To share absolute truths
with those who need relative truths
is to confuse instead of help.
To share relative truths
with those who need absolute truths
is to belittle instead of enlighten.
Relative truths refer to conventional realities that are relative to each other. For example, that Jim is older than Kim, that Jim suffers more than Kim, are relative truths in their relational contexts. Absolute truths refer to one ultimate reality. The oldness and youthfulness of Jim and Kim, and the ease and hardship of their lives are ultimately empty in themselves, since they make sense only when there is comparison with each other. In other contexts, Jim might be younger instead, and Kim older. If one does not realise that relative truths and absolute truths are equally important, it would be impossible to attain full enlightenment. One should not pretend to function from the level of absolute truths when relative truths are yet to be completely realised.
Relative truths have to be realised first, before absolute truths can be realised, after which one functions on the Middle Path between, from the perspectives of both truths, with neither disregard nor clinging to both sides. On the one hand, when one who overlooks the relevance of relative truths sees someone suffering, the unhappiness might simply be dismissed as emptiness, as an absolute truth, neglecting the fact that the person has not realised it yet, thus needing compassionate help. The relative truth is, one also suffers, just relatively less than that person. What’s more, even enlightened ones like the Buddhas, who have realised absolute and relative truths, will readily help those in need. When the deluded is caught breaking a precept, one might also rationalise that the morality and precepts are ultimately empty in nature, thus excusing oneself from harming others.
On the other hand, when one misses the importance of absolute truths suffers, one might cling to it being substantial and lasting in the moment, instead of realising its empty nature, that it is actually unsubstantial and fleeting. When this person sees another suffering, one might likewise cling to its ‘reality’, giving rise to unhelpful passionate grief. If one toggles extremely between relative and absolute truths without realising either – only to convenient oneself, to rationalise one’s own mistakes with bad faith, while selfishly excusing oneself from helping others, one is surely thoroughly unenlightened. This is to lack compassion and wisdom. When one progresses in realising relative and absolute truths in a balanced manner, one should increase in compassion and wisdom instead, with no need to toggle at all.
Do not use
absolute truths to excuse immorality and
relative truths to excuse delusion.
absolute truths to foster wisdom and
relative truths to foster compassion.
Honour What’s Relative
Is There Such Thing as Big & Small?
The Middle Path Between Relative & Absolute Truths