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The Urban Dharma Newsletter - June 2011
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In This Issue: Buddhism and Reality

1. Reality in Buddhism – From Wikipedia,
2. The Ultimate Reality in Buddhism
3. Realizing Ultimate Reality – By Gary Gach
4. CONVENTIONAL AND ULTIMATE WISDOM
–– –– –– –– ––

Hi,

Another busy month is over, I found some time to put together the UD Newsletter all about reality, “What a concept,” as Mork (Mork and Mindy) might say.

Enjoy.

Peace… Kusala


1. Reality in Buddhism – From Wikipedia,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_in_Buddhism

Buddhism evolved a variety of doctrinal/philosophical traditions, each with its own ideas of reality. The following are still regularly studied in some branches of the Buddhist tradition: Theravada, Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Jojitsu, Madhyamika, Yogacara, tiantai, Huayan. Some of these are divided into subschools, and all are subject to interpretation, both by Buddhist teachers and by academic scholars. In addition to these, some less doctrinal traditions and individual teachers have their own ideas on the subject.

Some views of reality in Buddhism are relevant to the issue of dependent origination and some to teachings beyond cause and effect. Examples:

Some consider that the concept of the unreality of "reality" is confusing. They posit that, in Buddhism, the perceived reality is considered illusory not in the sense that reality is a fantasy or unreal, but that our perceptions and preconditions mislead us to believe that we are separate from the elements that we are made of. Reality, in Buddhist thought, would be described as the manifestation of karma[citation needed].

Other schools of thought in Buddhism (e.g., Dzogchen), consider perceived reality literally unreal. As a prominent contemporary teacher puts it: "In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream [...]".[1] In this context, the term 'visions' denotes not only visual perceptions, but appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations, and operations on received mental objects.

Reality in Buddhist sutras

Buddhist sutras devote considerable space to the concept of reality, with each of two major doctrines — the Doctrine of Dependent Origination (pratitya-samutpada) and the Doctrine of Cause and Effect (karma and vipaka) — attempting to incorporate both the natural and the spiritual into its overall world view. While there is no prime force setting the universe in motion, no "First Cause", Buddhist teachings continue to explore the nature of the world and our place in it.

The Buddha promoted experience over theorizing. According to Karel Werner,

Experience is ... the path most elaborated in early Buddhism. The doctrine on the other hand was kept low. The Buddha avoided doctrinal formulations concerning the final reality as much as possible in order to prevent his followers from resting content with minor achievements on the path in which the absence of the final experience could be substituted by conceptual understanding of the doctrine or by religious faith, a situation which sometimes occurs, in both varieties, in the context of Hindu systems of doctrine.[2]

The Mahayana developed those statements he did make into an extensive, diverse set of sometimes contrasting descriptions of reality "as it really is."[3]

The Theravada school teaches that there is no universal personal god. The world as we know it does not have its origin in a primordial being such as Brahman or the Abrahamic God. What we see is only a product of transitory factors of existence, which depend functionally upon each other. The Buddha is said to have said: "The world exists because of causal actions, all things are produced by causal actions and all beings are governed and bound by causal actions. They are fixed like the rolling wheel of a cart, fixed by the pin of its axle shaft." (Sutta-Nipata 654)[4]

The word 'illusion' is frequently associated with Buddhism and the nature of reality. Some interpretations of Buddhism teach that reality is a coin with two sides: impermanence or anicca and the "not-self characteristic" or anatta, referred to as "emptiness" in some Mahayana schools. Dzogchen, as the non-dual culmination of the Ancient School (a school with a few million followers out of a few hundred million Buddhists) of Mantrayana, resolves atman and anatman into the Mindstream Doctrine of Tapihritsa. The Buddha Shakyamuni is said to have taught the variously understood and interpreted concept of "not-self" in the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta. In this sutta, he lists the characteristics that we often associate with who we are, and found that these characteristics, ultimately, are not who we are because they are subject to change. He further illustrates the changing nature of our feelings, perceptions, and consciousness.

We can look at the concepts of impermanence and not-self in objective terms, for example by deconstructing the concept of an aggregated object such as a lotus and seeing that the flower is made up entirely of non-flower elements like soil, nutrients, photosynthetic energy, rain water and the effort of the entities that nourished and grew the flower. All of these factors, according to the Diamond Sutra, co-exist with each other to manifest what we call a 'flower'. In other words, there is no essence arisen from nothingness that is unique and personal to any being. In particular, there is neither a human soul that lives on beyond the death of the physical body nor one that is extinguished at death since, strictly speaking, there is nothing to extinguish. The relative reality (i.e., the illusory perceived reality) comes from our belief that we are separate from the rest of the things in the universe and, at times, at odds with the processes of nature and other beings. The ultimate or absolute reality, in some schools of Buddhist thought, shows that we are inter-connected with all things. The concept of non-discrimination expands on this by saying that, while a chair is different from a flower, they 'inter-are' because they are each made of non-flower and non-chair elements. Ultimately those elements are the same, so the distinction between chair and flower is one of quantity not of quality.

The Diamond Sutra, a Mahayana scripture, has many passages that use the formula: A is not A, therefore A is called A.

Reality and dreams in Dzogchen

In Dzogchen, perceived reality is considered to be unreal.
The real sky is (knowing) that samsara and nirvana are merely an illusory display[4].

— Mipham Rinpoche, Quintessential Instructions of Mind, p. 117

According to contemporary teacher Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, all appearances perceived during the whole life of an individual, through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations in their totality, are like a big dream. It is claimed that, on careful examination, the dream of life and regular nightly dreams are not very different, and that in their essential nature there is no difference between them.

