Life Is Relative

Most of us have a common problem of "demanding things to be absolute or permanent" - A wealthy man would like to be richer, while others would like to gain more controls in other areas such as fame, beauty, success, appraisal, etc..It seems everything that we do should be better than the others. If not, we will feel frustrated and unhappy, and that our life will be filled with grief. These emotions exist because people don't understand that "life is relative."

All Beings Are Relative

All beings exist in this world are relative. Mankind and animals have males and females, while electricity has positive and negative charges. Conceptually, from the relativity, all beings are created and it is the root of infinite reproductions. If we partition oneself into pieces, its life will be terminated. Our life is relative to oppositions and is developed in conflicts. Therefore, how can we find a complete peace or a permanent happiness in this relative life? We should be intelligent when facing with conflicts by looking at the relativity as an ordinal matter with no resentment or blaming, and adeptly manipulate this concept to bring benefits to the people.

Simple examples for this are water, fire, and electrical charges. Even though water is opposed to fire, it still can be boiled by fire for all kinds of cooking. A combination of positive and negative charge will create fire, but can produce electricity if they're used wisely. The point is that we always tend to be afraid of oppositions such as water could put out fire, but what will it be when they are separated? By knowing the truth, we should not be fear from the oppositions of all phenomenons. Instead, we must manipulate them wisely to make beneficial effects in our own life.

Human Self Is Relative

Human form is consisted of two parts: physical and mental, which are relative.

Physical Aspect: Buddha had given a basic analysis that human body is a combination of four elements: the concrete elements are called "earth," the fluids are called the "water," the heat is called "fire," and the mobility is called "air." These elements are retained in a definite time frame to form the human body. If one is missing, the body is disintegrated. However, when they exist, they always conflict with one another in such a way that we will get dropsy or cold when there's more water than heat, and a headache or fever when there's more heat than water. In other case, more wind than ground will create pains. In a reverse situation, it will lead to a breathing problem or paralysis. Thus, to have a healthy body, we have to insure that they could coexist. By all means, should we destroy any of the four aggregates (earth, water, fire, air) if we still want to live or do our best to make them cooperate with each other? Will we fight with conflicts or work with them? Overall, if we want a healthy body, without choice we have to wisely manipulate the aggregates. That is how to be smart and know how to live.

Mental Aspect: Our mind has complex oppositions between what are categorized as positive and negative thoughts. Their oppositions exist in a way that one exists in the other's absence. If we practice correctly, the positive thoughts will always present. Only those who often live with negative thoughts would never have positive ones appear. Nourishing the positive thoughts is sainthood, while holding on to the negative ones is evil. It's our choice to be with either one and nobody can force us to make that choice. Therefore, the Buddha had taught us the practice of "Contemplation of Compassion" (Tu Bi Quan) to override aggravations, the "Contemplation of Four Foundations Of Mindfulness" (Quan Tu Niem Xu) to terminate ignorance, or the practice of "Praying To The Buddha Names" to clear all confusions. We have an ability to become divine or evil. Therefore, a practice of mind is to skillfully control the negative or evil thoughts, while nourishing the positive ones. When the final moment of our life comes, whichever stronger will pull us to the relative states. That is because the mind is the root of Samsara.

So, our self is relative physically and mentally. Could we run away from the relativity even though we do not like it? It is silly to do that. We must intelligently find all possibilities to insure our body stay in a normal state and control our mind so that it's consistently healthy. This is what a wise person would know how to live and advance.

The Relation Between Us and Other People

In our relative life with the others, most of us have a problem, which is a "desire for perfection and criticism for defection." Often, we want others to be perfectly (100%) matched with all criterias that we have in mind. If only 80% harmonize, the rest of it will make us feel unhappy to deal with. But why don't we ask ourselves if we are perfect? For sure, we are not. Is it unreasonable to ask for a perfection when we are imperfect?

Long time ago, Asian parents normally made decision for their children's marriage. It became the cause of family imminent conflicts and divorce. Nowaday, the westerners let their children to choose their partner, even living together before marriage. Sometimes, they have no right to interfere. But the children still get a divorce. Whose fault is it? Is it the parents' fault? Evidently, this is a symptom of asking for a perfection (100%). Because the desire is unfulfilled, a close relationship becomes superficial. Divorce comes one after another until we ultimately face with the loneliness. That is not yet all of the illnesses. We like to be appraised by the people and become upset from a criticism. We demand full kindness from the others, but turn our back on their minor weaknesses. Apparently, the unreasonable greed has caused the people to turn their back on us. This is the result of not knowing that life is relative and temporal, and not having an empathy for the others. We should start practice by being relative when seeing others, have no unreasonable demands, and forgive each other. If these steps can be done, indeed our life will be filled with much of happiness and relationships.

