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the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

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the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Mar 14, 2016 8:12 pm

We read in The Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra -- and we chant -- the potent Mahayana words:

    "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form;
    form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form
    ."
I'd say we come to an understanding of this only through practice.

But Albert Low Roshi has written a few kind words on this which I'd like to share. I think they -- and he -- do a helpfully good job.

Low Roshi writes, in addressing the meaning of the above words of the sutra,

    "what has no form is the basis of form." ***
I feel that this adds a good viewing angle, a good perspective, on the sutra's confident assertion of equivalence or identity of these otherwise seeming "two".

Other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh in particular, write and speak about the lack of self-nature of things, and Thich Nhat Hanh likes to share the fact that, say, a flower is not made up of "flower-stuff", but only of other stuff. For example, a flower is made from sunlight, clouds, soil minerals, CO2 from the air, chlorophyll, polysaccharides, etc.

(I've come to like to say, "No flowers were harmed in the making of the flower"). :tongueincheek:

So, by analogy -- or, naturally -- it seems natural and consistent that "form" must be constituted of something that is NOT form.

The "something" that is NOT form is ...emptiness.

--Joe

*** Albert Low; ZEN AND THE SUTRAS; 2000; 31.
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby littletsu on Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:12 am

I find the hardest one to "work with" is touching, or a combination of touching and seeing. If we look at the
6 doors, in the case of 4 of them (hearing, tasting, smelling, thoughts) it is relatively easy to come to an understanding to or acceptance of the fact that they are completely transient and conditioned, or at least easier to start contemplating that, because they just keep disappearing in "front of our eyes" all day long.
But that is not our experience with many touchable and/or seeable things. If something is only to be seen, and never to be touched, like a rainbow, it's immediately easier. Like I am having my phone in front of my screen, and it has this effect, that if I look at the reflection of the computer screen on my phone, it's gonna be in all kinds of colours, that are "not there". I am somehow conditioned to believe it that they are not there and just a peculiar result of some conditions, even though the fact is that they are an equal in terms of sensory input to any other input of the 5 other senses. I can think that these colours are not there on their own, but I can't think the same way that the desk underneath is not there on its own.
I am not mixing this up with the subtle grasping of the mind of all kinds of input (forms), where all input are equal (or at least to my understanding). Meaning, that even if I find it easier to "think" the transient nature of that rainbow reflection on my phone, at some level my mind grasps at it just as much as anything else.
But aren't the dominant senses (seeing and touching) somehow influencing our abilities to develope insight?
When people hear the word form these are two that are going to be the most actively involved. This is some sort of a conditioning, that is not cultural, and not fully evolutional, I believe.
The body experience comes of course primarily from these two.
What to do with this situation? : )
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Studioart on Tue Mar 15, 2016 3:59 am

I appreciate this a lot.

I think it is my story of the flower that trips me up most...gets me to "thing" it over there somewhere before I know it has happened . Bahiya sutra is most helpful for me..."In the seen, find only the seen..." and so on. After a busy day of thing-ing, zazen is fine refuge! :)
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:44 am

l.,

Well, again I'd repeat that a real understanding of emptiness comes with experience, which is enabled by practice.

The Heart Sutra's words point, and Low Roshi's words point. And if a person has experienced emptiness, the words seem appropriate.

In your reply you seem to be emphasizing transitoriness of perceptions by the 5 or 6 senses, or perhaps are even touching upon the fact of the impermanence of conditioned things. I view this as distinct from emptiness, and the experience of emptiness, so I don't think I can respond with anything satisfactory.

I didn't mean to invoke the skandhas in my original post.

But, as the sutra notes, Avalokitesvara, when coursing in the deep Prajnaparamita, "Clearly perceived that all five skandhas are empty, transforming anguish and distress". So, one thing that we can say about the skandhas is that they are empty.

