You Can’t Tell the Truth Because Your Life Is a Lie

Something that people worry about is whether someone is lying to them or telling the truth. Without plunging into the depths of the illusion of self, let’s keep it simple.

Who are you? Like… who are you REALLY? Like I said, not in the sense of whether there is a self or not, I’ll save that for another day. In the simple things. Like when someone is gay, but they’re raised to believe they’re straight. They’re living a lie until that is embraced. They’re probably still living a lie though. There are so many things to embrace.

Sure, people can tell the truth about simple matters. What did you eat for breakfast? What movie did you see last night? Is it snowing?

What about the more complex things? What do you want to be when you grow up? Oh, you’re grown up already? What do you want to do with your life now?

Let me flip it, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to myself.

This won’t be my full commentary on the first case (koan) in “The Gateless Gate” but reading it last night and thinking about some other things this morning brought this blog post to mind.

First a verse from the preface and the first case.


The great Way has no gate;
There are a thousand different roads.
If you pass through this barrier once,
You will walk independently in the universe. – Page 8

Case 1 – Joshu’s Dog

A monk asked Joshu in all earnestness, “Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?”

Joshu said, “Mu!” – Page 11

Between the introduction and the commentary on the preface and Case 1 a couple of things were made clear to me. The most important being the amount of effort required to sustain an enlightened state after experiencing [kenshō] (the initial insight into the nature of enlightenment). The other was “Mu!” which gets right to the heart of where all of the lies and deception spring forth.

I can’t tell you whether I’ve ever experienced kensho before. That term is unique to a certain school of Buddhist thought and the experience is, I believe, suppose to be confirmed by an abbot (not a Casey Abbott 😉 ). What I can tell you is that I’ve only seen two paths for myself. I know no other.

  1. Focus all of my time and energy into becoming “enlightened” (in a detached from civilization way)
  2. Focus all of my time and energy into become a bodhisattva

More and more I’m seeing that the two things are one and the same… That said the lies, to myself, have made me lie to others. Instead of staying completely true to myself, I’ve spent a long time trapped in either the realm of trying to escape or trapped in the realm of trying to become a deluded bodhisattva (the time spent on delusion wasn’t by choice of course).

I’ve been half familiar with the concept of what a bodhisattva was for a long time, but only recently decided to truly delve into what it means to be one.

Some quick googling this morning brought me to a series of posts on the four vows of a bodhisattva. Here is an excerpt of the commentary on [the second vow] which is relevant to the title of the post, all four are worth reading ([Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4]):

The first thing that becomes apparent is that the delusion of ignorance gives rise to all others. This is the first delusion that needs to be transcended, since it’s really the root from which your judgment, attachment, and envy spring. We’re not speaking of ignorance pejoratively here; in the Buddhist literature, ignorance (in the sense of being simply unaware of the nature of things) is a fundamental aspect of our human existence. So, you reason that if you could manage to counter your ignorance with the wisdom of the way things are, then you’d be less likely to react in ways which you know will lead to suffering.

All of the lies spring forth from delusion and we’re all walking around with bags full of them. Understanding this helps one to understand why people do the things they do, delusion, lies to the self. And… It’s all good. 🙂

Reading through the four parts reminded me that everything “I” am doing is what is suppose to be getting done and has led to this moment where I’ve decided, yet again, to redouble my efforts. I suppose every time I tell myself this the mind has found new efforts to redouble.

Baby steps.

How does one eat a whale?

One bite at a time.

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