Realizing Emptiness -

What is Emptiness?


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What I have to say has all been said before,
And I am destitute of learning and of skill with words.
I therefore have no thought that this might be of benefit to others;
I wrote it only to sustain my understanding

My faith will thus be strengthened for a little while,
That I might grow accustomed to this virtuous way.
But others who now chance upon my words,
May profit also, equal to myself in fortune

(1, 2 - 3 - Shantideva - Bodhicharyavatara)

No Mind

The power of the warrior mind is its ability to act from a state of "No Mind", with technique arising effortlessly out of emptiness. As a mirror reflects objects without clinging to the images, the "Warrior Mind" is free to flow from one object to the next without impediment. From this state arises instinctive wisdom, the power that allows ordinary people to perform extraordinary feats.

The no-mind not-thinks no-thoughts about no-things - The Buddah

The undisturbed mind is like the calm body water reflecting the brilliance of the moon.
Empty the mind and you will realize the undisturbed mind. - Yagyu Jubei

"The river has no shape, but it takes on the boundaries which it carves out for itself,
so is the mind boundless, until it creates a prison for its own thoughts."

"There is only one journey. Going inside yourself." Rainer Marie Rilke

The Infinite Power of the Self

Mother Amma once said,

'Once you are established in the state of no-mind, no one can do anything to you, unless you consciously let them do it. You can allow something to happen or not to happen. Whether it happens or not, you remain a witness - completely untouched and unpeturbed, ever established in the state of supreme detachment.

Suppose someone wants to harm you or even kill you. They cannot lift a finger against you if you do not permit it. As long as your sankalpa (resolve) is there, nothing they do can affect you. They will in some mysterious way always fail. Finally they might reach the conclusion that something, some divine power, is protecting you. But this power is the infinite power of the Self, it is not some power that comes from outside. The source of this power is within you. You become that infinite power.

When you are egoless you are everything. The entire universe is with an enlightened being. Even the animals, trees, mountains and rivers, and the sun and the moon and the stars are on the side of the Self-Realized soul - because in that state you are ego less. When you bow down before all existence, in utter humility, the universe (existence) bows down to you and serves you. But remember that you can also command them to turn against you, because, either way you are not affected."

Awaken Children Volume VII

Maitreya says

"Whoever, whatever, whenever you are, tread the divine water cleanliness which is detachment. I have not come to teach you anything new. Be honest to yourself, sincere to yourself, and be detached.

This method is so simple, so sweet, it is free from religions, ideologies, politics. It makes one experience who one is. Fulfil your role, yet be free.

(Share International, June 1992)

Sufi Poet Rumi

"Let the water settle; you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your being." --Jelaluddin Rumi

"Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field - I'll meet you there." --Jelaluddin Rumi

When water gets caught in habitual whirlpools, dig a way out through the bottom of the ocean. RUMI


by Thanissaro Bhikkhu Copyright 1997 Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Emptiness is a mode of perception, a way of looking at experience. It adds nothing to and takes nothing away from the raw data of physical and mental events. You look at events in the mind and the senses with no thought of whether there's anything lying behind them.

This mode is called emptiness because it's empty of the presuppositions we usually add to experience to make sense of it: the stories and world-views we fashion to explain who we are and the world we live in. Although these stories and views have their uses, the Buddha found that some of the more abstract questions they raise -- of our true identity and the reality of the world outside -- pull attention away from a direct experience of how events influence one another in the immediate present. Thus they get in the way when we try to understand and solve the problem of suffering.

Say for instance, that you're meditating, and a feeling of anger toward your mother appears. Immediately, the mind's reaction is to identify the anger as "my" anger, or to say that "I'm" angry. It then elaborates on the feeling, either working it into the story of your relationship to your mother, or to your general views about when and where anger toward one's mother can be justified. The problem with all this, from the Buddha's perspective, is that these stories and views entail a lot of suffering. The more you get involved in them, the more you get distracted from seeing the actual cause of the suffering: the labels of "I" and "mine" that set the whole process in motion. As a result, you can't find the way to unravel that cause and bring the suffering to an end.

If, however, you can adopt the emptiness mode -- by not acting on or reacting to the anger, but simply watching it as a series of events, in and of themselves -- you can see that the anger is empty of anything worth identifying with or possessing. As you master the emptiness mode more consistently, you see that this truth holds not only for such gross emotions as anger, but also for even the most subtle events in the realm of experience. This is the sense in which all things are empty. When you see this, you realize that labels of "I" and "mine" are inappropriate, unnecessary, and cause nothing but stress and pain. You can then drop them. When you drop them totally, you discover a mode of experience that lies deeper still, one that's totally free.

To master the emptiness mode of perception requires training in firm virtue, concentration, and discernment. Without this training, the mind tends to stay in the mode that keeps creating stories and world views. And from the perspective of that mode, the teaching of emptiness sounds simply like another story or world view with new ground rules. In terms of the story of your relationship with your mother, it seems to be saying that there's really no mother, no you. In terms of your views about the world, it seems to be saying either that the world doesn't really exist, or else that emptiness is the great undifferentiated ground of being from which we all came to which someday we'll all return.

