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June 17, 2023


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If the "all you need is emptiness" method is the complete and final answer to life's problems, then the where's the evidence that's this is so?

Buddhism has been around for 3000 years, and a worldwide survey of Buddhists shows they're no happier than the average person. In fact, most Buddhists go to their Wat or Temple to pray to deities. They're not doing vipassana.

I've been to more than a few vipassana oriented centers. Some of them lay, some of them stocked with rigorous monks. Again, these people are by and large not any happier than the lot of us.

That said, no doubt there is a value in seeing the impermanence of thoughts and things. But let's be honest, it's demonstrably NOT an absolute value.

That's because impermanence is not an absolute truth, but a relative truth. The technically correct fact that everything is in flux does not mean that thoughts are always false and things do not really exist.

If that were not so, we'd all be Buddhas or Ramana Maharshis. We're obviously not. Moreover, can you name a living Buddha or Ramana Maharshi in today's world? If you can't, then what does that say about the actual practicality of investing in the emptiness philosophy?

I've always thought it funny that Buddhist teachers like Joseph Goldstein giggle when the subject of actually achieving enlightenment arises. As if actually succeeding in truly realizing emptiness was absurdly unrealistic. One wonders, if becoming enlightened is such a remote possibility to Buddhist teachers who've been meditating on emptiness for 50 years, do they really believe what the preach about emptiness being our reality? Or not?

And so, we can read Buddhist texts and get a hit off of them, no doubt about that. We can get a similar hit with Path of the Masters or The Secret Doctrine or The Book of Mormon.

Words are the most popular intoxicant in human history.

But that feeling of grandeur and truth generated by words is short lived, as if whatever we feel on the meditation cushion.

SantMat64, it's difficult to judge the value of a philosophy or way of life. Many find Buddhism deeply meaningful. I sure do. But there are many ways to practice Buddhism, just as there are many ways to practice any form of spirituality, including Sant Mat.

Many, if not most, followers of Sant Mat meditate very little, if at all. So is Sant Mat a failure because its followers don't practice the most important part of what the teachings say? No, because spirituality is an individual affair. I enjoy Buddhism. It makes sense to me and helps me be a better and happier person. If you don't like Buddhism, that's fine also.

Hi SantMat64
You asked
"One wonders, if becoming enlightened is such a remote possibility to Buddhist teachers who've been meditating on emptiness for 50 years, do they really believe what the preach about emptiness being our reality? Or not?"

Realization of that emptiness is their enlightenment. And their ecstatic joy.

It's a beautiful step on a ladder that is also empty and without steps. This is not so much an objective statement as a subjective one that suggests the experience in that moment of realization: the Satori moment.

It can't be taken as a literal truth, as a finite dualistic concept, because, as D. T. Suzuki wrote, the emptiness contains all possibilities. What he pointed out is that, crucial to all Zen, is the Satori experience, without which there is no Zen. And, not coincidentally, no Sant Mat.

Brubea concludes, "To the heart is revealed a sense of beauty in the open, space-like nature of things. More able to shift ways of looking, less locked into any perspective, it wants to see the emptiness. Gradually conviction builds, based firmly on our experience."

Inevitably that experience of emptiness becomes ecstatic and draws the awareness beyond the illusory boundaries we typically see.

For the Satsangi, it's the pull to go within. When the emptiness around us becomes so evident and strong that we can see the hollowness in everything simply by looking at it. And it becomes so apparent it's painful and ecstatic. It becomes unbearable to do anything else but go within to that inner ecstacy that is drawing us in and up, triggered by the vision of emptiness all around and within. And then, like Brubea, we see the entire creation holographically, a great projection where every point contains the whole and nothing exists in any of it.

It's a stage. Not the whole journey. But a wonderful open, empty space containing absolutely nothing, filled with joy and infinite possibility of the next moment.

‘Emptiness and dependent arising’. Two terms that sound very enigmatic but are actually quite reasonable, if not obvious expressions of life as it is.

Dependent arising is simply stating that everything is dependent on other things, that nothing exists in isolation; whether it is physical or mental, all is intricately connected. One could go into the metaphysical concepts of birth, death and rebirth to explain who we are and where we come from (originated from) but as far as I’m concerned that road opens up fields of unnecessary speculation and conjecture.

Emptiness is also a factual statement. We habitually invest everything with an essence and identify it as that. A tree becomes an object with the observer being the subject. A tree is no longer a dynamic living process interacting with the air, soil, microbes, insects, birds and animals and us, thought makes it into a thing separate from me.

The same goes for ‘me’, my ‘self’. Thought assumes that I am a separate, autonomous being. Ignoring or unconscious of the fact that what I call ‘I’ only exists in relationship to everyone and everything else. Modern neuro-research and (some) Buddhist thought clearly points out that what we call ‘me’ is simply a moment-to-moment dynamic ever-changing process. My ‘self’ then is an on-going construct, a construct that is empty of any permanent thing.

Bluntly put, there is no ‘essence’ to anything, whether that is a tree, a rock, a bird or a human. For the sake of convenience, communication, personal security and generally through habit, we divide life up into this and that, thereby separating ourselves from each other and the world in general. This isolation becomes the root cause of much of our conflicts and consequent suffering.

This is my understanding of the Buddhist concepts of emptiness and conditioned arising.

And I would add that as far as these concepts of emptiness and dependent arising go: seeking is ultimately futile. It is not until one realises that there is no seeker, nothing to seek, nothing to be attained that will make you happy or fulfilled – or enlightened, that all becomes clear - to no-one.

All such activity is the ‘self’ continually trying to become something: it is the illusory self’s habitual attempts to placate and make substantial that which experience and thought has created.

“Emptiness”?? Such a cerebral concept…

Sidhartha, I used to also think that Buddhist emptiness was a cerebral concept. But as I learned more about this key Buddhist teaching, which really is central to all of Buddhism, and more importantly was able to experience the reality of emptiness in my own life, the idea became very real to me.

It's a beautiful idea, and a beautiful reality. Also, very scientific. Nothing possesses inherent existence all by itself. Everything is part of a mutually connected network of causes and effects, conditions, that works to produce both the world outside and the world inside of us. It's a reflection of oneness lying behind the world's diversity.

It means that we are not the isolated independent creatures that we so often feel we are, but an integral aspect of the whole universe.

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