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Engaging with Truth

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

Another goal that teachers like to hold up as important is Truth, and I have a few words to offer about that as well.

“No thought is true.”
— Ram Dass

It seems to me that Ram Dass is right about that, the contents of the mind are essentially concerned with the world or with other thoughts, and it is all impermanent. Lao Tzu was on this path as well, “the Tao that can be spoken is not the Tao.” It is tempting to think that the mind can produce thoughts which are true, such as ‘what goes up must come down’, but it’s all just play of the mind and the world.

If you regard the truth of our existence then I think the dhamma comes closest. There are areas of being where an education in the dhamma fundamentally changes the way you perceive things, whether they are of this world or another world. But even then they are still thoughts, subject to disappearing when the body dies.

Real, lasting Truths seem to me to be linked to being, not thinking.


  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2022

    In the ultimate sense, I think this is accurate. Words, ideas, etc. point to truth and can be more or less representative of it, but can never fully reflect it. Language has limits to what it can express, but it can be a good approximation to help us understand, like the finger pointing to the moon. Conventionally, we can speak more authoritatively about truth, e.g., 2 + 2 = 4 is true, 2 + 2 = 5 is false. But to speak of the ultimate truth of numbers and their inherent existence, we begin to run into problems via the limits of language, concepts, etc. Even the likes of Bertrand Russell had difficulty in formulating the logical foundation of mathematics and its ultimate truth. All attempts may point in the right direction, but they are not in themselves Truth. And I think I'd agree that, "Real, lasting Truths seem to me to be linked to being, not thinking," which is why I'm sympathetic to the Buddhist distinction between relative truth and ultimate truth—the former is the realm of human conventions, distinctions, etc., the latter is over and above us and yet we participate within in it (God, Nature, Dhamma, Tao, etc.).

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited November 2022

    I also think contextualizing it in terms of the Two Truths is closer to Buddhist understanding. Ultimately things are relative, but not everyway of building a bridge is equally valid.

    The path to walk contains both understandings. In the Tibetan Gelug school it is very emphasized that they aren't even really two things. The only way for the conventional world to exist is if it is empty, things need to flow and change. Discrete, solid things can't do that. And emptiness isn't some substrate below or behind the conventional that would still nonexist if the conventional world were gone. Emptiness is thought of more as a property of the conventional world. Its the experiential realization of this that brings enlightenment.

    The Kagyu and Nyingma do see it differently, that emptiness is more like @Jason describes. But the two views can be squared by saying that the Gelug view is an ontological understanding and the others are a phenomenological view.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    "No thought is true.”
    — Ram Dass

    When I see a statement like this it seems self contradictory to me. If that thought is true then how can that thought be true? So I tell myself it must be meant in a different way. Perhaps because thoughts are temporary and subject to change they can be considered unreal. I'm not sure that is the message because that supposes that being temporary and subject to change equates to being somehow untrue or not really happening. Which is odd because if something is truly happening, it would necessarily be changing.

    I've been trying to track down the origination of a quote by Lao Tzu that goes "Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there" and it seems to have triggered something for me in regards to this thread and the one on freedom you started. Thanks for that. I might try to elaborate more on the freedom thread.

    When we are looking deeply into something and there is strictly observation, there is no thinking. So how can we translate pure observation into words except by metaphor and comparing to commonly known concepts?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @David said:
    seems to have triggered something for me in regards to this thread and the one on freedom you started.

    Yes it is interesting. Recently I have come across several spiritual teachers who have advocated keeping these concepts in mind, Freedom or Truth, and then finding that good things happen regarding to your state of mind. I’ve experimented with this and found it to be true, but when you try to examine what is meant by them you find they are not so easy to define.

    The thing is, buddhism can become quite a comfortable niche at times, and it can be beneficial to shake things up with a technique like this, to become more loose. I haven’t been able to define exactly what happens internally, but I can “feel” the effect, an increase in contentment.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited November 2022

    The thought occurred to me, how much truth is there in games? Games are all constructs of the mind, artificial and simplified situations from the real world displayed at a certain level of abstraction. They stir up thinking and work on desire, and therefore delay the arrival of peace and the effect of meditation.

    In a way a game is the perfect mode of thinking for the ego. It has a goal that can actually be achieved, there is conflict, there is ladder climbing and hierarchy, it can decrease sympathy, generosity and compassion in the cold-blooded analytical pursuit of a win.

    Some games like Dungeons and Dragons have a bigger focus on storytelling and straightforward play, rather than powergaming. Not all games are the same, and they can be approached in different ways.

    The longer I think about games in the context of spirituality, the less I believe they are beneficial.

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