The Truth about the Truth (Part 1)
Even though truth has different meanings to different people, most of us believe that there is only one truth. But in reality, there are two types of truths in the world which are called conventional truth and ultimate truth.
Conventional truth is something that is true by convention. Conventional truths are agreements or beliefs among people. We have agreed to call a certain object a “car” or a “train” by convention. Most of us conventionally believe that love feels better than anger. Conventional truth is what we have learned ever since birth. Conventional truths are nothing more than concepts in our mind and they do not have any substance or existence of their own; they only exist in our mind. For example, we might say that we get to work in a car, which could be a true statement. But if we separate all the parts of the car–wheels, engine, seats, and so on–we will lose the concept of a “car” and be left with different parts of the whole. So, in reality, we did not get to work in a car; we used a collection of parts to get to work.
Scientifically, we can go even further and observe all the different parts of a whole microscopically. When parts are observed in a microscope, we lose the concepts of parts as they all become electrons, protons, and neutrons. Even gold, when observed in a microscope, does not contain any gold in its smallest particles; it only contains a certain atomic structure. So the ultimate truth about how we get to work is that we used atomic structures to get to work and we did not use a car or car parts.
Conventional truth alone cannot help us to understand the ultimate truth of our life. To understand the ultimate truth of our needs, hopes, goals, problems, or difficulties in life, requires our microscopic attention and we have to learn to look beyond our conventional thinking.
The ultimate truth is a big subject and it is difficult to explain and difficult to understand. Life in general is a big subject for all of us. Most of us are naturally not interested in understanding life on a deeper level. Sometimes we think that life is too big and too boring to dwell on. Our main priorities in life are happiness, health, wealth, family, social life, improved living standards, and so on. And we think that trying to understand life is a waste of time, or that knowing the mechanics of our day-to-day life has no bearing on our priorities in life. Most of us think that in order to understand the ultimate truth about ourselves or our existence, we need to become philosophical or religious. The good news is that in the twenty-first century, we do not have to be religious or retire to a mountain in order to understand the ultimate truth. We can simply understand the ultimate truth and benefit from this understanding by bringing our awareness into the thoughts and emotions behind our everyday actions in life, work, or business.
The ultimate truth is deep and it carries a heavy weight. To understand this truth, it requires effort and energy. Even though the ultimate truth is heavy, our smallest understanding of this truth can bring an enormous amount of energy and wisdom into other areas of our life. This truth has the power to radiate light into dark corners of our consciousness, or life. If you can lift a bowling ball, you can easily lift a tennis ball. Similarly, once you have a basic understanding of the ultimate truth, everyday difficulties of life, or mundane problems of life, will become lighter like the tennis ball. You have the free will to use this knowledge of the ultimate truth in any way you choose; you can use it to achieve your goals and dreams in life, or go beyond life.
Following Your True Path
It is said that one day lived in mindfulness is better than a hundred years lived in confusion or ignorance of the truth. Once we have a simple understanding of the ultimate truth of our existence, it will be easier for us to live a meaningful and a purposeful life. We don’t have to live on auto pilot; we can make our actions count. What we did yesterday is in the past and there is no point dwelling on it. What we will do today is what will make our future. We don’t have to be frightened of our fears, frustrations, or disappointments. There are answers for all our difficulties but we do not know how to find them yet. Answers to all our problems cannot be found by looking outward; they can only be found by looking inward. We are privileged to be born as human beings. Animals don’t have the power to understand the truth of their existence even if we explain it to them. We have the power to understand and the free will to take our life up or down, as we can drive an elevator up or down. Therefore, we can use this rare opportunity as human beings to understand the ultimate truth of our existence and eventually free ourselves from the sufferings of life.
As we separate all the parts of a car, if we separate all aspects or parts of our life and body, we are left with mind and matter. Everything we experience in life is associated with a thought and an object. For example, if we think that we can be happy if we had enough money; there is a thought and object, where happiness is the thought and money is the object. If I’m worrying about how to pay my rent this month, worry is the thought and shelter is the object. If I’m afraid of losing my lover, fear is the thought and lover is the object. If I’m unhappy about my health, unhappiness is the thought and the physical body is the object. Similarly, if we separate all the components of our day-to-day experiences, we are left with only mind and matter. When we have a simple understanding of the ultimate truth, we can see the relationship between mind and matter and how it affects our emotions. When we increase our awareness of this relationship between mind and matter, we can skillfully move through any difficulties that may come our way and successfully reach our desired destination.
The Four Ultimate Truths
We may think that there is only one ultimate truth in the world but there are four different ultimate truths in the universe. They are consciousness, mental factors, material properties, and Nirvana. Nirvana is not describable in words or conventionally but the simplest explanation is that Nirvana is the liberation from mind and matter. Consciousness relates to thoughts, mental factors relate to emotions, and material properties relate to material objects. While consciousness, mental factors, and material properties belong to our mundane life and world, Nirvana belongs to a super mundane world. Without getting too philosophical about life, it is possible understand the ultimate truth behind all our mental and material activities of our body or our day-to-day experiences of life. Through our happiness, goals, dreams, sadness, ill will, fear, sorrow, worries, physical pain, and so on, what we are really experiencing is consciousness, mental factors, and material properties.
Our lives don’t have to be as complicated as we think they are. Life and all our day-to-day experiences can be divided into seven major components: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts, and emotions. We use our five senses and the mind to understand our experience while feelings or emotions give us a taste of the experience. For instance, if you find a hundred dollar bill on the street, you have to use your eyesight to see it, use your thoughts to understand that it is a real hundred dollar bill and not a fake one, and this experience can give you a pleasurable feeling. On the other hand, if you find a snake on the street, your experience will not be so pleasurable.
Unlike the conventional truth, which exists only in our mind as concepts, the ultimate truth has an existence of its own. Our thoughts, emotions, and the sensitive material properties of our body are for real; they do exist and we can experience them through our day-to-day experiences. Our day-to-day experiences are nothing more than activities of mind and matter.
In Part Two of this post we will focus our attention on mind and matter relation.