WISDOM OF EMPTINESS
'I am not, I will not be.
I have not, I will not have.
This frightens all children,
And kills fear in the wise.'
CONVENTIONAL AND ULTIMATE WISDOM
Although Albert Einstein was certainly not a Buddhist, these statements sound
much like it:
"A human being is part of a whole, called by us
the 'universe', a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate
from the rest
- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal
desires and to affectation for a few people near us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our
circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
From Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh:
"Enlightenment for a wave in the ocean is the moment the wave
realises that it is water."
Wisdom in Buddhism can refer to two types of insight:
conventional wisdom and ultimate wisdom:
Conventional wisdom relates to understanding the conventional
world, or the world as we know it. Traditionally it refers to understanding
the way in which karma functions; to understand which actions bring
us happiness and which bring us suffering. Conventional wisdom covers all
understanding of the world as it functions, including science, with the exception
of ultimate wisdom.
Ultimate wisdom (jñana in Sanskrit) refers
to a direct realisation which is non-dualistic, and contradicts the way in
which we ordinarily perceive the world. The direct experience of ultimate truth, selflessness or emptiness is beyond duality.
It is important to remember that emptiness here does not refer to nothingness
or some kind of nihilistic view. Emptiness refers to the fact that ultimately,
our day-to-day experience and perception of reality is wrong, and reality is sctually 'empty' of many qualities
that we normally assign to it.
Describing this non-dual experience in words is not really possible, as language
is based on duality and contrasts. Trying to explain this experience - which
contradicts our normal perception - is a bit like explaining colors to someone
who is born blind; difficult to say the least... So it is important not to get impatient with it - emptiness is probably one of the most difficult concepts to really get a grasp on - but understanding selfless / emptiness is very important, as is described below.
TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IT?
"...I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance.
People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness
or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and
contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation
of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
If emptiness can not really be explained in words, why bother?
According to the Buddha, as long as we do not realise emptiness directly -
especially of our idea of how our "I" or 'self' exists - we do not
properly understand what we are or how we function in the world, and we will continue to create
causes for our own misery.
"How much suffering and fear, and
How many harmful things are in existence?
If all arises from clinging to the "I",
What should I do with this great demon?"
Merely starting to doubt our perception of the world is invaluable
if we ever hope to break the bondage to uncontrolled cyclic existence
and suffering. In order to familiarise ourselves with this all-important experience,
we can try to familiarise ourselves with it on an intellectual level. When
we would experience emptiness, we would then be able to recognise it. Instead
of believing we have suddenly gone mad, recognition would encourage us to
enhance the experience and achieve liberation from suffering.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explained it in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya:
We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, "I will not suffer." We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, "I will not be attached to anything," nor eliminate aggression by saying, "I will never become angry." Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The Buddha taught that to eliminate these states, which are really the results of the primary confusion of our belief in a personal self, we must get rid of the fundamental cause.
But we cannot simply say, "I will not believe in the personal self." The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realise this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that "self" will disappear.
Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection. This is why the Buddha emphasized meditation on selflessness or egolessness (emptiness).
However, to meditate on egolessness, we must undertake a process that begins with a conceptual understanding of egolessness; then, based on that understanding, there can be meditation, and finally realization.
So to summarize; as long as we do not directly realize selflessness or emptiness, we are stuck in cyclic existence and we will always meet with problems and pain. Only the direct realization of emptiness opens the door to escape suffering completely, for once and for all. As everyone wishes to be free from problems forever, striving to realize emptiness is one of the most sensible things we can do in our life.
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The wisdom of emptiness refers to a lack of something: 'inherent
existence'. 'Inherent existence' means that things appear to exist independently,
in- and out of themselves, from the side of the object, by way of its' own
character, self-powered, autonomous. Ultimately however, things exist in dependence
upon causes and conditions. For example, a human being ceases to exist in
a vacuum, we would instantly die when all conditions for life are suddenly
gone. On another level, a human being needs to come into existence by the
combination of a sperm from the father joining an egg from the mother and
all the right conditions to grow into an embryo. So, considering ourselves
as independently existing, fully autonomous is a mere illusion and does not
accord with ultimate reality.
Ultimate wisdom can be compared to eco-thinking in biology:
a century ago, biology focused mainly on categorising species of animals and
plants and describing their specific aspects. Plants and animals were cut
to ever smaller pieces to analyse how they function.
However, nature also functions at a completely different level; as relations
and processes between living beings. Ecology appeared as a new branch of biology,
more dealing with relations, cycles and interdependence of animals, plants
and surroundings. This is somewhat similar to the view of emptiness. Instead
of focusing on differences and individuality, the realisation of emptiness
is about realising that nothing exists by itself alone, but depends on other
things. Just as all living beings rely on other living beings - at least their
ancestors, so do even inanimate objects depend on other objects, conditions,
parts and processes to arise and disappear.
