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  • Daniel Rodman

The Transcendent and Buddhism


All spiritual traditions have the realization or union with the Transcendent Truth as their fundamental goal. This Transcendent, the ground of reality, is sought out in affirmative ways for all spiritual traditions except Buddhism. Buddhism approaches the Transcendent in its higher tenant systems through a process of negation. By affirmation I mean to say to relate to a manifest aspect of the Transcendent, be it Jesus, or a personal God like a human, or a fundamental energy like Brahman in Hinduism. The affirmative path takes the aspects of the Transcendent that are knowable, relatable, and accessible easily. This is a valid path of course, but it is interesting to note that Buddhism is different.

Buddhism approaches the Transcendent by a path of negation, which means removing everything that it is not. This approach ultimately does not take any idea of a manifest thing or person or nature to be the path of approach to the Transcendent, since the Transcendent is, ultimately, beyond all that is manifest. Not to say that we deny creation or ourselves, but rather in Buddhism the most capable approach to guide the mind to full, direct understanding of the Transcendent is to not have anything else take the place of it. Buddhism is the keeper of the truth that the Transcendent is literally Transcendent of everything. In its ultimate reality it is not a human with a body, or a light, or a gold glorious shine, or a will, or even relative love. It is the basis of these things, and through these things we may know it better.

However, through the path of negation, you never hold onto anything, there is no idea or manifest thing that could ever be the Transcendent, since it is the basis. The Transcendent is The Beyond.

So what does the path of negation do and how do you practice it? Aside from cultivating great love and compassion as a requirement, you must also recognize what to negate and let go of. That thing is the grasping at inherent existence and our own ego. Removing the belief in a stuck, unchanging essence for ourselves and objects that we emotionally cling to is the practice of negation. Slowly but surely our mind becomes liberated from the grasping that causes all negative states of mind and our misapprehension of reality. Finally through getting rid of what the Transcendent is not, an intuitive understanding of the Transcendent can be realized.

This path of negation is profound because it allows for the Transcendent to be what it is, utterly beyond. As opposed to holding onto a view of the Transcendent as if it were like a manifested thing, like your idea of it, as opposed to being beyond all manifestation ultimately. You allow yourself to negate what is in the way of having your mental faculties cognize the Transcendent directly. This is a subtle and direct path to understanding the Transcendent. May you find which way serves you the best, whether it is the affirmative way, the way of negation, or both, that you may seek the Transcendent according to your calling.

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