The non-essential difference between the dreaming state and ordinary waking experience is that the latter is more concrete and linked to attachment; the dreaming experience while sleeping is slightly detached.

Also according to this teaching, there is a correspondence between the states of sleep and dream and our experiences when we die. After experiencing the intermediate state of bardo, an individual comes out of it, a new karmic illusion is created and another existence begins. This is how transmigration happens.

According to Dzogchen teachings, the energy of an individual is essentially without form and free from duality. However, karmic traces contained in the individual's mindstream give rise to two kinds of forms:

forms that the individual experiences as his or her body, voice and mind
forms that the individual experiences as an external environment.

What appears as a world of apparently external phenomena, is the energy of the individual him or herself. There is nothing external or separate from the individual. Everything that manifests in the individual's field of experience is a continuum. This is the 'Great Perfection' that is discovered in Dzogchen practice.[5]

It is possible to do yogic practice such as Dream Yoga and Yoga Nidra whilst dreaming, sleeping and in other bardo states of trance. In this way the yogi can have a very strong experience and with this comes understanding of the dream-like nature of daily life. This is also very relevant to diminishing attachments, because they are based on strong beliefs that life's perceptions such as objects are real and as a consequence: important. If one really understands what Buddha Shakyamuni meant when he said that everything is unreal, then one can diminish attachments and tensions.

The teacher advises that the realization that life is only a big dream can help us finally liberate ourselves from the chains of various emotions, different kinds of attachment and the chains of ego. Then we have the possibility of ultimately becoming enlightened. [1]

Different schools and traditions in other strains of Tibetan Buddhism give different explanations of what is called "reality".[6][7]

Reality in the Tathagatagarbha Sutras

Prior to the period of the Tathagatagarbha Sutras, Mahayana metaphysics had been dominated by teachings on emptiness in the form of Madhyamaka philosophy. The language used by this approach is primarily negative, and the Tathagatagarbha genre of sutras can be seen as an attempt to state orthodox Buddhist teachings of dependent origination using positive language instead, to prevent people from being turned away from Buddhism by a false impression of nihilism. In these sutras the perfection of the wisdom of not-self is stated to be the true self; the ultimate goal of the path is then characterized using a range of positive language that had been used in Indian philosophy previously by essentialist philosophers, but which was now transmuted into a new Buddhist vocabulary to describe a being who has successfully completed the Buddhist path.[8]

Contrasting with some forms of Buddhism, the Buddha's teaching on 'reality' in the Tathagatagarbha Mahayana scriptures - which the Buddha states constitute the ultimate manifestation of the Mahayana Dharma (other Mahayana sutras make similar claims about their own teachings) - insists that there truly is a sphere or realm of ultimate truth - not just a repetitious cycle of interconnected elements, each dependent on the others. That suffering-filled cycle of x-generating-y-and-y-generating-z-and-z-generating-a, etc., is Samsara, the prison-house of the reincarnating non-self; whereas liberation from dependency, enforced rebirth and bondage is nirvana or reality / spiritual essence (tattva / dharmata). This sphere also bears the name Tathagatagarbha (Buddha matrix). It is the deathless realm where dependent origination holds no sway, where non-self is supplanted by the everlasting, sovereign (aishvarya) self (atman) (as a trans-historical, unconditioned, ultimate, liberating, supra-worldly yet boundless and immanent awakened mind). Of this real truth, called nirvana - which, while salvationally infused into samsara, is not bound or imprisoned in it - the Buddha states in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra:

"What is the Real (tattva)? Knowledge of the true attributes of Nirvana; the Tathagata, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the attributes of space ... is the Real. What is knowledge of the attributes of Nirvana? The attributes of Nirvana are eightfold. What are these eight? Cessation [of ignorance and suffering]; loveliness/ wholesomeness; Truth; Reality; Eternity, Bliss, the Self [atman], and complete Purity: that is Nirvana."

He further comments: " ... that which is endowed with the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and Purity is stated to be the meaning of 'Real Truth' ... Moreover, the Real is the Tathagata [i.e., the Buddha]; the Tathagata is the Real ... The Tathagata is not conditioned and not tainted, but utterly blissful: this is the Real ...".

Thus, in such doctrines, a very positive goal is envisioned, which is said to lie beyond the grasp of the five senses and the ordinary, restless mind, and only attainable through direct meditative perception and when all inner pollutants (twisted modes of view, and all moral contaminants) are purged, and the inherently deathless, spotless, radiantly shining mind of Buddha stands revealed. This is the realm of the Buddha-dhatu (popularly known as buddha nature) - inconceivable, beginning-less, endless, omniscient truth, the Dharmakaya (quintessential body-and-mind) of the Buddha. This reality is empty of all falsehood, impermanence, ignorance, afflictions, and pain, but filled with enduring happiness, purity, knowingness (jnana), and omni-radiant loving-kindness (maitri).



2. The Ultimate Reality in Buddhism

http://www.comparativereligion.com/god.html

The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama - the Buddha, lived in the sixth century BC. Two main forms of Buddhism are known today: the conservative branch, represented by the Theravada school, spread mainly in Sri Lanka and southeast Asia, and the liberal branch - Mahayana, spread mainly in China, Tibet, Korea and Japan.