The fact that we normally do not realise emptiness and the
relatedness of things is directly related to our perception. As soon
as we perceive something in the outside world, it feels different from our
own body or mind. We feel as if other things are "out there", separate from
"my self", which is "in here".
But are they really separate? To begin with, if the outer object would not
somehow "relate" to us in the form of sound, smell, light etc., we would be
unable to perceive it. So our perception of objects depends on interaction,
rather than the fact that we are separate. To put it simple, our perception
of the world is only possible because of interaction, interrelation, dependence
and exchange of information.
From the Avatamsaka Sutra:
"Far away, in the heavenly abode of the great god
Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer
in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In
accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung
a single glittering jewel in each eye of the net, and since the net itself
is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number.
There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful
sight to behold. If we now look closely at any one of the jewels for inspection,
we will discover that in its polished surface are reflected all the other
jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels
reflected in this one jewel is reflecting all the other jewels, so that
there is an infinite reflection process occuring.
This symbolises our world where every sentient being (and thing) is inter-related
to one another."
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, from The Compassionate Life:
"All events and incidents in life are so intimately linked with the
fate of others that a single person on his or her own cannot even begin
to act. Many ordinary human activities, both positive and negative, cannot
even be conceived of apart from the existence of other people. Even the
committing of harmful actions depends on the existence of others. Because
of others, we have the opportunity to earn money if that is what we desire
in life. Similarly, in reliance upon the existence of others it becomes
possible for the media to create fame or disrepute for someone. On your
own you cannot create any fame or disrepute no matter how loud you might
shout. The closest you can get is to create an echo of your own voice.
Thus interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms
of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without
any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on
an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level
of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena,
from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that
surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without
their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay."
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When we perceive an object, we automatically tend to label
it (like nice, bad, wet, dry, light, dark, etc.). As soon as our mind puts
a label on an object, the label takes the place of the actual object
in our mental processes. As our mental image or label can never represent
all the different qualities and characteristics of any object, it is always
just a simplified, usually exaggerated, subjective snap shot. However, our
mind reacts on the basis of our own mental label of an object. No wonder we
tend to react simplistic, exaggerated and subjective in many situations. All perceived
objects are conditioned by our senses and our own mind.
This leads to the
dramatic conclusion that we are not and by definition can never be objective!
Or, as the famous physicist Werner Heisenberg said,
"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method
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Our labelling leads to problems like anger and attachment,
but also to the more basic problem that we think we are somehow separate from
the outside world. But are we separate from the outside world?
When we see something - for example a table - it appears to be separate from
the rest of the world, just standing there by itself, but is that correct?
How could the table stand there without the ground supporting it? How could
the table exist without a carpenter making it from pieces of wood? The pieces
of wood come from a tree, which comes from a seed, water, soil, air, the sun
and its nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms etcetera.... Every object needs causes
and conditions to exist, just like we need our parents, food, air, clothes
and many more things to exist. Apart from that, our perception of an object
is strongly coloured by our own senses, mental state and memories. In this
way, it becomes impossible to maintain that 'I' am separate from the outside
world, however much it feels that way.
"Monks, we who look at the whole and not just the
part, know that we too are systems of interdependence, of feelings, perceptions,
thoughts, and consciousness all interconnected. Investigating in this way,
we come to realize that there is no me or mine in any one part, just as
a sound does not belong to any one part of the lute."
-Samyutta Nikaya, from "Buddha Speaks"
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THE PHILOSOPHY OF
The Prasangika Madhyamila philosophical school of Buddhism teaches that things are:
1. Dependent on their parts
2. Interrelated, not isolated
3. Merely labelled
To prevent misunderstanding,
we must avoid the "two extremes", that is, believing that:
1. Things are permanent, independent of their parts, and independent of our
2. Things do not exist at all (nihilism).
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO ME?
This view has consequences when it is applied to whatever I call "I" and
- I am not isolated from my surroundings and other living beings.
- I "create" the world with my own concepts and ideas.
- The world is like an illusion: how I see the world depends on my
- This world is "my" film, "my" projection, I run the show, so I can change
my experience of the world.
- I can change the world, if I start with my own mind.
- I can change, as "I" is only a concept, impermanent and dependent
on causes and conditions, just like all phenomena (even emptiness itself).
- Although I can understand this intellectually, I don't perceive the world
that way until I directly realise emptiness!
