We owe a great deal to the original Buddha (as well, of course, to Jesus, saints, and great sages), for he imparted much-needed wisdom and divine teachings to humanity. In this article, were going to explore one of the terms that he used. Buddha described our essential nature (true Self) as emptiness. For some beings, that term has led to a great degree of confusion regarding our true nature; for others, who interpreted the term to mean total non-existence, it has led to a great deal of angst. The truth is that although we don’t exist (as an object, which is the current predominant view); it’s also true that we do exist as no-thing-ness.
For persons who (due to the inherent conditioning of this realm) are accustomed to assuming that the sum of their identity is only name and form, Buddha’s teachings will be difficult–if not impossible–to understand. What he was attempting to relate is that we’re not who we think ourselves to be. Thinking and the mind obviously deal with objects, or things of the apparent material world. In this case, we’re going to classify sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts as subtle “things” because we can sense the knowing of them. Through the introspecitve question “Who Am I?” we may delve into the nature of That which knows these objects.
A key that may help to unlock our understanding of Buddha’s teachings is found in a short but rich quote from I Am That, a book that is considered a spiritual classic. During talks with seekers, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (a sage from Bombay who realized his true nature at the age of thirty-four) stated the following: “Before the mind—I Am. ‘I Am’ is not a thought in the mind. The mind happens to me, I do not happen to the mind.” He was stating that the real “You” comes first–prior to the mind that renders our body-mind and the world through the power of Maya (illusion). Let’s add to this understanding by a passage from Exodus 3:14: “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.” In both cases, we’re being informed that our true nature–“I Am”–exists as “no-thing” before we add descriptions of any kind, such as “I am…Bob or Betty (insert last name here). A third passage, attributed to Jesus, from The Gospel of Thomas (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures) may also be of help: Jesus said, “If the flesh came into being because of the spirit, it is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a marvel of marvel. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth come to dwell in this poverty.” In this passage, does it seem to you (as it does to me) that Jesus is amazed that persons could believe that the body-mind could possibly give rise to consciousness? At this point, we’re going to cut away to our roving reporters, Batman and Robin, who are on assignment for this article:
Robin (displaying excited smugness): “Golly gee-whiz, Batman, did you hear what they’re trying to tell us about consciousness? Hah, what baloney! That my consciousness–“i”–doesn’t arise in the head! By the way, I like what you’ve done with your cape.”
Batman (showing calm authority, hand to chin): “Thanks about the cape–thought it would add a little pizzazz. Now, about Consciousness, hmm, I thought you knew that the body-mind and the world arise in–and are known by–Consciousness.”
Robin (incredulous): “But that can’t be! My body feels so solid. It–and matter–has to come first!”
Batman (with fatherly tone): “You know, Robin, there’s a library in the Batcave. Feel free to use it anytime–a person could learn a lot. About your body-mind, it’s actually a function, not an entity. Buddha informed us that nothing has existence independent of the mind. Your body is perception–so is the world. This environment is only relatively real; everything’s in motion. The only absolute is Consciousness, aka God.
Robin (dejected, scuffing his shoes against the floor): “Who’d a thunk it? I didn’t know.”
Batman (putting a hand to Robin’s shoulder): “It’s okay, little buddy. Now you do.”
(Thank you, Batman and Robin, for sharing your insights. Now, back to the article:)
The emptiness that Buddha was attempting to relate to students is actually the rich fullness of our true Being. If you’ll allot a few minutes each day for meditation, you can directly realize that your mind and your body appear to you, true Self. Thus, you are Spirit, aka Consciousness. You’re a spiritual child of God, our Creator, having an apparent human existence in the dream called “life on Earth.” Such is the Waking State. This will be easier to understand if you search the internet and discover more about the nature of matter (spoiler: It’s not as solid as you’ve assumed). Almost all persons assume that matter is the foundation of “reality.” it’s not. Spirit is the foundation of our Being, now and forever.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2021 – R. Arthur Russell
P.S. Please share this article if you enjoyed it. If you’d like to view my latest book (This Taste of Flesh and Bones–released September 8, 2020), press here. May it help you in your spiritual journey. 🙏🙏
3 thoughts on “Emptiness Ain’t Empty”
I agree. Everyone thinks of emptiness as being devoid of anything…yet it exists. What is often missed is that emptiness/nothing/the void, is that in which everything, (objective,) exists. Without emptiness there would be no anything. It defines the boundaries of our objective relationship with the world, even ourselves.
We can speak of the Primordial Ground as the potentiality of all objective things, but it is simpler to consider it the never changing canvas upon which all things are painted.
Sorry to ramble. – Stephen.
Hi Stephen. Thanks VERY much for sharing your insights with regard to this subject. I didn’t think of it as rambling at all; it was truly a pleasure to read!