The Theravada school, which claims to have guarded the unaltered message of its founder, teaches that there is neither a personal god, nor a spiritual or material substance that exists by itself as Ultimate Reality. The world as we know it does not have its origin in a primordial being such as Brahman. What we see is only a product of transitory factors of existence, which depend functionally upon each other. The Buddha said:

The world exists because of causal actions, all things are produced by causal actions and all beings are governed and bound by causal actions. They are fixed like the rolling wheel of a cart, fixed by the pin of its axle shaft. (Sutta-Nipata 654)

That gods exist is not rejected, but they are only temporary beings that attained heaven using the same virtues as any human disciple. Gods are not worshiped, do not represent the basis for morality, and are not the givers of happiness. The Ultimate Reality is nothing but a transcendent truth, which governs the universe and human life:

There is grief but none suffering,
There is no doer though there is action.
There is quietude but none tranquil.
There is the path but none walks upon the path. (Buddhaghosa; Visuddhi Magga 16)

Mahayana Buddhism emerged later, between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, and was organized by Nagarjuna in the 2nd century AD. Although the texts of Mahayana Buddhism claim to be a recollection of early speeches of the Buddha, they contradict some conservative doctrines of the Theravada school. It is said that the Mahayana sutras were revealed many years after the master's death, because at that time the world was not yet able to understand them. According to their teaching, Ultimate Reality is also an ultimate truth, called the truth of emptiness. Emptiness is a quality attached to any physical, mental or doctrinal concept. It is the basis of our world, not as a substance, but as a truth. The doctrine of emptiness denies any kind of substantial ultimate reality and affirms that the world is to be seen as a web of interdependent and baseless phenomena.

The presence of many Buddhas in Mahayana Buddhism inaugurated a strong devotional trend that had to be reconciled with this doctrine of emptiness. The result was the doctrine of the three bodies of the Buddha (Trikaya), developed by the Yogachara school in the fifth century AD. It says that Ultimate Reality, called Buddhahood, is expressed at three levels of understanding. The first is Dharmakaya, the essential body of the Buddha, representing emptiness itself. It is the ultimate truth that governs the world. The other two bodies are the embodiment of compassion for beings ensnared by illusion. It is only because ignorance blinds conditioned beings, that the Dharmakaya is manifested as the other two, so that the conditioned beings can grow in wisdom and eventually attain enlightenment.

The second body is the Samboghakaya, the body of enjoyment. It is the body of the Buddhas in their Pure Lands, where they preach the Mahayana doctrine to those reborn here. The Buddhas in this form are the objects of Mahayana devotion, the source of grace for the devotees of popular Buddhism.

What was known as the physical body of Siddhartha Gautama is the third body of the Buddha, the Nirmanakaya. It is a mere image manifested in our world for the benefit of the lowliest of beings, the most ignorant and weak, unable to attain a Pure Land.

Mahayana takes a different stand on the person of Siddhartha Gautama. According to the traditional view he was a physical being, the founder of the four noble truths and the first human that reached nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism he is considered to be only one of many Buddhas, the compassionate beings that help other humans to find liberation.



3. Realizing Ultimate Reality – By Gary Gach, The Buddhist Channel, November 6, 2010

http://buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=6,9646,0,0,1,0

Living in Harmony When Things Fall Apart: Notes from the World Buddhist Conference 2010

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- FOLLOWING VEN. Thich Nhat Hanh’s keynote address, attendees were treated to twin commentary, by Prof David Loy then Ven. Wei Wu, moderated by Datuk Dr Victor Wee, then followed by a half-hour Q&A between the audience and monks and nuns of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Sangha.

David Loy is author of several books, including Nonduality; A Buddhist History of the West; The Great Awakening; The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, Money, Sex, War, Karma, Wisdom ; and , most recently, The World Is Made of Stories. During the American war in Vietnam, Loy traveled to Hawaii and discovered Zen. He is an authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen, in which he completed formal koan training under Yamada Koun Roshi.

Prof Loy teaches in the US but has also taught in Japan, and just down the hall from Malaysia in Singapore. His main field of research is in East-West philosophy, especially as to how Buddhist perspectives bear upon such contemporary social issues as violence, restorative justice, economics and globalization, biotechnology, environmental crises, and ‘the clash of civilizations.’

Prof Loy began his talk, as Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh did, invoking the reality of nondualism. He read the following:

When I look inside and see that I am nothing,
that's wisdom.

When I look outside and see that I am everything,
that's love.

Between these two,
my life turns.

The saying comes from Sri Nisargadatta, of the Vedanta path. Nonduality, central to Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s keynote, can thus be found in many wisdom traditions. The Buddha’s emphasis uniquely centers upon the deep connection between our dukkha (our suffering) and atman (our illusion of self).

Prof Loy recalled recently reading the following statement in an essay by Thich Nhat Hanh: ‘We are here to overcome the illusion of our separateness.’

‘Separate from what?,’ Prof Loy then asked. He answered his own question by quoting Zen sage Dogen: After awakening I came to realize clearly that mind is nothing other rivers and mountains and the great wide earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars.’ Awakening is thus not transcending this world, nor experiencing another kind of reality. It's rather the letting go of our selves to realize the nondual nature of reality.

The fundamental illusion is that somehow I'm inside and all of you are out there. This is the source of great suffering because this feeling of self which is not real and and therefore alwaysinsecure. Since this sense of self is not real, we become preoccupied with trying to make something real which is not real. We become preoccupied in trying to secure something that cannot be secured. We think our problem is out there, if only we can solve this problem or get that thing. But the Buddha tells us it doesn't work that way. We have to realize the true nature of our own mind.

Prof Loy typified what he heard in Thich Nhat Hanh’s talk as capable of being called the deconstruction of the sense of self. ‘This is what we do in meditation,’ he said. ‘We let go of our habitual ways. We let go to realize the nondual: David Loy, and each of us, is a way in which the whole universe comes together in this moment.’

‘In addition to deconstruction, Buddhism teaches reconstruction of the sense of self. We see this in the way Buddha transformed the traditional notion of karma. In his time, karma had been understood in a ritualized, formal way. If one performed a sacrificial ritual in the right way one would get what one wished. But the Buddha said it depended instead on intention.’

