What is Truth?

“He teaches that all living beings are continuously becoming, and that there is no such thing as self, so-called. Truth is like lightning reflected on dew or like the moon reflected on water: it cannot be caught and preserved.”

This passage from the sutra Ju Ni Rai, ‘Twelve Adorations,' expresses a fundamental teaching in Buddhism; the idea of impermanence. Everything is in a constant state of change. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines ‘truth’ as, ”The quality of being in accordance with experience, facts, or reality.” If all is constantly changing, then experience, facts and reality also change. Buddhism recognizes this ever-changing truth.

Many religions have core beliefs based on the word of God. Usually, prophets, those who speak the word of God, relay this message. Followers of these religions are to believe these teachings as truth. Shakyamuni Buddha was neither a god nor a prophet. He was a person who attained awakening. His complete awakening was a result of personal observations. For forty-five years, he traveled throughout India sharing the teachings with people of all backgrounds. He constantly stressed to them not to believe the teachings simply because they heard him. Rather, they should only believe the teachings when they had experienced their truth for themselves.

In June, I attended the International Buddhist Festival in Evanston, IL. Represented were dozens of Buddhists sects and traditions. Seminars and discussion groups explored the Dharma. Although the basic teachings were the same, the interpretation and practice were diverse. At times, I found myself thinking, “How could they believe that?” Catching myself, I realized, “I bet they are thinking the same about me.” Which of us had the truth? From a Buddhist perspective, we all had the truth, and yet, none of us did.

Buddhism is a path of self-examination. We search for the answer to the question, “Who am I?” With the Buddhadharma as a guide, we come to realize how ignorant we are. My temple’s lineage says that we are all ‘Bonbu,' foolish, ignorant beings. The world around us is constantly changing, yet we cling to the illusion of permanence. Concerning ourselves with the actions and opinions of others, we fail to look within. Convinced that we know the truth, we perpetuate our suffering.

During the past few decades, Buddhism has become more widespread in America. Every week, either at our temple in Chicago or at the weekly meditation group in Kenosha, I meet someone who is new to Buddhism. Often, they are searching for answers that other religions did not provide. They ask me about the answers Buddhism has provided for me. I jokingly tell them, “Buddhism hasn’t given me any answers. It has just helped me understand the questions a little better.” Truth constantly changes. Only the questions remain the same.

For more information about Buddhism and meditation in Kenosha, contact me at BASEWI@aol.com