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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
48 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2017 level beneath projecting names and judgments, connecting with what’s known as the subtle body, which is where our consciousness and physical body meet in the energy of experience. So we have that aspect of formal sitting, and then, as Milarepa said, “Going, wandering, sleeping, resting, I look at mind. This is virtuous practice without sessions or breaks.” It’s important to understand that medita- tion is not limited to the cushion. Bringing the open- ness of those glimpses we experience on the cushion into our daily life is the practice of skillful method. It also includes singing, dancing, prayer, work, or whatever else we’re doing. The key is to be open to how, in this moment, we can be mindful and open to something beyond our own fixed notions of what we think any given situation is. BuDDhADhARMA: What can the experience of empti- ness be compared to? What might an analogy be? DAIJAKu KINST: Analogies are going to fall flat here. We can use embodied descriptions, perhaps. If you describe to somebody else the taste of an orange and they have never tasted an orange, you might be able to approximate it, but tasting the orange one- self is really the only way to know. When we talk about analogies, we’re talking about helping people get in the general vicinity so they may be encour- aged to actually taste the truth of the Tathagata’s words themselves. I say, just do it, do the practice. The problem with analogies is it’s so easy for people to come up with ideas and say, well, I’ve got it. ARI GOLDFIELD: I like the analogy of tasting chocolate. I really love the experience of tasting good choco- late! The experience includes our sense of body and well-being as well as the ineffability of it. Life can be so precarious, and yet we have these opportuni- ties to ground ourselves and open to the wonder of experience in even the smallest things. BuDDhADhARMA: Your teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, teaches on the dreamlike nature of reality. And emptiness is sometimes compared to the expe- rience of a dream. Does that resonate for you? ARI GOLDFIELD: The danger of the dream analogy is misunderstanding or misusing it to denigrate, demean, or push away our experience. That’s a dan- ger of nihilism, pushing something away because we say it’s empty, a dream, or an illusion. The point of the dream analogy is that there’s a magical, wondrous quality to life, as when we know we’re dreaming and there’s a sense that anything can hap- pen. Things might look good, they might look bad; it might be a good dream, it might be a nightmare, but dreams have a multiplicity of possible mean- ings. We might have a dream that really scares us, but then we reflect on it and have a completely dif- ferent relationship with it. We might find a message in it. When we relate to our life in that way, ulti- mately there’s nothing to fear. We can open to it and be enthusiastic about it. Guy ARMSTRONG: We Theravadans tend to be a little more prosaic, so I’ll just offer some words from people who have described their meditation experi- ence to me. The most common descriptions I hear are: relaxed, open, spacious, still, restful, grounded, free. Once we have experienced emptiness, it gives us an indication of the direction of the path, which is really to relax, trust, and let go. John Lennon said, “There’s nothing to get hung about”—that kind of sums it up. BuDDhADhARMA: Beyond formal practice, how does an understanding of shunyata inform our everyday lives? For example, how might it impact being mar- ried or relating to friends? DAIJAKu KINST: One of the central elements of expe- riencing emptiness is unseating the self as the center of the universe—and, in fact, unseating humanity from the center of the universe. It’s having a proper relationship with reality. That’s the diminishment of, or at least a momentary dissolution of, self-cen- teredness. If we can root ourselves in the experience of emptiness, then self-centeredness and clawing ambition diminish. We can allow others to be them- selves, knowing that ultimately there’s no differ- ence between us and all reality. This is particularly important as we address the toxic delusions that underlie the injustices associated with race, gender, sex, and other dimensions of our humanity that are so prevalent in our society. The teachings of emptiness teach us to respect and value the uniqueness and particularity, to understand the otherness of another as well as how profoundly interrelated we are. The more we align with ourselves, the less we create problems for ourselves and others and can be awakened by all the dimensions of our life instead of seeing them as obstacles.