We kept
bumping into one another as we stopped to turn and get a closer look at the items
for sale by a particular vendor. Something displayed in a little art gallery caught
my eye. Among the paintings and sculpture sat a small canvas, about 12 by 18 inches
in size. On an absolutely white background was painted an almost imperceptible
gray silhouette of a person whose head was facing downwards. Nothing more. Its
title, "The Bodhisattva."
My husband said, "I don't understand,
what is a Bodhisattva?"
Although I've been married for forty-two years
and for most of these years I've been a Buddhist, it doesn't mean that my husband
professes the same religion as I or that he sees things from my point of view.
We've always respected each other's ways of looking at life; and tolerance, on
both parts, has always been present in our relationship. As far as Buddhism is
concerned, I've never had the attitude that my opinion is absolute and his is
relative. When Buddhism is truly comprehended, the absolute and the relative can
be seen to exist in the same place and, even more, to be one and the same.
told him that 'Bodhisattva' a Sanskrit word that technically translates as "enlightenment
being" - is commonly used to indicate people who have an awakened conscience
and possess "the Spirit of the Way." The Spirit of the Way is realized
when we behave respectfully, when we feel love and consideration for all beings,
universally, and without disdain.
My husband wanted to know more about the
Way. So as we stared into the strange painting, I explained that the "Way"
or the "Ultimate Way" is an expedient a resource, a technique, a medium;
and the participants who follow it accept the teachings and are sustained by them.
The Buddha taught that this expedient originates in every person as the inspiration
that leads to enlightenment. This is the motivation to realize the non-created
truth and to achieve the unsurpassable enlightenment.
The Buddha, in The Diamond
Sutra, says that numerous false thoughts are contained within the nature of all
living beings. These false thoughts, I would say, arise from looking at things
in the material world, including ourselves, from relative points of view. He continues
to say that all living beings have their Buddha-nature obscured by the ceaseless
appearance and disappearance of false thoughts, and until they can look beyond
this, they cannot attain freedom. If anyone can truly and correctly practice the
unfixated, formless practice of prajnaparamita as presented in The Diamond Sutra
at each moment a thought arises - he or she will realize that the worldly tasks
of false thoughts are non other than the pure nature of reality.
my explanation, "As I told you before, the relative and the absolute are
the same and they are the unity. 'When there are no worldly tasks in the mind,
then this is buddha-universe; if there are worldly tasks in the mind, this is
the universe of the ordinary beings.'"
He said, "Oh! This is too
much for me. Explain it to someone else who can understand it better" and
added, "let's keep walking, I want to buy a book to read tonight."
kept silent for I didn't want to insist on something that is, that it is always
valid, and that doesn't need to be seen from the outside: the pure nature of reality.
What was there to explain? Nothing. The truth is, and nothing more. The pure nature
of reality was the whole, the unity; and therefore, the tasks or mundane toils
were not necessary to comprehend "The Truth." When there are no worldly
tasks in the mind, good or bad, that is to say when there is no duality and the
correct and the incorrect don't exist, then you can experience constant bliss.
When the worldly tasks do exist, the consequences are the suffering and the happiness,
the coming and going, the good and the evil. When you accept and sustain these
teachings, the teachings of Prajnaparamita, the veil (of the mind) lifts up and
you can see... Therefore everything is and everything is not. In simple common
words, everything is absolute and relative at the same time. It's only the mind
activating itself in each mode. Only the mind.
Zen´s Master Hsuan Chuen
of Yung Chia, stated in his "Song of Enlightenment":
is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy,
not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is Buddha-nature itself;
empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.
When the Dharma body awakens
There is nothing at all.
The source of our self-nature
the Buddha of innocent truth.
Mental and physical reactions come and go
clouds in the empty sky;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance appear and disappear
bubbles on the surface of the sea.
When we realize actuality,
There is no
distinction between mind and thing
And the path to hell instantly vanishes.
this is a lie to fool the world,
My tongue may be cut out forever".
people activate their mind living in the form, in the self, in the person, in
the sound, in the smell, etc
they live in duality and therefore they allow
sensations of rejection and attraction towards the objects by the six senses.
The six senses are the five "sensory" ones and also the 'sense' of thought.
Because of the weakness of activating the mind on such 'forms', these persons
create innumerable attachments, habits that do not allow them to see their own
Buddha nature. As a matter of fact, they often have no way of coming out of that
duality, of freeing themselves. As the Buddha has said, "All of these [attachments]
are due to the fixation of the mind on forms."
We kept on walking, my
husband looking for books to read, and I meditating inwardly on all that had been
"Form is emptiness, emptiness is not different from form,"
Avalokitesvara said in The Heart Sutra of the Prajnaparamita. "Nothing appears
and disappears, nor pure or impure, nor increases or decreases." Since there
is nothing to achieve or to obtain, we should strive to live according to the
Great Wisdom, the Prajnaparamita.
I know, I had said to myself, thinking about
the Prajnaparamita, that if I practice constantly, from moment to moment, following
what The Diamond Sutra states, that is, by imagining and by really knowing that
all things are empty (form is empty), without holding on to my attachments and
being constantly alert and observant, without negligence or giving up, I will
improve from moment to moment. That is living according to the Prajnaparamita.
If you know the truth, you have to live according to it; if you don't do it, it's
because you doubt it, or because you've taken it lightly, and if that's the case,
it's because you don't truly know it. I remembered what D.T. Suzuki once said,
"Zen is not a pastime, but the most serious task in life".
I heard a voice calling, "What are you thinking about? Are you here on earth?"
It was my husband. When I turned and looked at him, he added, "You're walking
around like a robot. Have you seen these books? Do you want to buy a few?"
"No", I answered, "and if you are finished choosing your books,
we can leave. I have an idea I want to write about." We paid for my husband's
books, headed back to the car and drove directly home to write what I am now communicating
to you all. Oh
Zen is wonderful!
Then it was five o'clock and time to
Rev. Yin Zhi Shakya
February 8, 2002