"Sometimes, the thought of "I" suddenly
arises with great force....The situation is like that of a rock or a tree
seen protruding up from the peak of a hill on the horizon: From afar it
may be mistaken for a human being. Yet the existence of a human in that
rock or tree is only an illusion. On deeper investigation, no human being
can be found in any of the individual pieces of the protruding entity, nor
in its collection of parts, nor in any other aspect of it. Nothing in the
protrusion can be said to be a valid basis for the name "human being."
Likewise, the solid "I" which seems to exist somewhere within
the body and mind is merely an imputation. The body and mind are no more
represented by the sense of "I" than is the protruding rock represented
by the word "human." This "I" cannot be located anywhere
within any individual piece of the body and mind, nor is it found within
the body and mind as a collection, nor is there a place outside of these
that could be considered to be a substantial basis of the object referred
to by the name "I"."
The Second Dalai Lama (1475-1542), in Samuel Bercholz's 'Entering
...when we talk about the notion of self in Buddhism,
it is important to bear in mind that there are different degrees or types.
There are some types of sense of self which are not only to be cultivated
but also to be reinforced and enhanced. For instance, in order to have a
strong determination to seek Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient
beings, one needs a very strong sense of confidence, which is based upon
a sense of commitment and courage. This requires a strong sense of self.
Unless one has that identity or sense of self, one will not be able to develop
the confidence and courage to strongly seek this aim. In addition, the doctrine
of Buddha-nature gives us a lot of encouragement and confidence because
we realize that there is this potential within us which will allow us to
attain the perfection that we are seeking. However, there are different
types of sense of self which are rooted in a belief in a permanent, solid,
indivisible entity called "self" or "I." There is the
belief that there is something very concrete or objective about this entity.
This is a false notion of self which must be overcome.
Anger by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Please do take 5 minutes to look at this enjoyable video on YouTube with smooth music from Sakya Mipham, that has a remarkable message - think about it!
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HOW TO INTEGRATE EMPTINESS INTO DAILY LIFE
By Lama Thubten Yeshe
What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality
of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According
to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount
to the same thing. The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really
want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan
Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place -
maybe Shangrila! - then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside
yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your
reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you
are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made
by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to
You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences,
of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation
of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your
mind literally made them up. If you don't understand this then you have
very little chance of understanding emptiness.
This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists
and philosophers - they have researched into reality too. Physicists look
and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in
a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness.
If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if
you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your
worldly problems - but you don't want to understand.
It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against
reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial,
polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets - one, two, ten,
one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the
product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind
is superstition. We don't understand reality, and the intellectual life
that we lead keeps us far from reality.
So we don't accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves
with thick blankets and say "this is me". We hide our own reality
and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching
our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems
with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on
his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again.
In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is
so complicated, that doesn't touch reality, that is so difficult to live
in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything
If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that
you think you are, then you would be shocked. "What is this monk saying?"
But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non
self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think
you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic
and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold
on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong
conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality.
In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems
you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs
and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression,
more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes
wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed.
The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.
You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the
result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is
the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence
of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don't believe they can change
their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't
believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you
resolve your depression.
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be
localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not
travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and
the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are
the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.
I will give you a good example. When a western man or woman looks for a
girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when
suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. "Oh,
so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside". They build up a perfect
myth. They push and push., the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian
they say, "Oh, he looks just like Jesus. She looks just like an angel.
So nice, so pure". Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies
onto each other.
If she is Hindu, then he would say, "Oh, she looks like Kali, like
Mother Earth, like my universal mother"...and if you are Buddhist you
fold your hands and say, "Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me
the true nature of all things". You understand? "When I am near
her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn't move,
I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can't believe
my energy!" I tell you all this is superstitious interpretation. You
think that she is your spiritual friend and all she does is really perfect,
even her kaka and pee pee are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps I shouldn't talk
like this - I am a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about
reality then we have to speak practically, from daily life, about what is
earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.
What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily
lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes
it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire
life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have
a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your
life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a
disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a
Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster... Be honest. Be
honest with yourself.
In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality,
and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the
mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality
exists in us now, it is born with us... The essence of your consciousness,
your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially
negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping
and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You
should not believe, "I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot
solve my problems". Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in
our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now.
So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are
clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep
in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean
clear state of mind.
Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate
now. So, close your eyes, don't think, "I am meditating", just
close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your
mind, just be aware. Don't interpret good, bad. Just be like a light - light
doesn't think "I like this, I like that". It is just a light.
