Between Absolute and Relative


We have absolute truth and we have relative truth. We have both!

Absolute truth is about mysterious things,

about things that we cannot define

and therefore cannot talk about.

But at the same time we want to discuss these things. Because we love them, we do our best to talk about them. Nevertheless that subject is absolute, unspoken, unwritten, indescribable.

Let’s say this is the absolute (holds up right hand). In this particular place there is no one, there has never been anyone, there will never be anyone occupying this physical form that has the authority or the ability to speak about the absolute. We can accept this or not. If we decide to accept what I’ve just said, it will take a big load off our shoulders. If we choose to think that there is somebody that can address this, then I say, “Good luck!”

Absolute truth is the place that everybody talks about as being oneness. It means that we all have the same isness, the same being, in this place. There are no categories of distinction here.

And on the other hand (holds up left hand) we have relative truth.

Relative truth is the field of conversation.

This is the field of opinions, ideas, and concepts

as to what absolute truth is.

Relative truth is the field where we discuss how to live this life, how to be wise, how to have days that appear to be more beautiful than others. Here in this field of relative truth, we can do all the talking that we wish.

In relative truth we have wisdom or lack of wisdom. In relative truth we have knowledge and lack of knowledge. In relative truth we have characteristics and each and every one of us is different. We all have strengths and weakness, opinions and ideas. It is in relative truth that all these things come out.

As we become wiser and we participate

in the ideas and concepts of relative truth,

once in a while we may come up with something

that makes this life to be a little better.

But making this life better

doesn’t change or touch absolute truth.

Some of us would say that we wish everything about us was absolute truth. We want only to be in absolute truth. And some of us would say that absolute truth is not important and all we want is to live this daily life of relative truth. But these things have to come together. [He brings left and right hands together—S.]

It is intriguing that this is also how we pray—universally! We put our hands together because we are at the center of the absolute and the relative. You can go to any place on this earth and find all kinds of beings following various traditions, concepts and ideas. If you spend some time with them, you will find that in a moment of real importance to them, their hands come together. Their hands come together to signify a wise place of acknowledging that the absolute is giving us the gift of living in relative absoluteness.

The absolute is giving us the gift

of living in relative-absoluteness.

And that is where we live!

We live here in the middle. Some times, some days, some years we’re much further towards the absolute side of things. And some times we are much more on the relative side of things. When we feel that we are totally involved on the absolute side, then we start to become arrogant in the miserable way of thinking that we know everything. However when we’re immersed in the relative side and we’re having terrible days, we forget that there is more to things than just terrible days. We have to be conscious of these things and find our way to the middle.

Sometimes finding this middle point, this dynamic balance between the absolute and the relative is difficult because of apparent surface contradictions.

All the different teachings

and all the different things we get involved with

sometimes contradict each other.

Sometimes we say one thing and then the next moment we say something else that could sound totally different. Because of that a lot of confusion arises as to what it is that we actually mean when we say something and why it is that one day we can discuss a particular subject in one way and the next day say something that is totally different. Because of that confusion a lot of people end up being too harsh on themselves or too rigid in trying to hold on to what was said.

One reason why we talk about things in different ways is because of the way we talk about truth.


Truth can be talked about in absolute terms.

And truth can be talked about in relative terms

or in what we call worldly terms

pertaining to how we live our regular life.

So we discuss a particular subject. If we want to approach it with absolute truth we can discuss it one way. And we can discuss the same subject in a different way when we approach it with relative truth.

Even though nobody can speak about absolute truth, we try to talk about absolute truth by making statements such as: “We were never born and we will never die. Everyone is enlightened. Nothing has ever existed and nothing will ever exist. The Beloved is always with us. We are the same as the Beloved. We inquire as to who we are and find out that there is nothing that we can find.” All of these are statements about absolute truth.

Sometimes we become caught up in these attempted descriptions of the absolute. I think it is much easier, wiser, and perhaps more accurate to say that absolute truth is a Mystery. It is such a magnificent mystery that we don’t have the ability to talk about it because it is beyond definition and human understanding.

But then we have our lives here which are involved with relative truth. Within relative truth we can discuss many things.

If we refuse to touch and understand relative truth,

we might never be able touch absolute truth.

What this means is that we have a life to live here. And when we are suffering, statements about absolute truth often don’t make too much sense. If somebody talks about our lives in absolute terms when we are not ready to hear things in absolute terms, we look at what they are saying as unbelievable, or as useless, because it doesn’t help us in our daily lives. That’s the dilemma with these things.

But as soon as we decide to differentiate how we talk about these things, I think we can start getting a lot calmer about what all this is about. Even this conversation we are having, in absolute terms, is just another concept. But we need a few special concepts in order to go beyond concepts.



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