by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Chapter 2
Neither Being nor Non-Being

Great Kanzeon views all the world in truth,
Free from defilement, loving, knowing all,
Full of Compassion.

--"The Scripture of Avalokiteswara Bodhisattva" from The Lotus Sutra
translated by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett

Two Mistaken Views

Here are two mistaken ways of viewing our life and the world in which we live: In one view, the world as it presents itself to us through the vehicle of our senses, together with our mental and emotional life and our somewhat vague sense of our body and its workings, is all there is to reality. In the other view, all of this is seen as transitory, but also as painful, sordid, futile, dirty, base--and ultimately meaningless.

The former view is the normal, unreflecting worldly view. The latter view is what happens to that normal, unreflecting view when it bumps up against the harsh realities of life and, instead of deepening into faith and true understanding, sinks into despair. The former view is "falling into being." The latter view is "falling into non-being."

Do Not Forget

When I ponder these two views, I think, "If we wish to ignore the Eternal, there is nothing to stop us doing so. On the other hand, even if everyone else in the world were to choose to ignore the Eternal, that would not force me to do so."

The truth is that there is more to life than external th‌ings; and because there is this True Reality, which I usually call "the Eternal" or "our wonderful True Nature" (at some point, I started putting the "wonderful" at the front, and I have not been able to stop: It is wonderful), existence, though transitory and often painful, is not in reality sordid, futile, dirty, and base. And above all, it is not meaningless.

What is futile is to wait around for the world to change to suit our expectations. What is not futile is to surrender our expectations into the hands of the Eternal and allow the Eternal to correct our view of things.When our eyes are clouded by ignorance and expectation (the first mistaken view), or the grief and despair that inevitably result when expectation is disappointed (the second mistaken view), the world looks one way; when our view has been transformed so that we see through eyes of faith, compassion and sympathy, the same world looks another way altogether.

Above all, what I think when I ponder the mistaken views that I have described here is, "Do not forget the Unconditional Love that lies at the heart of all existence." It is not just that there is more to life than meets the eye: there is True Life that is magnificent, immaculate and compassionate beyond our wildest dreams.


Why would we ever settle for either of the above views when there is the Refuge of the Eternal?--Ignorance certainly is a major player here. But if we scratch the surface of ignorance a bit we find something peculiar.

This peculiar something is a deep wound of self-judgment. It is not just that we are blind to the Eternal, for all beings have an intuitive knowledge of the Eternal. It is that in the midst of great confusion and grief beings have judged themselves as being unworthy of that Unconditional Love. And these hard and anguished knots of self-judgment--the very core of what I have called our "spiritual need"--become the most difficult aspects of the karmic inheritance of beings "downstream" in the stream of karma.

These hard knots have to soften in order to be helped. They are softened through forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves; and they are softened whenever we are forgiving and accepting toward others. For we will find most difficult to forgive and accept in another person that which we find most difficult to forgive and accept in ourselves. This is an immutable principle of spiritual training.

Thus every meeting with another human being--even just the memory or thought of another person--has the potential to help soften any hard karmic knots within ourselves if we refrain from complaining and blaming, and instead look with eyes of kindness and sympathy. What a wonderful world we live in when every seeming chance encounter--even a passing thought--offers us such a precious spiritual opportunity!

"Great Kanzeon views all the world in truth."--And Great Kanzeon--Cosmic Compassion--can help each of us view all the world in truth.


Click here to go to Chapter 3, "The Gordian Knot of the Spirit"


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