Whatever is in your consciousness, whatever experience, just be aware. That
Whatever your experience at the moment, whatever your colour, whatever appearance
is there, just stay aware. Be aware. If it's black energy, then that black
energy is clean clear. If it's white energy, just feel that clean clear
state. Be aware of whatever is happening. No interpretation ... Don't try
to hold onto something or to reject something.
Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September
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HOW TO PRACTISE?
To realise emptiness, externally we need a qualified teacher,
and internally we need enough merit (or karma), purification, practice of
ethics, keeping our vows and generating single-pointed concentration.
In the Tibetan tradition: first one tries to intellectually understand it,
then later the realisation can ripen in the well-prepared field of our mind.
It is advised to analyse the "I" first, and then later one analyses other
phenomena in the same way, for example using the "fourfold analysis":
1. Identify object of negation: inherently existent "I"
2. Determine possibilities of how the "I" exists: is it the body, the mind,
both or different? (We can say, "I have have a body and a mind", which would
indicate that the "I" is something different from the body and the mind, but
is that possible?)
3. Is the "I" same as body and/or mind?
4. Is the "I" other than body and mind?
"While you are meditating there is an "I" (representing
the Self) which appears to exist from its own side. Right on top of that
think, 'the I is merely labelled'. Just meditate on the meaning of the I
being merely labelled. I is a name; a name does not exist from its own side,
a name is given, imputed by the mind. We can completely agree with that.
This I is merely labelled; concentrate on just that. Try to feel that. This
automatically eliminates eternalism, the view of a truly existent I."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
"Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing:
the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of
course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence
itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see
what I am: an ever-changing energy field. I don't want to be that. So good
practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating,
analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud to keep
ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's
anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish
efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice
is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing
that matters is seeing with an impersonal spotlight: seeing things as they
really are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call
it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem
Charlotte Joko Beck, in 'Everyday
"Our exaggerated sense of self and our compulsion
to find happiness for this larger-than-life self we have fabricated cause
us to ignore, neglect and harm others. Of course, it is our right to love
and take care of ourselves, but not at the expense of others. While "As
long as I'm alright" is our motto, we have no hesitation in acting
with total disregard for others."
Three Principal Aspects of the Path: An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam
For a funny practical teaching; click on the Snowman
to download this self-extracting Flash file (it is 256kB, so may take a couple
of minutes to download).
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One issue which can create much confusion is about our dualistic
mind. Normally, our mind functions on a very dualistic level, which means
that we continuously make distinctions, like black and white, good and bad,
hard and soft. This level of mind reasons and is the basis for our ability
to think logical using concepts. However, the goal of the teachings on emptiness
is to lead to a non-dualistic experience (realisation) of emptiness. Different
schools may approach this problem differently; for example, the Zen schools
tend to emphasise first achieving a non-dualistic state of mind in meditation,
the Tibetan schools first emphasise proper dualistic, inferential, logical
understanding of the subject, and then meditating on it to achieve the direct
A question was put to to His Holiness Dalai Lama:
"How does one go from inferential knowledge to nonconceptual
knowledge? Since analysis is used to arrive at total inferential knowledge
any more analysis would still be inferential."
His Holiness' answer:
"Among meditations there are many different types
and in special situations such as certain levels of Highest Yoga Tantra
for example, analysis is discouraged. The general mode of procedure on the
Buddhist path is that through constant reflection on the knowledge which
is initially inferential, through various stages of familiarisation, reflection
and contemplation, that knowledge which is initially inferential could eventually
become nonconceptual. The engagement of that knowledge in relation to the
object becomes subtler and subtler, eventually the knowledge becomes direct
Generally speaking it is very true that there must be a correlation between
cause and its effects. Any cause can not give rise to any effect. There
must be some causal relationship and connection but that does not mean that
every effect must have completely similar causes. Take for instance the
omnisicent mind of the Buddha; if we insist that its cause must be completely
similar in characteristics with its effect which is omniscient mind, then
we will have to maintain that within us we possess the seed for attaining
Buddha's omniscient mind and wisdom. Then we must possess within us, even
to a slight degree some form of Buddha's omniscient mind which cannot be
maintained. As far as non-conceptual awareness or wisdom of Arya beings
is concerned, the causes need not be such high states of realisation. Therefore
regarding the non-dualistic awareness or wisdom of Arya beings, their causes
can be said to exist even within ordinary beings.
If we examine our mind, as long as we remain in an ordinary state of existence,
our mind is characterized by dualistic perceptions, dualistic experiences.
Within this dualistic experience and perception we must be able to seek
some kind of seed which would give rise to non-dual wisdom and awareness.
