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Thread: Emptiness

  1. #1

    Emptiness

    I've just finished the Dalai Lama's How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life. In it, the Dalai Lama talks a lot about form and emptiness, which is something I've struggled for years to understand. Here's my understanding of what I read:

    First off, there are two planes on which to understand reality: the conventional plane and the ultimate plane. That is, the common, phenomenological way of viewing reality and the deeper, unconventional plane, on which phenomena are seen for what they really are. These two planes intersect in our experience of them, with the conventional plane manifesting in the appearance of things (the form), and the ultimate plane manifesting in the reality underlying that appearance (the emptiness).

    Assuming that is accurate, we come to dependent-arising and emptiness. All phenomena are dependent upon causes and conditions past and future, as well as on constituents of themselves (such as the body being dependent on the heart and brain, etc). Our perception of phenomena is also dependent on such things, as a lovely meal may, after eating too much, seem less inviting than it did before we began to eat. This is dependent arising.

    Emptiness is observed when we recognize that all phenomena are dependent in this way, and thus lack inherent existence, which seems to be the ability of a given object or phenomenon to exist on its own, independent of causes, conditions, etc. They are empty of this inherent existence. Thus, we arrive at the truth of emptiness, which co-exists with the truth of dependent-arising (in fact, they depend on one another in terms of the logical explanation I just discussed). We perceive things in a conventional way, and they exist on that plane. However, simultaneously, these things are empty of inherent existence, dependent on causes and conditions, and thus are full of emptiness, which is realized on the ultimate plane.

    This is my understanding of what I read. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Now, to my question. The Dalai Lama also says, at one point, that "mind [and consciousness] arises in dependence upon a former mind [or consciousness] of similar type, which requires that there had been an earlier beginningless continuum of mind [or consciousness]... there is no beginning of consciousness, and there is no end to it." However, when considering dependent-arising and emptiness, one arrives not at a position of nihilism, but at a position where the world and all its phenomena disappear and become mere constructions, leaving a vast open plane of emptiness with no phenomena of inherent existence contained within it. What, if anything, possesses inherent existence? If nothing possesses inherent existence, what gave rise to the "beginningless" continua of mind and consciousness?

    Gassho,

    Kevin

    PS. By the way, long time, no post. It's good to be back at Treeleaf.

  2. #2

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi Kevin.

    I'm not too great on describing emptiness (or understanding it myself :| ). I think it can be seen differently by different traditions, and also by different individuals.

    I'd just like to add though, according to the Heart Sutra:
    Form Does not Differ From the Void,
    And the Void Does Not Differ From Form.
    Form is Void and Void is Form
    Namaste

  3. #3

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi Kev,

    Good to see you.

    I will just say that I have read your wonderful post twice and ... Oye, I have a headache. :shock:

    Give me a little while, and I will try again and respond.

  4. #4
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    Emptiness doesn't require a treatise or a long and tangled explanation. It can be directly seen. I would say that in order to be truly known, it must be directly seen. In a way, you are seeing it right now, but you don't realize it.

    Not to diss His Holiness or anything...and not to detract from your explanation. At the bottom of it, one must ask, have you directly seen what you are describing?

    Chet

  5. #5

    Re: Emptiness

    I like your description of emptiness and dependent arising, Kevin. I've worked on these concepts for a while now. I'd be glad to list some more readings on them if you're interested.

    "...what gave rise to the "beginningless" continua of mind and consciousness?"

    I don't think you're going to find that answer. I think that the usual description is that it has always been.

