Suchness: A Buddhist and Christian Parallel

The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). 

by Michael Corthell

While Buddha was on Earth he referred to himself as the Tathagata, which can mean either "One who has thus come" or "One who has thus gone", and interpreted correctly can be read as "One who has arrived at suchness".

So, just what is this 'suchness' exactly and how does it align with Christ and Christian practice today?

'Suchness' is of itself the highest wisdom. And it shows the highest wisdom which shines throughout the world and the Universe, it has true knowledge with a mind resting simply in its own being. It is eternal, it is joyful and blissful. It is its own self-being and it is the purest simplicity. It is energizing, immutable and it is free. Because it has all these attributes and is deprived of nothing, it is known as both as the Womb of Tathagata(GOD) and the Body of Tathagata(GOD).

To quote an old television show's tagline, ''The Truth is Out There,'' and it comes to us in many forms and variations.

One of the charms of Buddhism is that it manifests the ultimate Word or Truth from a another angle and a different perspective.

For example...

According to Chan hagiography, Gautama Buddha transmitted the awareness of tathata directly to a disciple in what has come to be translated in English as the Flower Sermon.

And in another story the Buddha asked his disciples, "How long is a human life?" None of them could answer correctly, so he told them "Life is but a breath". Here we can see the He is expressing the impermanent nature of the world, where each individual moment is different from the last. A biographer stated, "We know we are experiencing the 'thatness' of reality when we experience something and say to ourselves, 'Yes, that's it; that is the way things are.' In the moment, we recognize that reality is wondrously beautiful, but also that its patterns are fragile and passing."

Let's then compare this to another time and another Teacher: ''But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'' Stay in the moment, let it be. 'Be' is the suchness or tathata. Truth has many forms, across many times and ages.

And another:

"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
Thích Nhất Hanh

I often use this phrase in marketing: ''perception is reality''. In order for our world to be real to us, we have to perceive, and understand it as
a 'something'. We don't feel that it can be just what it is. We have to use our cognition and interpret it, and label it, or otherwise describe it in some way.

We understand and describe our reality through
words, ideas and images. For instance, I have an obsession with photography. I 'capture' light, thereby 'freezing' time. I petrify moments, and make them fixed because everything is moving, changing. Photography is used to enhance memory. To fix history in time...

But Suchness, or Tathata, the Tathagata, is much different than a photo capturing a moment. The
experience as it is happening is the right now or the suchness. Or this is the way it is.

But if we say that 'this is the way that it is' somebody will invariably say, ''You mean this is the way it is forever?'' ''For all time?'' 
No, not at all. It is just for right nowthis is the way it is. The only way it can be is the way it is right now!

The now is always changing, but at this
moment, the 'suchness of this moment, it is just this way. Our thinking, reasoning mind has to just stop pondering and practice acceptance of what is. Otherwise you will want to ask, ''Where is this thing, suchness?'' ''What are you saying?''

The absolute simplification of the concept and meaning of 'Suchness' or 'Tathata' is: ''Let it Be'' ''So be it'' ''So let it be'' or by another word...


Living Happiness in the Eternal NOW

What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.