Meditation Forum

Vipassana Meditation Forum => Meditation, Practice And The Path => Topic started by: BeHereNow on November 10, 2017, 10:17:32 PM

Title: Emptiness is Form
Post by: BeHereNow on November 10, 2017, 10:17:32 PM
Hi everyone,

Just thought I'd share an insight I had today that was incredibly helpful.  I've been reading about the Heart Sutra, and the idea that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. 

Until now, especially at work, I felt frustrated that people took form so seriously, as I felt I had some sort of grasp of the emptiness that lies beneath.  Today, I realized that in clinging to emptiness, I was failing to see the second part of this insight, that while nothing is solid, the groundlessness that exists comes back to create form, so that every moment is in fact profoundly relevant and infused with wisdom.

While at a previous briefing with my Deputy about a year ago I was annoyed that she was taking everything so seriously, today I found it just so beautiful that she took everything so seriously, and saw that yes, each detail is actually profoundly important.

This was very liberating as I realized I can fully engage in things that may seem mundane (like rewriting briefing notes 25 times) and still somehow be living a "spiritual" life. 

Chogyam Trungpa explains it all much more eloquently in "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism", I am reading this now and loving it.

Much metta,
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: Matthew on November 12, 2017, 03:59:02 PM
Important realisation ... and that's one of Trungpa's most lucid works :)
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: playground on November 12, 2017, 07:38:38 PM
I just googled for:   

    what does "form is emptiness" mean ?

And google sent me to this page:

Which is the wikipedia page for  Śūnyatā where it says this:

Śūnyatā (Sanskrit; Pali: suññatā), translated into English as emptiness[1] and voidness,[2]
is a Buddhist concept which has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context.
It is either an ontological feature of reality, a meditation state, or a phenomenological
analysis of experience.

In Theravada Buddhism, suññatā often refers to the not-self (Pāli: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman)
[note 1] nature of the five aggregates of experience and the six sense spheres.
Suññatā is also often used to refer to a meditative state or experience.

In Mahayana, Sunyata refers to the tenet that "all things are empty of intrinsic existence and
nature,"[4][5] but may also refer to the Buddha-nature teachings and primordial or empty
awareness, as in Dzogchen and Shentong.

So, all in all, i'm none the wiser :-)

Would anyone like to offer a simple definition that i can grasp
(without having to sit in a Joe-90 machine)

Thank you to whosoever offers a definition.

be happy :)
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: dharma bum on November 12, 2017, 08:50:20 PM
trying to understand sunyata, form, emptiness etc make my head hurt. not sure if this is an indication of my self, or the emptiness in my head. :'(
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: Middleway on November 13, 2017, 11:38:49 PM
Thich Nhat Hanh has written a very beautiful commentary on heart sutra in his book "Awakening of the Heart". Here is an excerpt (I paraphrased it a bit) from that commentary.

Avalokita found the five skandhas empty. But, empty of what? "Empty" doesn't mean anything unless we know empty of what. My cup is empty of water, but it is not empty of air. To be empty is to be empty of something.

The five skandhas, which may be translated into English as five heaps, or five aggregates, are the five elements that comprise a human being. According to Avalokita, when he looked deeply into the nature of these five skandhas, he saw that all five are empty.  They are empty of a separate self. That means none of these five skandhas can exist by itself alone. Each of the five skandhas has to be made by the other four. They have to co-exist; they have to inter-be with all the others.

Avalokita looked deeply into the five skandhas of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, and he discovered that none of them can be by itself alone. Each can only inter-be with all the others. So he tells us that form is empty. Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything in the cosmos. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

This quote does not do justice to the whole commentary. I suggest that you google "Thich Nhat Hanh heart sutra commentary" and you will find a 75 page pdf document that provides the commentary in its entirety.

"Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything in the cosmos". This is a great insight that Paula is referring to in her post above.

Hope this helps!

Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: playground on November 14, 2017, 12:18:03 AM
 Hi MW 

 Thanks.  I appreciate your help  :)

I wonder if this stuff will just, somehow, 'sink in'.
.... perhaps, a good night's sleep will shed some light on it.
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: Middleway on November 14, 2017, 12:41:55 PM
That's the way to do it. Sleep on it and wait for the understanding to come to you. The beauty of these small verses is one could learn them by heart and repeat every day. Their meaning will slowly seep into our being. No hurry. No where to go.

