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OfflineDivided_Sky
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Help me understand Emptiness
    #3047221 - 08/25/04 03:22 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

I've been getting really frustrated lately trying to understand the Buddhist concept of emptiness, and now it is not nihilism or solipsism. For a while I was reading the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, and it seemed to make sense. Instead of talking in terms of negation the Yogis believe that the ultimate nature of reality is God who dreams reality into being.

Then I went back to Buddhism and things seemed to make more sense, especially in my meditation: I thought that Emptiness really isn't totally empty, it is a thing that can be experienced, but cannot be thought by the mind, or sensed by the body. That Emptiness, the Ultimate Truth, was a vast but singular thing that existed beyond thought, emotion and perception and from which all forms and objects arise from. In my deep meditation I could sometimes feel it, and I could see that it was present in all phenomena.

And yet, Buddhism says that Emptiness itself is empty, and therefore cannot be found. The more I read the more confused I am. It seems that even Ultimate Truth is empty, and therefore is a negation of something. That means there is no truth but rather an abscence of, there is no self, or other, or anything. Even consciousness is empty, so what is there even to percieve emptiness? It gets really confusing. I cannot see how anyone could apply this to their life. It's like just like nihilism, except just to sound not nihilistic Buddhists say that reality does exist (kind of).

And if emptiness is the true nature of everything life seems completely pointless if you think about it. Enlightenment is just as empty as delusion, it is all the same thing, so why bother? It also means that everything you know is a feedback loop of your own thoughts projected onto meaningless stimuli, in which case there is no escape from the mind and its problem. Altruism means nothing because there is nobody to care about, and no-self to be virtous.
There may be no happiness in Samsarra, but if Nirvana is empty there is no happiness there either, or anyone or thing to be happy. It's all the same. You might as well keep living in Samsara and try to have good rebirths than achieve a state of total apathy and nihilism. At least then you would feel happy some of the time.

Now this would all make sense if by Emptiness we were talking only in negation of conceptual thinking and sense objects, but it seems to be total negation of everything including itself. It makes me really frustrated.


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3047767 - 08/25/04 09:53 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

these concepts are directions.
there is a direction toward emptiness.
it is not north, but you do know what I mean.

Following this direction the mind comes to the source of everything, but the mind will not have moved.
you can't riddle it into clarity, but you can pursue it as a direction - ever so slightly right angles to what is already known.

sure you can get some bearings for this direction by associations with the term emptiness, voidness etc. It does not hurt to wonder.
To know it, you need to move without moving.

also rumi helps
http://www.khamush.com/poems.html#God%20has%20given


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OfflineMarkostheGnostic
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3050127 - 08/25/04 09:30 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

Firstly, do not misunderstand me. I am not anti-Buddhist, in fact, I wrote a 222 page Doctoral dissertation on Vajrayana and Western psychology.

I am in agreement with C.G. Jung on the point that 'lotus blossoms do not grow well in the Western psyche.' That is to say that the metaphysical absolute of Buddhism is much more like the undefinable 'Ein Sof' in Jewish Kabbalism, which utterly transcends human experience. And, like Ein Sof, Sunyata, the Clear Light of the Void requires an Intermediate State that transforms down the Unconditioned to a humanly apprehensible reality.

In Christian theology, God the Father, like Sunyata in Buddhism, like Ein Sof in Kabbalism all have the phenomenologically same Intermediary in common. Christian theology calls this the Son, Logos, Christ; Kabbalism calls it Tifereth [Beauty, Compassion] and Buddhism likewise calls it Karuna - Compassion. If you decide to study Lama Anagarika Govinda's ' Foundations of Tbetan Mysticism, you will find a map which shows you that there are three Realms: Earthly, Human and Heavenly. The Heavenly, symbolized by the mantra OM is the Unconditioned state. The Experience of OM occurs at the Brain Center. It is radiant, infinite, eternal. But it is like standing at the top of Mt. Everest - ethereal, pristine, crystalline, rarified and sterile. No one lives at that 'peak experience' in human form for very long. That infinity must flow back down into the Human Realm and Enlighten the Heart Center which is symbolized by the mantric syllable HUM, and which is characterized by "Unbearable Compassion." Lama Govinda points out how miraculous the experience of Compassion. We may get a sense of the Infinite dwelling in Infinitude, but what of the Infinite dwelling in finitude?! The very mythos of the Incarnation of Christ in human form comes to mind by parallel ['...and He tabernacled among us...'].

But...what of the ultimate meaning of being a compassionate and hence enlightened human being within Buddhism? This is the difficulty. You see, whereas the theistic Hindus who wrote the Bhagavad Gita recognized two aspects of God: Saguna Brahman [God with attributes, or the personal God] and Nirguna Brahman [God without attributes, the Impersonal Godhead], the Buddhists chose ONLY to recognize that aspect of the Absolute that is conceived of as Impersonal. Hence, no relationship because no personal poles exist either in the human (anatta - no self), or in the Absolute.

