Author Topic: Questions on emptiness  (Read 3439 times)

Offline Marcus Epicurus

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Questions on emptiness
« on: January 08, 2015, 01:07:51 am »
In the chapter "Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta" of his book The Path of Compassion and Wisdom by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the author talks about everything being empty.

here a a few quotes from this chapter

"Although things appear directly to our senses to be truly, or
inherently, existent, in reality all phenomena lack, or are empty
of, true existence. This book, our body, our friends, we ourself,
and the entire universe are in reality just appearances to mind,
like things seen in a dream."

"The universe appears to consist of discrete objects that have an
existence from their own side. These objects appear to exist in
themselves as stars, planets, mountains, people and so forth,
‘waiting’ to be experienced by conscious beings."

"Those who have a direct experience of
emptiness do not feel any pain even if they are beaten or shot.
Knowing that the real nature of their body is like space, for them
being beaten is like space being beaten and being shot is like
space being shot."

Coming from a Theravada background, I guess I just dont understand.

Can someone explain this to me?

 Because for an example, if I hit you with a chair, and you say the chair does not exist, and your body does not exist, then I guess you wouldnt even feel it. ( I would never really hit anyone with a chair, this is just an example)

Yet I challenge anyone, including the author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, to say that being hit with a chair doesnt hurt, or that the chair or his body doesnt exist.

Please help me to understand this as I just cant grasp how this could be so.

A sincere thanks in advance for your replies


The non-doing of any evil,
the performance of what's skillful,
the cleansing of one's own mind:
this is the teaching of the Awakened.

Offline thegchokgreg

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2015, 11:11:39 am »
 When someone has a direct realisation on emptiness , realise directly the lack of inherent nature of phenomena, nothing appear except emptiness, so no object no chair no boby no contact between chair and body so no feeling no pain. In meditation equipoise (direct realisation) the meditation is called space like meditation on emptiness. Cause nothing appears so it is like empty space.

Then out of this meditation phenomena appears as illusions it is called illusory meditation on emptiness . There the Aya being ,i think he can still experience kind of pain if beated with a chair but very small , maybe more like an actor in a movie!

Also i think someone directly realising emptiness  therefore can not experience the result of negative karma, so i don't think that anybody will kick him or her with a chair! Hehe

Also does not accumulate negative karma by having anger , illwill, harsh words and so on...


Offline splittingatoms

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2015, 10:43:56 am »
I wouldn't say that's entirely impossible but I wonder how "functional", if that's even the right word, a person like that would be in other, less unpleasant, situations.


Also i think someone directly realising emptiness  therefore can not experience the result of negative karma, so i don't think that anybody will kick him or her with a chair!


Because anyone who's had the realization of emptiness is aware that, like everything else, karma, too, is illusory right?
« Last Edit: January 16, 2015, 10:45:58 am by splittingatoms »
Nirvana is true peace.

Offline thegchokgreg

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2015, 10:02:19 am »
Sorry for my lack of precision i was talking about the person being in meditative equipoise directly realising emptiness , so while in this state he can not experience unpleasant situation.

Then as you said in post period , being out of this state , he can still experience the result of karma while realising it as being illusory.

I also wonder how can be such an experience ?!! But i think though he can experience small unplesant situation withouth much suffering he is already free from a big part of negative karma for example he can not take rebirth in lower realms.

Offline hanuman38

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2015, 07:47:33 pm »
Emptiness is a very tough concept to understand.  Ven. Geshe Kelsang is my root Guru, and at my Dharma center we're currently studying his book "The New Heart of Wisdom", which is a commentary to the Heart Sutra and so has a lot to say on the subject.  I feel I have a good intellectual understanding of it but do not really "grok" it yet, so take my $0.02 with as many grains of salt as you deem necessary.

