“To walk the path of truth is difficult. It can even be a bit risky in the beginning. But stick to it and others will gradually realize what is true and you will win their trust.”
– HH Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje
If there are several people together in one room, then there are several different perceptions of truth in that room. If these folks come to listen to a talk, then each will have a different perception of that talk. When it comes to questions about what happened before our birth and what follows after our death, then even the idea of “truth” might end—we might solely be in the realm of beliefs. So, what is true for you, what is true for me, and what is true for us?
No matter what social circles we join, we always meet individuals. Everyone has their own story, their own approach, own ideas, convictions, and their own perception of what is true. In fact, it might well be that we can’t find a truth for “us,” since it seems so individual. We all have a bit of a headstrong mind, tending to want to affirm what we believe as more than just an opinion or a belief, but as truth. This same mind determines what we like, what we react to, what we fear, and what we are looking forward to. With all of this interest and preference, everything can stay interesting and alive for us—but makes it hard for us to nail something down as absolutely true.
Similarly, in the same way that we are different, the different spiritual teachers we meet are different. They have their own style and might belong to a specific lineage or tradition. And the exercises and teachings they share might vary quite a bit, too.
Especially if we open towards inner investigations such as meditation, the variety of exercises, techniques, and opinions can feel confusing at times. Within the world of spiritual approaches we find the different techniques, teachers, and goals we find in any endeavor. Some might seem easily accessible to us and others not so much, some might feel familiar and others foreign.
The suggestion I received at the beginning of my journey was to investigate the field as fully as I could and then to decide upon a path. It might be best and easiest to find one teacher who belongs to a tradition or school that teaches a truth that feels right. Nevertheless, not everyone goes that way. On the path of meditation new influences are always around the corner. We learn more about our own mind, meet new questions, and discover more and more. We change, and our questions and concerns also change: What is important in your life now? What would you like to develop towards? What would you like to see looking back later at the end of your journey? It’s an interesting adventure!
At the same time, this truth question is a haunting one, and somewhere early on my journey I asked myself, what really is true, which path is best? I had my own feeling for that and at the same time I admired wise others and felt I could benefit from them. At that time I decided to go with one teacher and one school. With this new orientation, I felt so relieved, because all of the confusing influences where gone and my practice became very simple and clear.
Now, two decades later, I feel fully at home in the meditation methods and tradition I chose. Part of this is that I agree with the view of things and the approach to truth that I found. I was interested in this path, studied it, checked my experience, and continued deepening my understanding. At this point it’s very interesting for me, rather than confusing, when I encounter very different teachings and approaches. I don’t try to challenge or convince anyone, but feel inspired by others’ approaches. We benefit a lot from each other and learn so much this way. We can talk for hours about our shared topics, understand the different approaches. It’s so beautiful to see how the different techniques and schools benefit us different human characters.
Reflecting on the topic of truth in this way allows it to appear in a new light. Depending on our needs and the preconditions with which we approach meditation and truth, different information, explanations, directions, and goals are helpful for us. It’s all about truth, but relates to different aspects of it. Within Buddhism truth can be described as provisional or definitive. Provisional truth is a bit like truth with training wheels that opens our mind towards definitive truth. We all may really want the “definitive truth” right away, but it turns out it’s not quite as easy as that! In the end, even if our concepts are exceptionally good, no concept is the truth anyway. Concepts just lead; they are the famous “finger pointing at the moon.”
For me these days, it’s much more interesting why someone is interested in meditation than to agree upon a truth together. What interests us, what do we hope for, what are our feelings about that, our inspirations and motivations? It is so beautiful to discover how we individually try to find meaning. This is less about truthy concepts in our heads than it is about inspiration coming from our hearts. And it’s also interesting to see how the different teachers and traditions respond to this search in their different ways of explaining truth and meaning.
Is our practice benefiting us right now? How can we increase this benefit? These questions are vital. And can our practice perhaps reach even further than we thought possible until now? Perhaps we began to practice meditation with the wish to decrease our daily overwhelm and stress. Perhaps later we became more curious about why conflicts with others begin and how we might act in a more beneficial way in those situations. And maybe later we felt the wish to benefit even more people or even all beings with our practice.
At every point of our interest, there is a method and path to help us. There are infinite training wheels, large and small. Most important is that whatever practice we have—we really do it, we really enjoy our training.
Enjoy a peaceful, relaxing and inspiring week of holidays!
See you one more time this year,