With a focus on the Tibetan, Nepalese, and Mongolian forms of Mahayana Buddhism
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HOW TO INTEGRATE EMPTINESS INTO DAILY LIFE
Lama Thubten Yeshe, 1983
What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount to the same thing. The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place - maybe Shangrila! - then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.
You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences, of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your mind literally made them up. If you don't understand this then you have very little chance of understanding emptiness. This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists and philosophers - they have researched into reality too. Physicists look and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness. If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your worldly problems - but you don't want to understand.
It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial, polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets - one, two, ten, one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind is superstition. We don't understand reality, and the intellectual life that we lead keeps us far from reality. So we don't accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves with thick blankets and say "this is me". We hide our own reality and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again. In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is so complicated, that doesn't touch reality, that is so difficult to live in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything else.
If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that you think you are, then you would be shocked. "What is this monk saying?" But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality... Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it...
What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster... Be honest. Be honest with yourself.
In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality exists in us now, it is born with us... The essence of your consciousness, your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You should not believe, "I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot solve my problems". Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now. Now!
So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean clear state of mind... Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate now. So, close your eyes, don't think, "I am meditating", just close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your mind, just be aware. Don't interpret good, bad. Just be like a light - light doesn't think "I like this, I like that".
Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983
Very nice!! Thank you.
This is one of my favorite dharma talks of all time. I was just sharing it with some friends recently. Lama Yeshe really gets down to the nitty gritty difficulty with "identification" that most of us have, and the "understanding" of emptiness that the Buddha offered, which provides a way for going beyond this, for breaking free...
This seems related, to me. And it really floats my boat--even though there is no passengers
"Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche was giving teachings on relative and ultimate bodhicitta. Bodhicitta literally means "awakened heart." On the relative level it is compassion, expressed in the bodhisattva vow to save all beings; it is the aspiration to awaken from ignorance in order to live one's life for the benefit of all. On the ultimate level, bodhicitta goes beyond the concepts of self and other. It is the empty, aware nature of the mind itself. As Rinpoche was teaching about these two aspects--compassion and emptiness--there was an unexpected moment of insight as I realized that the relative level is the expression of the ultimate: compassion is the activity of emptiness. Suddenly the great and seemingly impossible burden of "someone" (me!) having to save all beings disolved into the great expansive arena of selfless compassionate action. Compassionate action is the natural responsiveness of awareness free of self: no one there "doing" anything."
from One Dharma, by Joseph Goldstein.
"compassion is the activity of emptiness."
that about covers it, for me.
You're right John, that's brilliant. This perception we carry in our minds and perpetuate thru interactions-- of self/other -- is an illusion. Breaking thru that, we reach the other side...
Even if only for a moment.
yes...it is so sad how there is so much suffering in the world born from the conditionings of an ignorant society...if only we were raised from the womb in what the truth was....
for as long as i can remember i feel i've been searching for the truth...knowing that what i'm seeing with my eyes was an illusion ("There's more to this than meets the eye"--Houdini )
it's been a slow process....a lot of conditioning still needs clearing....._/\_
Here's another good one :
One is, in fact, everything; Everything is, in fact, One. [Jianzhi Sengcan]
Enlightened beings preach alike:
Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us.
All Buddhas and Ancestors fully manifest Their thorough realization of what is real. What is real are all Their thoughts and the things around Them. All Their thoughts and the things around Them comprise Their form just as it is, Their True Nature just as it is, Their body just as it is, Their mind just as it is, Their world just as it is, Their ‘clouds and rain’ just as they are, Their daily activities—walking, standing, sitting, and reclining—just as they are, Their moving or being still within Their joys and sorrows just as they are, Their traveling staff and Their ceremonial hossu just as they are, Their flower raised aloft and Their face breaking into a smile just as they are, Their inheriting the Dharma and Their prophesying Buddhahood just as they are, Their training under a Master and Their doing the practice just as they are, and Their pine-like fidelity and Their bamboo-like integrity just as they are.
Shobogenzo, Shohō Jissō, Hubert Nearman
The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you are unclear about the three temporal worlds, you will become confused as to what thoughts and things are. If you are confused about what thoughts and things are, you will become confused as to what the true appearance of thoughts and things are. If you
are confused about their true appearance, you will be confused about what the saying ‘each Buddha on His own, together with all Buddhas’ is pointing to.
Shobogenzo, Sanjūshichihon Bodai Bumpō, Hubert Nearman
You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality.