These interpretations not only miss the meaning of emptiness but also keep the mind from getting into the proper mode. If the world and the people in the story of your life don't really exist, then all the actions and reactions in that story seem like a mathematics of zeros, and you wonder why there's any point in practicing virtue at all. If, on the other hand, you see emptiness as the ground of being to which we're all going to return, then what need is there to train the mind in concentration and discernment, since we're all going to get there anyway? And even if we need training to get back to our ground of being, what's to keep us from coming out of it and suffering all over again? So in all these scenarios, the whole idea of training the mind seems futile and pointless. By focusing on the question of whether or not there really is something behind experience, they entangle the mind in issues that keep it from getting into the present mode.

Now, stories and world views do serve a purpose. The Buddha employed them when teaching people, but he never used the word emptiness when speaking in these modes. He recounted the stories of people's lives to show how suffering comes from the unskillful perceptions behind their actions, and how freedom from suffering can come from being more perceptive. And he described the basic principles that underlie the round of rebirth to show how bad intentional actions lead to pain within that round, good ones lead to pleasure, while really skillful actions can take you beyond the round altogether. In all these cases, these teachings were aimed at getting people to focus on the quality of the perceptions and intentions in their minds in the present -- in other words, to get them into the emptiness mode. Once there, they can use the teachings on emptiness for their intended purpose: to loosen all attachments to views, stories, and assumptions, leaving the mind empty of all greed, anger, and delusion, and thus empty of suffering and stress. And when you come right down to it, that's the emptiness that really counts. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Revised: Wed 16 May 2001

Nothing has any inherent existence of its own when you really look at it, and this absence of independent existence is what we call “emptiness.” Think of a tree. When you think of a tree, you tend to think of a distinctly defined object; and on a certain level it is. But when you look more closely at the tree, you will see that ultimately it has no independent existence.

When you contemplate it, you will find that it dissolves into an extremely subtle net of relationships that stretches across the universe. The rain that falls on its leaves, the wind that sways it, the soil that nourishes and sustains it, all the seasons and the weather, moonlight and starlight and sunlight—all form part of this tree.

As you begin to think more and more about the tree, you will discover that everything in the universe helps to make the tree what it is; that it cannot at any moment be isolated from anything else; and that at every moment its nature is subtly changing. This is what we mean when we say things are empty, that they have no independent existence.
Sogyal Rinpoche


The Wisdom of Emptiness - The Sixth Perfection

Excerpt from 'Awakening the Mind - Basic Buddhist Meditations' by Geshe Namgyal Wangchen

p217 -onwards

The fully awakened clear state of mind that realizes the truth of emptiness - the emptiness of inherent existence - is the wisdom we seek. It is called prajna in Sanskrit. When we acheive this wisdom we are able to realize emptiness from the depth of our own personal experience, beyond intellectualization.

Only this wisdom has the true power to cut our delusions from their root completely. No matter how many other virtuous qualities we may have, there is no way to achieve the complete elimination of our delusions unless and until the full realization of emptiness is gained. Therefore, whether we seek liberation or enlightenment, it is essential for us to seek this wisdom.

To gain the full realization of emptiness we must necessarily have developed our inner understanding to the point where we can fully negate the inherently existent self, yet at the same time not fail to maintain the conventional reality of the self - the truth that self does exist in general. This is the perfect middle way of understanding emptiness, as taught by Buddha and elaborated by master Nagarjuna, who established the Madhyamika, or Middle Way School, some four hundred years after Buddha had passed away.

However, we cannot gain the full realization of emptiness without a foundation, hence Buddha taught the emptiness of the substantially existent self and the emptiness of the externally existent self as a base for understanding the most subtle emptiness, the emptiness of inherent existence.

Among the followers of Buddha's teachings on emptiness there arose four different lineage-holders of his teachings on emptiness, known as the four Buddhist schools:

Vaibashika (followers of the early commentaries - The Mahavibhasa - on the sutras); Sautantrika (Sutra Citers); Cittamatra (Mind Only); and Madhyamika (The Middle Way).

.......The Madhyamaka School holds the view that the emptiness of the inherently existent self is the highest form of emptiness that Buddha taught. The ultimate aim of the Buddha is to lead us to the full realization of the miost subtle emptiness - the emptiness of inherent existence as elaborated by Nagarjuna. The first two forms of emptiness, the emptiness of the substantially existent self and the emptiness of the externally existent self are taught as steps towards the full understanding of the most subtle emptiness.

