An Advanced View on Meditations on Emptiness
An earlier post on the Dalai Lama’s book, Meditations on the Nature of Mind, ended with suggested meditations (my own personal contemplation’s) about emptiness. I will first review those contemplations. Contemplate deeply on what emptiness means personally to you. Contemplate about a time when you received a glimpse of personal emptiness. Contemplate on your experience to see if it was positive, neutral, of negative (happiness, neutral or suffering). Why do you think you experienced it the way you did? Contemplate on ways you may be able to use the experience of emptiness to reduce personal suffering and increase personal happiness. Please do these four contemplations one after the other before you attempt to contemplate of what follows here. I created these suggested contemplations after my own long meditation practices on emptiness. Keep in mind that Lord Marpa noted a very long time ago that only fools think emptiness is the same as nihilism. It is not nihilism. Also remember that when your mind shifts away from the object of your contemplation (emptiness) gently return attention back to the object, AND each time try to go deeper into concentration on your contemplation.
What follows here is a compilation of various insights about meditation on The Middle Way and on emptiness. Some come from The Dalai Lama; some come from T’song-kha-pa; some come from Nargarjuna; some come from Chandrakirti; and, some very far less exquisite ideas come from me. My effort here is to make the wisdom of the wisdom leaders more pragmatic and practical for us today, in our world as it is now. A key concept in the process of becoming enlightened is that we do it more for the sake of others. Thus, the bodhisattva/bodhichitta compassionate action ideals are seriously pursued. Our practice is based on the desired unification of two important bodies: Dharma and Form. The Dharma refers to the body of emptiness and other ultimate realities, and the form refers to the body of Buddha. Pursuit of Buddhist Dharma and the experience of emptiness connect us to the pure path of liberation. Wisdom about no-self, impermanence, dependent origination, karma, causes and effects, interconnectedness, conventional vs ultimate truth, and ultimate emptiness of intrinsic existence of all phenomena – all lead the way to liberation and enlightenment. They all lead us from conceptual knowing to experiential knowing, and from the Samara world of conditioned sense pleasures and suffering to wisdom. In many respects to practice a wisdom-informed life IS to move along the path, The Middle Way to complete realization. In the final analysis of emptiness, there lies a clear implication that there is no such reality as an object becoming established on its own. Therefore, there can be no-self nature, thus no-self. What appears to be concrete in nature is actually made up of totally dependent arisings. One may experience a contradiction here; if we are the Buddha already, does it matter if it is just emptiness? The answer to this inquiry is far more complex than it sounds. Only our thoughts and our minds perceive the concrete self-phenomena as existing in and of their own. The correct view of it all suggests that there is no thought or cognition about Dharma (even if we study it); it is more about post-perceptual experiences and understanding via pure wisdom experiences. T’song-kha-pa noted that in the “profound Middle Way” there is NO independent, intrinsic, concrete self or things. It is pure wisdom of experiential awareness.
Now on to the contemplation practices.
Again, I am creating these on my own as means to experience some glimpse of emptiness in meditation.
- 1) Contemplate about your own compassionate actions for the benefit of others. When you feel/experience being deep enough into contemplation, add the experience of emptiness to this process. Be mindfully aware of what happens in the experience?
- 2) Contemplate deeply in the ultimate wisdom that there is no intrinsic existence in any phenomena, including your own contemplation right now. What happens in your experience?
- 3) Contemplate deeply about how your own life is conditioned via sense pleasures and avoiding suffering. Go even deeper, and contemplate the factors of non-existence (emptiness) in this process. What happens to your experience at this point?
- 4) Contemplate deeply on the experience of experiential awareness now. Continue until you are experiencing just experiencing without conceptual or cognitive awareness. Now what happens to your experience?
- 5) Lastly, contemplate deeply on what experiential insights may have been found via your four experiential contemplations. Shift gently to cognition now, and note what the insights are.
Now take a few deep, slow, calm breaths and bring your experiential self back into awareness. Be aware! Move your body slightly before you attempt to stand up. Think about what you might wish to share with others.
For more information refer to The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). (2009). The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 119-147. Also refer to The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso and others). (2011). Meditation on the Nature of Mind. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 126-139.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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