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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
summer 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 51 mentality—feeling like we have to go it alone with a harsh, judging, and aggressive mind—makes dealing with feelings of being alone and afraid that much worse. So sangha, the presence of teachers and spiritual friends who can help undo the obstacles, is extremely important. ARI GOLDFIELD: I would say, if you’re feeling stuck in your exploration of emptiness or you find it diffi- cult, good for you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re in the right place. You’re just where you should be, and wherever that place feels hard and difficult, give yourself love right in that space. That loving relationship toward ourselves is so important with these teachings. There’s a story of Trungpa Rinpoche going to his teacher, Shechen Kongtrul, when he was young and doubting himself and say- ing, “I’m not really a tulku, you know. There’s been a mistake. I just don’t get it.” His teacher replied, “Don’t you know that I love you?” Coming back to that love and appreciation of ourselves, hopefully in a community of practitioners along with our spiri- tual guide, is the warmth that melts whatever sense of isolation or stuckness we might be experiencing. BuDDhADhARMA: What have these teachings meant to you personally? How have they impacted your life? ARI GOLDFIELD: Hearing this question brings tears to my eyes. It brings up memories of the time I spent with my own teacher, that deep sense of love. Emp- tiness is that place where we don’t feel separated, where we don’t feel barriers within ourselves or between ourselves and others. It’s joy and broken- heartedness all at the same time, and that’s just right. Guy ARMSTRONG: My first response is that they have brought a much greater sense of freedom to my heart and mind. I experience greater ease in being in the world, being with my own inner experience, and being with others. I think it’s important to cre- ate and sustain this sense of connection. It’s easy to think meditation on emptiness could take one in the direction of nihilism, to a cold and vacant place, but it’s important to note that in the traditions we’re all coming from, there’s a constant emphasis on bringing forth heart qualities. In the Insight tradi- tion, that’s done through the formal practice of loving-kindness, from the beginning of one’s prac- tice all the way through. I think this is important for practitioners to think about. We have a saying in our tradition that insight reveals emptiness and loving-kindness fills it with warmth. So as we open up this great space, loving-kindness or compassion that has been developed all along is already there and fills the space, connects us to others, and makes life very rich. DAIJAKu KINST: I don’t separate these teachings from the whole lineage that I’ve received from my teach- ers—they’re so central. I feel great gratitude for the opportunity to live a life of vow dedicated to the practice of the Way. If I were going to character- ize it, I would say emptiness is a fierce and loving teacher, one that is demanding and also gives every- thing that’s needed in every moment. My vow is to have the teachings of emptiness and the Soto Zen way guide everything I do—my interactions with my wife, with my students, all those I encounter in my day from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night. What can we have but gratitude for such a loving teacher? Emptiness is that place where we don’t feel barriers. It’s joy and brokenheartedness all at the same time, and that’s just right. —Ari Goldfield