As Enō of Mount Sōkei once said to his disciple Nangaku: This Immaculacy is simply what all Buddhas protect and keep in mind. It is the same for you too, and it is the same for me too. And it is the same for all our Indian Ancestors too.
So, because you are also like this, you are all the Buddhas, and because I am also like this, I am all the Buddhas. Truly, It is beyond ‘me’ and beyond ‘you’. Within this Immaculacy, the me that is the real Me—which all the Buddhas protect and keep in mind—is what the everyday behavior of a Buddha doing His practice is, and the you that is the real You—which all the Buddhas protect and keep in mind—is what the everyday behavior of a Buddha doing His practice is. Due to the ‘me too’, Enō’s everyday behavior is what constituted his excellence as a Master, and due to the ‘you too’, Nangaku’s everyday behavior is what constituted his strength as a disciple, because the excellence of a Master and the strength of a disciple are what comprise the perfect knowledge and conduct of a Buddha doing His practice. You need to realize that what we call ‘what is protected and kept in mind by all Buddhas’ is ‘me too’ and ‘you too’.
Shobogenzo, Gyōbutsu Iigi, Hubert Nearman
if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.
All forms of sentient beings, awakened or not, are ever giving expression to It for the sake of ‘vegetation’ and ‘walls’. In the realm where one’s own awakening awakens others, from the very moment that you are provided with personal certainty, there is no hanging onto it, and, once your personal certainty begins to function, you must see to it that it never ceases.
Bendowa, Hubert Nearman
Do not misunderstand Buddhism by believing the erroneous principle ‘a special tradition outside the scriptures.’ Zen Master Dogen, Shobogenzo, Bukkyo (trans. Hee-Jin Kim)
Ted Biringer Author The Flatbed Sutra
I wouldn't suggest "integrating" emptiness into daily life. Unless you are awake.
If you're awake, there's nothing to integrate.
If you are not awake, well, no use faking it. So, forget about "integrating".
There just isn't any such-a thing, from that position. Period.
(stay safe. Don't be a poseur).
Some people use the word - play of emptiness instead of activities of emptiness.
Although it may sound similar, but actually by using the word 'play', there is a sense of openness. Activities sound heavy, as if there is a mission to accomplish.
If we look at our thoughts spinning day and night, we are actually looking at the play of emptiness.
We can't touch it. Thoughts do not scratch your head. They are unstructured. They are the best example of the play of emptiness.
But when we look at the solid rock, it is difficult to see rock is a play of emptiness. But actually in micro scale, it is also play of emptiness.
Daily life, sitting, sleeping, laying down, whatever, are actually the play of emptiness.
What are we doing during sitting? It is a fact of play of emptiness.
What are we doing during daily life? All of them are also a fact of play of emptiness.
How about sleeping? Also, play of emptiness.
If we can aware and relax with all this at all time, wherever we stand, that is the fact of reality, the fact of liberation. Right now, right here.
Seek no where.
Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.
I agree that seeking is ineffective, and even counterproductive, once we begin practice.
Practice, and awakening, are necessary in order to experience Buddhist emptiness (the emptiness experienced, lived, and spoken about in Buddhist Schools: this "emptiness' is, to be explicit, the emptiness of self-nature of beings and objects, and the emptiness -- and marvelous functioning -- of Mind).
"Seeking", and seeking to "understand", via intellectualization, or even by practice, is not effective. But practice (with no seeking, and without any gaining idea) is necessary, and sufficient. Seeking must just be let go; dropped!
I agree... .
But one must not fritter one's time away. In order to have even the ghost of a hope of a prayer of experiencing emptiness, and hence of knowing what Buddhists have been talking about for 2500 years, one must practice, and awaken. Take Shakyamuni as your guide, say. Or your own teacher, who represents Shakyamuni. And practice, just as instructed. (well, I speak generically here, TD, not to you directly).
Tibetan Buddhist and Zen Buddhist practice are different, have different logic, a different progression, and different methods. It's a mistake to attempt to incorporate Tibetan Buddhist logical, methodical, curricular teachings on "emptiness" into daily life if you are a Zen practitioner. There is just no such work in Zen Buddhist practice, and no supports for it whatsoever. Nor is it necessary. And, I appreciate that that is precisely why this thread was appropriately begun in a Tibetan Buddhist discussion area on the Forum, and not in a Zen Buddhist one. Hail!,
Are you saying zen does not teach students to integrate the emptiness wisdom into daily life?
Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.
Thanks for asking. I agree it's important to clarify that. Yes!
Essentially, yes. I am saying that (and, please read on).
I agree with others who rightly claim that insight and openness come through correct Zen Buddhist practice, and so does awakening and realization.
In realization, one does not follow a program of effort or a "script" of "integration" of anything, anywhere. Wisdom takes care of what's naturally necessary. And so does Compassion. Wisdom and Compassion arise together, spontaneously, you know.
When you're awake, you're awake. Maybe technical skill in acting develops with time while one is awake, in the weeks and months, and more.
But it's not necessary to integrate anything whatsoever, neither intentionally nor systematically. Yes. That is my claim.
And my claim again is that the arising of Wisdom and Compassion in seamless accord with circumstances takes care of all needs for appropriate action. One has nothing to integrate, nor is there any thought or concern about integrating any principle, concept, curriculum, or teaching.
This marvelous Mind has all it needs, and all that it can use.
Wisdom is not "smart". Compassion is not "a choice". They both just arise entirely naturally, and appropriately, unbidden. That is the marvelous nature of this Mind.
Concepts, principles, thoughts, curricula, and teachings come from this marvelous Mind, cooked-up as artifices by great practitioners and compassionate teachers, to help people in some ways while training in some specific and pure traditions of practice. Those items having to do with Emptiness have little help to give in Zen Buddhist practice, I'd say (well, I'd actually say ZERO). And so there is nothing at any time having to do with "emptiness" to integrate.
Energy or attention exerted "integrating" anything to do with Emptiness in an awake Zen Buddhist practitioner's life is energy wasted, and frittered away on yet more moving illusions. But, because it is not necessary, if one is awake, it does not happen. Nor is it taught, up-front, to newcomers to the practice. That's not the Zen Buddhist way.
Drop the seeking, and drop the integrating. But, those "droppings" happen naturally once one naturally awakens, or much earlier, so dropping by effort is not necessary. It's also not necessary nor helpful to stick them on at the start of practice, and so, that is never done.
In awakening or realization, there's nothing to seek, nothing to integrate. That's for sure! There's just this marvelous Mind, the mind of all beings. There's nothing to hide, nothing to integrate. All is open and available. The Mind knows how to operate.
What is your comment for this.
Do not assume that someone who has realized the transcendent know how to put it into practice.
In the history of Zen, the one who realized the way (accurate insight) may be many, but the one who can do that in daily life probably can be counted by hand.
To think if someone has realized the way, then all his actions will be automatically become the way as well, is not right.
As Bodhidharma said in the future, the one who understand the Way will be many, but the one who practice it is very little.
As quoted above:
In another tradition, it is said:
1. You must get the key point, which is to perfectly realize your true nature.
2. After you realize it, you must work to remove the doubt.
3. You must have perfect conviction.
It is wrong to assume someone who realizes the way, that person will know how to practise. Because it is not as straight forward as that.
You must learn how to use what you have realized (the way) in daily life. How to do it?
This is another problem, and how to integrate the way into daily life becomes very important.
Zen never promotes the student to just realize the way. This is one thing.
There is another thing - How to make those who have realized the way implementing the way? This is a big issue, which in Zen history only few can make it.
Those who can realize the way but cannot put it into practice are many.
Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.
Rather a lot to ask me to read.
(I have not read it).
Anyway, my comments are rarely worth a plugged nickel.
But I recognize that the kind of "integrating" you are talking about is what I understand Tibetan practitioners do in some schools, as a part of their normal and traditional practice. That's not the Zen Buddhist way, and that's alright. In the Tibetan practice context, it's perfect.
I'd say, though, that if you happen to have a Zen Buddhist teacher who wants you to work this way on some kind of "integrating" at some point, then go along with this to the extent that you want to, and all should be well.
The problem is I do not know which Zen teacher who won't teach me how not to integrate emptiness (or the way) into daily life.
Can you propose someone?
Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.
I have no one in mind to suggest. So many of the fine teachers I have known have passed away. The two I worked most closely with passed in 2009 (Sheng Yen), and 2012 (Patrick Hawk Roshi).
If you feel you need this kind of intentional or curricular integration-practice, why not start by asking your own teacher. Or ask teachers here at the Forum about it; I find that their words are always true, and helpful, and by answering a question for you, just one person, the answer also has a way of helping many more people, I think. So, if you ask,... thank you!
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