Westerners, due to our vector into the collective unconscious tend to interpret this formulation negatively, nihilistically, and psychologically with depression, existential angst and despair. This is not the necessary reaction of the Eastern psyche. Infinite Transparency, self-effulgence, bliss, Clear Light and other suggestive words underline the Void. Not darkness, non-existence, blowing-out-of-desire AKA Nirvana. From Jim Morrison to Kurt Cobain, the misinterpretation of Eastern conceptualizations and their psychological ramifications cause problems and wrong conclusions, even suicide.

I hope this helped rather than hurt my attempt at lending some clarification. I have struggled long and hard with these same metaphysical concerns and I understand many of the pitfalls.

Peace.


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OfflineZenGecko
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3052550 - 08/26/04 10:41 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

you cant intellectualize "emptiness". You cant wrap your mind around it and understand it, thats the point really. You get it or you dont, its like trying to explain love to someone who's never been inlove. You can give them aspects, discriptions that might give them a idea of what you mean, but they will really never get it, till they experience it. So it seems to me your problem is that your still trying to understand it intellectually, and you never will, you have to transcend it. Same thing with the gateless gate, and all that, it isnt a gate u can open and enter by walking towards it or kicking it, or anything, there is no gate to pass thru yet there is, and in the heart of that paradox is the truth, the truth of being.

But that truth is beyond conception, or reason, you just have to transcend it, actualize it, be it, LET GO. I assume you buy that this truth is part of our true nature, or our true nature is that truth or something like that if your into buddhism and stuff, and if thats true then luckily we already have what we are looking for, we've just in a sense forgotten it. like loosing your glasses when they are right there on your head, u think they are lost, but they arent, but then again for all practical purposes they were lost because u didnt know they were there.

The whole point of the path, the struggle or whatever is to give up..to truely give up, and just realize there was never any reason to start the journey because u were and always have been at your destination, ironically most/all have to go on the journey to realize that though. Not everyone gets that far, and some who do, forget again, and have to essentially start over.

So basically as long as your thinking about getting there, u never will. But u have to keep thinking till you cant, till basically you reach a point at which your efforts are utterly frustrated, and then hopefully u will actualize,transcend, remember..whatever. Thats the purpose of Koans and whatnot to frustrate you to the point where you finally realize there is nothing to realize, and u just have to "be".

i wont claim to be enlightened, but i have had an experience that fits all the descriptions of satori, or kensho, conversion that i have read. It happend shortly after i began meditating seriously, though im sure that had something to do with it, i think it was more that i had reached a point in my life where everything was completely frustrated. I was the kind of person always wanted to know, to understand, i constantly was asking myself questions and formulating theories or finding answers, and then all that ground to a halt.

No new questions, no new answers, and for a person with that nature it is very disconcerting, and i entered a period in my life which is probably the only time i've been depressed. i was stuck, and didnt know what to do, i had all the answers i could ever see my self reasoning out essentially, but i knew there was more, i just didnt know what to do about it, so i started meditating.
i had done it before but never constantly or for more then just a few minutes, but had experienced enough even doing that, that it seemed worth a try. A few days later i was fukin around in my apartment, doing nothing essentially and all of a sudden the light levels seemed to change, and i started to look around, and everything seemed different, and then all of a sudden a feeling unlike anything i had ever concieved of existing washed over me, and in that moment, i knew how/why everything was, i couldnt verbalize it, but i knew it, i knew the truth, i was the truth. The moment itself was the best most perfect, happiest moment of my entire life, and i persisted in a state of near fearlessness and after glow for the next few weeks, this state i guess was non duel awareness from the descriptions i've read of that. i was a better person, and everything was different. Seriously even a can of coke literally no longer looked the same, it was like i was seeing everything for the first time, and how it really was.

Eventually the feeling began to fade, and/or i just got used to it, but in that moment i changed as much as a person within the span of a few seconds to a minute, as i did from the age of 12 to 26 probably. Since then i've lost most of the experience/feeling, but it left an impression, and i've kept something of it. Im not as good as i was in the moments just after, but im better then i was in the moments that came before the experience, and things still look different. Im so used to it now that often i dont notice, but the moment i notice that im not noticing everything kinda gels and looks different again.