(and this of course gets back to an indication of "emptiness of 'self' " ).

rgds,

--Joe
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Mason on Tue Mar 15, 2016 7:10 am

desert_woodworker wrote:Other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh in particular, write and speak about the lack of self-nature of things, and Thich Nhat Hanh likes to share the fact that, say, a flower is not made up of "flower-stuff", but only of other stuff. For example, a flower is made from sunlight, clouds, soil minerals, CO2 from the air, chlorophyll, polysaccharides, etc.


Yep, and if we want to have some conceptual understanding of emptiness, then it is necessary to follow this line of reasoning through: the sunlight, clouds, soil, etc. are also totally composite things made up of non-sunlight, non-clouds, and so on. If we keep following this line of reasoning, the question becomes: how does anything arise at all? If a hand is completely dependent on fingers, and fingers are completely dependent on the hand, how do "hand" or "fingers" arise in the first place? What is the basis for their existence?

Hence Nagarjuna's wise comment that dependent arising is equivalent to non-arising.

If all dharmas are non-arising, then samsara is already nirvana, i.e. pacified. This is why it is possible for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to continually liberate beings in the midst of samsara.

Emptiness, too, is also empty. It being the lack of self-nature (svabhava) in all phenomena, it is completely reliant on phenomena for its conceptual designation. No phenomena, no emptiness.

So form is empty, and emptiness is form. It's very logical and not particularly difficult to understand on a conceptual level. The problem is that as long as we are engaged in discursive thinking, we will always have to designate form and emptiness separately, even if we are to declare them equivalent.

That's why awakening is a leap, not a gradual process of development. It happens suddenly and as if by grace. At that point it's just: THWACK! - no need for form or emptiness.
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Nonin on Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:34 pm

I take "form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form [our translation]" in this way: All forms are empty of self-existence. In other words, there is nothing in any form that is fixed and permanent. However, emptiness is not a thing, it cannot stand alone but is a quality expressed only through form.

Hands palm-to-palm,

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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:27 pm

T-g.,

Thanks for the good considerations.

Thus-gone wrote:If we keep following this line of reasoning, the question becomes: how does anything arise at all? If a hand is completely dependent on fingers, and fingers are completely dependent on the hand, how do "hand" or "fingers" arise in the first place? What is the basis for their existence?

Indeed, when we continue along that line of reasoning, we observe the instigation of an "infinite regress" all the way back to "The Big Bang". It's reminiscent of the musings of philosophers long ago reasoning about a "first-mover", and reminiscent too of typical reasonings of the Christian "Scholastic" philosophers prior to the Renaissance and closer to the beginning of the second millennium (1000-1300?).

(As an aside, I'm reminded of the entertaining enterprise of considering whether or not an assumed all-powerful "god" could create a rock too heavy for "him" to lift. A quaint idea now, when we know that entire planets ["rocks"] exist, which are independently self-gravitating). ;)

T-g. wrote:So form is empty, and emptiness is form. It's very logical and not particularly difficult to understand on a conceptual level. The problem is that as long as we are engaged in discursive thinking, we will always have to designate form and emptiness separately, even if we are to declare them equivalent.

As long as there is discursive thinking, there is dualism. And in a dualistic mind-set, even the things, phenomena, forces, or appearances which are identified as "one" are indeed separated by language when "it/they" take different names (words). The division is in the words, and in the mindset which backs them.

T-g. wrote:That's why awakening is a leap, not a gradual process of development. It happens suddenly and as if by grace. At that point it's just: THWACK! - no need for form or emptiness.

I'd say that in the awakened state, the notions or thoughts of form or emptiness do not even arise. If the awakening was particularly thorough -- by dint of very favorable causes and conditions -- it's impossible even to force any thought to arise, sometimes for weeks, and months, even as one is engaged in all of one's daily work and activities (and, sleep is dreamless). But there I'm going a little off-topic. ;)

best,

--Joe
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:42 pm

Nonin,

Nonin wrote:I take "form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form [our translation]" in this way: All forms are empty of self-existence. In other words, there is nothing in any form that is fixed and permanent. However, emptiness is not a thing, it cannot stand alone but is a quality expressed only through form.

