A Conversation Between Lama Tsomo & Konda Mason: The Two Truths

The following blog is an excerpt from a conversation between Lama Tsomo and Konda Mason on June 6, 2020. Konda Mason, an accomplished businesswoman, community organizer, activist, and meditation teacher, is a dear friend of Lama Tsomo.

Konda: 

There’s so much going on in my heart and mind. It’s just bubbling. Being a Buddhist teacher, a leader in certain ways in my community, being a woman, a black woman, and a person that is just reeling from everything, and is feeling everything. I think sometimes you think, “You’re a Buddhist teacher, you're supposed to have Equanimity about everything all the time.” That's not true at all. 

Lama Tsomo:

Let me quote a relative who was Buddhist. She threw something at her husband, and he said, “Well, I thought you were Buddhist? I thought you were always supposed to have Equanimity?” She said, “I’m a Buddhist, not a Buddha!”

Konda:

Exactly! The reality is that we're all here living this life and doing the best we can. I love the Buddha and I love Buddhism. I don't even know who I would be without my practice and the principles around the Buddha Dharma. It is absolutely holding me together on so many levels in my life.

I mean, if anything, it feels like this community would be the most enraged because we know how deeply interconnected we are. We know we’re not in this by ourselves and we hopefully understand the two truths.

Different branches of Buddhism have different emphasis on which one is more important, in terms of the universal, absolute truth and the relative truth. In Theravada, which is the lineage that I come from, they are equal. They are equal. The universal truth is that we are all one. The example that Lama Tsomo uses about the ocean, all one big ocean with different waves of the ocean.

The relative is the different waves, that we also live this life. Here I sit here and I'm black woman in America and that's my relative truth. My universal truth is that there's this oneness. We know that race is a construct. It is a total construct that has real consequences. It has a real impact on people's lives. One of the things that I find in the spiritual, progressive type of communities is this tendency to go to the universal “we’re one” and to stay there. It’s way more comfortable then actually living through the relative truth that black people have state-sanctioned violence on their bodies and have since the beginning of this country. Not to mention the genocide of indigenous people and on and on. So, that is also the relative truth. That's just as important as the universal. Our minds don't do well with paradoxes and this is a paradox. A paradox are two things that seem to be the opposite sitting in the same place and they both are true. Equally so. So, it’s not like let's dissolve the relative and move to this oneness and universal. It's how do we bring the truths of the universal into the relative and the relative into the universal. 

Lama Tsomo:

Or another way we can say it is to hold both equally. They're both called the truth. If you let go of one truth or you go into one truth and at the expense of the other and let go of the other, either way you run into trouble because that's not reality.

Konda:

That’s exactly right. Living only in the relative world and not understanding our deep connection. I mean, that is what has gotten us off the rails, right? That's the stuff that has created the world we live in right now that's completely off the rails. Not feeling the interconnection of anything other than me. Then on the other side, just going totally to the universal and not doing or acknowledging the relative. In our minds the relative is a problem. The relative is a problem because we live it as a problem. We live race as a problem instead of the beauty that culture is. I love my culture. I don't want you to say, “I don't see race. I don't see culture. I don't see you as a black woman.” When you say that, you actually are denying me who I am. My full culture. And the beauty that I have in that. That is not the answer, to say that I don't see it. Yes, see me, acknowledge me. Honor me and all of the beautiful rainbows that we are on this planet. You know it's about learning to honor and love all of it the entire rainbow versus not seeing it because it's problematic and going to the universal. So, we'll use universal and this is called spiritual bypass, right? We answer the relative world with a universal answer.

Lama Tsomo:

My rabbi said it was kind of like a substitute for drugs, when you did it that way.

Konda:

Yeah, and I want to caution people not to do that. We need to go through everything that's going on here. Go through it, not around it, not skip over it, not bypass it, but to go through it. Look at ourselves and our own complicity. Where we hold up the supremacy in this country and our lives. Where we fall down or hide from and don't tell the truth about our own existence. Then that big gap happens between ourselves and ourselves, right? Because somewhere, we're not living what our highest ideals are and we all do that. We all do that. This practice to me, it just gets me closer and closer to living the preciousness and honoring the sacredness of our lives. I'm coming through everything as much as possible instead of bypassing or going around this. That's what this practice does. It's mindfulness. It's right here, right now. It's like right here. What is this reality right now? What is this reality in this moment? 

Lama Tsomo:

In the Vajrayana tradition, they talk about the Middle Way. It's the holding of the two truths which seem to be at odds with each other. Actually, the whole truth encompasses all of that. I think you've probably heard me talk about David Bohm, he was a great physicist, who had a lot of conversations with Krishnamurti. He said the further our understanding is from true reality, the more suffering we will create for ourselves and, I would add, others. The closer our vision of reality is to actual reality, the more beautiful and the more joyous existence can be. In Vajrayana it’s seen as a pure land. It's beautiful, if we can really see it as it is, and all of the colors and facets and uniqueness of each wave. Then we're in heaven actually. The hell we create, it's from our dissonance from what is.

Konda:

That’s right, that’s right. 

Lama Tsomo:

I hope I'm not making it sound easy, because crossing that gap is not easy. We’ve got some entrenched mental habits that are very ingrained and unconscious. So, I just want to add that. 

Konda:

There’s a reward system in place to ignore that which is whole. There's a reward system in place in our culture, and so it's easy to go towards that for which you get rewarded. 

Lama Tsomo:

If people could understand that that reward is so puny, shallow, and worthless compared to the reward of stepping into real reality. If people knew that, we wouldn't settle for those rewards.

Published on Jul 09 11 : 19 AM