Gal's Guide Podcast Personal Stories Podcasts Support Systems Tara Circle

Truth Has No Handles

Audio (previously part of a Lama in the Library series)


“The truth has no handles”


This phrase gave me a visual for a word that has been in flux in recent years – ‘Truth’. 

When I heard this phrase in class, I immediately drew a vase and a coffee cup. The visualization of truth being a container that holds either one thing like water or many things like Sangria got me thinking. 

Go with me on this metaphor for a moment… let’s say it’s a carafe of orange juice. In this carafe, there is not just one orange that is in the juice; it’s more likely over a dozen different oranges were used to make the juice. 

The truth is also made up of dozens of different things: experiments, ideas, rumors, opinions, and trial and error. The truth is a container for all those precepts – including the ones that contradict each other – to swirl together to combine into a truth that is agreed upon. 

Let’s get deeper with an example of a woman of history – Coco Chanel. So there is an agreed-on truth that Chanel created the little black dress (LBD). To a certain extent that is true. I mean, women in the Georgian and Victorian times were known to wear a black dress when they were in mourning. Marie Curie wore one quite frequently even before her husband died. However, the idea of a simple silhouette of delicate fabric in black was developed by Coco Chanel in the 1920s. It helped that the Great Depression was in full swing, and there was a war coming. The lack of fabric options, a need for cheaper outfits, and many women being in mourning were all parts of what made the truth of the LBD a reality. 

Also, she had Vogue, royalty, and, later, a PR department on her side.

Who is to say that another designer made the LBD, but we remember Coco did it? That’s the grasping. Adding a handle to an agreed truth. It’s like saying, “To hold on to this truth, I need to be separate from it.”    

You don’t need to grasp for the truth. The truth is a container that is held with open hands, not a closed fist.

Truth is openness.

Truth is without limits.  

Truth is resting in the ground of being.

There are fewer truths than there are handles. 

Find the truths in your life.


This phrase gave me so much freedom. 

Knowing that what I grasp as a handle someone else might be fully in to hold as truth. As a Buddhist, I hold that the truth of life is suffering, and there is a way out of that suffering whereas other religions either won’t touch that vessel or have a handle on it. 

I was picturing myself holding firmly a wooden bowl with water and a lotus floating on top and saying, “This is my truth,” all while standing next to a person who was holding a clay pot filled with rice and saying, “This is my truth.” Yet another was holding a glass pitcher filled with wine saying, “This is my truth.” And so on. 

It’s not that we need to match up with others with respect to what we hold in truth. It’s acknowledging that so many people hold with open arms their own truth – their sacred truth – no matter the container or the contents. That is their truth, and it is as valuable as everyone else. 

I bow to the truth I hold with two open hands. 

I bow to the truth others hold with two open hands.


So this one is silly and would be as deep as you want to take it…

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan (Video)

“The pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles.”

Now there is a strong part of me that just thinks Dylan thought it was a funny line and a great way to end the song. “Vandals and Handels” is a fantastic rhyme and a creative one that you don’t hear that often. Only Dylan knows how much thought was put into that line but I’m playing around with giving it more depth. 

When I look at this line in the context of “truth has no handles”. I could see it mean that the society to fuel themselves can’t embrace truth in its totality they need a handle to grab onto first. People being weary of truth. 

You could do deeper and say that because it’s talking about a pump, it’s gasoline and that gasoline ignites fuels a fire but also that truth ignites a passion. 

The ironic bit is that in the video, filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, there are two men on the side talking. One of them is Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg and the Lama I follow, Lama Tsultrim Allione. They met in 1972 and I have a picture. 



This phrase was said in a Prajnaparamita practice by Lopön Charlotte Rotterdam on April 3 as part of the Feeding Your Demons workshop.



I’m not aware of the root of this phrase. When I research, I hit the wall of Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” from A Few Good Men. If anyone knows to whom this phrase is attributed, I would love to know. 

My guess is Machig Labdron, but I can’t say with any proof.

Let me know at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s