Monday, May 30, 2011


Here’s an old Buddhist story.

A young man is on his way home. He comes to the banks of a wide, and very deep, river. He finds he is on the ‘wrong’ side of the river. The river is fast flowing, with numerous rapids. There is no bridge or other means available for crossing the river.

The young man sees an elderly Buddhist monk standing on the other side of the river, so he yells over to the monk, ‘Oh, wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?’

The monk ponders for a moment, looks up and down the river, and yells back, ‘My son, you are on the other side.’

Like many such stories, there appears to be no one interpretation. Many see this simple story as a reminder that we must first see the other person’s point of view before we can effectively communicate our own.

That’s certainly one, and perhaps the most obvious, interpretation, but I think there are others as well. For some, the story may be saying that truth is relative, and that things are to you as they appear to you, and are to me as they appear to me. It all depends which side of the river you’re on.

Of course, if that be the case, there is no objective truth by virtue of which one of us must be right and the other wrong. I reject such subjectivism. It would result in epistemological anarchy and it's otherwise contrary to the 'logic of things'. Truth is not relative to persons. Truth is what is. Ignorance and mistaken beliefs do nothing to make truth relative. When any proposition is taken to its logical conclusion, a question of fact - truth or falsity - is always reached. One always can get back to the objective distinction between something being the case and not being the case. For example, if I say, quite subjectively, 'The sky is for me blue', you may think quite differently. However, once I ask, 'Is the sky blue for you?', an objective issue is immediately raised. The question is whether it is true that the sky is blue for you, not whether it is true for you that the sky is blue for you. Forget it. I'm sorry I started on that one!

Now, to me (ugh) the story is saying that wherever we want to 'go', we are already there. The young man wants to get to the other side of the river, only to be told that he is already on the other side of the river.

To reach the other side of the river is to see that this very side here is the other side. When there is no separation in our mind between one side and the other, then in that very moment we are one with the very livingness of life flowing through us and all things. There is no journey! You are already 'there'. Life is proceeding as it will. It is living itself. Be with it, from one moment to the next. In the beautiful words of Thich Nhat Hanh:

I have arrived.
I am home
In the here,
In the now.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate
I dwell.

When the Buddha woke up, he said, ‘Now all beings have woken up.’ Perhaps he was saying that, in truth, there is no difference between the so-called enlightened state and our ordinary life. We live our life as if we were unenlightened. We simply need to wake up, and we are on the other side.

There is no need to embark upon some 'spiritual journey' to supposedly 'find' yourself ... as if you had misplaced yourself somewhere. There is no journey required to 'reach' the present moment, which is all there is. You are already 'in' it, about to move into the next moment, and then the next, and so on. Life is all here and now - as the present moment - and all we have to do is to perceive it here and now. We need to see each thing for what it really is - a new moment, which just is. What could be more 'real' than that?

Life is not locked away from us. We are in direct 'contact' with it at all times. We need no guru, master or priest of any kind to 'unlock' the supposed inner mysteries of life for us. Life is all 'around' us, and within us. Life is all there is, and it is right here now, to be perceived and appreciated in its entirety. Everything that matters is right here and now - 'in' the here and now.

T S Eliot said it all with these oft-quoted words: ‘We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started ... and know the place for the first time.’ So, forget about 'becoming'; instead, focus on simply be-ing ... and being is never 'there' - it is always here.

The regular practice of mindfulness enables us to open to life in the moment, just as it is. Living mindfully is being open to whatever is and to wherever life is proceeding.

There is nowhere to go. We are already there. We are on the other side.






  1. You have such a wonderful and interesting blog! I especially loved your perspective on Alice in Wonderland (which is how I ended up stumbling across it). Thank you for sharing your insights :)

    1. Thanks, Tegan, for your kind words. Hopefully, there is something for almost everyone on my blog. I wish you and your family a wonderful New Year. Bless you.


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