Emptiness (shunyata) does not mean a complete lack of existence.  It means a lack of inherent existence.  As it happens, I came across an excellent explanation today not in one of Geshe Kelsang's books (although he does explain it fairly well) but in a book on Arya Tara by Ven. Thubten Chodron:

"... although everything lacks independent existence, it exists dependently.  Persons and phenomena are not solid things with their own immutable and inherent essence.  Rather, they exist like illusions in that they appear one way but exist in another.  That is, things appear to us as existing independently but this appearance is false, for in fact they exist in dependence on other factors." 

The book can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/How-Free-Your-Mind-Liberator/dp/155939398X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426301059&sr=8-1&keywords=tara+the+liberator .

Both Geshe Kelsang and Ven. Chodron follow the Madhyamika-Prasangika school of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, as interpreted by the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism.  I'll see if I can find a simple overview from one of Geshe Kelsang's books.

Offline cosmic_dog_magic

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2015, 11:51:12 pm »
it may be important to conceptually understand that things don't exist independentaly, that our ideas, perceptions, projections of giving meaning of objects, relationships, emotions, concepts arise out of multiple factors.  But to also feel out the glue that sort of holds these things together.  I think the most immediate thing you can work with is your sense of self and body, feel out the glue that holds your body together and sense of self, soften that glue, erode that glue.  you might feel it now, how we hold ourselves together, the somatic feeling of tightening and being closed off, inward and outward.  what happens when we noticed that, feel that, what happens when don't struggle and relax, surrender.  we might understand emptiness a bit better.

Offline hanuman38

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2015, 05:28:44 pm »
Another quote from Ven. Thubten Chodron's book that I missed before:

"The Middle Way view is the balance that is needed.  It negates all fantasized ways of existence, including independent existence, but affirms that all persons and phenomena do exist on a conventional level.  That is, although everything lacks independent existence, it exists dependently.  Persons and phenomena are not solid things with their own immutable and inherent essence." (Emphasis mine.)

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2015, 05:56:20 pm »
Here's a short video where Ven. Thubten Chodron is talking about emptiness and non-dualism:


Offline Roope

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2015, 02:00:01 am »
"Those who have a direct experience of
emptiness do not feel any pain even if they are beaten or shot.
Knowing that the real nature of their body is like space, for them
being beaten is like space being beaten and being shot is like
space being shot."

The first two paragraphs I understand but this third one...

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that "When emptiness is revealed to itself by itself, the shot, the body and the pain reveal themselves to be nothing but that same emptiness"? The shot is space/emptiness/awareness apparently shooting, the body being shot is space/emptiness/awareness being shot (in the form of a human body) and the pain is space/emptiness/awareness having the appearance of pain-sensation.

So yeah, even if this is all an empty dream the pain still hurts and there are consequences to actions although both the actions and the consequences are empty as well.

I don't know... Maybe in that quote he's pointing out that we're not our bodies and that which is called pain by bodies/persons is actually nothing but awareness, only with a pain-label put on it. When there's belief in labels then awareness is being experienced as that label only and not the other way around.. Pain is not pain, pain is actually nothing but awareness.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 02:41:52 am by Roope »

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2015, 03:31:13 am »
Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that "When emptiness is revealed to itself by itself, the shot, the body and the pain reveal themselves to be nothing but that same emptiness"?

Hi Roope.

No, it wouldn't be --- it's not revealed to itself by itself (dualism), but through our direct experience of it (non-dualism).


Offline Roope

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2015, 04:11:49 am »
Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that "When emptiness is revealed to itself by itself, the shot, the body and the pain reveal themselves to be nothing but that same emptiness"?

Hi Roope.

No, it wouldn't be --- it's not revealed to itself by itself (dualism), but through our direct experience of it (non-dualism).

Well it's really neither of these. The best language can do is to be the finger that points. Getting stuck with the finger is no good. The finger being the descriptions, the "correct language and right concepts" within which that which is being pointed at doesn't really exist. Buddha isn't in the descriptions. Any kind of an "in" and "out" is an illusion (far, near, here, there.. all those are mental superimpositions over suchness).

And "our experience of it" describes a duality too. An experiencer (us, a subject) and the experienced (it, an object), two different things.

