Emptiness in Buddhism is one other main reason for the confusion between meditation and the mind becoming ‘empty’ or zoning out is due to a misunderstanding of the concept of emptiness. It is a profound concept, but very liberating and empowering.
For emptiness in Buddhism, achieving a full realization and experience of emptiness is the ultimate goal of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist paths. Maha means great, and Vajra means indestructible. Yana is the word vehicle, the car or train, for example, with these forms of Buddhism the means of journeying along the path to the ultimate destination, enlightenment.
Enlightenment can be defined as wisdom mind free from suffering which seeks to benefit all.
The only real difference is the amount they focus on particular teachings in order to achieve enlightenment. They study both the Sutra teachings (Sutra means book) and the Tantra teachings (Tantra means union), with Vajrayana Buddhists spending more time on the Tantric teachings.
Buddhism, Emptiness, and Fulfillment
The contemporary Buddhist concept of emptiness (shunyata) only describes half of the path to spiritual liberation (nirvana). Once we have emptied ourselves of that which is not real, then we have to embrace that which is real in the absolute sense. Fully realizing atman, or our eternal spiritual self is the actual goal of the Buddha’s original teachings. This is the subject of this short video on the teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.
For more information on the teachings of Sri Acharyaji, visit our website: www.dharmacentral.com.
Both involve meditating on a range of topics, with emptiness being the most profound. There are different meditation techniques concerning emptiness in Buddhism to accomplish this, from simple, to very deep. Think of your meditation as being a set of stairs. Each step you advance in meditation will lead you to greater and greater happiness and wisdom.
Simply put, the concept of emptiness in Buddhism is that the human mind is the creator of all.
We may think a computer is far more intelligent than us, but a human mind created it in the first place. The human mind creates our world. Everything is empty of an intrinsic meaning except for the meaning we impute upon it, that is, assign to it.
We create meaning through assigning words to things, for example. Just look around your room: TV, table, chair, DVD. We all know what they are and agree that yes, a table is a thing with 4 legs and a flat top that we eat from, yet a rock or our lap can also serve as a table.
There are thousands of words for a dog in all the different world languages, Chein, cane, Perro, Madra, French, Italian, Spanish and Gaelic respectively. There are hundreds of breeds of dogs accepted as ‘pedigree,’ or pure-bred, dogs permitted to compete at dog shows.
If we say Chihuahua or Great Dane, we should get an instantaneous image in our minds of what these breeds of dogs look like, or at least their relative size to one another, from tiny to huge. It’s not just named in various languages that differ, but attitudes as well depending on the culture. In Tibet, dogs are revered and treated with respect.
Just over the border in China, they are eaten as food. Certain Native America tribes dine on a dog as well. Most people in the West would be revolted by the very idea. In fact, we sign petitions to end the dog meat trade in Asia and stop the annual Yulin Chinese dog meat festival that sees around 15,000 dogs rounded up into pens to be eaten. It is all a question of perspective.
The human mind labels things black, white, up, down, good, bad. Once we understand the role of our mind in the world we create for ourselves, we can transform our world.
Think about the labels we stick on things:
• The bad mother
• The terrible boss
• The awful job
• The beautiful dress
• The delicious meal
• The fun day
But X is in the eye of the beholder. A mother may be great one minute when she gives her child the birthday present they have been longing for, and ‘bad’ the next if she refuses to let her son eat an entire package of cookies.
The terrible boss might not seem so bad if they praise you in front of everyone and give you a raise. You might hate him or her, but they are obviously loved by someone, parents, spouse, kids. It is all a question of perspective.
The awful job might not seem so bad if you are a nurse helping sick people in a cancer ward. Conversely, the beautiful dress to one person might be the ugliest another has ever seen. In the West, women have a concept of the ‘sexy little black dress,’ but many people think the color black is associated with death and mourning. To Buddhists, and to the Japanese, black is considered an ugly color, not a sexy one.
We all have our own tastes, so a delicious meal to one person may be disgusting to another. It might even be deadly if, for example, the person is allergic to nuts or eggs. That cookie you crave could actually kill.
Similarly, fun is in the eye of the beholder. Some people play golf. Go figure. Others fish and hunt. Killing a living being of any form goes against one of the main Hindu and emptiness in Buddhism principles, that of ahimsa, “do no harm.” Many people in the East are vegetarian or even vegan for this reason, yet being vegan is almost unthinkable for most Westerners who love McDonald’s and Burger King.
To summarize, meditation and emptiness in Buddhism are not about emptying your mind completely of any thoughts, it is about examining your mind in order to get to know ourselves and thought processes better. The goal of this is to be more aware of the way we think and behave, so it is less automatic and more considered and wise.
It is also about realizing that our mind creates our world and that our point of view isn’t right or wrong, it’s simply ours. Our mind is constantly shifting, judging, discriminating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Meditation with a mind of emptiness gets rid of these labels. A thing isn’t good or bad, it simply IS.
Emptiness in Buddhism and meditation allows you to experience life more fully and sample its richness.
You can live in the present, not be stuck in the past, or constantly chasing after the future. It’s a chance to enjoy the here and now, and harness your mental energy for higher purposes, such as greater wisdom and understanding, and connecting with the universe.
So what does this connection feel like? Many people report physical and mental changes during meditation. Let’s look at some of the most common ones in the next lesson.