Thank you! I give above in the OP the translation used in the Diamond Sangha centers, a translation made by Aitken Roshi. It's undergone a few minor changes over the years.

(the Sino-Japanese stays just the same: It's like the "Esperanto" of Zen Buddhism: We can go "anywhere" and fall right in with the chanting). ;)

:Namaste:,

--Joe
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby another_being on Tue Mar 15, 2016 5:52 pm

I would say we come to an understanding of this only through direct experience. I like what Thus-gone has written.
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Nonin on Tue Mar 15, 2016 6:12 pm

another_being wrote:I would say we come to an understanding of this only through direct experience. I like what Thus-gone has written.

Yes, an intellectual understanding of emptiness and the direct experience of emptiness, which is a non-dualistic experience, are two different things.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby TigerDuck on Wed Mar 16, 2016 12:15 pm

Heart sutra tells us

It is impossible if we are not a rainbow.

Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.

[Nagarjuna]
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 16, 2016 3:36 pm

TD,

TigerDuck wrote:Heart sutra tells us

It is impossible if we are not a rainbow.

Dunno. I'd emphasize the sine qua nons, and not the end result.

I'd say "it takes a village": Teacher, Sangha, and Thee.

--Joe
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby lobster on Fri Mar 18, 2016 12:34 pm

Mason wrote:
Hence Nagarjuna's wise comment that dependent arising is equivalent to non-arising.

If all dharmas are non-arising, then samsara is already nirvana, i.e. pacified. This is why it is possible for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to continually liberate beings in the midst of samsara.

Emptiness, too, is also empty. It being the lack of self-nature (svabhava) in all phenomena, it is completely reliant on phenomena for its conceptual designation. No phenomena, no emptiness.


:dance:

Tee Hee.
Emptiness is empty? Nirvana is samsara? Soon there will be nothing in the paper bag. :hide:

As far as I know emptying the form is the Middle Way. If the emptiness is empty we need a bigger bag. :ghug:

As for liberating beings, kick them to the back of the form, before they start doing nothing ... :lool:

... in a kindly sort of way of course ... :)X
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby ed blanco on Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:30 pm

Sitting in the mist of internal dialogue, returning and vanishing again and again...the center not there, there.
Who does that? What idiot?
Only a fool would keep this up.
But now I goes away, legs stop guessing, stabbing at one who is gone.
It was just a second, time and space lost, a second in no-being is unforgettable.
Throw that away too fool.

:O:
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IN SPEECH YOU HEAR ITS SILENCE

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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:10 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:
    "what has no form is the basis of form." ***
I feel that this adds a good viewing angle, a good perspective, on the sutra's confident assertion of equivalence or identity of these otherwise seeming "two".

Other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh in particular, write and speak about the lack of self-nature of things, and Thich Nhat Hanh likes to share the fact that, say, a flower is not made up of "flower-stuff", but only of other stuff. For example, a flower is made from sunlight, clouds, soil minerals, CO2 from the air, chlorophyll, polysaccharides, etc.

(I've come to like to say, "No flowers were harmed in the making of the flower"). :tongueincheek:

So, by analogy -- or, naturally -- it seems natural and consistent that "form" must be constituted of something that is NOT form.

The "something" that is NOT form is ...emptiness.

--Joe

Thanks "Empty" Joe being full of service...
Reminded of the "simplified" translation 'from the depths of my heart to my mother'
(which was simplified for my mother)
It might be of additional value for readers.

Mother -- the mind, the mind!

By recognizing its true nature, we can free ourselves from every suffering.
However, as long as we do not, we will continue to be confused by its endless parade of challenging and bewildering manifestations in the form of thoughts and images, illusions and delusions.

By haplessly and habitually identifying with whatever arises in our mind, we create the basis of our own stress, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.