‘When we're motivated by greed, ill will, delusion, (the three poisons), we create problems for ourselves. And so it's important to transform our intentions. Instead of greed, we can practice generosity. Instead of ill will, we can practice lovingkindness (metta). Instead of delusion, we can practice wisdom. So if you change the quality of your life you change not only how you relate to people but people will relate differently to you.’

An anonymous verse (not necessarily Buddhist) sums it up, thus:

Sow a thought, and reap an action.
Sow an action, and reap a habit.
Sow a habit, and reap character.
Sow character, and reap a destiny.

Prof Loy commented , 'This gives us insight into how karma works, and it is also consistent with Buddhist teachings about non-self (annatta). Buddhism starts with what I think because that determines the intentions that motivate my actionsm, and actions repeated ecome habits. Habits create my character because my sense of self is actually composed of habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. This sense of self determines how I relate to the world and thereby strongly affects how the world relates back to me.’

So through right view of our mind, we can transform our thoughts, which, as Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh points out, influence our words, which influence our actions, and thus all that follows.

In this light, Dr Loy welcomed the Five Mindfulness Trainings as a wonderful way of reinterpreting and understanding the Five Precepts. The Precepts, he said, are not rules follow — but , rather, they call us to fundamentally re-engage within ourselves, in our vows, through this fundamental training. Training our minds in this way will transform our selves … how we relate to the world … … … and how the world relates to us.

.:.

In his remarks, panel moderator Datuk Prof Victor Wee recalled when Ven. K Si Dhammananda had undergone medical treatment. He was resting in a bed, in an open ward, wearing hospital-issued clothes.

A nun came, wanting to uplift everyone's spirits. When she went to his bedside, he did not object to her invitation to join her in prayer to God. Soon, a group of his students and devotees came in and, going to his bedside, knelt in devotion. The nun asked someone who he was. Learning he was a revered Buddhist monk, she later went to him, ashamed, and apologized since he was obviously not a believer, Smiling, he reassured her there was nothing at all to forgive since he knew her intentions were good, and was more than glad to share in and enjoy that goodness.

.:.

Venerable Wei Wu was born in Penang. After earning a degree from University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in Electrical Engineering degree he worked for Procter and Gamble, Philips, Fiat, and Astec. Venerable Wei Wu was ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Mahayana tradition in 1992 and established the Than Hsiang Foundation in Malaysia and Thailand and the International Buddhist College (IBC) in Hatyai, Thailand. IBC is a non-sectarian Buddhist Institute, which takes the Pali Canon as foundation for Buddhist Studies

He is also Abbot of Tham Wah Wan Temple in Kuala Lumpur, where many IBC courses are being conducted for participants in the central region of the country. Venerable Wei Wu is also very active in social welfare projects, having established homes for the poor, as well as kindergartens throughout Malaysia.

[As of this writing, Ven Wei Wu has been spearheading relief work for victims of floods in Thailand and the tsunami and volcanic eruption in Indonesia. For more info: http://tanxiang.org . namo guan shi yin pu sa ]

When Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh had stated, ‘One Buddha is not enough, Ven. Wei Wu recalled in this connection a interesting meeting between two great religious personalities during our time, here in Kuala Lumpur - namely, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tengku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.

After his reitirement as Prime Minister, he was president of an Islamic Foundation - PERKIM (Pertubuhan Kebajian Islam Malaysia / Muslim Welfare Organization Malaysia). When His Holiness visited Malaysia many years ago, Tengku Abdul Rahman, in his capacity as the Perkim's president invited His Holiness for a reception.

During this meeting the Dalai Lama said, ‘Man is very intelligent. We have created enough weapons to destroy this world seven times over. [This being 30 years ago, that capacity has increased many more times now]. The only hope we have to stop this tragic prospect of man destroying the world with his weapons is to use the influence of religions. There is however no one religion in the world that can do this alone. The only hope is for leaders of different religions to work together spread the common teachings of peace in their religions to their respective followers. If instead, we were to fight holy wars in the name of religions, we will make man's destruction of the world come earlier!’

Ven. Wu Wei then also recalled that, not long after that meeting, he joined friends in Malaysia going to attend the first meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held outside of Asia, at Hsi Lai Temple, Southern California. Present at that conference was a group of Chinese Christians with a banner reading, ‘Those who do not believe in God will go to hell.’ This was quite shocking to him, especially given this occurring in a free country such as America.

On the other hand, he also shared the story of a resident at the senior citizens' home run by Than Hsiang Temple. She happily told a visitor once, ‘I have two lords: Lord Jesus and Lord Buddha.’ This, Ven. Wu Wei declared, is what we need. A very devout Christian, she would say her daily prayer but she'd also join other residents for their morning services. One of Venerable Wei Wu's nuns would lead in a chant of Amitabha, and she joined in every day.

Ven. Wei Wu noted that when Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh first coined the phrase ‘engaged Buddhism’ (literally“Buddhism which enters into the world”) it had its roots in the Humanistic Buddhism reform movement by Ven. Tai Xu.(1890–1947). Ven. Wei Wu agreed with Thich Nhat Hanh's Five Mindfulness Trainings as a contemporary expression of the Five Precepts, which he felt offered something very useful for global community.

He then noted that many esteemed speakers present at the Conference were very well-versed in psychology; many of them had done very good work to use Buddhist teachings in psychotherapy. He then commented on the application of psychology and Buddhism together. When he have to heal the troubled mind, it is necessary to accept the 'self'. He commented that Buddhist psychology has to transcend therapy in dealing with the troubled mind; it has to bring forth the the very best in human beings, which includes anatta, 'no self’.