The Illness Of Idolatry

Another illness that we easily get is "idolizing" the people that we respect. When noticing their imperfections, we become disappointed and disdain them. So, our idolatry is ruined. This is a serious illness, which leads to an arrogance and a lack of self-confidence. In believing our religious teachers, we practice the Buddha teachings exertively. We live in corruption when our belief is gone. Why don't we cautiously review the difference between our credibility and theirs? If we have 20% of the good, then our teachers should have at least 40% to 60% for us to follow. How can we criticize them when they are twice or three times better than us? And how can they be perfect when they are not divine or a Buddha yet? We need to understand that they are practicing the Buddha's teachings to minimize their imperfections. Note that even Bodhisattvas still have some genuine ignorance, but will become Buddhas when ignorance is diminished. Knowing that the goodness of those we respect is relative, we should have a considerable respect, instead of idolizing them. We should forgive them for their imperfections because they are in the process of a self improvement, and put more belief in ourselves to avoid any disappointment. The Buddha had taught us that "you have to light up your torch and should never build an island for yourself." Therefore, we should never back off because of the "idolatry corruption." If we see our teachers in a relative sense, we will not be surprised when noticing their imperfection.

The Sixth Patriarch's 36 Rules of Rejoinders

In the book of "Dharma Tribune", the Sixth Patriarch had taught his students 36 rules of rejoinders, which were based on the principles of Zen. If one says "yes," the response will be "no ." For "light," the answer is "dark," and so forth. Why so? It's because from "emptiness" arises "existence." Without it, there is no "existence" and vice versa. "Light" and "dark" carry the same concept as one arises and relies on the other since neither one has a real form. Overall, all existences in this world depend on each other to establish their form. Therefore, there is no real forms. Needless to say, we keep believing that all forms and selves are real to elevate our ignorance, and keep drowning in the sea of birth and death. But in the eyes of the Buddha and Patriarchs, the existences are unreal. Therefore, they are contented to liberate from the cycle of birth and death.

Only The Unborn and ImPerished Mind Is Absolute (Permanent)

Indeed, there's an absoluteness in this relative life that a few people know about. We tend to run after the hallucinations in the looks and sounds, which are impermanent. We even ask for an absoluteness in those that are impermanent, which is irrelevant. This is a senseless behavior since even the differentiation between birth and death is relative. Let's hear two phrases from a pasean that scholar Lu presented to the Fifth Patriarch:

"Always have no object, where could be the dust."
(Ban lai vo nhat vat, ha su nha tran ai)

It means that an object, no matter how strong it is, will subject to eradication. Only the formless peaceful mind is permanent. And when the true mind is free from differentiations, it forever will never change. Therefore, Patriarch Seng Tsan concluded in the pasean of "Trust In Wisdom" as "believe that the mind is not dual, and not dual is the mind." The mind still differentiates if two sides exist. Without them, nothing there to be differentiated. By setting free from differentiations, we reach to the absoluteness, which is something that already exists in each of us. There's no need for an outer search. A person who knows how to relieve the mind from differentiations and lives in the state of undifferentiation is an enlightened one. Contrarily, he/she is deluded by forgetting the true mind and chasing those objects that are subjected to birth and death.


People become disappointed and miserable when their idols collapse Where can the people believe in when the belief in their idols is vanished? These are people who carry an illness of "being unrealistic" and "idealizing" other people. They become discouraged and resentful when their ideal is unfulfilled. In addition, they have an illness of making unreasonable demands in everything, which easily causes them to feel dissatisfied in anybody on this planet. These make them feel isolated from the rest of the world. The desperation is a result from a total trust in the people.

We should wisely look at everyone in a relative sense and set a limit to our trust so that we can feel satisfy with our life, be able to understand the others, and forgive our love ones for their mistakes. The only place for us to rely on is our own selves. We already have a precious jade that has been forgotten for a long time. Today, let's take it out from our pocket and use it so that we can see how joyful our life would be.