Anyway, could you clarify what you mean by "us and it"?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2015, 07:33:31 am »
Well it's really neither of these.

Well, actually it's neither nor  :teehee:

Although I agree with majority of your statements, it doesn't change the fact that suggested rewording of the paragraph wouldn't be accurate --- for example, what would happen if a New Kadampa student or teacher were to use your rewording of the paragraph instead of GKG's original wording? Even better yet, what if a member of academia were to accidently use your rewording in a citation?

You might feel justified and correct when it comes to rewording or even replacing the words with a finger, where either would be fine when it comes to you and you alone, but the student would fail his or her examination, the teacher would be reprimanded, and the academic who cited it would probably not get published in the same journal any time soon.

Anyway, this was also what I was referring to with the "it and our" of the previous post, that there isn't an "it" to be found within the wording or context of the original paragraph.



Offline hanuman38

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2015, 10:49:07 am »
I found the book and chapter that Marcus is referring to.  On the next page, Geshe Kelsang expands on that third paragraph originally quoted:

"... we must take care not to be misled into thinking that the conventionally existent body is anything more than a mere appearance to mind.  It is perhaps less confusing simply to say that for a mind that directly sees the truth, or emptiness, there is no body.  A body exists only for an ordinary mind to which a body appears."

No wonder it's confusing for us as ordinary beings - what he's describing here is the experience of an Arhat, a Superior Bodhisattva, or a Buddha; that is, one who has directly realized emptiness (or, to put it another way, the Arya Sangha).  Not having had such an experience, I can only kinda "get" it intellectually.  If I'm shot - my body is empty of inherent existence, the bullet is empty of inherent existence, and pain itself, as a phenomenon, is empty of inherent existence.  So there's no basis for a such a being to experience pain.  Furthermore, if my self - my "I" - also lacks inherent existence, then who is there to feel the pain?

None of which is much direct help to us ordinary beings, who live at the conventional level of samsara.  It can, however, give us motivation to directly realize emptiness, eradicate the delusions of our mind, and achieve liberation and/or enlightenment.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 11:06:17 am by hanuman38 »

Offline hanuman38

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2015, 11:13:46 am »
In other news, I found what looks like an excellent article on emptiness from a Theravada perspective:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/integrityofemptiness.html

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Questions on emptiness
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2015, 03:02:51 pm »
If I'm shot - my body is empty of inherent existence, the bullet is empty of inherent existence, and pain itself, as a phenomenon, is empty of inherent existence.  So there's no basis for a such a being to experience pain.  Furthermore, if my self - my "I" - also lacks inherent existence, then who is there to feel the pain?

I don't know... maybe I'm a dualist in drag, but for some reason I can't even entertain such an idea without my analytical process going into convulsions and shutting down --- so there's no misunderstanding, it wasn't due to a lack of effort on my part.

Anyway, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade --- that's also the reason why I went out of my way to put together the following excerpt for you guys:

Quote
Mahamudra Tantra: The Supreme Heart Jewel Nectar
by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso / Tharpa Publications (2005)
pp. 135-139

The term 'true nature' is very meaningful. Not being satisfied with the mere appearance and name 'body' we examined our body to discover its true nature. The result of this examination was a definite non-finding of our body. Where we expected to find a truly existent body we discovered the utter non-existence of that truly existent body. This non-existence, or emptiness, is the true nature of our body. Apart from the mere absence of a truly existent body there is no other true nature of our body - every other attribute of the body is just part of its deceptive nature. Since this is the case, why do we spend so much time focusing on the deceptive nature of our body? At present we ignore the true nature of our body and other phenomena, and concentrate only on their deceptive nature; yet the result of concentrating all the time on deceptive objects is that our mind becomes disturbed and we remain in samsara. If we wish to experience pure peace we must acquaint our mind with the truth. Instead of wasting our enegy focusing only on meaningless, deceptive objects, we should focus on the true nature of things.