Consequently, let’s open our eyes to our real condition and understand it once and for all.

In reality, there exists an unconditioned nature, the true and ultimate essence of the mind.

It is our original innocence, before we began adding worldly knowledge and stories of “me and mine”, “self and other”, “good and bad”.

If we leave this mind in its state of immediate unfiltered presence, without seeking to modify it in any way with our ideas about how it should be, or about how we should be, or about how the world should be, then its spontaneous and primordial wisdom will manifest naturally.

Now, what constitutes the unconditioned wisdom of instantaneous pure presence?

However much we try to define or think it, it is beyond the grasp of the intellect.

It never began, it resides nowhere, it knows no interruption.

It cannot be objectified or pinned down.

Nothing that we can see or know has any independent existence.

In other words, everything depends on something else for its existence, just like the flower depends on light and rain, which in turn also depend on the sun and clouds, which also depend on various other elements, all the way down to sub-atomic particles, and so it is throughout the universe, with everything originating dependently.

Everything permeates everything, nothing is separate, despite how things might seem if we do not look closely.

That is why the term “illusion” is applied to describe appearances, because everything is actually “empty” of any inherent existence, despite seeming to be solid and independent.

Just so, the essence of mind has always been the purity of that very emptiness, which pervades everything totally.
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby ed blanco on Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:21 pm

Fukster, the above...

:rbow:
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:45 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:I'd say that in the awakened state, the notions or thoughts of form or emptiness do not even arise. If the awakening was particularly thorough -- by dint of very favorable causes and conditions -- it's impossible even to force any thought to arise, sometimes for weeks, and months, even as one is engaged in all of one's daily work and activities (and, sleep is dreamless). But there I'm going a little off-topic. ;)


Joe, funny I had a talk with a 5 year old yesterday who had trouble sleeping because of dreaming of ghosts and spiders, I'll spare you the details of the actual conversation, but after talking to her mother the talk went to adult dreams, and ofcourse adults experience nightmares too, nearly everyone I know, all my friends, family, most of them are easily 'explained' as an echo of daily projection of the alternating terror between hope and fear, I can relate to dreamless sleep or otherwise "happy it's all good sleep whatever the appearance" but beside all that.

Two days ago I dreamt that I was standing in the kitchen of my moms house and suddenly the doorknob turned and opened, while there was nothing visible opening the door. So I walked in the garden and checked to see if there was anyone there, no one. So I closed the door and continued in the kitchen whatever I was doing (probably preparing food) and then it happened again, so I said to myself "what is the message" and then I woke up and heard one of the cats (fuki who else) scratching at the door wanting to come in at 04:00 am in the morning.

So in the awakened state or not, nightly dreams have their functions once in a while :)
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:47 pm

ed blanco wrote:Fukster, the above...

:rbow:


I love it too Brother, lots of heart there :)
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Ted Biringer on Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:00 am

Thanks for the post.

Here are some excerpts from a previous post that might be helpful in this thread
(For the full text: viewtopic.php?f=64&t=10583&hilit=+avalokitesvara#p162975)


The central importance of emptiness in Buddhism can be seen in the Zen/Buddhist axioms, “All things are essentially empty,” and “Emptiness is the true nature of all things.”

The Buddhist doctrine of emptiness is multifaceted (i.e. ‘complex’ not ‘complicated’). The truth of any facet of the doctrine is dependent on its context in the complete form. To be ‘empty’… means to be empty of selfhood, to lack independent existence… [It] does not mean to be unreal, illusory, or nonexistent…

… Zen records, frequently appeal to and apply the methodology of the Diamond Sutra... The gist of [this] methodology can be expressed: form is not-form (i.e. form is empty), therefore form is form; emptiness is not-emptiness (i.e. emptiness is form), therefore emptiness is emptiness.

