Two Truths Doctrine
Our evolution as spiritual beings includes successfully living in both the relative and absolute worlds without losing touch with either
When we address the problem of good and evil in the world and relate it to spirituality, what levels of truth may apply, and to what situations? In Buddhism, we speak of the realm of the absolute or the ultimate, the realm where all phenomenal manifestations are intrinsically one. And we speak of the relative, the world of differentiation. Truth is one in the realm of the absolute; truth is relative in the realm of the relative. In the realm of the absolute, everything is completely one with the truth of awareness. Therefore everything manifests this one truth in all its fullness, utterly complete.
In the realm of the relative, the terms good and evil, truth and untruth, are used to help us decide right from wrong, vis a vis coping with the difficulties of life. If we are stuck in the relative world with no access to the ultimate, we are easily bound and confused by our own ideas about right and wrong. We can suffer at the mercy of the desire and fear of our ego. If the ego is left to choose right or wrong, it will always decide on the basis of desire and fear, acting on what it perceives to enhance its own welfare. Even limited access to the absolute allows us to see others as we see ourselves, to walk in another’s shoes. We can see some common ground, perhaps a glimpse of our oneness, and with any problem we can come up with a solution that works best for both parties.
In the realm of the absolute, attachments of the ego are no more important than rain falling from the sky. Both are expressions of the one absolute truth. If the rain stops falling and the stream dries up, that too is merely another manifestation of absolute truth. The same holds true when our brains stop working, our hearts stop and our bodies die. In the realm where all is one, none of these means any more or less than another. We try in secular society, a relative realm, to work for the good of the many, the common good. Those who are predominantly selfish in their actions and who harm others for their own benefit are considered evil.
To mistake the relative for the absolute may be deceptively simple, but it can have huge repercussions. For example, Charles Manson had a saying, “If everything is one, then nothing is wrong.” A more accurate way to say this would be, “Yes, everything is one–absolute realm–and some things are wrong–relative realm.” Both levels exist simultaneously. They arise together. We can hold both in our awareness, and avoid getting stuck in either. Manson was stuck in his fantasies about the absolute, and apparently unaware of his own pathology. This cut him off from any chance to harmonize with the relative world. Unaware of his own dark shadow, he had a maniacal and savage way of acting out his central delusion, that he had a right to destroy anything he disapproved of. One could say he was profoundly confused rather than blindly evil. In the absolute realm, Manson’s confusion in a way was divine confusion. Still it was confusion.
In the absolute realm there is no evil, and Charley is no exception. But in the relative world, he was the epitome of evil and needed to be in prison. Our evolution as spiritual beings includes learning to live on both of these levels at the same time without losing one or the other. As Ken Wilber says, we transcend the relative and include it, we don’t transcend and exclude it. Meditation practice develops our stability as the ground of being, the realm of the absolute. This grounding helps us act from our own perspective while remaining stable in the unlimited perspective of absolute truth. The rigid distinction between the two realms gradually evaporates, while our ability to distinguish between them increases. Our own perspectives are more and more in harmony with the experience of the oneness of all beings. From this higher ground we can clearly perceive the depth of the agonizing pain caused by the Hitlers and Mansons of our race. Thus we learn to use the loving energy of a higher level of universal compassion. We hold the higher and lower levels together, and in this way we act in harmony with both.