There’s life as it’s presented to us, and life as it’s known by us.
Life, as presented, is without boundaries. It’s without conclusions. It’s open, dynamic, and can’t be sifted through or quantified.
Life as known has boundaries. It’s full of conclusions. It’s closed, stagnant, and everything is weighed and measured according to faith and reason. Life as-known is where all of our suffering originates.
The second I know myself, I have to defend and preserve what I know. The second I know others, I judge them and either seek to hold onto or push them away.
But the sky isn’t made any less or more blue by us knowing that’s blue. And the clouds are unconcerned about what we call them, or think or feel about them. The mountains on the horizon aren’t any closer or further away after we measure out the miles, though after measuring, we might feel a sense of exhaustion creep up on us at the thought of walking them.
Life as-known is full of death and loss because, once we know something, it’s only a matter of time before we unknow it. All of our conclusions are provisional. Noon’s truth is midnight’s lie. When the sun sets, suffering us insisting that, “It’s still daytime.”
For life as-lived, there’s no day or night, there’s no context. We might feel the sun on our face, but we won’t know it as, “Day,” just as it is. We might step outside and midnight and sit in a swarm of shadows, gazing at the aching stars, but not know it as, “Night,” just as it is.
We all come out of the womb without knowing anything. So, over time, we try to make sense of things. To do that, we draw false conclusions and misread the map. This makes our lives orderly, but that order is what makes suffering possible. Because if we setup, “Order,” then we setup, “Disorder,” too.
The Path involves bracketing (temporarily setting aside) everything we think we know and bringing awareness to just this living moment, to know this unknowing, to be a part of this unfolding. Then we can take the brackets off and approach life as-known from the vantage point of life as-lived.
Awakening isn’t an either/or thing. We’re not abandoning this coming and going relative life for some kind of pure Absolute realm. That’s the other extreme. You can stay there, sure, but then you won’t see the big picture or be very functional at all for that matter.
Bodhisattvas enter life as-lived and then bring that lived-in perspective to life as-known. This not only relieves suffering, but cultivates joy, which is appreciation.
A Bodhisattva is just an ordinary person living ordinary life. Living with generosity, kindness, patience, and wisdom and with diligent clarity. Everything is known and unknown at the same time. The sky isn’t just blue it’s living sky, living blue. Death isn’t just death, it’s a giving back of what we never had.