My whole life before that moment seems now like the memory of a dream, and that my real life was everything that came after, everything is more real now, yet less real, impossible to explain how so really, its all very odd. Before i had no idea such an experience was possible, i had hoped it was, i had tried to imagine what it must be like, but i was never really sure, and im not sure i really ever believed it was possible, but i know now. Now im just left with trying again to get back to where i was, trying to not try to let go, because as long as i try i cant do it. But that moment came when i just accidently let go, for one brief moment i forgot myself and it came, like it had been waiting for the opportunity to pounce on me, and with out knowing i had been holding it at bay the whole time. it was like dying or being born, either/both, it was good. It will come for you or anyone when it must, when it has to, and not before.

Sincerely,
That which is, and has no choice but to be.


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OfflineZenGecko
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3052580 - 08/26/04 10:54 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

Oh im sorry u asked what the point of it is, and stuff. The point is that once u actualize "it" or whatever you are essentially free for lack of a better word. There is no fear, and that state feels really good, yet you arent even attached to how good it feels. Like buddha said, it is the solution to suffering, to all of lifes problems basically. If i could have persisted in that state nothing could have touched me, no anger, no grief, greed, fear, pain... nothing. And thats the trick not just experiencing a moment like that, but persisting in it. lots of people have kensho, satori, or conversion experiences but few persist in that state, it is the difference between knowing and being/doing. And i think that is the difference between having an enlightenment moment, and being enlightened. I may have had the moment, but im definately not enlightened. Im just here to tell you its there, and its worth it.


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: ZenGecko]
    #3052843 - 08/26/04 12:20 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

the void
is void of any handy description
so there are contradictory fragmentary souvenirs of experience brought back to this this realm that point at clear light of the void, the source of all, taking refuge in the void, etc.

mark is on track with ayn sof in kabbalism, but the fact remains that we do not have good 3 dimensional tools or thinking constructs that accommodate the essence of that which is beyond what the words can wrap or reference.

I am comforted that experience can go past words directly to the referenced essence itself, and that the experiences which I have endured include at least some few that are not easy to describe like this.

What I have seen of it makes me want to return, but I can also see that it is not compatible with the rigors of everyday life to hang constantly in the company of more than can be spoken of. also it can take a lot of energy. (do read more rumi if this is not catching on)

most badly understood is the concept of enlightenment (drifting from void for a brief moment) A big illusion is that some wonderful (final)experience will persist like a rock (mind is so much more fluid). enlightenment and being enlightened are conceptually anchored in the delusion of such solidity or "achievement" note you will keep reading that you hardly achieve what you already have.

what can be practiced, are methods that enable transcendence more regularly - you could say that is a good thing.


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Invisibleninjapixie
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3055912 - 08/27/04 12:13 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

'And if emptiness is the true nature of everything life seems completely pointless if you think about it. Enlightenment is just as empty as delusion, it is all the same thing, so why bother?'

You make that sound like a negative. If life is empty and pointless then you don't HAVE to do anything. You have no obligations, nothing you have to do to reach some be-all end-all goal because there isn't one. You are free to do or be whatever you want. You're liberated.


--------------------
Put that monkey back in the oven.


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Invisiblegettinjiggywithit
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: ninjapixie]
    #3055953 - 08/27/04 12:25 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

Amen!

You put it better then I have in other posts of his on this subject.

You need some shrooms under your name for that one!

Love your username too!


--------------------
Ahuwale ka nane huna.


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OfflineDivided_Sky
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3056174 - 08/27/04 01:44 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

I find that alot of times one's view of Emptiness is determined by your sober attitude. If your life is already happy it is easy to let go of your concerns, and if your life is really bad it is easy not to care at all. It is harder if your life is nuetral because you are still attached to happiness you don't have, but not miserable enough to let it go.
I find this ironic because everybody says enlightenment is a freedom that comes from within, but so much of their attitudes come from their external environment.

I'm not specifically directing this at anyone here in particular, but it has been my experience that people who are already comfortable or fairly satisfied with the circumstances of their lives find the Void much less threatening.

By the way, I just want to say that there have been some great posts on this thread! Thank you so much for your input guys! :smile:


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: ninjapixie]
    #3056912 - 08/27/04 06:12 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

Quote:

ninjapixie said:
'And if emptiness is the true nature of everything life seems completely pointless if you think about it. Enlightenment is just as empty as delusion, it is all the same thing, so why bother?'

You make that sound like a negative. If life is empty and pointless then you don't HAVE to do anything. You have no obligations, nothing you have to do to reach some be-all end-all goal because there isn't one. You are free to do or be whatever you want. You're liberated.




empty in these contexts does not mean without value
it means without emotional baggage or b*llsh*t instead.
In that way it means a kind of simplicity in the habit of mind.
there is an incredibly endless value to that.

You are free to be whatever you are.


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OfflineSeussA
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3057194 - 08/27/04 10:14 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

> And yet, Buddhism says that Emptiness itself is empty, and therefore cannot be found.

There is a difference between finding something and experiencing something.