The basic reasoning here can be generally understood by envisioning ‘A’ as one particular dharma, and ‘not A’ as everything else throughout space and time… to think of, speak about, or act on ‘A’ requires us to distinguish ‘A’ from everything that is ‘not A’ – thus, the existence of ‘A’ presupposes (i.e. depends on) the existence of ‘not A.’ By the same reasoning, the existence of ‘not A’ can be seen as presupposing the existence of ‘A.’

Here we come to the crucial point, since the existence of ‘A’ depends on the existence of ‘not A,’ ‘A’ is and must be inclusive of ‘not A.’ Thus we see that the whole of existence-time that is not explicit in/as ‘A’ is and must be implicit in/as ‘A.’ In other words, the whole reality of ‘A’ is constituted of both what is ‘A’ and what is ‘not A’ – which is to say that ‘A’ (and by extension, any and every particular dharma) is, as it is, a particular phenomenal appearance of the whole universe. This vision of the nondual nature of dharmas… is… elucidated in Dogen’s… expressions concerning the ‘total exertion of a single dharma’ (ippo gujin).


The Zen practitioner that focuses attention on dharmas in accordance with this methodology… is made intimately aware of the fact that reality only and always consists of particular instances of total space-and-time – apart from specific manifest phenomena there is no space or time.

In sum, the Diamond Sutra presents (makes present) the dynamic interdependence of form and emptiness by demonstrating that ‘A’ (i.e. form) is essential to, therefore inclusive of ‘not-A’ (emptiness) (and vice versa). Thus, A is not-A, therefore A is A, or, in the terms applied by Shobogenzo; form is emptiness, emptiness is form, therefore form is form, emptiness is emptiness.

In the earliest fascicle composed for Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Dogen employed the perspective provided by the Heart Sutra to illumine the reason (dori) of emptiness. This revered scripture was familiar enough by Dogen’s time (1200-1253) that he needed only cite its first line to indicate it as the perspective from which his commentary is addressed. The fact that he chose to alter that first line by adding a single word is significant. The very succinctness of the Heart Sutra makes Dogen’s slight alteration starkly apparent. The additional word initially jumps out as if misspoken; as its implication dawns, however, its purposeful intent becomes obvious. The actual first line of the Heart Sutra is:

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep Prajna Paramita, clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming anguish and distress.
Translated by Robert Aitken Roshi of the Diamond Sangha Zen Buddhist Society


The word Dogen adds is, “konshin,” which translates, “whole-body-mind” or “his whole-body-mind.” … To get this across in English, translators are compelled to get a bit interpretive. Here are the results of two creative attempts to translate Dogen’s altered citation of the line:

When Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara practices the profound prajnā -pāramitā, the whole body reflects that the five aggregates are totally empty.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

When Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva practices the perfection of profound wisdom, his whole body is the five skandhas, all luminously seen as empty.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Hee-Jin Kim (Flowers of Emptiness, p.61)


“Five skandhas” (or aggregates) is a traditional Buddhist term for the elements that constitute the whole body-mind of a human being. To “reflect” or “luminously see” means to … to experientially verify. The meaning of ‘prajna’ varies widely, generally connoting ‘wisdom,’ ‘intuitive insight,’ etc.; as “prajna-paramita,” the wisdom or insight of prajna is ‘perfect wisdom’ (i.e. the wisdom of emptiness).


In his commentary Dogen immediately follows his (altered) citation of the first line of the Heart Sutra with an expression presenting the reasoning (dori) of the Heart Sutra:

The five skandhas are form, feeling, conception, volition, and consciousness, which are the five modes of wisdom. The luminous seeing is itself wisdom.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Hee-Jin Kim (Flowers of Emptiness, p.61)


‘The luminous seeing is itself wisdom’ – the actual, particular manifest form or activity (i.e. dharma; thing, being, or event) of ‘luminous seeing’ is prajna itself, the reality of perfect wisdom. Hee-Jin Kim clearly articulates the implications of Dogen’s assertion thus:

Avalokitesvara and wisdom are not the observer and the observed, but one reality. The luminous vision then is the working of Avalokitesvara/wisdom. Avalokitesvara sees Avalokitesvara; wisdom enacts wisdom. This reflexive mode of thinking comes from “practicing the perfection of profound wisdom.”
Hee-Jin Kim, Flowers of Emptiness, p.63 (note 5 to the translation of Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu)


It goes without saying that when Dogen says, “clear seeing” he means right-understanding and right-views as well as accurate perception.