  6. #6

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi Kevin,

    Emptiness is the absence of self-nature, but doesn't 'exist' apart from form. It's not a vacuum or a void, and 'plane' of emptiness is far too abstract for my taste. It's not a thing, nor is it just an idea. Sunyata sunyata = emptiness of emptiness, as Nagarjuna would say. Where there is form, there is also emptiness and where there is emptiness, there is also form. Not identical, but not separate. I'm not saying that what you've said is necessarily wrong, but I think Soto folks tend not to think of it in such abstract terms as the Dalai Lama has presented it. In fact, we don't really 'think' of it all that much, we just live it in our daily activities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    However, when considering dependent-arising and emptiness, one arrives not at a position of nihilism, but at a position where the world and all its phenomena disappear and become mere constructions, leaving a vast open plane of emptiness with no phenomena of inherent existence contained within it.
    Dogen Zenji took a different approach. For him, emptiness and dependent-arising didn't reduce phenomena to 'mere constructions', but rather revaluated them. All phenomena are empty and just because of their emptiness are each equivalent manifestations of ultimate reality in their own right. So he was more concerned with realizing emptiness than he was in transcending it. Pebbles, tiles, stones and fences. Dreaming, being awake, laughing, crying, delusion, enlightenment. All empty, all ultimate reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    What, if anything, possesses inherent existence?
    Nothing I've ever come across.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    If nothing possesses inherent existence, what gave rise to the "beginningless" continua of mind and consciousness?
    If anything did posess inherent existence, it couldn't give rise to anything or exhibit any relation to anything. That would be a dependency.

    Hope that helps.

    Gassho
    Bansho

  7. #7

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Kev,

    Good to see you.

    I will just say that I have read your wonderful post twice and ... Oye, I have a headache. :shock:

    Give me a little while, and I will try again and respond.
    ditto from rowan.........

  8. #8

    Re: Emptiness

    Greetings Kevin!

    A quick side note. Your wonderful post just made me realize how much/often I frivolously dismiss a "wordy" bit of writing as being merely philosophical logic games instead of giving the piece the respect and serious attention it deserves. Lots of words does NOT equal delusion!

    thanks again,
    rowan
    who really wants Avelox now..........

  9. #9

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    I've just finished the Dalai Lama's How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life. ...
    Now, to my question. The Dalai Lama also says, at one point, that "mind [and consciousness] arises in dependence upon a former mind [or consciousness] of similar type, which requires that there had been an earlier beginningless continuum of mind [or consciousness]... there is no beginning of consciousness, and there is no end to it." However, when considering dependent-arising and emptiness, one arrives not at a position of nihilism, but at a position where the world and all its phenomena disappear and become mere constructions, leaving a vast open plane of emptiness with no phenomena of inherent existence contained within it. What, if anything, possesses inherent existence? If nothing possesses inherent existence, what gave rise to the "beginningless" continua of mind and consciousness?
    Hi Kevin,

    One thing I learned from the Dalai Lama's discussions on dependent origination is that everything comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. It's relatively easy to see that the physical body comes from constituent elements and then dissolves back into those elements. What's harder to figure is that consciousness also comes from somewhere and goes somewhere but that's exactly what the Dalai Lama is saying.

    The following quote also relates to your question.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rev Nonin, posted on zenforuminternational.org
    "emptiness" means that there is nothing fixed and permanent inside anything, that all things, or beings, are made up of constituent elements and are "empty" of "own being," or existence only from their own side. Emptiness is not a thing but a condition of all existence.
    I imagine that the "vast open plane of emptiness" is a state where you see things/phenomena as they really are.

    As for your last question, Bansho's response is pointing in the right direction (but beware there's some heavy philosophy lurking in the background). Nothing can give rise to something that has no beginning. Something with no beginning is always there.

    JohnH

  10. #10

    Re: Emptiness

    phenomenological way of viewing reality
    Hey Kevin,

    From what I know, which hopefully isn't much, there is just phenomenological experience. We can only see as far as the body will take us. Of course, there are perhaps some who have a depth of reality that surpasses the mundane, but that is not to say it is beyond phenomenology.

    Things are exactly what they are. They present themselves as this. Sometimes they are a construction of thinking and viewpoint, and other times they are what they are. What this means is they are color, texture, smell, etc. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness is another way of saying "just open up and experience things directly" . A computer is really not a computer. We name it this, but it is made up of a myriad of things. We see the floor behind the computer and we say "that's the floor behind the computer" but really it is just color that your seeing sort of. So the computer doesn't end. It doesn't have a border. there is just the black edge of the screen and then brown carpet but without naming them screen and carpet. And while seeing is taking place there's lots of other stuff happening aswell. It's just direct experience. But it's easy to twist it into some sort of existential thought depending on how bodymind is. So when someone says you are perfectly you, well, that is exactly what you are (without the you).