Although it is impossible to find our body when we search for it analytically, when we do not engage in analysis our body appears very clearly. Why is this? Shantideva says that due to ignorance we see a body within the hands and other parts of our body. It is ignorance, not wisdom, that makes us see a body within its parts. In reality there is no body within its parts. Just as at dusk we might see a pile of stones as a man even though there is no man within the stones, so in the same way our ignorance sees a body within the collection of arms, legs and so forth, even though no body exists there. The body we see within the collection of arms and legs is simply an hallucination of our ignorant mind. Not recognizing it as such, however, we grasp at it very strongly, cherish it, and exhaust ourself in trying to protect it from any discomfort.

The way to familiarize our mind with the true nature of the body is to use the above reasoning to search for our body and then, when we have searched in every possible place and not found it, to concentrate on the space-like emptiness that is the mere absence of the truly existent body. This space-like emptiness is the true nature of our body. Although it resembles empty space, it is a meaningful emptiness. Its meaning is the utter non-existence of the truly existent body that we grasp at so strongly and have cherished all our life.

Through becoming familiar with the experience of the space-like ultimate nature of the body, our grasping at our body will be reduced. As a result we shall experience far less suffering, anxiety and frustration in relation to our body. Our physical tension will diminish and our health will improve, and even when we do become sick our physical discomfort will not disturb our mind. Those who have a direct experience of emptiness do not feel any pain even if they are beaten or shot. Knowing that the real nature of their body is like space, for them being beaten is like space being beaten and being shot is like space being shot. Moreover, good and bad external conditions no longer have the power to disturb their mind, because they realize them to be like a magician's illusion, with no existence separate from the mind. Instead of being pulled about by changing conditions like a puppet on a string, their minds remain free and tranquil in the knowledge of the equal and unchanging ultimate nature of all things. In this way, a person who directly realizes the true nature of phenomena experiences peace day and night, life after life.

We need to distinguish between the conventionally existent body that does exist and the inherently existent body that does not exist; but we must take care not to be misled by the words into thinking that the conventionally existent body is anything more than a mere appearance to mind. It is perhaps less confusing simply to say that for a mind that directly sees the truth, or emptiness, there is no body. A body exists only for a mind to which a body appears.

Shantideva advises us that unless we wish to understand emptiness we should not examine conventional truths such as our body, possessions, places and friends, but instead be satisfied with their mere names, as are worldly people. Once a worldly person knows an object's name and purpose he is satisfied that he knows the object and does not investigate further. We must do the same, unless we want to meditate on emptiness. However, we should remember that if we did examine objects more closely we would not find them, for they would simply disappear, just as a mirage disappears if we try to look for it.

The same reasoning that we have used to prove the lack of true existence of our body can be applied to all other phenomena. This book, for example, seems to exist from its own side, somewhere within its parts; but when we examine the book more precisely we discover that none of the individual pages nor the collection of the pages is the book, yet without them there is no book. Instead of finding a truly existent book we are left beholding an emptiness that is the non-existence of the book we previously held to exist. Due to our ignorance the book appears to exist separately from our mind, as if our mind were inside and the book outside, but through analyzing the book we discover that this appearance is completely false. There is no book outside the mind. There is no book 'out there', within the pages. The only way the book exists is as a mere appearance to mind, a mere projection of the mind.

All phenomena exist by way of convention; nothing is inherently existent. This applies to mind, to Buddha, and even to emptiness itself. Everything is merely imputed by mind. All phenomena have parts — physical phenomena have physical parts, and non-physical phenomena have various parts, or attributes, that can be distinguished by thought. Using the same type of reasoning as above, we can realize that any phenomenon is not one of its parts, not the collection of its parts, and not separate from its parts. In this way we can realize the emptiness of all phenomena.

It is particularly helpful to meditate on the emptiness of objects that arouse in us strong delusions like attachment or anger. By analyzing correctly we shall realize that the object we desire, or the object we dislike, does not exist from its own side. Its beauty or ugliness, and even its very existence, are imputed by mind. By thinking in this way we shall discover that there is no basis for attachment or anger.

 


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