What I love about the concept and the practice of Emptiness and the Heart Sutra is that it seems to bridge the Buddhist no-self & interdependence with the Advaitist non-dual & interconnectedness.
In The Heart Suttra it’s says that form is empty, and emptiness is form. What exactly does it mean, and – most importantly – how does this relate to our daily lives?
The Dharma teaches that we hardly ever see things as they are, and the goal and the practice of Vipassana meditation is to see things as they are. How can we see things as they are?
We see the emptiness in form when we look at material objects and see their pure nature, see them as colure, texture, event, devoid of our recognition (memory process), perceptions, evaluations, concepts, judgments and attachments, devoid of papanca. When we see things in their original state, without personal interpretation, without personal point of reference, when we see the sameness in all things – we experience that form is empty. Also when we see Seeing as a spontaneous process that happens on its own the moment we open our eyes. In the same way Being happens, spontaneously, effortlessly, devoid of mental construction.
When we realize that “because this is – that is, and because that is – this is”, the absolute mutual dependence of all phenomena, that the cause affects the effect and the effect equally affects the cause, that nothing exists by itself, independent from other events and phenomenon – not a blade of grass, not the stars and not the self – we glimpse the emptiness.
The same way with mental and emotional events:
We see the empty nature of thoughts when we do not fight the discursive mind but see thoughts clearly for what they are – swirling randomly, like a cloud of bees, around a totem pole called “I”; There’s emptiness when we experience this totem pole to be hollow.
We see the empty nature of desire when we have fulfilled our desires to our hearts’ content and still we are not content.
To do just what we do when we do it – to walk when we walk, to eat when we eat, etc – is to live in emptiness.
There’s emptiness when we see self arising, see if for what it is and “let it be” without fighting it, understanding that the struggle to eliminate the self is in itself an expression of self.
Practicing emptiness make us take ourselves more lightly. We don’t identify so tightly with, and take more lightly, our roles and identifications, our emotional and psychological inner dramas and our opinions and beliefs; we take more lightly our fears and hopes, our habits and conditionings, our thoughts and our addition to thought, and even our survival struggle and fear of death.
And what does it mean: Emptiness is form?
When we cling to emptiness as a concept, we form another mental construction. We make it solidified as a “thing”, as “the truth”. We fall into the trap of a point of reference. When we see the “emptiness” in things, it’s a form again. We still hold a dualistic view: there’s the thing, its quality (emptiness), and the viewer. But things are just the way they are, devoid of all assigned qualities – including emptiness.
When we do not hold on to emptiness as a “thing” that “we” have realized (object-subject division) – then there is just phenomena arising, changing and passing, an ever unfolding process, so intimately connected to everything that had been before it and everything that is to come. Then there is no form and no emptiness.
So we can stop contemplating “emptiness” as a thing, and just live our lives. And continue to practice seeing things as they are.