Warm regards,

Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: BeHereNow on November 15, 2017, 09:46:51 PM
I think it makes sense that our logical mind can't grasp emptiness, because it can only be experienced by stepping away from this logical mind.

One way to experience it is to walk in nature, notice your thinking, and then look up at the sky and the trees... notice that your thinking is a small part of what is happening in the moment, open your awareness wider than that.

Emptiness is really just awareness of the present moment as it is.  Noticing that anything we add to this moment (thoughts, ideas, feelings, projects... even trying to understand emptiness) are things we can observe, and they are always changing.  When reaching deeper or broader than these walls we create through thinking, really just by noticing them and being gentle with them, we can experience the present moment, in glimpses at first, and that open, vast feeling is emptiness.  And it is profoundly compassionate as it holds everything else.
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: kellyroy on November 16, 2017, 01:31:13 AM
Well said.Thanks for sharing that.Im waking everyday to that realization
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: playground on November 16, 2017, 11:21:09 AM
I think it makes sense that our logical mind can't grasp emptiness, because it can only be experienced by stepping away from this logical mind.

You're suggesting that the buddhist concept of 'emptiness' is a koan ?

Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: playground on November 16, 2017, 12:48:58 PM

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, emptiness means that
everything has a cause.  Nothing spontaneously comes into
existence on it's own.  'Something' caused the moon, the sun,
the stars.... to be created.  They didn't just 'pop' into existence.

This is basically an application of the law of cause and effect.
This is referred to as 'dependent origination'. 
The assertion is that nothing has 'independent origination'.

The example he gives with regard to people, is that we were
'caused' by our parents.  If my father had not existed, then
he could not have conceived me with my mother.

This is a very old philosophical paradox. 
The assertion is:  Everything has a cause. 
Question 1:  What was the first cause ?
The answer, in Christian contexts, might be: 'god'.
Question 1:  What caused god ?
(logically, If everything has a cause,
then god must have a cause).

similarly, for a buddhist context, we might ask,
what caused the circle of samsara ?

Labeling the doctrine of 'dependent origination' as
"emptiness" ... that's misleading language.
It reminds me of the misinformation, or misleading
information, that we commonly see in advertising. 

A liter of juice with the label: "Contains 100% pure orange juice".
No, it contains 30% juice concentrate, water, sugar,
preservatives and salt.

The advertisers might argue that the concentrate was made from pure
orange juice and therefore the label is accurate.
But obviously, the label is just deliberately misleading.
We all know that the marketting managers have sales objectives,
their bonuses depend on making so much revenue.   
And so the labelling on the packet becomes a vehicle for servicing
these revenue aims.   

What was the initial aim, in labelling 'dependent origination'
as 'emptiness' ?  Perhaps the use of this word was meant
to be rhetorical or poetic, perhaps it's trying to say that
physical things are of 'no value' or 'no importance'.
And dependent origination is used to justify this assertion
of 'no importance'
However, If a woman has a baby, would that baby be of
no value, or of no significance, because it's clearly been
caused by the woman ?  Is the Buddha unimportant
because he was created by his parents ?

Significance/importance isn't 'out there'... in the world. 
Significance/importance is in our heads.

So it seems to me that this 'emptiness' concept, is a
misleading name for a simple concept.... cause and effect.   
I think people are wrongly assuming that 'emptiness' is a
deep buddhist truth, that must be grappled with.
I suggest, it's not a 'truth', it's a 'value'.   It's meant to
prompt us into ascribing no significance to the things that
normally cause suffering: concerns about our possessions,
money, what others think of us, our health etc.. etc..
(Consistent with a reduction of suffering project)

be happy :)
Title: Re: Emptiness is Form
Post by: dharma bum on November 16, 2017, 04:44:32 PM
playground, i'm not sure Thich Nhat Hanh is saying that emptiness means that everything has a cause. he isn't referring to a time scale of cause and effect.

i think he is saying that there is no independent existence for the aggregates. there is an interdependence, which is not the same as 'cause and effect'.