    So I guess it's okay for us to sit in the sun and have a glass of lemonade (with ice cubes of course).


    Gassho

  11. #11

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi Kevin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho
    Greetings Kevin!

    A quick side note. Your wonderful post just made me realize how much/often I frivolously dismiss a "wordy" bit of writing as being merely philosophical logic games instead of giving the piece the respect and serious attention it deserves. Lots of words does NOT equal delusion!

    thanks again,
    rowan
    Oh, Rowan is quite right. You ask about something very important. I was too tired yesterday to get my mind to focus.

    What you write is right (at least up to where you write "Please correct me if I'm wrong."). But, in our Zen way, reducing these things to cut and dried formulas is less vital than the experience of them, for it is much like the difference between philsophizing about "sweetness and bitterness", and tasting each on one's own tongue. I think Chet said it well when he wrote:

    Emptiness doesn't require a treatise or a long and tangled explanation. It can be directly seen. I would say that in order to be truly known, it must be directly seen. In a way, you are seeing it right now, but you don't realize it.
    Right now, in our book club, we are reading the "Harmony of Difference and Absolute" which is about these same themes.

    Another slight variation in how we treat this in our Zen way may be to see both form and emptiness as real and sacred. Yes, we should see through mere form into emptiness, but find nothing "wrong" with the form part once we do. In fact, Dogen taught that "emptiness" has no meaning or particular life to it without form ... much like a barren field is simply "barren" without trees, grass and stones to fill the field. Form IS emptiness realized, emptiness precisely form. All is sacred! Don't go in search of the barren field, and in doing so, tear out the trees, grass and stones. (I think Bansho was meaning this in his post above)

    In our Zen way, we intentionally avoid much comment on whether there is or is not a "'beginningless' continua of mind and consciousness'". There is what is, there is not what's not ... and never forget that 'what?' when we drop all thought of "is" or is "not".(Yes, a Koan)

    We do agree that "nothing possesses inherent existence". However, if that is the case, who is writing this posting, and who is the 'Kevin' who will read it? (Yes, another Koan).

    One of the best descriptions of emptiness I found recently was suggested by Clyde ... "Where does your fist go when you open your hand?" We, and all phenomena, are constantly changing processes momentarily brought together by causes and conditions, like the hand which temporarily forms a fist. When the fist opens, where does it go? Where do you go, as life's fist opens each instant? We are not "nihilists", because we believe that "something remains" (although better than "something", we might say "not nothing" and "not not nothing" etc. etc.). As Uchiyama Roshi says, we just "Open the Hand of Thought".

    Emptiness is just a perspective for us where all the separate stuff of this world (constantly bumping into each other, causing friction, rubbing up again each other) just drops away into a vision where no conflict and friction exists ... cause there is no separate stuff to do the bumping! But, we cannot stay there, and must return to this day to day world where we can taste peace, stillness and harmony even amid the apparent chaos and disharmony. So, we are not too concerned about whether "emptiness" is an actual "plane of existence" or "dimension" or "separate reality" (as some would have it) or just a "perspective" and "way of seeing" phenomena that drops away the separation and conflict.

    I hope that helps and is clear.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- I also think the Dalai Lama's comments may be connected to the fact that he is more concerned about trying to rectify emptiness with rebirth. So, he needs some "continuum of consciousness" or the like to bridge lives together. That is very important to Tibetan Buddhism, which also has more of a tendency than Zen Buddhism to philosophize about nuts and bolts mechanics about some things. That may be why he is more concerned with the issue of showing and phrasing things that way. So, we might be satisfied to say that "emptiness" may be a real place or just a way to see things by which all separation and friction is dropped away ... while a Tibetan philosopher might need to spell out in much greater detail its characteristics, properties and how it fits as a cog in the great machine of rebirth. Something like that.