The Importance of Seeking the Truth of Emptiness

The truth of emptiness is the essence of all Buddha's teachings. The realization of this truth is not only the ultimate method for us to cut our delusions from their root, but is also the key path that leads us to the perfect state of Buddhahood. It is important to cut our delusions if we truly wish to be liberated from the suffering of samsara, not to mention how important it is for us to control and eliminate our own delusions to be able to help others effectively and in a sincere and pure way. Hence as Buddha says in the Perfection Sutras:

The Wisdom that realizes the emptiness of the inherently existent self is the mother of both those who reach beyond the suffering of cyclic existence for their own peace and those who attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

Similarly Chandrakirti points out:

All those who go beyond cyclic existence have attained their liberation through the perfect teachings of the Enlightened Ones. These are born from Bodhisattvas who fully develop themselves to benefit others. Bodhisattvas in turn are born from three seeds only: the realization of emptiness the mind of enlightenment and great compassion.

If we look at the origin of our anger, attachment and so on, we can clearly see from our own experience that they arise from our misconception of self, holding the view the 'I' exists inherently. Thus it is clear why only the realization of emptiness has the power to cut our delusions completely. No matter how much and for how long we might concentrate on developing the other virtuous paths, such as single-pointed mind, morality, patience and so on, until the truth of emptiness is correctly realized.

Understanding Emptiness According to the Middle Way

The pure understanding of emptiness as taught by Buddha and elaborated by the great Nagarjuna and subsequently by his two main disciples, Buddhapalita and Chandrakirti, is the understanding of emptiness according to the middle way: completely negating the inherently existent self whilst maintaining the existence of the self that is commonly known to everyone without damaging it. This realization is what Lama Tsong Khapa called the union of the two truths. This means that although our self lacks an inherently existent nature, it nevertheless exists and carries out activities, good actions leading to happiness and bad actions lead to unhappiness. Each and every thing that exists has two natures: an ultimate nature and a conventional nature. By understanding the ultimate nature we can get rid of our deeply ingrained misconception of the things we perceive and experience; by understanding the conventional nature we have no trouble understanding the law of cause and effect.

It is most important that we differentiate between which kind of self should be negated and which should be maintained. If we negate too much, we will find it difficult to maintain the self that is commonly known to us and that is the base of our identification. If we negate this normal self, we will have problems in maintaining our understanding of the law of cause and effect. We will see no point in virtuous actions and not understand that our suffering is the result of past non-virtuous actions. This is the extreme of nihilism.

For those who truly wish to understand the root of suffering, it is very imporant to maintain the self that is responsible for happiness and unhappiness. The self cannot be reduced to our material body; it is more than this; It is something that comes from our past lives and goes onto the next life. Seeing this, we can understand that the suffering we experience does not come from outside, but is a consequence of our karma. Happiness also comes from past lives. Our virtuous actions of this life can lead to happiness in our next life. Our practice of Dharma can eventually lead us to enlightenment.

However, when we come to establish that the self is not something limited to our material body but comes from past lives and goes to the next life, some people - non-Buddhist Masters, for example - go to the extreme of eternalism. They believe that the self exists independently and eternally. On the one hand this belief helps to maintain our understanding of Karma; on the other hand, however it strengthens our self-grasping because it views the self as something solid. This leads us to cling to our selfm thus keeping us bound to the sufferings of cyclic existence.

Therefore Buddha taught the middle way: that self is not limited to this very material body, but comes from our past life and goes onto the next. It does not exist solidly but is something merely imputed or labelled by our mind on the basis of the aggregates of which we are composed.

If we do not negate enough then we will not be able to negate the inherently existent self which the mind clings. As a result we will not be able to eliminate our delusions.

...Nagarjuna says:

The nihilistic view only leads to the misery of taking rebirth in the lower realms and eternalism binds us to the suffering of cyclic existence. Therefore only the middle way, which is free from these two extreme views, can leads us to true liberation.

In the traditional analytical contemplation on emptiness there are three stages:

1. Recognizing the appearance of the inherently existent self
2. Negating the inherently existent self
3. Maintaing the meditation on the emptiness of the inherently existent self.

Continued in Chapter 18 of this fabulous book: 'Awakening the Mind - Basic Buddhist Meditations' by Geshe Namgyal Wangchen (Based on Tsong Khapa's 'Stages of the Path' - 'Lam Rim') - Highly recommended

"On the Doctrine of Non- Self,"

with John Snelling -- from Elements of Buddhism, John Snelling (Elements Books, Inc., 1990)

Central to the Buddha's teaching is the doctrine of anatman: "not-self"." This does not deny that the notion of an "I" works in the everyday world. In fact we need a solid stable ego to function in society. However, "I" is not real in an ultimate sense. It is a "name": a fictional construct that bears no correspondence to what is really the case. Because of this disjunction all kinds of problems ensue. Once our minds have constructed the notion of "I," it becomes our central reference point. We attach to it and identify with it totally. We attempt to advance what appears to be its interests, to defend it against real or apparent threats and menaces. And we look for ego-affirmation at every turn: confirmation that we exist and are valued. The Gordian Knot of preoccupations arising from all this absorbs us exclusively, at times to the point of obsession. This is , however, a narrow and constricted way of being. Though we cannot see it when caught in the convolutions of ego, there is something in us that is larger and deeper: a wholly other way of being.