Of course the Zen/Buddhist teachings have to be deeply and carefully studied, learned, and accurately understood, but accurate understanding is ineffectual without experiential verification (assimilation and application). Avalokitesvara ‘practices prajna-paramita’ by actively engaging in the ever-advancing process of ‘practicing prajna-paramita’ – … a continuous-activity of study, practice, and verification. Anyone can come to accurately understand authentic teachings, but only experiential verification can actualize authentic liberation. Next, Dogen elucidates these implications in relation to the key expression of the Heart Sutra, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

When this meaning is propounded in concrete expression, it is said: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” That is, form is form, emptiness is emptiness. [This principle applies to] all things and all phenomena.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Hee-Jin Kim (Flowers of Emptiness, p.61)


When Avalokitesvara clearly sees Avalokitesvara is empty, Avalokitesvara clearly sees his/her body-mind (i.e. form) is emptiness itself – ‘form is emptiness.’ When Avalokitesvara clearly sees emptiness is Avalokitesvara, Avalokitesvara clearly sees emptiness is his/her body-mind (i.e. form) itself – ‘emptiness is form.’ Dogen points out that in light of the reasoning (dori) here, the Heart Sutra’s expression, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” leads to the same conclusion arrived at by the methodology of the Diamond Sutra, namely, that “form is form, emptiness is emptiness” and that this applies to all the myriad dharmas.

Here it is worth noticing that for there to be any experience of one’s form (body-mind) as empty necessarily requires one to have/be a form. Hence, it is inevitable that any and every actual experience (epistemological encounter, realization, verification, etc.) of emptiness is and must also be an actual experience of (epistemological encounter with) form. To clearly see, one must have/be a form with the capacity to clearly see – form must be real form. Also, to clearly see the emptiness of one’s form can only occur if one’s form is truly empty – emptiness must be real emptiness.

This is the ultimate point of the Heart Sutra’s expression, “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” The import being the interdependence of emptiness and form; the reality (experience, existence, appearance) of form is only possible (meaningful, significant, valid) because of the reality of emptiness and the reality of emptiness is only possible because of the reality of form.
…When/where form is, emptiness is-not; when/where emptiness is, form is-not. As Dr. Kim puts it:

When form is verified, emptiness is “shadowed,” and there is nothing but form: “form is form.” The same holds true of emptiness: “emptiness is emptiness.”
Hee-Jin Kim, Flowers of Emptiness, p.64 (note 7 to the translation of Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu)


This means the reality (true nature) of form is inclusive of the presence of emptiness (as “shadowed”); if not for the … presence of emptiness, form could not appear. Likewise, the reality of emptiness is inclusive of the presence of form. …only by being clearly aware of this universal quality of reality can we accurately discern and adequately treat any particular dharma (thing, being, or event). To think, speak, or act on a particular dharma without discerning the (“shadowed”) ‘presence’ of emptiness upon which it depends (thus demonstrates), is to think, speak, or act on a biased (i.e. one-sided; deluded) view…
After emphasizing that the ultimate principle of the doctrine of emptiness is that form is form, and emptiness is emptiness, the Maka-hannya-haramitsu fascicle underscores that this principle applies to all the myriad dharmas by explicitly identifying a large array of particular aspects and elements as ‘instances’ of ‘prajna-paramita’ or ‘prajna itself.’