    I sometimes compare this to some folks philosophizing about "ice cream", and our way of just tasting the coolness and sweetness on our own tongue. Something like that.

  12. #12

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi John,

    This is not directly on the topic (although really it is), but I want to ask you something as a Koan ...

    Something with no beginning is always there.
    But what about when you drop from mind "something" "no" "beginning" "always" and "there". What is there then?

  13. #13

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi Jundo,
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    But what about when you drop from mind "something" "no" "beginning" "always" and "there". What is there then?
    no words,
    ...no clouds,
    ......clear sky.


  14. #14

    Re: Emptiness

    This is not directly on the topic (although really it is), but I want to ask you something as a Koan ...

    Something with no beginning is always there.


    But what about when you drop from mind "something" "no" "beginning" "always" and "there". What is there then?
    Wouldn't that leave us "with is"? :wink:

    It seems to me that Zen recognizes the seeming contradictions that arise from our abilities to mentally consider the experiences and perceptions we receive from many different angles, some of which may seem contradictory. This is one of the things I love about Zen, for so many other traditions, religious or otherwise, claim to possess the "one Truth", which is really just the truth as perceived from one specific vantage point.

    Form and emptiness are similar in that they are different angles on the same perceptions, seemingly contradictory, but simultaneous and both true. This is like Dogen's method in Shobogenzo of looking at the same concept from the perspectives of idealism, objectivity, action, and reality, four perspectives which often provide seemingly contradictory interpretations until one steps back to perceive the stances of the observers giving rise to the perspectives (this stepped-back stance is the position of the perspective of reality, as I understand it).

    I, personally, am in favor of the intellectualism (as my wordy posts can attest... sorry, Rowan :lol: ). It's not reality, but it's the tail of the Truth, which gives us something to hold onto while we pull ourselves up to rise on the shoulders of the Truth. In that old saying, where a mountain is just a mountain, then it's a complex system of etc etc, then it's just a mountain again. The intellectualization is the middle step. After all, isn't the Tao Te Ching (or Shobogenzo for that matter) just one big intellectualization? Isn't that why Lao Tzu was so (supposedly) reluctant to write it? I accept that one could arrive at the truth without the intellectualization, but I think the intellectualization step is also a valid path. Does that make me more Rinzai than Soto?

    As far as inherent existence, I've been reading Jundo's BIG question series, in which Jundo expresses a personal belief in something (nature unknown) that brings order to the otherwise unfathomable coincidence that would have been required to bring us to our particular boat in our particular river. Perhaps this something possesses inherent existence? Perhaps whatever gave rise to that something possesses it? I admit that these questions have no relevance whatsoever to my practice here, today. But, it's still fun to think about, and every time I read anything related to Buddhism, I see allusions to inherent existence, even in the passages which seem to deny it in favor of emptiness and dependent-arising. Perhaps this is another of those seemingly contradictory perspectives on a single phenomenon that is inherently whole and uncontradictory?

    Gassho,
    Kevin

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    Form and emptiness are similar in that they are different angles on the same perceptions, seemingly contradictory, but simultaneous and both true.
    You can get lost in emptiness and imprisoned by form. Both are cases of forgetfulness, IMHO.

    Also, 'emptiness' isn't really all that empty.

    I, personally, am in favor of the intellectualism (as my wordy posts can attest... sorry, Rowan :lol: ). It's not reality, but it's the tail of the Truth, which gives us something to hold onto while we pull ourselves up to rise on the shoulders of the Truth. In that old saying, where a mountain is just a mountain, then it's a complex system of etc etc, then it's just a mountain again. The intellectualization is the middle step. After all, isn't the Tao Te Ching (or Shobogenzo for that matter) just one big intellectualization? Isn't that why Lao Tzu was so (supposedly) reluctant to write it? I accept that one could arrive at the truth without the intellectualization, but I think the intellectualization step is also a valid path. Does that make me more Rinzai than Soto?
    Unfortunately, you may come to an intellectual realization of some of these things and mistakenly think you really know something. Intellectualizing this leads you invariably away from seeing it. It's the mind, the ego, that has to know that is responsible for all this chatter. What's telling here is the motivation. The part of the mind that needs the security of an intellectual understanding is the part of the mind that doesn't, cannot in fact, stop seeking and simply look plainly at one's experience. You have to be brave enough to not know.