John Snelling was a British Buddhist scholar and writer. His Elements of Buddism is a fine introduction to the Buddhist path.

Joseph Goldstein on "Non-Self"

-- from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. VI, #3

The Buddha described what we call "self" as a collection of aggregates - elements of mind and body - that function interdependently, creating the appearance of a woman or a man. We then identify with that image or appearance, taking it to be "I" or "mine," imagining it to have some inherent self-existence. For example we get up in the morning, look in the mirror, recognize the reflection, and think, "Yes, that's me again." We then add all kinds of concepts to this sense of self: I'm a woman or a man, I'm a certain age, I'm a happy or unhappy person -- the list goes on and on.

When we examine our experience, though, we see that there is not some core being to whom experience refers; rather it is simply "empty phenomena rolling on." It is "empty" in the sense that there is no one behind the arising and changing phenomena to whom they happen. A rainbow is a good example of this. We go out after a rainstorm and feel that moment of delight if a rainbow appears in the sky. Mostly, we simply enjoy the sight without investigating the real nature of what is happening. But when we look more deeply, it becomes clear that there is no "thing" called "rainbow" apart from the particular conditions of air and moisture and light. Each one of us is like that rainbow - an appearance, a magical display, arising out of our various elements of mind and body.

Joseph Goldstein is a senior student and teacher of Theravadan Buddhism and Vipassana meditation in the West. He is Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA. and author of Insight Meditation and other fine books


Mark Epstein and the Dalai Lama in Thoughts Without a Thinker

"One of the most compelling things about the Buddhist view of suffering is the notion, inherent in the Wheel of Life Image, that the causes of suffering are also the means of release; that is, the sufferer's perspective determines whether a given realm is a vehicle for awakening or for bondage. Conditioned by the forces of attachment, aversion, and delusion, our faulty perceptions of the realms -- not the realms themselves--cause suffering. (pg. 16)

"Selflessness is not a return to the feelings of infancy, an experience of undifferentiated bliss, or a merger with the Mother -- even though many people may seek such an experience when they begin to meditate, and even though some may actually find a version of it. Selflessness does not require people to annihilate their emotions, only to learn to experience them in a new way." (pg. 96)

"Selflessness is not a case of something that existed in the past becoming nonexistent. Rather this sort of "self" is something that never did exist. What is needed is to identify as non-existent something that always was non-existent." Dalai Lama, (pg.98)

"It is not ego, in the Freudian sense, that is the actual target of Buddhist insight, it is, rather, the self-concept, the representational component of the ego, the actual internal experience of one's self that is targeted." (pg.98)

"Conceptual thought does not disappear as a result of meditative insight. Only the belief in the ego's solidity is lost. Yet, this insight does not come easily. It is far more tempting -- and easier -- to use meditation to withdraw from our confusion about ourselves, to dwell in the tranquil stabilization that meditation offers, and to think of this as approximating the teaching of egolessness. But this is not what the Buddha meant by Right View. (pg.99)

Mark Epstein is a senior student of Vipassana meditation and a practicing psychiatrist in New York City. He is author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart. The XIV Dalai Lama is the political leader of Tibet-in-Exile, a great spiritual teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, and author of many fine books.

"No 'I',"

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

"When we practice zazen (Zen Meditation) our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless and the outer world is also limitless. We say "inner world" or "outer world" but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think "I" breathe, the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I" What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I", no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door."

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, and a highly influential teacher of Soto Zen in the West. His Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is regarded as a classic of Zen Buddhism in the West.

Who Are You and Where Can You Be Found?
Lama Thubten Yeshe

Excerpted from Lama’s commentary on the yoga method of Divine Wisdom Manjushri, Manjushri Institute, Ulverston, Cumbria, England, August 1977. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush. Printed in the June 2001 issue of Mandala Magazine.

One of the essential practices of tantra is that of deity yoga. When we practice tantra, we have to arise as the deity we’re practicing. In order to do this properly, we need to experience a certain degree of non-duality. If we don’t, we’ll think that our arising as the deity is the same as arising as a flower or a wall. It will make no sense. In fact, there’s incredible sense in arising as the deity and there’s a vast difference between arising as a flower and arising as a deity.

It’s essential to dissolve the normal ego projection of the physical nervous system body; to absorb the image that our conception of ego instinctively feels--that I’m somewhere around here; Thubten Yeshe is somewhere here. Where is Thubten Yeshe? My ego’s instinctive interpretation is that I’m here, somewhere in my body. Check for yourself. See what comes up in your mind when you think of your name. The huge mountain of your self will arise. Then check exactly where that mountain of “me” can be found. Where are you? Somewhere around your body. Are you in your chest, in your head?

