Tibetan meditation and emptiness.

November 3, 2014 § 4 Comments

Geogia Bay 0097

While in Vancouver the Dalai Lama spoke of the need to have some realization of emptiness for Tibetan meditation to be effective.

Tibetan meditation involves visualization. An image of a deity is visualized with such force and lifelike quality that at times others may see it. Then, having created this tulpa, as it is called, it is withdrawn back into the meditator so he or she may realize their identity with the deity. Without realizing the inherent emptiness of that deity, however, the self fails to realize its own emptiness and lack of self-existence. The meditation thus fails in its intended purpose.

As realizing emptiness is a cornerstone of Buddhism I often remind myself of what science tells us about the elementary particle called the electron. That is, that it has no size.

Now I should qualify this remark by saying that some physicists do say the electron has size. They have even made extensive calculations to show what it is. But beyond theoretical calculations there is no evidence that an electron has size.  Furthermore, it does not matter in science whether an electron has size or not, as science only deals with relationships and interactions, not things!

A scientist can happily tell us about an electron’s spin, mass and charge without ever being bothered by the fact that nothing actually need be there for her observations to be correct. She knows that properties are a quality of relationships. Similarly, a Buddhist can tell us that form is emptiness without ever denying the validity of our experience.

Form and emptiness are not mutually exclusive whether you are a Buddhist or a scientist.

It is not easy to break the habits of a lifetime and accept that experience does not require the presence of a self-existent thing.  Today you might nod with agreement as you quote Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and ask, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? – (Act III, scene I).”  Through such questions you may feel justified in your belief that permanent, solid things exist “out there”.

But if you realize emptiness, even if only slightly or with one thing, then tomorrow you might say, “There is pricking. There is bleeding. There is tickling and laughter, poison and death. But who is there to be wronged? Why, therefore, seek revenge?”

A small realization of emptiness can chip away at your belief that there are things that have power over you. This can then be expanded to a realization that judgments of your own worth and value are also empty and therefore powerless to affect you. Fear will begin to dissolve. Your demons will lose their false power as your realization of emptiness grows.  Then, one day, you may apply this knowledge to your self and find emptiness there, too.  That your true self is no self.

So whether you find emptiness in contemplating the electron or see it in the stories you tell yourself everyday, use that seed of realization to slowly transform your life.  You have, after all, nothing to lose.


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