Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: What is Emptiness?

October 4, 2016

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming all suffering and distress.


What is emptiness?

Yamada Koun Roshi calls it “a most solemn reality.” Yet it is not a phenomenon, but an experience. We don’t know it the way we know all other phenomena. Rather, it’s a different way of experiencing all phenomena. We “see” that the whole plethora of phenomena, the entire “sensorium” of our experience, is “hollow, empty, insubstantial,” as Buddha put it.

This means that even as phenomena arise and appear before us, and as we ourselves experience them, both they and we ourselves are at the same time precisely nothing at all. And even as there is nothing at all, this very “nothing” is marvelously active, with a power and potential beyond all imagining, and is infinitely active as all the phenomena that we know, and doubtless inconceivably more besides.

The importance of this lies in its capacity to completely heal and cleanse us of all our troubles and “sins.” Zen has evolved a means by which, with diligent and often long practice, we can undergo an experience of “emptiness” that is thoroughgoing enough to wash away much of our habitual grasping and aversion, and leave us able to live in freer, kinder, lighter ways.

It’s not a myth. It’s not imaginary. It’s not a “vision.” Yet nor is it “known” in the normal sense. Yet we can’t fail to realize its authority and power.


Message from Henry is from our October 4, 2016 Newsletter.
Image by Rosa Bellino, used with her permission.

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