    As far as inherent existence, I've been reading Jundo's BIG question series, in which Jundo expresses a personal belief in something (nature unknown) that brings order to the otherwise unfathomable coincidence that would have been required to bring us to our particular boat in our particular river. Perhaps this something possesses inherent existence? Perhaps whatever gave rise to that something possesses it? I admit that these questions have no relevance whatsoever to my practice here, today. But, it's still fun to think about, and every time I read anything related to Buddhism, I see allusions to inherent existence, even in the passages which seem to deny it in favor of emptiness and dependent-arising. Perhaps this is another of those seemingly contradictory perspectives on a single phenomenon that is inherently whole and uncontradictory?
    And this is a great demonstration of my previous point.

    IMHO, IANAT.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: Emptiness

    Unfortunately, you may come to an intellectual realization of some of these things and mistakenly think you really know something. Intellectualizing this leads you invariably away from seeing it. It's the mind, the ego, that has to know that is responsible for all this chatter. What's telling here is the motivation. The part of the mind that needs the security of an intellectual understanding is the part of the mind that doesn't, cannot in fact, stop seeking and simply look plainly at one's experience. You have to be brave enough to not know.
    I absolutely agree that this is a dangerous and common trap of intellectualization, where the mountain is no longer a mountain, but is a bunch of conceptualizations about the mountain. But, what's on the other side of the intellectualizations? I'd say you could plow through the intellectualizations, be deluded by them, continue to meditate and recognize the delusions, then see the mountain as a mountain again. To some this may seem a diversion from the true course. To others, it may be seen to enrich the experience of the mountain.

    But, again, what other way is there? How else to describe the experience to others but through conceptualizations, which must, of necessity, then be proven to be inadequate by the experience itself? The Shobogenzo isn't the true path, but it helps us find it. The Tao Te Ching isn't the Tao itself, but it helps us recognize it. "Sweet" describes a part of the experience of tasting vanilla ice cream, and is far from the totality of the experience itself, but, nonetheless, may help point us in the right direction by showing us that vinegar, when tasted, is most certainly not vanilla ice cream. Unless, that is, we're lucky enough to taste vanilla ice cream without having to be shown the cone...

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    But, again, what other way is there? How else to describe the experience to others but through conceptualizations, which must, of necessity, then be proven to be inadequate by the experience itself? The Shobogenzo isn't the true path, but it helps us find it. The Tao Te Ching isn't the Tao itself, but it helps us recognize it. "Sweet" describes a part of the experience of tasting vanilla ice cream, and is far from the totality of the experience itself, but, nonetheless, may help point us in the right direction by showing us that vinegar, when tasted, is most certainly not vanilla ice cream. Unless, that is, we're lucky enough to taste vanilla ice cream without having to be shown the cone...
    You must intellectualize to describe the experience to others - but as you've argued, the experience and the description are nowhere near the same thing.

    Wouldn't it be better instead to use conversation in a way that inspires others to taste for themselves?

    Chet

  18. #18

    Re: Emptiness

    Wouldn't it be better instead to use conversation in a way that inspires others to taste for themselves?
    If someone is seeking to taste, then sure. But, is there one way to use conversation that would inspire all others to taste? For some, mysterious semi-poetic statements so common in Zen literature are intriguing and inspiring (I like these quite a lot). For others, intellectualization may be inspiring (I like this mode, as well). For still others, a wise teacher silently holding up a single flower is their preferred technique (when my mind is ripe (not often, sadly), I find this effective, too). Perhaps, as my parentheticals suggest, the same person may find different methods useful at different times.

    To me, these are like Dogen's different modes of discourse in Shobogenzo: just different fingers pointing toward the truth.

    I think we agree that the experience is the best, the only, way to fully understand. I think what we're discussing here are merely the maps and signposts that lead the seeker to the experience.

