Ultimate Reality

I want to make a few comments about something I wrote in the last post:

It seems to me that there is no other religious philosophy other than Buddhism that has such a concept where there is absolutely no separation between the ordinary person and the ultimate reality.  You cannot become God, Jesus, the Prophet – you can be Buddha.  Here, the ultimate reality is everything.

When we talk about an “ultimate reality” in Buddhism, we’re comprehending a different understanding of the term that that of other religions or spiritual philosophies.  An “ultimate reality” is not any one thing.  It is everything.  There is no separation because we are living the ultimate reality right now.  How we perceive it is the question.

You may read that emptiness is the ultimate reality.  That is misleading.  Emptiness is the “ultimate” nature of things, meaning that all things are empty, including emptiness.  But it does not mean that emptiness itself is anything like a force, or substitute for some mystical being.  There is no creator god in Buddhism.  Buddha was not divine, nor was he was prophet.  He was an itinerant philosopher and meditation teacher.  To compare Buddha with the others is a bit misleading as well.

I’m sure most of you caught my drift when you read the post.  Just wanted to make sure…

In Nagarjuna’s Philosophy, K. Venkata Ramanan says that it is through realizing that even the subtlest things are not ultimate in reality that one becomes free of clinging.  The philosophy of sunyata seeks to bring about this realization by laying bare the inconsistencies to which one is misled into thinking things are ultimate.

So, in Buddhism there is no ultimate reality.  At the same time, all of reality is the ultimate reality.

Ramanan quotes Nagarjuna:

The ultimately true nature of the Buddha and the ultimately true nature of all things are in truth but one reality, not two, not divided.  This ultimate reality is unmade, it will never be other than what it always is.

Reality is.  Just is.  Unmade.  Indeterminable.  Non-dual.  The ultimate reality is a whole, the whole of everything.  That is why everything is Buddha and anyone can be Buddha.


3 thoughts on “Ultimate Reality

  1. Very nicely written. There is so much confusion “out there” about emptiness and ultimate reality. This is understandable considering that even scientific reality and quantum physics are hard to comprehend. I think it important to take the view that you have shared vice the hokey-pokey mystical view that is often voiced.

  2. The Buddhist religion is, I am almost sure, based on an historical misconception.
    In Two Truths I spoke about the mistake of confusing conventional truth with ultimate truth, and equated it with confusing social reality with natural, or cosmological, reality, called by the early Buddhist philosophers ultimate truth.

    The religion we know of as Buddhism appears to me to do just that, as practitioners of eastern meditation and especially western converts to “Buddhism” seem to take literally the call for “liberation from the cycle of birth and death” and the equating of suffering with the said cycle.

    Now, suffering as I see it in human society is precisely for the most part this: e.g. social, with a social basis that is rooted in socio-economic-historical reality, not the cycle of birth and death!

    I do not see birth and death as anything to be liberated from, and I view such an idea as a preposterous misinterpretation of what Gotama meant. It demotes the Higher Buddhism to the status of a religion, a superstition; to the level of Christianity, which speaks of liberation forever from material existence in a post mortem non-material realm called heaven. (Nirvana?) …

    This is for me precisely the confusing of conventional with ultimate of which Nagarjuna speaks.

    So here is my interpretation, based on Nagarjuna’s injunction that philosophical and scientific knowledge – combined with social behaviour (responsibility) – rather than trance-inducement – is the stuff of liberation from ignorance.

    It is not life and death that we are to liberate ourselves from, but the illusion that we are separate from the universe: finite selves. The liberation from the cycle of birth and death means liberation from the illusion of the birth and death of separate selves. The ultimate truth is that we are the universe, and birth and death is the cosmic, material, process of everything. The liberation, therefore, nirvana, is the realisation of this natural reality, and nothing other than that. We are thus liberated from the chains of ignorance regarding the unity of everything and everyone, and we see at last the openness and fluidity – shunyata – of the cosmos.

    Indeed, this knowledge reduces suffering because it frees us from the fear of the cessation of existence. It removes the terror of being nullified, made nothing. As there is no self in the first place, there is no cessation of self to dread.

    This is what I believe the Buddha taught, and that, far from turning away from life, it is essential to live it, by applying the knowledge of universal kinship in our daily lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.