Therefore in the initial stage of knowledge, it is inferential, dualistic
and characterized by duality between subject and object. As you train your
mind and constantly reflect and cultivate your familiarity with that object,
then that subject and object duality will gradually diminish in its intensity.
Gradually it will lead you to realization. Your knowledge of the object
becomes direct, intuitive and non-conceptual.
When we talk of non-dual awareness in the context of dualistic appearances
or dualism, one must bear in mind that there are many different meanings
of the term. Dualistic experience could be understood in terms of a multitude
of ways: conventional appearance as dualistic appearance, subject and object
duality or separateness as being dualistic appearance; or as a generated
image through which we can conceive as object, that image can be seen as
dualistic appearance. Similarly when we come across the term non-conceptuality
we do not have the notion that there is only a single meaning which is universal
in every single context. Non-conceptuality will have different meanings
in different contexts."
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With this explanation, you may be tempted to think that emptiness
is all about playing with words and doing complicated mind games. However,
it is said that realising emptiness directly can solve all our problems, as
all our problems are caused by our misunderstanding of the world. As all our
communication is based on words which cannot express the ultimate truth, please
try to discover the real meaning behind the words for yourself!
Another thing that should be kept in mind is that when one
directly experiences emptiness, the mind cannot perceive anything dualistic,
meaning it cannot perceive anything of the "normal" world. That does not mean there is no perception at all, but we would perceive the world very different. Perhaps comparable as if everyone would have an eye-defect and see all things as blue. When a medicine becomes available to cure this defect, nothing would look familiar, as the colors all appear to unfamiliar and strange. This is why discussions
on emptiness often tend to go astray and may have an "otherworldly" feel to
them, from the ultimate view of emptiness, all our normal perception and thinking about reality is flawed. It is said that only a fully realised Buddha can experience emptiness
and ordinary existence simultaneously.
Now a few words on the combination of wisdom and compassion.
In Tibetan Buddhism, these are considered the two most important aspects of
practice. Just like a bird needs two wings to fly; a very compassionate person
without wisdom is only a likeable fool, and a person with wisdom and no compassion
is like a lonely hermit in an ivory tower... Both will reinforce each other:
once we realise how interrelated we all are, it is hard not to feel some level
of compassion, and once we feel compassionate to others we realise our interrelatedness.
"Recently I am emphasizing that due to the modern economy,
and also due to information and education, the world is now heavily interdependent,
interconnected. Under such circumstances, the concept of 'we' and 'they'
is gone: harming your neighbor is actually harming yourself. If you do negative
things towards your neighbor, that is actually creating your own suffering.
And helping them, showing concern about others' welfare -- actually these
are the major factors of your own happiness. If you want a community full
of joy, full of friendship, you should create that possibility. If you remain
negative, and meantime want more smiles and friendship from your neighbors,
that's illogical. If you want a more friendly neighbor, you must create
the atmosphere. They they will respond."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama (from an interview in the November issue
of the Shambala Sun)
"The one thing to be attained is essentially void
and compassionate. Let me explain.
The realisation of voidness is the absolute spirit of enlightenment; it
is seeing that all things are unborn.
Compassion is the relative spirit of enlightenment; it is reaching out in
love to all beings who have yet to realise that they are unborn.
Those who follow the Mahayana path should develop these two forms of the
spirit of enlightenment."
"The supreme goal of the teachings is the emptiness
whose nature is compassion."
"Know emptiness, be compassionate."
Know all things to be like this:
A mirage, a cloud
A dream, an apparition,
Without essence, but with qualities that
can be seen.
Know all things to be like this:
As the moon in a bright
In some clear lake reflected,
Though to that lake the moon has never
Know all things to be like this:
As an echo that derives
From music, sounds, and weeping,
Yet in that echo is no melody.
all things to be like this:
As a magician makes illusions
Of horses, oxen,
carts and other things,
Nothing is as it appears.
For meditations, see the List
of Sample Meditations.
See also my essay Mount
Emptiness (a simpleton's comparison of modern science and the Buddhist 'emptiness')
Interesting reflections on meditation
on emptiness on Buddhanet
Click for a funny illustration
of emptiness with a Snowman (this self-extracting file is 256kB, so it may
take a couple of minutes to download)
Show me a sane man and I will cure
him for you.
Carl Gustav Jung
Says the lama to his pupil: "Do you understand that you don't really
Upon which the pupil replies: "Whom are you telling that?"
who isn't confused, really doesn't understand the situation.
Edward R. Murrow
It is not wise to be wiser than necessary.
Nothing is a problem
I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of
the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection.
In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural
is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer
to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary.
Conception of two myselves is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful
use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries
it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot.
updated: December 11, 2016