Let us briefly review our primordial wisdom tradition’s notion of the Two Truths and its connection to consciousness, and to consciousness studies. For the Buddhist Madhyamikas, relative truth (samvriti satya) is the dimension of contingent dualistic spacetime physical and mental appearance or form. Ultimate truth (paramartha satya) is, plainly construed, the nonlocal, nondual ontic dimension that is the primordial ground of the phenomenal objects of conventional relative truth, its ultimate mode of being, which is to say, nondual reality itself or emptiness. Things do not arise ex nihilo. Even first causes (God, the Big Bang) have their ontic antecedents, though these may transcend human conceptual, and even contemplative capacity. We must acknowledge this truth. These two truths or two modes of our being here are not separate independently existing dimensions, although our dualistic binary truth functional logical syntax of language makes it seem so. The contemplative nondual realization of these conceptual Two Truths reveals that they are two faces, two voices, of the same (samata) singular consciousness-reality-itself, nonlocal, nondual (maha ati) being itself. As the Buddha’s Heart Sutra reveals, “Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness.”
It is important to understand here, that the ultimate truth of emptiness, although it is referred to with such epithets as “primordial ground” and “supreme source” of arising form, etc., is not, on the accord of Prasangika Madhyamaka, and Dzogchen, itself a kind of absolute substrate, or creator that exists independently of the relative physical, emotive and mental phenomena that is form. Emptiness is merely a quality, aspect or property of form. No form, no emptiness. No emptiness, no form. “All emptiness is emptiness of something.” This relationship is often expressed as the “emptiness of emptiness.” Emptiness is not, on this view, some vast space or ground of consciousness, some essentially existent thing or entity “out there.” Nor is emptiness a dark, nihilistic nothingness.
What then is the truth status of this esoteric singular one truth that includes the duality of the conceptual Two Truths, relative and ultimate? What kind of truth can be “invariant across all cognitive frames of reference” (Alan Wallace), exoteric and esoteric form, and “innermost esoteric,” nondual emptiness?
Paradoxically, since this one all-embracing truth is, as with the relative spacetime phenomena it embraces, “utterly empty of any shred of inherent existence”(Nagarjuna)—the “emptiness of emptiness”—its truth is established, not ultimately, but relative-conventionally, by the conceptual and contemplative understanding of our human consciousness. This truth cannot be a logocentric absolute, i.e. a theistic creator God, or Brahman, or even nondual Nirguna Brahman. Hence it is not subject to anti-theist criticism, Western or Eastern, which misses the non-theistic point entirely. This vital epistemic distinction is grossly underappreciated in cross cultural religious studies discourse. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our conceptual philosophies. “Leave it as it is and rest your weary mind; all things are perfect, exactly as they are” (Shakyamuni Buddha).
The relation of the Madhyamaka Two Truths—relative and ultimate—to consciousness? The all-pervading one truth, the “one-taste” that is nondual consciousness being itself—the very nature of mind—is the ground of, and is instantiated in relative-conventional human and other sentient consciousness. And this profound conventional duality is an ontologically prior nonlocal nondual unity. Heady wine indeed. Let us then emphasize, not the contradictories of conceptual discourse, but the pragmatic complementarity of antithetical and binary, truth-functional, logically opposed opposites. The conceptual dichotomies will always remain. Let us remember their trans-conceptual ontic prior unity.
Moreover, the prevailing Western logic of the Aristotelian Law of Excluded Middle must here be tempered or bracketed, or even surrendered to the Law of Connection—everything is connected to everything else—of the Logical Intuitionists, and of the Eastern and contemplative “logic of the non-conceptual.”
Alas, all of these conceptual West/East paradigmatic, logical and ontological seeking strategies are preconsciously firmly cognitively embedded in our current epistemic individual and deep background cultural historical evolutionary “web of belief.”
How then does Wittgenstein’s luminous perfectly subjective fly find its way out of the objective dark night of the fly bottle? The solution lies in the “Who Question.” And it is indeed near at hand. In the very cognitive moment of seeking, our primordial consciousness—that “flower absent from all bouquets” (Mallarmé)—is always, already abundantly present, here and now, like a ripe red apple, through all our ordinary dualistic conceptual and emotional cognition, whether attractive or aversive; whether we know it, or believe it, or not (davidpaulboaz.org, “The Emerging Noetic Revolution: Unifying Our Two Knowledge Paradigms,” pp. 8–13).
“Who is it that shines through the mind and abides at the heart of all beings, always liberated and fully awake?” This, our “supreme identity” is inherently (sahaja) certain, when we cease thinking about it, and “just open the door” to nondual being itself. Contemplative praxis is the cognitive vector that makes it so.