Home » Excerpts » The Two Dimensions of Reality

Since every thing is interdependent upon one another,
there is no one independent creator of everything.
– Stonepeace

We come to the practice of meditation seeking relief from our suffering, and meditation can teach us how to transform our suffering and obtain basic relief. But the deepest kind of relief is the realization of nirvana. There are two dimensions to life, and we should be able to touch both. One is like a wave, and we call it the historical [relative] dimension. The other is like the water, and we call it the ultimate [absolute] dimension, or nirvana. We usually touch the wave, but when we discover how to touch the water, we receive the highest fruit that meditation can offer.

In the historical dimension, we have birth certificates and death certificates. The day your mother passes away, you suffer. If someone sits close to you and shows her concern, you feel some relief. You have her friendship, her support, her warm hand to hold. This is the world of waves. It is characterized by birth and death, ups and downs, being and nonbeing. A wave has a beginning and end, but we cannot ascribe these characteristics to water. In the world of water, there is no birth or death, no being or nonbeing, no beginning or end. When we touch the water, we touch reality in its ultimate dimension and are liberated from all these concepts.

The second century philosopher Nagarjuna asked, “Before something was born, did it exist or not?” Before the egg was born from a chicken, was it existent or nonexistent? If it were already there, how could it have been born? Since a baby is already in the womb of her mother, how can we say she is not yet born? Nagarjuna says that something already present cannot be born. To be born means from nothing you become something; from no one you become someone. But nothing can be born from nothing. A flower is born from soil, minerals, seeds, sunshine, rain, and many other things. Meditation reveals to us the no-birth of all things. Life is a continuation. Instead of singing “Happy Birthday,” we can sing “Happy Continuation.” Even the day of our mother’s death is a day of continuation; she continues in many other forms.

Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Get it at Awareness Place shops or Amazo

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