You feel this instinctively. You don’t have to study philosophy to learn it; you don’t have to go to school; you parents didn’t teach you. You’ve known this since before you were born. Buddhism describes two kinds of ego identity: kun-tag and lhen-kye. The one I’m talking about is lhen-kye, the simultaneously born one; the one that exists simply because you exist. It was born with you; it needs no outside influence for its existence. Like the smell that comes with a pine tree, they’re one. The pine tree doesn’t grow first and then the smell comes later. They come together. It’s the same with the innate sense of ego; it comes at conception.

Kun-tag means the sense of self that’s philosophically acquired. It’s something that you learn through outside influence from teachers, friends, books and so forth. This is the intellectually derived ego. Can you imagine? You can even acquire an ego through reading. This one is easier to remove, of course, because it’s more superficial. It’s a gross conception. The simultaneously born sense of self is much, much harder to get rid of.

This instinctive conception of ego is really convinced that around my body is where you’ll find Thubten Yeshe. Someone looks at me and asks, “Are you Thubten Yeshe?” “Yes,” I reply, “I’m Thubten Yeshe.” Where is Thubten Yeshe? Around here. Instinctively, I feel I’m right here. But I’m not the only one who feels like this. Check up for yourself. It’s very interesting.

Until I was six years old, I was not Thubten Yeshe. That name was given to me when I became a monk at Sera Monastery. Before that time, nobody knew me as Thubten Yeshe. They thought I was Döndrub Dorje. The names Thubten Yeshe and Döndrub Dorje are different; different superstitions give different kinds of name. I feel my name is me, but actually, it isn’t. Neither the names Thubten Yeshe nor Döndrub Dorje are me. But the moment I was given the name Thubten Yeshe, Thubten Yeshe came into existence. Before I was given the name, he didn’t exist; nobody looked at me and thought, “There’s Thubten Yeshe.” I didn’t even think it myself. Thubten Yeshe did not exist.

But when one superstitious conception named this bubble, my body--“Your name is Thubten Yeshe"--my superstition took it: “Yes, Thubten Yeshe is me.” It’s an interdependent relationship. One superstition gives the name Thubten Yeshe to this bubble of relativity and my ego starts to feel that Thubten Yeshe really does exist somewhere in the area of my body.

The reality, however, is that Thubten Yeshe is merely the dry words applied to the bubble-like phenomenon of these five aggregates. These things come together and that’s it: Thubten Yeshe, the name on the bubble. It’s a very superficial view. The ego’s instinctive feeling that Thubten Yeshe exists somewhere around here is very superficial.

You can see that the relative reality of Thubten Yeshe is simply the name that’s been given to this bubble of energy. That’s all Thubten Yeshe is. That’s why the great philosopher and yogi Nagarjuna and the great yogi Lama Tsong Khapa both said that all phenomena exist merely in name. As a result, some early Western Buddhist scholars decided that Nagarjuna was a nihilist. That’s a conclusion that could be reached only by someone who doesn’t practice and spends all his time dealing in concepts and words.

If I were to show up somewhere and suddenly announce, “You’re all merely names,” people would think I was crazy. But if you investigate in detail the manner in which we’re all merely names, it becomes extremely clear. Nihilists reject the very existence of interdependent phenomena but that’s not what Nagarjuna did. He simply explained that relative phenomena exist but that we should view them in a reasonable way. They come, they go; they grow; they die. They receive various names and in that way gain a degree of reality for the relative mind. But that mind does not see the deeper nature of phenomena; it does not perceive the totality of universal existence.

Phenomena have two natures: the conventional, or relative, and the absolute, or ultimate. Both qualities exist simultaneously in each and every phenomenon. What I’ve been talking about is the way that bubbles of relativity exist conventionally. A relative phenomenon comes into existence when, at any given time, the association of superstition and the conception of ego flavors an object in a particular way by giving it a name. That combination--the object, the superstition giving it a name and the name itself--is all that’s needed for a relative phenomenon to exist. When those things come together, there’s your Thubten Yeshe. He’s coming; he’s going; he’s talking. It’s all a bubble of relativity.

If right now you can see that Thubten Yeshe’s a bubble, that’s excellent. It helps a lot. And if you can relate your experience of seeing me as a bubble to other concrete objects you perceive, it will help even more. If you can see the heavy objects that shake your heart and make you crazy as relative bubbles, their vibration will not overwhelm you. Your heart will stop shaking and you’ll cool down and relax.

If I were to show you a scarecrow and ask if it was Thubten Yeshe, you’d probably say it wasn’t. Why not? “Because it’s made of wood.” You’d have a ready answer. You can apply exactly the same logic to the argument that this bubble of a body is not Thubten Yeshe either.