They are hundreds of things, and myriad phenomena. Twelve instances of prajnāpāramitā are the twelve entrances [of sense perception]. There are also eighteen instances of prajnā. They are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind; sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and properties; plus the consciousnesses of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. There are a further four instances of prajnā. They are suffering, accumulation, cessation, and the Way. There are a further six instances of prajnā. They are giving, pure [observance of] precepts, patience, diligence, meditation, and prajnā [itself]. One further instance of prajnāpāramitā is realized as the present moment. It is the state of anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi. There are three further instances of prajnāpāramitā. They are past, present, and future. There are six further instances of prajnā. They are earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. And there are a further four instances of prajnā that are constantly practiced in everyday life: they are walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


This intentional dwelling on various and particular instances of reality further stresses the importance of understanding that form and emptiness are nondual, not identical.
…To raise one is to raise both; to eliminate one is to eliminate both…. Emptiness cannot reciprocate or coordinate together with emptiness; form cannot cooperate or work in unison with form… the reality of form is contingent on the reality of emptiness; the reality of emptiness is dependent on the reality of form. To ‘clearly see’ this and therefore to enact it in our everyday conduct is ‘prajna itself.’

Because dharmas… are ‘what’ we clearly see (i.e. experience) as well as ‘the means’ whereby we clearly see, dharmas are ‘clear seeing’ itself, which is, as Dogen asserts, ‘prajna itself.’
…This is the reason (dori) informing Dogen’s expression:

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” That is, form is form, emptiness is emptiness.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Hee-Jin Kim (Flowers of Emptiness, p.61)


Dogen’s (altered) citation of the Heart Sutra followed by the series of affirmative expressions on the nature of the self, the world, and the myriad dharmas presents (makes present) a glimpse of the grand vision of Shobogenzo. Here, in the first fascicle explicitly composed for Shobogenzo, the common thread that binds together and runs throughout the whole of Dogen’s masterpiece is prominent. That thread is the reason (dori) of the nonduality of duality, and the duality of nonduality. In short, experience, existence, and liberation (epistemology, ontology, and soteriology) are nondual
…My life is what I clearly see, what I clearly see is my life.

So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.
Shobogenzo, Zenki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


With this we come to a point where we can appreciate the full significance of the passage that serves as the pivot of Dogen’s Maka-hannya-haramitsu:

In the order of Śākyamuni Tathāgata there is a bhikṣu who secretly thinks, “I shall bow in veneration of the profound prajnāpāramitā. Although in this state there is no appearance and disappearance of real dharmas, there are still understandable explanations of all precepts, all balanced states, all kinds of wisdom, all kinds of liberation, and all views. There are also understandable explanations of the fruit of one who has entered the stream, the fruit of [being subject to] one return, the fruit of [not being subject to] returning, and the fruit of the arhat. There are also understandable explanations of [people of] independent awakening, and [people of] bodhi. There are also understandable explanations of the supreme right and balanced state of bodhi. There are also understandable explanations of the treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. There are also understandable explanations of turning the wonderful Dharma wheel to save sentient beings.” The Buddha, knowing the bhikṣu’s mind, tells him, “This is how it is. This is how it is. The profound prajnāpāramitā is too subtle and fine to fathom.”
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


The thoughts of this monk (bhiksu) go to the heart of the reason of emptiness demonstrated by the vision of Shobogenzo; because there is no self and there is no other in the true multitudinous-oneness of emptiness, true, effective, understandable teachings exist. Unlike those enamored by and attached to the sublime power of the ‘deconstructive’ capacity of emptiness (i.e. ‘form is emptiness’), this monk strives on, advancing to see through to the ‘reconstructive’ capacity of emptiness (i.e. ‘form is form, emptiness is emptiness’). Thus, the Buddha says; “This is how it is. This is how it is.”