    Gassho,
    Kevin

  19. #19

    Re: Emptiness

    The Shobogenzo isn't the true path, but it helps us find it.
    First, I wouldn't say the Shobogenzo is only intellectual. It is also instructional and poetic. Infact, when we drop intellectualizing and follow the teachings, we have a clearer understanding of it and of Dogen.

    Let's not forget Ryokan, Basho and the many others expressing the Dharma as the Dharma. Sure, we can talk. We can think. We can write books. But in a sense one should have an idea whether or not they are over intellectualizing, creating something useful, or just forgetting that all together and just creating.

    Gassho

  20. #20

    Re: Emptiness

    Also:

    The Shobogenzo is big. Lot of stuff in it. Some might choose to read it all, some not, and some might pick it up now and then (all cases varying). If I recommended any part of it that should be read, it would be Zazengi (fukan zazengi) and Genjo Koan. I think these are the core of Dogen's teachings.

    Gassho

  21. #21

    Re: Emptiness

    I, personally, am in favor of the intellectualism (as my wordy posts can attest... sorry, Rowan :lol: ). It's not reality, but it's the tail of the Truth, which gives us something to hold onto while we pull ourselves up to rise on the shoulders of the Truth.
    I think others have already said it, but ...

    Zen in general, Dogen and Shobogenzo in particular, are not "anti-intellectual". Old wives tale. Almost without exception, all the old Zen teachers were intellectuals of their day, well grounded in literary arts and philosophy. They were trying to convey a definite set of ideas and experiences about how to taste life ... sometimes in prose and philosophy, sometimes in poetry as Will said, sometimes with action and 'just doing', sometimes with silence.

    In fact, without an educated familiarity with many aspects of Buddhist philosophy and history, the experience of Zazen on the Zafu easily turns to mush. We would just be adrift, lost. The philosophy guides us, and helps us see with understanding, what we encounter in our Practice.

    However, a couple of twists on that:

    First, some of that philosophy, and the "new ways of thinking" we encounter are NOT our normal, "common sense" ways of thinking about reality, for example, it is not normal to think that the "self" is rather a dream, time a state a mind, etc.etc. We are taught some very new ways of thinking and perceiving.

    Second, our practice teaches us very often how to "know" some things by dropping thoughts and emotions which get in the way: Sometimes intellectualizing, and other thoughts and biased emotions, get in the way. Stop philosophizing about the ice cream ... just taste the ice cream.

    So, sometimes we philosophize about life's ice cream (its chemistry, it's history, the brain's reaction to it), sometimes we learn to think about ice cream in new ways that folks may not consider the "common sense" way to approach ice cream (you are the ice cream, the ice cream is you ... and, anyway, what ice cream?) ...

    ... sometimes we just shut up and taste the ice cream! 8)

    Does that help?

    Gassho, Jundo

  22. #22
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    I don't mean to imply that Zen is 'anti-intellectual'. I've been speaking to a particular person who over-intellectualizes the Dharma. I have simply not seen anything like it before, and it occurs to me that she uses as many excuses as possible to put the dharma into conceptual terms to the point that I feel I am always attempting to bring her back to her actual experience (not that that's my job, but we have many of these conversations).

    Perhaps I see some of that in what you posted, Kevin.

    Chet

  23. #23

    Re: Emptiness

    Based on my personal experience...

    Intellectualizing zen can help to a certain extent if paired with zazen. If you find your intellectualizing isn't getting you anywhere, maybe just focus on zazen. If you find your zazen isn't progressing as you like, perhaps some intellectualizing/discussion is in order. But, because we are all verbal humans, "intellectualizing" (that's a rather broad term) is to some extent inescapable...every post on this site is an "intellectualization."

    Gassho,

    Todd.

  24. #24
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    Based on my personal experience...

    Intellectualizing zen can help to a certain extent if paired with zazen. If you find your intellectualizing isn't getting you anywhere, maybe just focus on zazen. If you find your zazen isn't progressing as you like, perhaps some intellectualizing/discussion is in order. But, because we are all verbal humans, "intellectualizing" (that's a rather broad term) is to some extent inescapable...every post on this site is an "intellectualization."

