In Buddhist terminology, truth is called “emptiness” because truth is empty of all illusions. Do not mistake this emptiness for a nihilistic nothingness. Emptiness is the source of all things. Emptiness is the infinite realm of love and compassion. Emptiness is the divine fire that burns all concepts and the holy water that washes away all misery.
Yet from the vantage point of ego, emptiness seems to be the darkness of the unknown, something that threatens the very foundation of our being. But if you simply surrender all of your resistance, you will find that emptiness, or the truth, is your best friend. This friend has never left you and will never abandon you in the future. Once you fall in love with the truth you will have a never-ending affair and all of your longing will be fulfilled.
One of the trickiest things, something that often prevents us from realizing the truth, is the tempting offers and numerous methods for attaining the truth. Most of these are unnecessary, just a way to postpone the final meeting with the truth. For example, we don’t need a telescope to see what is in the palm of our hand. In the same way, the truth is always in front of us and there is no need to go anywhere to find it. However, many of us, in our search for the truth, get caught up in performing empty rituals and engaging in intellectual speculation. Sooner or later, we become exhausted with this search and then naturally glimpse the truth that we have been searching for, for eons and eons.
Through embracing and living the truth, we realize inner freedom, which is the only nirvana to be found. Liberation is the cessation of all mistaken beliefs. Mistaken beliefs become obsessions. Obsessions are ego’s shameless effort and struggle to once again sustain its flimsy existence.
Nirvana is not some kind of beautiful, celestial garden filled with peaches and mangoes, a place where everybody is walking around with beautiful halos. It is not a place where everyone is in a constant state of bliss. It’s not even a transcendent state of mind that we are going to achieve. It is not a beautiful, ecstatic, trancelike state of mind that we can cherish. Rather, nirvana is a great cessation of the separation between us and the truth. It is the mere acknowledgment of what has been the case all along. It is like waking up from a nightmare.
It’s a great relief to discover that nothing has to be done.
Sometimes I like to think about truth in the image of an old and wrathful Buddhist master who grabs us, shakes us, and shouts, “Drop it now!” Truth can be wrathful. Eventually it destroys all of our illusions, no matter how much we cherish them. The closer we get to it, the clearer we see that we have to let all of them go, even the ones that have been with us for a very long time.
Adapted from No Self, No Problem: Awakening to Our True Nature by Anam Thubten