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  • Daniel Rodman

The Relative and the Absolute

Updated: Mar 10, 2019

The world can be divided into two primary categories: the relative and the absolute. The relative includes everything that is manifested, from the grass to the buildings to the people to the stars. All of these things are called the relative for many reasons, one being because they exist solely based on being related to causes and conditions. They are based on a collection of parts coming together and they disintegrate into many parts again. Another reason is because all things exist in a net of interconnection. We feel this same interconnection when we love someone. There is a relationship of mutuality. This is called the holographic universe. One way to describe it is the metaphor of Indra's net, one which comes from Hinduism. Indra is king of the gods in Hinduism. Imagine a net where every juncture of the net has a jewel that reflects all other jewels at other junctures. This net is infinite and at every juncture you have infinite jewels all reflecting every other one. In the same way every atom is connected to every other one in the universe. This is known in science as the phenomenon of entanglement. Particles that interact with each other become entangled and therefore whatever happens to one influences the other instantly even over long distances. And since all particles were once interacting together at the moment of the big bang therefore all particles and atoms are entangled. We all exist in an infinitely interconnected world.

The third reason I will mention why things are called “the relative” is that in the world of things and people there is always a relative existence of attributes. Since the attributes all tend to come in pairs this is called the realm of duality. For example, light and dark, tall and short, up and down, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. All of these things require the other to define it. Without one the other would not be recognized. This is the nature of the relative.

The contrast to this is the non-dual, or the absolute. The absolute is that which transcends all duality and informs it. It is that which is the basis for all relativity and therefore is beyond any relative distinctions. Another word for it is the eternal, or the transcendent, since it transcends all relative categories.

The way we can understand the absolute is like the ocean and the waves, where the absolute is the ocean and the relative world is the waves. The waves are all unique but are all connected by being a part of the ocean. Their ultimate nature is the ocean. Just like this are all things and people. We are all connected through the absolute in all of us, and in the heart of every person. And our ultimate nature and the ultimate nature of all things is the absolute. In the relative there are distinctions between things, even between the relative and the absolute. From the perspective of the absolute there is only One reality which is both transcendent of the relative and immanent, the relative itself. The waves and the ocean are one reality.

In meditation practice our goal is to transcend all relative categories in order to realize the absolute. The absolute is what is called the mind of clear light, or the Divine within. (see “The Depth” and “The Mind of Clear Light” in “Meditation Documents/Handouts” on the website). We experience it as transcendent awareness and transcendent love, where transcendent awareness is correlated to the absolute and the transcendent love is correlated to the radiant expression of the absolute as and in the relative world.

The absolute and the relative are the totality of existence, where the absolute is the ultimate reality and the relative world is the way through which the ultimate can express itself in a myriad of infinite and meaningful forms, including you and me. May you come to know the absolute dimension within you that your relative life may be a conscious cosmic dance.

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