I believe very strongly that this is me because of the countless times from the time I was born up to now that my ego has imprinted the idea “this is me” on my consciousness. “Me. This is me. This bubble is me, me, me.” But this bubble itself is not Thubten Yeshe. We know it’s composed of the four elements. However, the earth element is not Thubten Yeshe; the water is not Thubten Yeshe; the fire is not Thubten Yeshe; the air is not Thubten Yeshe. The parts of the body are not Thubten Yeshe either. The skin is not Thubten Yeshe; the blood is not Thubten Yeshe; they bone is not Thubten Yeshe; the brain is not Thubten Yeshe. The ego is not Thubten Yeshe. Superstition is not Thubten Yeshe. The combination of all this is not Thubten Yeshe either--if it were, Thubten Yeshe would have existed before the name had been given. But before this combination was named Thubten Yeshe, nobody recognized it as Thubten Yeshe and I didn’t recognize it as Thubten Yeshe myself. Therefore, the combination of all these parts is not Thubten Yeshe.

If we call the scarecrow Thubten Yeshe and then analyze it to see exactly where Thubten Yeshe can be found, we can’t find Thubten Yeshe in any of the parts or on all the parts together. This is easy to understand. It’s exactly the same thing with the bubble of my aggregates. Neither any single constituent part nor the whole combination is Thubten Yeshe. We also know that the name alone is not Thubten Yeshe. So what and where is Thubten Yeshe? Thubten Yeshe is simply the combination of superstition flavoring an object with the words, “Thubten Yeshe.” That’s all that Thubten Yeshe is.

Beyond the name, there is no real Thubten Yeshe existing somewhere. But the simultaneously born ego doesn’t understand that Thubten Yeshe exists merely as an interdependent combination of parts. It believes that without question, around here, somewhere, there exists a real, independent, concrete Thubten Yeshe. This is the nature of the simultaneously born ego. Therefore, if we do not remove conceptions like, “Somewhere in this bubble, I’m Thubten Yeshe,” we cannot release the ego.

The conception of ego is an extreme mind. It holds very concretely the idea that somewhere within this bubble of the four-element combination body there exists a self-existent I. That is the misconception that we must release. If the ego mind assessed the situation reasonably and was comfortable and satisfied perceiving that superstition giving the name Thubten Yeshe to this interdependent, four-element bubble was enough for Thubten Yeshe to exist, that would be a different story. But it’s not satisfied with that. It cannot leave that alone. It wants to be special. It wants Thubten Yeshe to be concrete. It’s not satisfied with Thubten Yeshe being a mere name on a collection of parts. Therefore, it conceives an imaginary, unrealistic, exaggerated, concrete self-entity. The method we use to remove that conception is to transform our bubble of relativity into light.


"The Heart Sutra"

-- from the Editors of Tricycle: the Buddhist Review in their very informative compilation, Radiant Mind, ed. Jean Smith (Tricycle/Riverhead, 1999).

Perhaps because of both its profundity and its brevity, the Heart Sutra is the most familiar of all the original teachings of the Buddha. (The Sino-Japanese version comprises a mere 262 characters.) Recited daily by Buddhists in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, and Nepal, the Heart Sutra is now also recited by many Buddhists in North America. The Sino-Japanese and monosyllabic Korean versions lend themselves well to chanting, and there are now several English translations. The basic text of the Zen tradition, it must be the only sutra to be found (in Japan) on a man's tie. According to Buddhist lore, the Heart Sutra was first preached on Vulture Peak, which lies near the ancient city of Rajagraha, and is said to have been the Buddha's favorite site. In this sutra, the Buddha inspires one of his closest disciples, Sariputra, to request Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, to instruct him in the practice of prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom. Avalokiteshvara's response contains one of the most celebrated of all Buddhist paradoxes - "form is emptiness; emptiness is form." And the sutra ends with one of the most popular Buddhist mantras - gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha: gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond...(When chanted, gate has two short vowells with the accent on the first syllable.) The tradition of composing commentaries on the Heart Sutra goes back to at least the eighth century, and includes many of the great Buddhist philosophers and meditation masters.

The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra

The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, while moving in the deep course of Prajnaparamita, shed light on the five skandhas* and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame all pain.

"Listen, Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form; form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. The same is true with feeling, perception, intention, and consciousness.

"Hear, Shariputra, all dharmas [phenomenon] are marked with emptiness; they are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing. Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, intention, or consciousness; no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind; no forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, or mental objects, nor is there the realm of eyes, up to and including the realm of mind consciousness. There is no ignorance or ending of ignorance; up to and including no decay and death or ending of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering, and no path; no knowledge and also no attainment.

"Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, supported by Prajnaparamita, find no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realizing perfect Nirvana. All Buddhas in the past, present, and future, through reliance upon Prajnaparamita, arrive at full, right, and Universal enlightenent."

"Our lives are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, "Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, "Emptiness is form." One should not think that these are two separate things."