He concluded with the following story. A Muslim once visited a Buddhist temple. He said to the abbot, ‘When I use the rosary, I pray to God, “Allah, please give me power, power, power.” How do you use the rosary?’

The abbot, fingering his rosary, replied, ’Let go! Let go!! Let go!!!’

After a public lecture delivered in Penang, that week, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh presented Ven. Wu Wei with a copy of his book Touching Peace : Practicing the Art of Mindful Living. Letting Thich Nhat Hanh have the final word, he quoted from the last chapter, Realizing Ultimate Reality:

We come to the practice of meditation seeking relief from our suffering, and meditation can teach us how to transform our suffering and obtain basic relief. But the deepest kind of relief is the realization of nirvana. There are two dimensions to life, and we should be able to touch both. One is like a wave, and we call it the ultimate dimension, or nirvana. We usually touch just the wave, but when we discover how to touch the water, we receive the highest fruit that meditation can offer.

In the historical dimension, we have birth certificates and death certificates. The day your mother passes away, you suffer. If someone sits close to you and shows her concern, you feel some relief. You have her friendship, her support, her warm hand to hold. This is the world of waves. It is characterized by birth and death, ups and downs, being and non-being. A wave has a beginning and an end, but we cannot ascribe these characteristics to water. In the world of water, there is no birth and death, no being or nonbeing, no beginning or end. When we touch the water, we touch reality in its ultimate dimension and are liberated from all of these concepts.

We are always in relationship, with each other and with Original Source. Seeing, understanding, and applying this truth can give rise to true happiness. In our next installment of reports from World Buddhist Conference, we’ll hear ways we might manage relationships : with our self … with our family … and with the world.



4. CONVENTIONAL AND ULTIMATE WISDOM

http://viewonbuddhism.org/wisdom_emptiness.html

'I am not, I will not be.
I have not, I will not have.
This frightens all children,
And kills fear in the wise.'
Nagarjuna

Although Albert Einstein was certainly not a Buddhist, these statements sound much like it:

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'universe', a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest
- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

From Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Enlightenment for a wave in the ocean is the moment the wave realises that it is water."

Wisdom in Buddhism can refer to two types of insight: conventional wisdom and ultimate wisdom:

Conventional wisdom relates to understanding the conventional world, or the world as we know it. Traditionally it refers to understanding the way in which karma functions; to understand which actions bring us happiness and which bring us suffering. Conventional wisdom covers all understanding of the world as it functions, including science, with the exception of ultimate wisdom.

Ultimate wisdom (jñana in Sanskrit) refers to a direct realisation which is non-dualistic, and contradicts the way in which we ordinarily perceive the world. The experience of ultimate truth or emptiness is beyond duality.
It is important to remember that emptiness here does not refer to nothingness or some kind of nihilistic view. Emptiness refers to the fact that ultimately, our day-to-day experience of reality is wrong, and is 'empty' of many qualities that we normally assign to it.
Describing this non-dual experience in words is not really possible, as language is based on duality and contrasts. Trying to explain this experience - which contradicts our normal perception - is a bit like explaining colors to someone who is born blind; difficult to say the least.
WHY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IT?

"...I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed..."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama

If it can not really be explained in words, why bother?
According to the Buddha, as long as we do not realise emptiness directly - especially of our idea of how our "I" or 'self' exists - we do not properly understand how the world functions and we will continue to create causes for our own misery.

"How much suffering and fear, and
How many harmful things are in existence?
If all arises from clinging to the "I",
What should I do with this great demon?"
Shantideva

Merely starting to doubt our perception of the world is invaluable if we ever hope to break the bondage to uncontrolled cyclic existence and suffering. In order to familiarise ourselves with this all-important experience, we can try to familiarise ourselves with it on an intellectual level. When we would experience emptiness, we would then be able to recognise it. Instead of believing we have suddenly gone mad, recognition would encourage us to enhance the experience and achieve liberation from suffering.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explained it in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya:

We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, "I will not suffer." We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, "I will not be attached to anything," nor eliminate aggression by saying, "I will never become angry." Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The Buddha taught that to eliminate these states, which are really the results of the primary confusion of our belief in a personal self, we must get rid of the fundamental cause.
But we cannot simply say, "I will not believe in the personal self." The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realise this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that "self" will disappear.
Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection. This is why the Buddha emphasized meditation on selflessness or egolessness (emptiness).
However, to meditate on egolessness, we must undertake a process that begins with a conceptual understanding of egolessness; then, based on that understanding, there can be meditation, and finally realization.

INTERDEPENDENCE

The wisdom of emptiness refers to a lack of something: 'inherent existence'. 'Inherent existence' means that things appear to exist independently, in- and out of themselves, from the side of the object, by way of its' own character, self-powered, autonomous. Ultimately however, things exist in dependence upon causes and conditions. For example, a human being ceases to exist in a vacuum, we would instantly die when all conditions for life are suddenly gone. On another level, a human being needs to come into existence by the combination of a sperm from the father joining an egg from the mother and all the right conditions to grow into an embryo. So, considering ourselves as independently existing, fully autonomous is a mere illusion and does not accord with ultimate reality.

Ultimate wisdom can be compared to eco-thinking in biology: a century ago, biology focused mainly on categorising species of animals and plants and describing their specific aspects. Plants and animals were cut to ever smaller pieces to analyse how they function.
However, nature also functions at a completely different level; as relations and processes between living beings. Ecology appeared as a new branch of biology, more dealing with relations, cycles and interdependence of animals, plants and surroundings. This is somewhat similar to the view of emptiness. Instead of focusing on differences and individuality, the realisation of emptiness is about realising that nothing exists by itself alone, but depends on other things. Just as all living beings rely on other living beings - at least their ancestors, so do even inanimate objects depend on other objects, conditions, parts and processes to arise and disappear.

