Hsin Shin Ming: “3. Make the smallest distinction, however, and you are as far apart from the truth as heaven is from earth.”
‘Make distinction’ means to discriminate, which is to be ignorant of the fact that everything is empty. In other words, this means believing that all the labels which are our imaginary lines attached to things are real. Then, the imaginary lines are called illusions, and we are said to be deluded by illusions. ‘The truth’ means emptiness, the true-Self. Making the smallest distinction means thinking that there can be something, even if it is the smallest thing, that is not empty. So, this scripture can be rephrased as ‘If you think that something, however small it may be, is not empty, you are as far apart from realising the true-Self, emptiness, as heaven is from earth.
When you think that there is even a single tiny thing that is not empty, the tiny thing becomes the seed of all illusions, which will make the world of illusions in no time. For example, when a wooden table is not empty but real, everything, including the carpenter who made it and all the things used to make the table is also not empty but real. When the carpenter is real, his parents, his wife and his children are all real as well. Likewise, when all the things used to make the table are real, all other things and people that are related to them are also real. Seen in this way, everything becomes real in the end. So, if you make the smallest distinction, this is why you are as far apart from realising the truth as heaven is from earth.
You might wonder how it is possible for us to live our life without making the smallest distinctions. When you have realised that everything is empty, that is, when you are enlightened, your distinction or discrimination is called the action of the true-Self, whereas it is called distinction or discrimination when you are not enlightened. Once you are enlightened, whatever distinctions you may make, they are not illusions any longer since you are already aware that all of them are empty and so are not deluded by them. Therefore, making no distinction doesn’t mean not making any distinction but means making distinction without being deluded by illusions while knowing that everything is empty.
Student: “How is it when we don’t make the smallest distinction?”
Master: “Even if you make distinctions as different as heaven is from earth, you are not in the least apart from the truth.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/AkaBE