Hagakure, The Way of the Samurai, by Yamamoto, translated by William Scott

The Power of Emptiness -

by Daniel Reid -

Excerpt from 'Chi-gung-Harnessing the Power of the Universe'

The term 'emptiness crops up time and again in Eastern mystical teachings, emptiness is the essential nature of all existence and the primordial ground from which all manifest form arises and ultimately returns. It is also the basic nature of energy and spirit, the immaterial forces that mould the manifest universe. In the modern world of commerce and compulsive consumerism, all empty space and time are obsessively filled with construction, decoration, billboards, sensory distractions, and entertainment, and consequently the practical value and expressive power of emptiness have been largely forgotten. Yet in terms of functional utility, nothing is more practical and potent than emptiness, as Lao Tze clearly illustrates in the Tao Teh Ching:

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the
usefulness of the wheel depends.

We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
But it is on the spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, so we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

Brian Swimme on emptiness and the Quantum Vacuum

"I'm coming out of science. So my way of thinking about this unmanifest realm is that it is actually what in physics we call the "quantum vacuum," which was discovered in the twenties. When we think of a vacuum in Newtonian terms, we think of it as being a place empty of things. But in quantum physics, it turns out that the vacuum is actually pure generativity. It's constantly foaming forth with reality, elementary particles that then cascade back into non-existence.

You can't go anywhere with this in science because you can't study it. There's nothing to study. But it's there. It's real. So what we do is study its effects or manifestations, which we began to do in the forties.

There's no question now for a physicist about the reality of the quantum vacuum. Right now in the room, there are all kinds of particles that are foaming into existence and foaming back out of existence.

That's what we mean by the unmanifest. So you could say that at the root of reality is space, time, and foam."

From 'What is Enlightenment' , Newsletter - 2001, Moksha Press

Buddhist -Christian Dialogue London ,
27th March 1993
Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma


Here I would like to present Sunyata-emptiness relevant to the Christian concept of the four dimensions of God's Kenosis:- Its relation to creation, its dynamic of love, its relation to the word of God and its trinitarian structure. According to Nagarjuna, Sunyata is not nothingness, but it is truth or absolute reality of things or suchness (tathata) of the universe. Sunyata-emptiness is not being as distinguished from beings, nor is it a transcendent God distinguished from this world, nor is it a nothingness distinguished from the somethingness of ordinary life. It is not to be found outside oneself, nor it is to be found inside oneself. If it were any of these things, or if it were found in any particular place, it would be a relative emptiness, not ultimate reality. Let us see what St. Paul wrote to the Philippians: "Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself becoming obedient even unto, yea, the death of the cross".

Here is what Christianity says: "Creation is never from nothing, but out of God himself, creation is an act in which God communicates his own reality. In creation, God gives of himself' God is present in everything that exists as the fundamental ground of existence. This ground of creation is the Kenotic love of God whose action constitutes the deepest nature of all things. Thus, creation as the product of Kenotic love poured out through the creative Word of God, contains God immanent in all things. Kenotic Christology stated that there is a kenosis within the Godhead. The begetting of the Son and the spirit is a kenosis, a process of self giving to the other and this kenosis of love is understood to be mutual in establishing the unity of the Trinity, this is the way Jesus communicates this trinitarian life of divinity to humanity.

Most Christian theologians have often given a metaphysical priority to being over non-being. Non-being understood in Christian theology, is typically held to be an absence of, or a privation of being. God is believed to be Being itself, creation is believed to be an effect of this Being. Apart from this, there is nothing, non-being. In Christian spirituality, these beliefs are substantiated in the experience that insofar as we exist, we participate in Being or God, for it is in him that we live, and move, and have our being' (Acts 17.28).

God-Being is also experienced as a fullness that fills all things. 'I fill heaven and earth' (Jeremiah 23.24). God- Being is understood to be that creative source of all beings which creates, fills and sustains them in being.

Buddhist -Christian Dialogue London , 27th March 1993 Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma

Kriya Yoga Class # 36
The hOMe Foundation
reply to:

Om resonates within a relaxed clarity.

Is the deepest nature of God Infinite or Void? Which aspect contains the other? It is a subtle, yet significant question. If we are to merge with God, should we expand the mind or extinguish it?
This is not a pedantic question. It is quite significant to consider it carefully. Maya thrives upon uncertainty. It is not that we need to understand every little thing, but our curiosity will not rest until we sort out the most persistent issues.
To arrive at the experience that there is no inside and there is no outside, should we expand our temporary awareness of self to include all that is, or should we realize that there is nothing of any substance to become? Which way goes to the heart of the matter? Which path is psychologically more effective?
To begin, which way will require the greater effort? It is clear that to expand our attention to include the Whole will require a considerable effort. This approach is hungry, absorbing any and all conceptualizations as part of the Whole. We shall continuously be adding visions and opinions, yet there will never become a time when everything is included. The Infinite is simply too much to swallow. We can approach it from every possible angle, and still there is more.
Lahiri Mahasaya arrives at the conclusion that the Void contains the Infinite. I don't find it important to either believe this or disbelieve it. But I have found that the mind settles much easier in the Void. The Infinite supports a hungry mind. It encourages the appetite for more. Will there ever be enough? I suggest that you enter the Void and have a look.
If we begin by accepting that there is nothing of any substance to become, immediately we are at rest. There is nowhere to go... Nothing to achieve. This psychological state is fertile ground for the transcendent.
Yogiraj states,