> It seems that even Ultimate Truth is empty, and therefore is a negation of something.

Only because you have given it meaning, thus it is no longer empty. This creates the paradox that you have identified.

> It gets really confusing.

It gets confusing because you are trying to understand something which cannot be understood, only experienced. The more you try to understand it, the more pardoxical is becomes.

> It's like just like nihilism, except just to sound not nihilistic Buddhists say that reality does exist (kind of).

Of course reality exists, but there is also existance outside of reality.

> Enlightenment is just as empty as delusion

Indeed. The difference between knowing the path and being the path.

> if Nirvana is empty there is no happiness there either, or anyone or thing to be happy.

Empty implies homogony... every thing is the same, there are no categories. This does not mean that emptiness is empty, but rather that one cannot differentiate between anything, therefore everything is the same... a void... empty. For example: there is no love, but there is also nothing but love, both at the same time.

> At least then you would feel happy some of the time.

Why bother feeling happy when you can be happy?

Don't worry about it making sense, or anything else. Simply sit and let your mind calm and experience what you already have.


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Just another spore in the wind.


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OfflineStrumpling
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3057485 - 08/27/04 12:03 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

"And if emptiness is the true nature of everything life seems completely pointless if you think about it."

Or you can say that if emptiness is the true nature of everything, then life seems grand because we can fill all of this emptiness with anything we wish


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Insert an "I think" mentally in front of eveything I say that seems sketchy, because I certainly don't KNOW much. Also; feel free to yell at me.
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Invisibleninjapixie
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Strumpling]
    #3059971 - 08/27/04 11:16 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

'Or you can say that if emptiness is the true nature of everything, then life seems grand because we can fill all of this emptiness with anything we wish'

Exactly. You can look at the void/emptiness as the place where potentially everything can happen.

Divided Sky: I have found that whenever I have felt down and depressed, I have forgotten that life is empty, and was trying desperately to hold on to something I thought was terribly important. In other words I was taking life too seriously. Only when I remember the freedom that comes with emptiness do I let myself go and accept things for what they are, have a good laugh and be happy again cos I know it doesn't have to be this way, nor does it have to be any other way. Life is just not serious. Of course you have to truly believe that life is empty for it to work.


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Put that monkey back in the oven.


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OfflinePedM
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: ZenGecko]
    #3061524 - 08/28/04 12:33 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

>> That is to say that the metaphysical absolute of Buddhism is much more like the undefinable 'Ein Sof' in Jewish Kabbalism, which utterly transcends human experience

>> you cant intellectualize "emptiness".

I'm not sure if this is true. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are three different levels to one's realization of emptiness. One is called the "inferential realization of emptiness", which is a firm intellectual understanding of emptiness, using one's ordinary logical faculties to gesture toward it. The second stage is called the "middling realzation of emptiness". A middling realization is recognized when one's inferential conclusions about emptiness begin to bleed over into their day to day experience. The third attainment is called the "direct realization of emptiness." At this stage, there is no more distinction between objects, and no more rigidity behind the sense of self and other. Enlightenment is said to be predicated on a direct realzation of emptiness.

Emptiness, the perfection of wisdom, or the "ultimate nature of reality", is something that can be realized intellectually. In fact, along the Tibetan path it is step one to do just that. An "inferential realization of emptiness" acts as the foundation upon which experiential (middling and direct) realizations are cultivated and attained. After all, if one hasn't the first clue what it is they're meditating on, how is one supposed to guide their mind in meditation?

The best authority on this subject I believe is a book by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso called Heart of Wisdom. It is a short text which moves directly to the point without wasting a single world. It is formatted to offer the reader the opportunity to make a correct inferential realization of emptiness, and then teaches techniques to bring those inferences into actual experience.


Edited by Ped (08/28/04 01:50 PM)


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OfflinePedM
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Re: Help me understand Emptiness [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3061739 - 08/28/04 01:42 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

>> I've been getting really frustrated lately

>> In my deep meditation I could sometimes feel it, and I could see that it was present in all phenomena.

>> The more I read the more confused I am

>> It makes me really frustrated.


Imagine a dandelion, the kind which spreads seeds with those fluffy bits that get caught up in the wind. When I was child, I used to chase those fluffy bits around, attempting to capture them so that I could study them more thoroughly. They would always escape me, and I was continually dismayed. The moment I would grasp at them, they would veer suddenly upward or to the side, constantly eluding me. Eventually I learned that if I simply opened my palm and followed it's path gently, with my eyes transfixed upon it for as long as it took for the wind to settle, the fluffy bit would eventually come to rest in my hand. If I did nothing, it would stay, but if I tried to manipulate it, it would surely escape again, and I would be dismayed as if it I'd not succeeded at all.


--------------------


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