    Gassho,

    Todd.
    Although intellectualization is broadly inescapable, complex and abstract cosmologies are really unnecessary, in my opinion. All the talk about 'planes of existence' is understandable, but ultimately very misleading. When we talk about these things as though they were distinct things, a lot of confusion is bound to be the result.

    Also, you say, 'If you find your intellectualizing isn't getting you anywhere...'

    Where is it supposed to get you? I ask this sincerely and not in a 'trying to be a clever Zen guy' sort of way. I'm not trying to play 'gotcha', I simply want to know where you think your zazen practice is taking you.

    Lastly, for Kevin, things are not empty merely because of dependent origination. They are also empty from a 'felt-perceptive' sort of way. That is to say that what is called 'emptiness' does not simply derive from a logical everyday manipulation of concepts, nor is it merely surmised by the common-sense observation of the impermanence of objects - it also comes from a direct seeing that nowhere in our direct experience do 'objects' actually exist without conceptualization. Much of our confusion is in the mistaking of conception (and it's subject/object relationships) with pure perception.

    This realization can be quite striking, in a 'Holy shit! I don't know any of the things I thought I knew!' sort of way.

    IMHO, IANAT.

    Chet

  25. #25

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    To me, these are like Dogen's different modes of discourse in Shobogenzo: just different fingers pointing toward the truth.

    I think we agree that the experience is the best, the only, way to fully understand. I think what we're discussing here are merely the maps and signposts that lead the seeker to the experience.
    We mustn't forget that fingers, maps and signposts themselves are the truth. The finger may point at the moon, but the moon also moons the finger, and pointing just points at...this! Are we not - just now - experiencing what we're discussing? What makes 'this' true and 'that' not true? Can we not-experience the non-truth as opposed to experiencing the truth?

    We don't discuss now and practice later. They aren't separate activities. Nor do we disscuss as a means of attaining the truth. Discussion itself is ultimate truth, just as sitting, standing and lying down, the rivers, stones and the grasses are ultimate truth. When we truly and exhaustively engage in something, whether it be discussion, study, Zazen, Kinhin, recitation, eating, etc. with our entire body-mind, there is nothing but that, and just that is, in that very moment, nothing but practice. It is itself the active expression of realization. How could there be two?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogen Zenji, Shobogenzo Gabyo
    If one says that pictures are unreal, then all the myriad dharmas are unreal. If all the myriad dharmas are unreal, then even the Buddha-Dharma is unreal. If the Buddha-Dharma is real, pictures of rice cakes must just be real.
    (Nishijima & Cross)
    Gassho
    Bansho

  26. #26

    Re: Emptiness

    Thanks Bansho.

    Gassho

  27. #27

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    When we truly and exhaustively engage in something, whether it be discussion, study, Zazen, Kinhin, recitation, eating, etc. with our entire body-mind, there is nothing but that, and just that is, in that very moment, nothing but practice. It is itself the active expression of realization. How could there be two?
    What about when we insincerely and lazily engage in something. Isn't that just as much an expression of what we are? Otherwise won't we perceive a gap between what we are and what we think we should be? Don't we have to drop the idea of acting in a "Zen" way?

    :Charles

  28. #28

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    What about when we insincerely and lazily engage in something. Isn't that just as much an expression of what we are?
    Of course. But it's a perfect expression of being insincere and lazy.

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    Otherwise won't we perceive a gap between what we are and what we think we should be? Don't we have to drop the idea of acting in a "Zen" way?
    Sure, drop the idea - but don't be insincere and lazy! :wink:

    Gassho
    Bansho

  29. #29
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    When we truly and exhaustively engage in something, whether it be discussion, study, Zazen, Kinhin, recitation, eating, etc. with our entire body-mind, there is nothing but that, and just that is, in that very moment, nothing but practice. It is itself the active expression of realization. How could there be two?
    What about when we insincerely and lazily engage in something. Isn't that just as much an expression of what we are? Otherwise won't we perceive a gap between what we are and what we think we should be? Don't we have to drop the idea of acting in a "Zen" way?

