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Lions Roar : May 2017
planet, they wouldn’t agree. If they could see us in the elevator going “up,” they would say we are going down. So the notions of above and below are only relatively true. In the ultimate truth there is no below, there is no above. The same is true for all other pairs of opposites: coming and going, birth and death, being and nonbeing. Finding a Middle Way Birth and death, being and nonbeing, coming and going, same and different—these cannot be applied to the ultimate truth of any phenomenon. In order to touch the true nature of all phe- nomena, we need to find a middle way between all these pairs of opposites. When we encounter polarities, or pairs of opposites, we have the tendency to believe that one must be right and the other wrong. For example, we think that either everything exists, everything is real, or that nothing exists, nothing is real. These are the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Either we believe that we have an eternal soul which will live on forever, or we believe that we are just a meaningless collection of atoms and that when we die, we will be extinguished for ever and nothing will be left. If we are wise, the Heart Sutra can help us to find the middle way between these extremes. This middle way between being and nonbeing is a state of coolness, peace, and nonfear that can be experienced in this very life, with this body and with our five skandhas. It is nirvana. The traditional Chinese and Sanskrit versions of the sutra do not mention “no being and no nonbeing.” Traditionally, there are just three pairs of negations in the sutra: “no birth and no death,” “no defilement and no purity,” and “no increasing and no decreasing.” But in order to touch the ultimate truth, we need to transcend all pairs of opposites––all duality. I have added “no being” and “no nonbeing” in this new translation so that people do not fall into the trap of thinking that emptiness means nonbeing or nonexistence. The under- standing of “no being and no nonbeing” helps us to understand “no birth and no death.” It helps us avoid falling into the trap of describing things as either existent or non-existent. Does God Exist? In Western theology and philosophy we waste a lot of time try- ing to prove whether something exists or doesn’t exist. We are preoccupied, for example, with the question: Does God exist? For over 2,000 years people have been debating this without ever coming to any satisfactory conclusion. One group says that there is God, and the other group says there is no God. But in Buddhism, for more than two thousand years, we’ve been say- ing that the ultimate transcends both being and nonbeing. So if God is the ultimate, then God must certainly transcend both being and nonbeing. We cannot say that God exists, nor can we say that God does not exist, because existence and non-existence are only two faces of one reality. The view of “being” is one extreme view, and the view of “nonbeing” is another extreme view. We need to transcend both these notions. The term interbeing can help. By adding the pre- fix “inter” to the word “being” we have a term that is no longer the opposite of nonbeing. Interbeing has no opposite, so we can make use of it to avoid falling into the trap of dualistic thinking. The term “interbeing” still uses the word “being,” but it helps us to get out of the notion of being. So the notion of interbeing, although it is a notion, helps lead you to the ultimate truth. Interbeing means you cannot be by yourself alone; you can only inter-be. Interbeing can connect the conventional truth PHOTOBYIANGOWLAND/SCIENCEPHOTOLIBRARY ➢ page 80