There are understandable explanations. There are understandable explanations of precepts, balanced states, wisdom, and liberation. The no-self of emptiness does not mean that things are not real, that distinctions are illusory, or that the reality of things is other than the appearance of things. Zen doctrine and methodology exists and is effective because particular Zen ancestors learned, understood, verified, and actualized understandable explanations of reality. Commenting on the monk’s thought that, “Although in this state there is no appearance and disappearance of real dharmas, there are still understandable explanations,” Dogen says:


The bhikṣu’s “secretly working concrete mind” at this moment is, in the state of bowing in veneration of real dharmas, prajnā itself—whether or not [real dharmas] are without appearance and disappearance—and this is a “venerative bow” itself. Just at this moment of bowing in veneration, prajnā is realized as explanations that can be understood: [explanations] from “precepts, balance, and wisdom,” to “saving sentient beings,” and so on. This state is described as being without. Explanations of the state of “being without” can thus be understood. Such is the profound, subtle, unfathomable prajnā pāramitā.
Shobogenzo, Maka-hannya-haramitsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


The very act of this monk’s “bowing in veneration” is a manifestation of prajna made real (realized) by and as “explanations that can be understood.” At the very moment a Zen practitioner encounters an explanation (say, in reading Shobogenzo) and thereby comes to an accurate understanding (i.e. is enlightened to a truth), an instance (i.e. dharma; a spatial-temporal form) of prajna is actualized (made actual). This newborn dharma is empty – the ‘explanation’ (Dogen’s writing), the ‘encounter’ (the practitioner’s reading), the ‘understanding’ (the practitioner’s insight), its ‘particular significance’ (the dharma’s truth), its ‘influence’ (on the practitioner’s conduct), and its ‘effect’ (on the world through the practitioner’s conduct) are not its ‘self’, nor are they ‘other than itself.’ Thus prajna is realized (made real). “This state” – in/of/as prajna being realized – is described as emptiness (i.e. mu: ‘being without’).

Please treasure yourself.
Ted
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
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Re: the Heart Sutra's "Form is Emptiness"

Postby Lunarious1987 on Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:01 am

desert_woodworker wrote:We read in The Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra -- and we chant -- the potent Mahayana words:

    "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form;
    form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form
    ."
I'd say we come to an understanding of this only through practice.

But Albert Low Roshi has written a few kind words on this which I'd like to share. I think they -- and he -- do a helpfully good job.

Low Roshi writes, in addressing the meaning of the above words of the sutra,

    "what has no form is the basis of form." ***
I feel that this adds a good viewing angle, a good perspective, on the sutra's confident assertion of equivalence or identity of these otherwise seeming "two".

Other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh in particular, write and speak about the lack of self-nature of things, and Thich Nhat Hanh likes to share the fact that, say, a flower is not made up of "flower-stuff", but only of other stuff. For example, a flower is made from sunlight, clouds, soil minerals, CO2 from the air, chlorophyll, polysaccharides, etc.

(I've come to like to say, "No flowers were harmed in the making of the flower"). :tongueincheek:

So, by analogy -- or, naturally -- it seems natural and consistent that "form" must be constituted of something that is NOT form.

The "something" that is NOT form is ...emptiness.

--Joe

*** Albert Low; ZEN AND THE SUTRAS; 2000; 31.

Hello

I Norway (and probably other Western countries) they call one of the highest degres in Philosophy: Amanuensis. It means a holy text learned slave. A slave.

In Martial Arts, they say that the attitude is more important that then skill itself. That is, if a mugger hunts me, I just take an attitude of a fighter (in fear) and hope the mugger escapes. Maybe because I have no endurance. Having no endurance is not important.

In Christianity they say that love is to Give, not to take neccesarily or overly.




So be a learned SLAVE and give by taking the load of others if you follow the big boat. Otherwise, everyone is alone on their Big Way. When I pray, I always salute on the others first, then I salute on myself. Because it comes from emptiness. I'm so empty that I a stupid. But mentally strong as a bull.

Peace
- Don't be thankful to be righteous. Be righteous to be thankful.
- Shia: "We are the friends/owners of proof, wherever it bends we bend."
- Imam Hussein was once asked: what is affluence? He said : Decreasing your wishes , and being satisfied with what is enough for you.”
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