"Stillness seizes and destroys earthly attachment."
-- Purana Purusha, Yogiraj Sri Shama Churn Lahiree, p.293.
"Where there is no duality, there is no evidence. As long as the body-consciousness exists, till then evidence exists. When there is no body-consciousness, there is no duality."
-- Purana Purusha, Yogiraj Sri Shama Churn Lahiree, p.309.

Lao Tse says, "He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak."

Imagining the Void does not ensure that it will be entered, yet it is a step in the right direction. The traces of your past begin to evanesce behind you. It may not be totally clear where you are headed, but the past definitely begins to dissolve. Until the past is thoroughly dissolved, the Present cannot be entered in a total way.
Imagining the Void turns off the speculative mind... the internalized chatter. And, while no idea can capture the Whole Truth, it can support a psychological outlook that allows us to enter the Real World. Trust in the Void may not be there at the beginning. After all, we have hinged so much of our earthly experience upon the future. We act with purpose to achieve goals. What will be left of our purpose when the goals are removed? Where will our action go?
Humor supports this movement. To act without "purpose" is ridiculous to the human mind. It is the opposite. An episode of the television sitcom, Seinfeld, makes light of this possibility:
George, a diminutive, stocky, balding man with little self-esteem, moves through life fully loaded with definite opinions and plans. Yet everything he attempts goes wrong. Success always eludes him. He is well aware of his continuous level of failure, so he nurtures a humorous contempt for himself and everyone around him. He sees no legitimate way out of his destiny with disappointment.
Then one day Jerry, his wisecracking pal, confronts him with the obvious, "If everything you do is wrong, then you should do the exact opposite."
"Yes!" says George, with sudden confidence.
At this moment they are just sitting down to have lunch. So George sets his new plan in motion. Instead of his everyday tuna on whole wheat toast, he orders a chicken salad sandwich... on rye, un-toasted... and a cup of tea (instead of coffee). He leaps into the unknown.
Flushed with hope, and totally out of character, he approaches a beautiful woman at the luncheon counter and introduces himself, "Hello, my name is George. I'm unemployed and live with my parents."
She radiates comfortably in the light of his quirky openness. She smiles invitingly and says, "Hello!" Suddenly he is on top of the world.
This is how to enter the Void... carefree, with nothing to lose. Let the heart be light. Certainly this is not something we have planned to do. For this entire life we have been driven to achieve something positive... some success. To enter the Void... we think... is for "Nihilists." And we know there is SOMETHING! We have an innate fear of the unknown, and a greater fear of some unknown void. Death is something we intend to put off for as long as possible. We refuse to give death its speculative due. We'd rather think about something else.
The greatest wonder of the Holy Sound, Om, is that it resonates behind death. As we enter deeper and deeper into the Void, this Sound awakens and comes to life. The more we accept the Reality as it is, exactly... the more definite and pervasive the Sound becomes. The more we guide our imagination into open space, the more we realize that prana is our Conscious Essence. It is the Ocean of our Being. We will not lose it nor escape it by any means.
Zen says, "When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep." Suppose the activities and stress of your life have tired you out. It's early in the afternoon and your attention is ladened with fatigue. You lie down for a moment. Slowly you become engulfed in the Infinite. It dissolves the stress and the fatigue into a harmonic vibrancy. The Sound begins in your Heart and radiates through the soles of your feet, the top of your head... and beyond. You welcome the dissolution. You become extinguished in the vast sea of Cosmic Prana. This siesta into effortless bliss is an avenue to God.

Warm Blessings,
Carl Schmidt


May the merit and virtue accrued from this work,
Adorn the Buddha's Pure Lands,
Repaying the Fourfold Generosity from above,
And aiding those who suffers in the Three Paths below.

May those who see and hear this,
All bring forth the resolve for Bodhi,
And when this retribution body is over,
Be born together in Ultimate Bliss.



emptiness sunyata no mind realizing void thought buddhist Theraveda perspective Amma Supreme Power Infinite Self Daniel Reid Brian Swimme Quantum Vacuum Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra Manuel Schoch thoughts true meditation Science Mysticism compassion observation silence stillness cessation non-action Movement Stillness selflessness Joseph Goldstein Mark Epstein HH Dalai Lama Perspective Kenosis enlightenment diamond Rob Nairn Mind Body Spirit Four Empties Rumi Shantideva Bodhicharyavatara non-self no-thought no-mind experiencing merge soul Buddhism Mindfulness Zen Dzogchen Entering Samadhi thoughtlessness No-mind selflessness breathing

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