The fact that we normally do not realise emptiness and the relatedness of things is directly related to our perception. As soon as we perceive something in the outside world, it feels different from our own body or mind. We feel as if other things are "out there", separate from "my self", which is "in here".
But are they really separate? To begin with, if the outer object would not somehow "relate" to us in the form of sound, smell, light etc., we would be unable to perceive it. So our perception of objects depends on interaction, rather than the fact that we are separate. To put it simple, our perception of the world is only possible because of interaction, interrelation, dependence and exchange of information.

From the Avatamsaka Sutra:

"Far away, in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each eye of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number.
There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now look closely at any one of the jewels for inspection, we will discover that in its polished surface are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflection process occuring.
This symbolises our world where every sentient being (and thing) is inter-related to one another."

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, from The Compassionate Life:

"All events and incidents in life are so intimately linked with the fate of others that a single person on his or her own cannot even begin to act. Many ordinary human activities, both positive and negative, cannot even be conceived of apart from the existence of other people. Even the committing of harmful actions depends on the existence of others. Because of others, we have the opportunity to earn money if that is what we desire in life. Similarly, in reliance upon the existence of others it becomes possible for the media to create fame or disrepute for someone. On your own you cannot create any fame or disrepute no matter how loud you might shout. The closest you can get is to create an echo of your own voice.

Thus interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay."

PERCEPTION AND OBJECTIVITY

When we perceive an object, we automatically tend to label it (like nice, bad, wet, dry, light, dark, etc.). As soon as our mind puts a label on an object, the label takes the place of the actual object in our mental processes. As our mental image or label can never represent all the different qualities and characteristics of any object, it is always just a simplified, usually exaggerated, subjective snap shot. However, our mind reacts on the basis of our own mental label of an object. No wonder we tend to react simplistic, exaggerated and subjective in many situations. All perceived objects are conditioned by our senses and our own mind.
This leads to the dramatic conclusion that we are not and by definition can never be objective!

Or, as the famous physicist Werner Heisenberg said,

"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning"....

SEPARATENESS

Our labelling leads to problems like anger and attachment, but also to the more basic problem that we think we are somehow separate from the outside world. But are we separate from the outside world?
When we see something - for example a table - it appears to be separate from the rest of the world, just standing there by itself, but is that correct? How could the table stand there without the ground supporting it? How could the table exist without a carpenter making it from pieces of wood? The pieces of wood come from a tree, which comes from a seed, water, soil, air, the sun and its nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms etcetera.... Every object needs causes and conditions to exist, just like we need our parents, food, air, clothes and many more things to exist. Apart from that, our perception of an object is strongly coloured by our own senses, mental state and memories. In this way, it becomes impossible to maintain that 'I' am separate from the outside world, however much it feels that way.

"Monks, we who look at the whole and not just the part, know that we too are systems of interdependence, of feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness all interconnected. Investigating in this way, we come to realize that there is no me or mine in any one part, just as a sound does not belong to any one part of the lute."
-Samyutta Nikaya, from "Buddha Speaks"

"It is important to remember always that the principle of egolessness does not mean that there was an ego in the first place, and the Buddhists did away with it. On the contrary, it means there was never any ego at all to begin with. To realize that is called 'egolessness'."
Sogyal Rinpoche

THE PHILOSOPHY OF EMPTINESS

The Prasangika Madhyamila philosophical school of Buddhism teaches that things are:

1. Dependent on their parts
2. Interrelated, not isolated
3. Merely labelled

To prevent misunderstanding, we must avoid the "two extremes", that is, believing that:

1. Things are permanent, independent of their parts, and independent of our labelling
2. Things do not exist at all (nihilism).

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO ME?

This view has consequences when it is applied to whatever I call "I" and "mine":

I am not isolated from my surroundings and other living beings.
I "create" the world with my own concepts and ideas.
The world is like an illusion: how I see the world depends on my own ideas/projections.
This world is "my" film, "my" projection, I run the show, so I can change my experience of the world.
I can change the world, if I start with my own mind.
I can change, as "I" is only a concept, impermanent and dependent on causes and conditions, just like all phenomena (even emptiness itself).
Although I can understand this intellectually, I don't perceive the world that way until I directly realise emptiness!

"Sometimes, the thought of "I" suddenly arises with great force....The situation is like that of a rock or a tree seen protruding up from the peak of a hill on the horizon: From afar it may be mistaken for a human being. Yet the existence of a human in that rock or tree is only an illusion. On deeper investigation, no human being can be found in any of the individual pieces of the protruding entity, nor in its collection of parts, nor in any other aspect of it. Nothing in the protrusion can be said to be a valid basis for the name "human being."
Likewise, the solid "I" which seems to exist somewhere within the body and mind is merely an imputation. The body and mind are no more represented by the sense of "I" than is the protruding rock represented by the word "human." This "I" cannot be located anywhere within any individual piece of the body and mind, nor is it found within the body and mind as a collection, nor is there a place outside of these that could be considered to be a substantial basis of the object referred to by the name "I"."
The Second Dalai Lama (1475-1542), in Samuel Bercholz's 'Entering the Stream'.