    :Charles
    We do. And yet, not all activity is expressive of the awakened mind.

    Chet

  30. #30

    Re: Emptiness

    Look. Sometimes we're lazy, but when we are not lazy, then we're not lazy.

    Gassho

  31. #31

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    Also, you say, 'If you find your intellectualizing isn't getting you anywhere...'

    Where is it supposed to get you? I ask this sincerely and not in a 'trying to be a clever Zen guy' sort of way. I'm not trying to play 'gotcha', I simply want to know where you think your zazen practice is taking you.

    IMHO, IANAT.

    Chet
    By intellectualization "not getting you anywhere" I mean that sometimes (as it has for me in the past) too much talking and not enough sitting just increases the amount of talking that you do, and you may find youself "talking in circles" or generating more questions for yourself than answers. But, in my experience, if you just "shut up and sit" alot of the answers come and you find that alot of the talking was unnecessary in the first place.

    On the other hand, talking may be necessary because sometimes you hit snags along the way in zazen. Also, since this particular group is a Soto Zen group, discussion may be necessary with things like "cosmic planes" etc... come up. So, if someone has that sort of issue, maybe talking about the Soto method, and then going back for more zazen (i.e., pairing both) would be the best solution.

    Gassho,

    Todd.

  32. #32

    Re: Emptiness

    Yes. Zazen is important.

    Gassho

  33. #33

    Re: Emptiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin

    By intellectualization "not getting you anywhere" I mean that sometimes (as it has for me in the past) too much talking and not enough sitting just increases the amount of talking that you do, and you may find youself "talking in circles" or generating more questions for yourself than answers. But, in my experience, if you just "shut up and sit" alot of the answers come and you find that alot of the talking was unnecessary in the first place.

    On the other hand, talking may be necessary because sometimes you hit snags along the way in zazen. Also, since this particular group is a Soto Zen group, discussion may be necessary with things like "cosmic planes" etc... come up. So, if someone has that sort of issue, maybe talking about the Soto method, and then going back for more zazen (i.e., pairing both) would be the best solution.

    Gassho,

    Todd.
    I think that is a nice description. The sitting is the truly indispensable part. The teaching and discussion guides the sitting.

    And often some crystal clear answers come, some mundane some truly mind blowing. Some of those answers we can know intellectually as knowledge, some we can just experience like the coolness of the breeze on our own cheek.

    Or often questions drop away, turn out not be have been so pressing,, and we can just let them be. Leave it be.

    Or questions turn out to have been imagined questions all along, completely creatures of our own mind's "is a circle just a round square?" making.

    Same difference, and we find that a lot of the talking was unnecessary in the first place.

  34. #34

    Re: Emptiness

    Hi.

    "Intellectualization" is like a "finger pointing at the moon".
    but still important.
    And books(/words) can be used as firewood when needed.

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  35. #35

    Re: Emptiness

    i Know it took me a lot of time to answer and i didnt read all of the posts.
    but i think emptiness is anything but empty.
    it is an amazing feeling to drop everything, cast it off and just be.
    as depressing as it might sound but to be empty of everything is anything but...
    i cant find the words to explain what i mean and i dont think i have to since most of you probably feel and experience it by themselves.
    the only way to really understand it is to do it and taste it, it is just liberating in a sense. to have nothing to be nothing and everything.

    when nothing matters everything is divine.


    Gassho, Dojin.

  36. #36
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,904

    Re: Emptiness

    Just for my dharma friend Fugen: the finger pointing the moon is the moon itself! There is nothing in this world but the bright bold moon. When you eyes, and breath and body are moon-like, then everything becomes one moon.The old and quite boring difference between finger and moon can be dropped. Dropping this, you are dropping body and mind. This is clearly explained by Dogen in Bussho, I think he refers to Nagarjuna and to a poem: My body taking the roundness oĆ' the moon.... the real Dharma has no set form...

    respectfully


    Taigu

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