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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
44 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2017 talking about whatever is appearing. When we start to experience a sense of relaxation and openness, that’s the emptiness of it. The flip side of the equa- tion, “emptiness is form,” is difficult to understand, but we can start to see how from emptiness—mean- ing openness and energy—things manifest. That’s emptiness manifesting as appearance. It’s our own being, our awareness manifesting as something that’s part of our experience so we can come into relationship with it. We don’t have to fear it. DAIJAKu KINST: There’s a spirit of generosity and grat- itude in becoming intimate with form-emptiness by doing the practice and bringing oneself fully to the moment. This whole great earth arising, each blade of grass, each person—each form is the dynamic activity of the Buddha. It’s important to come back to experience and allow that intimacy of realization to happen within the practice. Concepts are helpful guides—to a point. When we engage in the practice, we realize how form and emptiness are already reconciled. BuDDhADhARMA: Guy, how does the Theravada work with this relationship between appearance and emptiness? Guy ARMSTRONG: I think the basic understanding is very similar to the Tibetan—the key is looking directly at the nature of our own experience, the senses and sense objects. Through meditation we examine the direct experience of sensations and the body—sights, sounds, smells, taste, touch—and objects of mind like thoughts and emotions, all of which are included in the five aggregates. We see their insubstantial nature and that they’re com- ing and going so quickly that there’s not really an object there that we can hold on to in the first place. Learning to see the emptiness of appearances teaches us not to grasp at changing phenomena. When we study emptiness of self, we see that when the sense of “I” arises, that’s when we’ve taken hold of something. So we start to recognize that the sense of self arises when we take hold of some aspect of our experience; we discover, “Oh! Maybe if I don’t take hold of anything, the sense of self doesn’t have to come up.” We see how the sense of self causes disturbance and the absence of self brings calm and ease. Then, as we explore the insubstantial nature of sense experience, we see there’s nothing to grasp in the first place, which further encourages us to abide without taking hold of anything in our experience. That’s what leads to freedom—the openness of heart and dawning of wisdom. ARI GOLDFIELD: When we feel intimate with our expe- rience, we’re experiencing emptiness. It’s not a light- switch moment, something that we get all of a sud- den, but rather a process that unfolds in the feeling of intimacy and closeness when we’re not grasping or fixating, when we’re just allowing ourselves and our experience to manifest with a sense of joy and wonder. Even when our experience is painful, we still can connect with love, with “This is my experi- ence, my uniqueness” and feel a sense of wonder about it. That, to me, is the beginning of experienc- ing emptiness. BuDDhADhARMA: In some traditions, we hear about the union of wisdom and emptiness. Could you say something about that relationship? ARI GOLDFIELD: Essentially, wisdom is that we don’t throw away any part of our experience. Whatever it is, there’s something that can be nourishing, that can help our progress on the path. So we try to stay open to whatever our experience is and what mean- ing it might have for us. The nature of confusion, too, is wisdom—the emptiness teachings allow us to stand in our experience and be a bit less fearful of it; we have a little less need to push it away. Because we have the sense that there’s nothing that can ulti- mately do us harm, we can be with it and have a chance to discover its wisdom. Guy ARMSTRONG: I sometimes like to think about emptiness as a meditative state, not necessarily in terms of formal meditation but as a place of The question is not whether something exists but how things exist. —Daijaku Kinst