Excerpts About Emptiness
Essence with the Elixir of Enlightenment, p. 116 • discuss »
The Void, p. 118 • discuss »
The Void, p. 119 • discuss »
Inner Journey Home, p. 544 • discuss »
Facets of Unity, p. 251 • discuss »
Diamond Heart Book V, p. 8 • discuss »
What is that emptiness? It is a way of experiencing the lack of connection to our true nature. In our natural condition, when we are connected we are open and available to the presence of Being and the pure openness of the void, the two sides of our true nature. The void side of true nature is not lacking in any way. It is the simple, clear purity of openness itself, without which true selfless love is not possible. From the inherent potential in this openness can arise a love that is a giving, loving fullness. However, when the presence of our nature is missing and we feel the disconnection, we feel emptiness. This emptiness is not spacious, open, clear, and bright. No, this is a deficient emptiness, which is more a dull, murky darkness accompanied by the specific sense of lack. “I don’t have love; I don’t have sufficiency; something is missing . . .” This territory is difficult for us because we sense that if we really feel the desire and need, it will take us into that deficient emptiness—and it can! The two go hand in hand: The need and the emptiness are two sides of the same thing. So we desire something to fill the emptiness, and we become focused on having to get something that will do that. But if we actually feel the need and desire, and we follow them to the underlying energetic presence, we find that it is much more than we originally felt it to be. Just as it is with love, following our feelings invites the emptiness to open up, and this emptiness then can become the conduit for change because it is the beginning of the appearance of the spaciousness of our true nature.
The Power of Divine Eros, p. 79 • discuss »
The inherent awareness and insight of this condition of nondoing discerns when there is doing. When we see the doing happening, we can recognize the attitude and assumptions that make it happen. This insight helps us to disengage from that activity by revealing what is responsible for the doing. We might see that a certain self-identification or a fear of aloneness or a resistance against emptiness underlies our basic experience of doing. But we don’t only see what our particular issues and obstructions are. The discerning intelligence, in an effortless way, also fills the condition of samadhi with clear understanding and recognition of the condition of samadhi itself. We can’t help but see the characteristics of whatever presence or awareness or realization is happening.
Runaway Realization, p. 134 • discuss »
In our work, as in some other teachings, thoroughly understanding the self in its values, structures, and dynamics is not separate from thoroughly understanding our true nature—the purity at the heart of Living Being. As we explore our true nature in its qualities and dimensions, we find that we also gain greater freedom from the self and the conventional view. The more we understand the nature and dimensions of Being, particularly the emptiness of Being, the more we see through the view of the conventional self. The greatest challenge to our sense of self comes from experiencing and understanding the emptiness of true nature, the emptiness of experience. That is why in exploring the self, we can’t help but encounter and work with emptiness, of one kind or another, as we have throughout this path.
Runaway Realization, p. 140 • discuss »
We can think of emptiness in two ways—emptiness of other and emptiness of self—each of which has many degrees. In order for anything to be liberated, including the individual consciousness, it must be empty both of other and of self. By “other” I don’t mean other people, but anything that is extrinsic to our basic nature. For the individual consciousness to be empty of other means for it not to be patterned by extrinsic factors, factors that are not inherent to it. So when we are limited or defined by elements that are not fundamental to us, not inherent, not ontologically primordial, then we are not empty of other. Emptiness of self is a matter of recognizing that apart from freedom from other, the individual self, the individual soul, does not have its own ultimate existence. So when I say that realizing human freedom requires a thoroughgoing understanding of the self, I mean on both of these levels. We need to investigate deeply both emptiness of other and emptiness of self. These two kinds of emptiness are connected and, as we will see, they can merge at some point.
Runaway Realization, p. 140 • discuss »
We begin to see that what we take ourselves to be is composed of constructed images and concepts that are remembered and organized. Over time, these accumulated constructs become lenses through which we view ourselves and reality. When we see through and understand these constructs, we recognize that they are not true and not real. We become empty of them and also can recognize their inherent emptiness. In other words, as we become free from the accumulated constructs, they reveal their emptiness; they reveal that they are empty of reality. Taken far enough, the emptiness of other begins to reveal the emptiness of self—that we are empty not only of the contents of self, but also of what we have taken to be the very nature of self. As we recognize that our usual sense of self is an image that we are holding on to, we see that it doesn’t exist in a real way. Our usual sense of self is an ephemeral memory, an illusory concept of self. Seeing through our various images of self often reveals the spaciousness and emptiness of true nature. The spaciousness that arises as we investigate the self has many degrees and many kinds, including ones that are clear and light and others that are deep and black.
