Not Two, One

“The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: a worldly convention and an ultimate truth…Without a foundation in the conventional truth the significance of the ultimate cannot be taught. Without understanding the significance of the ultimate, liberation is not achieved.” – Nagarjuna 2nd Cenury.

There is a Zen teaching, a koan, “Not two, one.” As with all koans, this is a riddle that points to a transcendent truth. As Nagarjuna’s teaching illustrates, there is one teaching based in two truths that must be mastered to discover and experience that there is ultimately but one truth. We exist in two simultaneous dimensions, one relative, finite and dualistic, comprised of trillions of separate bits, and one ultimate, infinite, interconnected and non-dualistic. It seems like two to human perception, but then in inspired intuition, we know that there is only the one interconnected conscious universe that when believed to be two, makes two, and three and four, etc., but there is still only the one Universe, completely interconnected. This is the truth, paradox and dilemma of the human condition.

To say it differently, it is true that we live in the finite dimension where there is always at least two, in which the apprehender or perceiver is experiencing what is apprehended or perceived. However, it is also true that we live in an ultimate dimension of the unified field of existence where the ultimate truth is free from the duality of apprehender and apprehended. This is the truth that opens meditation into the experience of liberation. As I sit here, I can experience being one separate from all other, with all the possible problems the world of interaction presents, or I can experience sitting here as consciousness, no me, no other, just this moment experienced as it is. This moment, experienced as it is, no me, no other, is, of course, perfect, no problem.

Two come about because of One,
but don’t cling to the One either!
So long as the mind does not stir,
the ten thousand things stay blameless;
no blame, no phenomena,
no stirring, no mind.
The viewer disappears along with the scene,
the scene follows the viewer into oblivion,
for scene becomes scene only through the viewer,
viewer becomes viewer because of the scene. – Seng-ts’an, 7th Century

Here I am. And there you are. And there is the tree and the stone and the sun and the clouds. How many is that? Is it six? And, here is I, you, tree, stone, sun and clouds, and all phenomena in the radius of my consciousness. This consciousness is one, no more. Back and forth we move, now two, now one, now two again, and both are true, and neither is true without the other. In the world of two, when we stop running the mind stream of ME and the mind does not stir, then the one truth appears. Then, we remember ME, and two appears again. Zen cultivates living skillfully in the world of convention by realizing the world of ultimate truth, “Not two, one.” In deep present moment awareness, the great divider, time, stops, and we find, just as promised in the Bible, that the “Kingdom of Heaven,” the “Peace that surpasses all understanding” occurs in the end of time. That place is not some other place and the “end of time” is not some future event, but really in ending time, here and now.

This one truth. Sitting, standing, walking, seeing, hearing, touching, I am – “like dew in the morning, like the flash from a strike of lightning” (Ikkyu, 15th Cenury.), nothing more, only this moment, and eternal. Can you allow this? If so, this moment, you are liberated. You have found Satori. As they say in Zen, you have known this since before you were born, so release all puzzlement.

Bill Walz has taught meditation and mindfulness in university and public forums, and is a private-practice meditation teacher and guide for individuals in mindfulness, personal growth and consciousness. He holds a weekly meditation class, Mondays, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood. By donation. Information on classes, talks, personal growth and healing instruction, or phone consultations at (828) 258-3241, e-mail at

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