...when we talk about the notion of self in Buddhism, it is important to bear in mind that there are different degrees or types. There are some types of sense of self which are not only to be cultivated but also to be reinforced and enhanced. For instance, in order to have a strong determination to seek Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, one needs a very strong sense of confidence, which is based upon a sense of commitment and courage. This requires a strong sense of self. Unless one has that identity or sense of self, one will not be able to develop the confidence and courage to strongly seek this aim. In addition, the doctrine of Buddha-nature gives us a lot of encouragement and confidence because we realize that there is this potential within us which will allow us to attain the perfection that we are seeking. However, there are different types of sense of self which are rooted in a belief in a permanent, solid, indivisible entity called "self" or "I." There is the belief that there is something very concrete or objective about this entity. This is a false notion of self which must be overcome.
From Healing Anger by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

HOW TO INTEGRATE EMPTINESS INTO DAILY LIFE
By Lama Thubten Yeshe

What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount to the same thing. The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place - maybe Shangrila! - then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.
You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences, of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your mind literally made them up. If you don't understand this then you have very little chance of understanding emptiness.
This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists and philosophers - they have researched into reality too. Physicists look and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness.
If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your worldly problems - but you don't want to understand.
It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial, polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets - one, two, ten, one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind is superstition. We don't understand reality, and the intellectual life that we lead keeps us far from reality.
So we don't accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves with thick blankets and say "this is me". We hide our own reality and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again. In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is so complicated, that doesn't touch reality, that is so difficult to live in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything else.
If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that you think you are, then you would be shocked. "What is this monk saying?" But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality.
In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed. The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.
You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don't believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you resolve your depression.
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.
I will give you a good example. When a western man or woman looks for a girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. "Oh, so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside". They build up a perfect myth. They push and push., the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian they say, "Oh, he looks just like Jesus. She looks just like an angel. So nice, so pure". Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies onto each other.
If she is Hindu, then he would say, "Oh, she looks like Kali, like Mother Earth, like my universal mother"...and if you are Buddhist you fold your hands and say, "Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me the true nature of all things". You understand? "When I am near her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn't move, I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can't believe my energy!" I tell you all this is superstitious interpretation. You think that she is your spiritual friend and all she does is really perfect, even her kaka and pee pee are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps I shouldn't talk like this - I am a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about reality then we have to speak practically, from daily life, about what is earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.
What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster... Be honest. Be honest with yourself.
In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality exists in us now, it is born with us... The essence of your consciousness, your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You should not believe, "I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot solve my problems". Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now. Now!
So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean clear state of mind.
Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate now. So, close your eyes, don't think, "I am meditating", just close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your mind, just be aware. Don't interpret good, bad. Just be like a light - light doesn't think "I like this, I like that". It is just a light. Whatever is in your consciousness, whatever experience, just be aware. That is all.
Whatever your experience at the moment, whatever your colour, whatever appearance is there, just stay aware. Be aware. If it's black energy, then that black energy is clean clear. If it's white energy, just feel that clean clear state. Be aware of whatever is happening. No interpretation ... Don't try to hold onto something or to reject something.
Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983.

HOW TO PRACTISE?

To realise emptiness, externally we need a qualified teacher, and internally we need enough merit (or karma), purification, practice of ethics, keeping our vows and generating single-pointed concentration.
In the Tibetan tradition: first one tries to intellectually understand it, then later the realisation can ripen in the well-prepared field of our mind.

It is advised to analyse the "I" first, and then later one analyses other phenomena in the same way, for example using the "fourfold analysis":

1. Identify object of negation: inherently existent "I"
2. Determine possibilities of how the "I" exists: is it the body, the mind, both or different? (We can say, "I have have a body and a mind", which would indicate that the "I" is something different from the body and the mind, but is that possible?)
3. Is the "I" same as body and/or mind?
4. Is the "I" other than body and mind?

"While you are meditating there is an "I" (representing the Self) which appears to exist from its own side. Right on top of that think, 'the I is merely labelled'. Just meditate on the meaning of the I being merely labelled. I is a name; a name does not exist from its own side, a name is given, imputed by the mind. We can completely agree with that. This I is merely labelled; concentrate on just that. Try to feel that. This automatically eliminates eternalism, the view of a truly existent I."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"The real glory of meditation lies not in any method but in its continual living experience of presence, in its bliss, clarity, peace, and most important of all, complete absence of grasping. The diminishing of grasping in yourself is a sign that you are becoming freer of yourself. And the more you experience this freedom, the clearer the sign that the ego and the hopes and fears that keep it alive are dissolving, and the closer you will come to the infinitely generous "wisdom of egolessness." When you live in the wisdom home, you'll no longer find a barrier between "I" and "you," "this" and "that," "inside" and "outside;" you'll have come, finally, to your true home, the state of non-duality."
Sogyal Rinpoche

"Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field. I don't want to be that. So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal spotlight: seeing things as they really are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere."
Charlotte Joko Beck, in 'Everyday Zen'

"Our exaggerated sense of self and our compulsion to find happiness for this larger-than-life self we have fabricated cause us to ignore, neglect and harm others. Of course, it is our right to love and take care of ourselves, but not at the expense of others. While "As long as I'm alright" is our motto, we have no hesitation in acting with total disregard for others."
From: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path: An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK?
One issue which can create much confusion is about our dualistic mind. Normally, our mind functions on a very dualistic level, which means that we continuously make distinctions, like black and white, good and bad, hard and soft. This level of mind reasons and is the basis for our ability to think logical using concepts. However, the goal of the teachings on emptiness is to lead to a non-dualistic experience (realisation) of emptiness. Different schools may approach this problem differently; for example, the Zen schools tend to emphasise first achieving a non-dualistic state of mind in meditation, the Tibetan schools first emphasise proper dualistic, inferential, logical understanding of the subject, and then meditating on it to achieve the direct realisation.

A question was put to to His Holiness Dalai Lama:

"How does one go from inferential knowledge to nonconceptual knowledge? Since analysis is used to arrive at total inferential knowledge any more analysis would still be inferential."

