Emptiness, through the ages

Shared by Dev

I wanted to talk briefly on the interpretation of emptiness, which is a central tenet. Buddhism is in its third millennia. What we practice here is transmitted through multiple countries and cultures. Things have been added, and also changed, may be removed. The original Scriptures in Pali (which is derived from Sanskrit) mentions shunyata, not emptiness. The word shunyata is hard to translate.  It’s derived from the digit zero, shunya- a mathematical concept. The word we use today – emptiness didn’t convey the same meaning IMO. It also doesn’t translate back to Shunyata. Maybe zeroness. This shows the limitations imposed by languages, translations and ultimately what a word can capture. 

Would like to mention a quote by Bodhidharma which is really captured the meaning of emptiness for me: “The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the Middle Way.””

Ultimately every generation attempts to convey the meaning of emptiness and non-attachment. For our generation this is especially difficult due  to the complexities of this world, which grabs our attention at every turn. I feel the best way to express and understand emptiness is to feel it as we try to detach from our senses during zazen from the many attachments of the modern world. We try to observe our minds as it attaches to each of the sensations, understand it’s nature of it and detach from it once we realize.  Ultimately, as Buddha said everything in this world is empty but realizing it is requires peaceful effort. 

End with another quote by Bodhidharma, motivated by the koi pond outside:

“although the buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the buddha, just as fish come from water, but water doesn’t come from fish. Whoever wants to see a fish sees the water before he sees the fish./ And whoever wants to see a buddha sees the mind before he sees the buddha. Once you’ve seen the fish, you forget about the water. And once you’ve seen the buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you, just as the water will confuse you if you don’t forget about it.”

Ref: The Zen teaching of Bodhidharma by Red pine :   https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/51936602

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