Runaway Realization, p. 142 • discuss »
Whereas the emptiness of other leads to the disappearance of the other—the evaporation of the constructs, the beliefs, and the ideas that are not intrinsic to the self—the emptiness of self does not lead to the disappearance of the individual soul. Rather, we recognize that the individual consciousness doesn’t exist in the way that we usually think it does. Its Beingness is totally wedded to its nonbeingness. Furthermore, it becomes clear that emptiness of self is true not only about the individual self, but also about the perceptions of the individual self. In other words, it is not only the individual self that is empty. Nonbeingness is fundamental to the truth of the individual self and also to the truth of all that it perceives. So everything that we perceive can be liberated as it becomes empty of other and empty of self. I’ve been using the individual soul as an example of how we can understand emptiness of other and emptiness of self, but these kinds of emptiness are also true of everything else.
Runaway Realization, p. 144 • discuss »
But fully understanding emptiness reveals not only that everything, including the individual soul, is a manifestation of Being, but also that it is simultaneously empty of self, which means it doesn’t have the kind of existence that we ordinarily attribute to it. That is to say, Being as a whole is always in complete yab-yum with nonbeing, complete eternal and inseparable embrace with its partner. When we see this, we are recognizing the emptiness of self. When we perceive that everything is empty of self, then the beingness recognizes that the world is not only a manifestation of Being, but also a manifestation of emptiness. We discover that in fact Being is the radiance of emptiness, a radiance that has variegated colors and multifaceted forms that we experience as the world and all the content of our experience. Understanding emptiness through the thorough investigation of the self liberates us both from our accumulated constructs and from our belief in existence. The concept of existence is the foundation for the scaffolding of the self—it underlies and supports all of our accumulated ideas and impressions. So by seeing the emptiness of self, by seeing Being free from the idea of existence, we pull the rug out from under all of our constructs. Recognizing the emptiness of self makes it more difficult to continue the process of construction and the process of believing in the constructions.
Runaway Realization, p. 145 • discuss »
At some point, we can recognize that emptiness offers not only freedom from constructs based on memory and concepts, but also freedom from nonconceptual structures. Our sense of self includes structures that are not constructed through conceptualizations, because they developed before we were able to know or to think. The experience of emptiness frees us from conceptual constructs and also from nonconceptual impressions, which are not constructed by the mind but are nevertheless imprinted onto the consciousness. So the consciousness mistakes these nonconceptual impressions as important features of reality and holds on to them as if they are what it is. Understanding these preverbal and nonconceptual structures liberates us more deeply from the sense of self and also moves our realization to deeper and more subtle levels. All of these kinds of constructs and impressions arise in the process of discovering the emptiness of other. The emptiness of self reveals a deeper understanding of spaciousness, one which underlies experience in general. In other words, spaciousness unfolds from one kind to another until it becomes the emptiness of self, which is a manifestation of the other side of Being, also known as nonbeing. The spaciousness becomes so empty and so open that it is no longer spaciousness—it is simply nothing. So knowing the emptiness of self means recognizing not only that the constructs of the individual consciousness are not reality, but also that the individual consciousness itself does not exist.
Runaway Realization, p. 143 • discuss »
A question may arise here about the relation of pure consciousness to awareness, and whether the ultimate truth of the self is emptiness, as Buddhism teaches. This is a matter of subtlety in the experience of the presence of consciousness. Emptiness is the ultimate truth of the soul not in the sense that a soul does not appear to awareness, but that her mode of existence is beyond our normal concept and feeling of existence. This mode is called emptiness, and feels like spacious absence of any substance. Yet this emptiness is also inseparable from a transparent clarity—as formulated by Buddhist schools—both constituting a unity that characterizes both soul and universe. When we experience the coemergence of emptiness and clarity we recognize it as pure awareness, and feel it phenomenologically as presence. Awareness is then consciousness, but consciousness experienced inseparable from emptiness. Therefore, we are at this point discussing consciousness and not awareness, not because we do not think that the ground of the soul is awareness, but because to discuss awareness accurately we need to first understand emptiness.
Inner Journey Home, p. 596 • discuss »