In the previous slogan, “Examine the nature of unborn awareness”, we looked for the mind and couldn’t find it. We discovered that the mind is “unborn” yet aware.
But sometimes a meditator forgets or doesn’t register the aware experience of having looked for the unfindable mind and mistakenly thinks, “Well, I looked for my mind and couldn’t find it. So what’s the point? If everything is empty, why bother with anything? Nothing matters.”
This is where “Self-liberate even the antidote” can free the meditator from this deception. The shunya or empty experience of finding no mind is the antidote to our self-seriousness and self-importance, but it is not emptiness. It is not a thing that can provide some kind of new conceptual ground.
It is important to remember that in searching for the mind, although we do not find it, there is still an alert, clear energy. The experience of looking inward isn’t at all a dull blankness or void—it is very awake.
Thus dwelling on the false conclusion of emptiness is a fallacy called the “poison of shunyata”, for this solidifying of the not finding or empty experience into some kind of conceptual patch or excuse is often used to remain inert and uninvolved. And this solidifying of the empty but aware experience into mere nihilism is as big a self-deception as believing in a valid self, “real” mind, and eternalism in general.
Nagarjuna explains how the experience of using mind to try to find mind actually engenders compassion:
When one realizes with own’s own mind
The basic nature, unborn from the beginning,
And sinks into the swamp of samsara,
Compassion will arise as a matter of course.
When we rest in the not-finding mind, it is called resting in the unborn nature. This resting may be difficult to do at first, as discursive mind is quick to kick in again. But each time we rest, we realize that the resting is bright, it is not sterile. This is a moment of Buddha Nature, basic goodness, bodhicitta, the mind of awakening. It is not emptiness.
Post-meditation, compassion arises at the sight of the first bedraggled pigeon shivering in the snowy branches. It arises for all beings who suffer. And beyond physical suffering, it arises for all beings who, although they have Buddha Nature or “enlightened genes” as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, do not recognize their own enlightened nature and operate from an egotistical or self-centered point of view. But rather than turning us off with their arrogance or whatever, this triggers active compassion if we are familiar with the true “unborn” nature. For we see that such individuals give themselves as well as others an unnecessarily hard time and we wish that they didn’t create so much mental and emotional anguish for themselves and others in their struggle to be “important” or in control.
In other words, once we have discovered the absolute and empty awareness or have had it pointed out, then relative bodhicitta or compassion begins to arise naturally for all beings.