Practical Emptiness

Arya Nagarjuna said: “The view of emptiness corrects all views.” This is eminently practical advice —skilful means— even though most persons consider it to be ‘deep philosophy’. 

Whenever afflicted emotions arise, contemplating their emptiness is the most effective remedy. Specific antidotes (impurity vs. attachment, positive qualities vs. aversion, interdependence vs. indifference) can be applied, and they do help, but they are temporary, and need to be applied repeatedly, because the afflicted emotions have been suppressed, rather than severed from the root. 

However, if we can analyze afflictions directly and perceive their emptiness —their lack of substance, their impermanence, and their absolute dependence on our own minds— then they self-liberate.  

When an afflicted emotion first arises, we need to gain some emotional distance before we are able to practice analytical meditation, and for this purpose we can apply an antidote: 

  • If we feel attachment to an object (a person, thing, or situation), we contemplate its impurity. “Impurity” means that this object is not purely (only) beneficial or pleasant. It has faults, and is capable of generating suffering. 
  • If we feel aversion for an object, we contemplate its good qualities. Even if we cannot identify any obvious positive qualities, at the very least it provides us with an opportunity to cultivate patience and detachment. 
  • If we feel indifference toward an object, we contemplate how we are related to —and affected by— this person, thing, or situation. 

We then proceed to contemplate the emptiness of the object and the emotion; that is, the fact that it is not substantial, permanent, and independent of our mental concepts and elaborations. 

First we identify clearly the object of refutation (the instance of the emotion in relation to a specific person, thing, or situation), and then proceed to ask ourselves: 

  • Is this perception permanent? 
  • Does it exist “from its own side”? 
  • Is it external, or an internal mental representation? 
  • Is it independent of these internal mental representations? 

In this way, the afflicted emotion self-liberates; it dissipates spontaneously.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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