His Holiness' answer:

"Among meditations there are many different types and in special situations such as certain levels of Highest Yoga Tantra for example, analysis is discouraged. The general mode of procedure on the Buddhist path is that through constant reflection on the knowledge which is initially inferential, through various stages of familiarisation, reflection and contemplation, that knowledge which is initially inferential could eventually become nonconceptual. The engagement of that knowledge in relation to the object becomes subtler and subtler, eventually the knowledge becomes direct and unveiled.
Generally speaking it is very true that there must be a correlation between cause and its effects. Any cause can not give rise to any effect. There must be some causal relationship and connection but that does not mean that every effect must have completely similar causes. Take for instance the omnisicent mind of the Buddha; if we insist that its cause must be completely similar in characteristics with its effect which is omniscient mind, then we will have to maintain that within us we possess the seed for attaining Buddha's omniscient mind and wisdom. Then we must possess within us, even to a slight degree some form of Buddha's omniscient mind which cannot be maintained. As far as non-conceptual awareness or wisdom of Arya beings is concerned, the causes need not be such high states of realisation. Therefore regarding the non-dualistic awareness or wisdom of Arya beings, their causes can be said to exist even within ordinary beings.
If we examine our mind, as long as we remain in an ordinary state of existence, our mind is characterized by dualistic perceptions, dualistic experiences. Within this dualistic experience and perception we must be able to seek some kind of seed which would give rise to non-dual wisdom and awareness. Therefore in the initial stage of knowledge, it is inferential, dualistic and characterized by duality between subject and object. As you train your mind and constantly reflect and cultivate your familiarity with that object, then that subject and object duality will gradually diminish in its intensity. Gradually it will lead you to realization. Your knowledge of the object becomes direct, intuitive and non-conceptual.
When we talk of non-dual awareness in the context of dualistic appearances or dualism, one must bear in mind that there are many different meanings of the term. Dualistic experience could be understood in terms of a multitude of ways: conventional appearance as dualistic appearance, subject and object duality or separateness as being dualistic appearance; or as a generated image through which we can conceive as object, that image can be seen as dualistic appearance. Similarly when we come across the term non-conceptuality we do not have the notion that there is only a single meaning which is universal in every single context. Non-conceptuality will have different meanings in different contexts."

WISDOM AND COMPASSION

With this explanation, you may be tempted to think that emptiness is all about playing with words and doing complicated mind games. However, it is said that realising emptiness directly can solve all our problems, as all our problems are caused by our misunderstanding of the world. As all our communication is based on words which cannot express the ultimate truth, please try to discover the real meaning behind the words for yourself!

Another thing that should be kept in mind is that when one directly experiences emptiness, the mind cannot perceive anything dualistic, meaning it cannot perceive anything of the "normal" world. That does not mean there is no perception at all, but we would perceive the world very different. Perhaps comparable as if everyone would have an eye-defect and see all things as blue. When a medicine becomes available to cure this defect, nothing would look familiar, as the colors all appear to unfamiliar and strange. This is why discussions on emptiness often tend to go astray and may have an "otherworldly" feel to them, from the ultimate view of emptiness, all our normal perception and thinking about reality is flawed. It is said that only a fully realised Buddha can experience emptiness and ordinary existence simultaneously.

Now a few words on the combination of wisdom and compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism, these are considered the two most important aspects of practice. Just like a bird needs two wings to fly; a very compassionate person without wisdom is only a likeable fool, and a person with wisdom and no compassion is like a lonely hermit in an ivory tower... Both will reinforce each other: once we realise how interrelated we all are, it is hard not to feel some level of compassion, and once we feel compassionate to others we realise our interrelatedness.

"Recently I am emphasizing that due to the modern economy, and also due to information and education, the world is now heavily interdependent, interconnected. Under such circumstances, the concept of 'we' and 'they' is gone: harming your neighbor is actually harming yourself. If you do negative things towards your neighbor, that is actually creating your own suffering. And helping them, showing concern about others' welfare -- actually these are the major factors of your own happiness. If you want a community full of joy, full of friendship, you should create that possibility. If you remain negative, and meantime want more smiles and friendship from your neighbors, that's illogical. If you want a more friendly neighbor, you must create the atmosphere. They they will respond."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama (from an interview in the November issue of the Shambala Sun)

"The one thing to be attained is essentially void and compassionate. Let me explain.
The realisation of voidness is the absolute spirit of enlightenment; it is seeing that all things are unborn.
Compassion is the relative spirit of enlightenment; it is reaching out in love to all beings who have yet to realise that they are unborn.
Those who follow the Mahayana path should develop these two forms of the spirit of enlightenment."
Drom Tonpa

"The supreme goal of the teachings is the emptiness whose nature is compassion."
Atisha

"Know emptiness, be compassionate."
Milarepa

Samadhi Raja Sutra

Know all things to be like this:
A mirage, a cloud castle,
A dream, an apparition,
Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

Know all things to be like this:
As the moon in a bright sky
In some clear lake reflected,
Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

Know all things to be like this:
As an echo that derives
From music, sounds, and weeping,
Yet in that echo is no melody.

Know all things to be like this:
As a magician makes illusions
Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,
Nothing is as it appears.
The Buddha

Just for fun:

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
Carl Gustav Jung

Says the lama to his pupil: "Do you understand that you don't really exist?"
Upon which the pupil replies: "Whom are you telling that?"

Anyone who isn't confused, really doesn't understand the situation.
Edward R. Murrow

It is not wise to be wiser than necessary.
Philippe Quinault

Nothing is a problem
Bill Austin

I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselves is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot.
Ambrose Bierce


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