Posted in emptiness, Uncategorized

Emptiness

The story is that the Buddha gave the first turning of the Wheel of the Dharma, the first set of teachings, just after his Enlightenment. This teaching consisted of the Four Noble Truths.

And later there was a second turning. In the second turning the Buddha taught the Perfection of Wisdom teachings. This was a collection of numerous sutras designed to teach us about the true nature of reality, that all things are empty of inherent existent, that nothing exists apart from everything else, including us.

And later there was a third turning. The third turning was that Emptiness, far from being a nihilistic concept, can actually be explained as Buddha Nature, that we and all things are intimately and fundamentally connected.

It’s important to keep the Four Noble Truths in mind when we think about Emptiness. To truly understand Emptiness is to overcome our suffering. We can use analogies to help us think about Emptiness, but the only way we can really understand it is to experience it directly through meditation practice.

To say something is empty of inherent existence, we aren’t saying that it’s not real. We are only saying that things don’t exist independently and separately from other things. Everything is interconnected and dependent on everything else. In this way the entire universe is connected. The Buddha once described all things with the Indra’s Net analogy. This teaching is part of the foundation of the Huayan School of Buddhism, one of the precursors to Zen. He described all things as reflective gems reflecting each other in a giant net that encompasses the entire universe. In this way, all of the gems bare the reflection of all of the other gems.

Indra’s Net reminds me of a Mirror Maze I went to in Branson earlier this year. I was surrounded by mirrors. I could see myself in the mirror in from of me. But, because of the way the mirror walls and corridors were set up, I could also see myself in all of the other mirrors. My reflection was boundless and infinite.

The hope is that if we can see everything as empty of inherent existence then we can see ourselves in that way too. When we cling to this notion of a separate self, then we think of the things and people around us as “others”. It’s in this division that our suffering arises. It’s our continual conflict of self versus other. If we can drop this sense of duality and see that all things are connected, then we can overcome these negative emotions. To see yourself as one with everything is to love everything.

According to the doctrine of Emptiness any belief in a permanent reality is based on an assumption that makes no sense.

This whole teaching leads us to an understanding of another deep Buddhist teaching, Dependent Origination. That’s just the concept that things don’t exist on their own. We are all woven together in Indra’s Net and any separation that we perceive is a delusion. Our existence is connected to the existence of all other things. Looking at ourselves as separate beings who are alone is a mistake that leads to wrong views. Understanding that we are one with our environment is helpful to us.

Emptiness, in some ways, represents our potential. How many of our limitations are a result of how we perceive ourselves? If we are vast and interconnected, if we are boundless like the sky, then we aren’t held back by the ways we define ourselves. We are the universe.

 

 

Posted in tattooed buddha

The Shining Void

“Lay down all thoughts,

surrender to the void.

It is shining.”

~ John Lennon

Buddhism represents overcoming suffering by understanding the true nature of things.

We are stuck in delusion and it prevents us from engaging our true selves a lot of the time. But what is the true nature of things?

Buddhism expresses it in two ways that might seem contradictory. I want to combine them and refer to it as the Shining Void.

One concept is Shunyata.

Shunyata is often translated as emptiness. This leads to some confusion. I don’t think of empty as like the number zero, I think of it as a vast and beautiful emptiness, like the sky. This is the concept that nothing in the universe has an inherent existence. That is, nothing exists on it’s own. Everything in the universe is interconnected with everything else.

Everything is dependent on everything else. Everything is just a collection of things that are influencing other things. This is especially important because it applies to us. I think of myself as this real and independent being. But am I? Or am I just part of a whole?

The other concept is Tathatagarbha.

Tathatagarbha is often translated as Buddha Nature. It’s the concept that we are one with everything; that there is a cosmic oneness to the universe. All this separation that we experience is the result of delusion. The concept of Buddha Nature indicates that we already know that we are one with everything.

We don’t always realize it but at the core of our being we are Enlightened. Our minds are clouded by delusion, so we cling to the idea of an independent self. If we can realize our interdependence then we can be happier and suffer less.

I am part of you and you are part of me—we aren’t separate. If we can think of things in this way, there is very little reason for things like envy or resentment.

So, why are there two separate concepts for this? I think we’re trying to grasp something deep and profound that is hard to understand in words.

Bodhidharma said, “The truth is beyond words and letters.”

We try to understand concepts like this, but the truth is they have to be experienced to be understood. We have to have our own spiritual insights. Our minds label things and ultimately these labels don’t really represent reality.

Sometimes when I am deep in insight meditation, I feel the truth of emptiness. Sometimes when I am deep in compassion meditation, I feel the truth of oneness.
It’s all the Shining Void.

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two my life turns.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/the-shining-void-what-buddhists-mean-by-emptiness/