Emptiness is a core concept in Buddhist philosophy and in meditation practice.
It is a recognition that all we give substance to in our minds is a creation of the mind and that the supposed reality of things in the world is really no more than what we bring to what our senses give to our mind. In recognising this we imbue things with meaning and then—seeing how transient and impermanent the world is—we begin to let go of clinging to things because they cannot be relied on for life purpose.
We begin to see that in clinging to impermanent things whose meaning we have created we are captured by those things. Thus we suffer. Part of these impermanent things are the regrets of the past and our over-wrought ambitions for the future.
In meditation, we experience emptiness by letting go of the illusion of things and earnest clinging to things.
As we let go by focusing on our bodies—and the sensations of our bodies—as we become aware of the thoughts that crowd our minds, there is a release from clinging and movement toward enlightenment.
Non-clinging becomes, then, a powerful antidote to greed, manipulation, anger, hatred, revenge and status-climbing. All these destructive human emotions and volitional states are tied to clinging to the world. In letting go of the world and in divesting oneself the desire to grasp an manipulate things in the world, we are liberated and find enlightenment.
This is not the same as saying there is nothing in the world. The world is full of objects and other sentient beings. We respect those objects and those beings. But in emptiness, there is recognition that what those objects are is no more than what we prescribe them to be.
They are empty of meaning without the definition we bring to them. If we bring non-clinging awareness then those objects and those sentient beings, they can be recognized but not have a hold on us. We are curious about them but do not want to manipulate or control them.
For example, anger is driven by imbuing a sense of possession over an object or a being such that in possessing it—and in having that possession challenged—we become angry and territorial. In seeking non possession, which is a form of non-clinging, we let go of the accompanying anger.
And in bringing generosity, curiosity and compassion to our relationships with other sentient beings, there is also a letting go of the myth of the self—there is a non-clinging awareness of our being in relation to others. As we practice non-clinging generosity, there is a growing tendency for openness, honesty and connection with other beings.
In sum, seeing the emptiness of things in the world allows us to move forward, taking a journey of non-clinging curiosity about the world that reduces suffering and enhances happiness. In meditation—in experiencing emptiness and non clinging awareness—we can find a deep sense of peace and an abiding in the present that is free from the cares and woes that clinging brings.
We can find deeper, more open ways of relating to others because the instinct to control is reduced and thus defensive barriers are lowered.
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Apprentice Editor: Melissa Horton /Editor: Catherine Monkman
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