Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On Emptiness and God

[Form is Emptiness]

This is a small quote from another article in the newest Buddhadharma, "Into the Depths of Emptiness," by Chan Master Sheng Yen.
People often think that enlightenment is an experience whereby we can feel a certain thing, or discover exactly what this "thing," enlightenment, is. This is an incorrect view, because enlightenment, or "seeing the nature," is an experience of emptiness. It is the experience of phenomena as being empty an insubstantial.

Most Eastern and Western philosophies and religions believe in a highest, or ultimate, reality to which they give names such as "oneness" or "God." Actually, we enter this oneness when we experience unified mind in meditation. In the West, it may be called oneness, but according to the Chan dharma, we need to put down this unified mind, to let go of it. We do not want to think of this unified mind as the highest, or ultimate, truth.

But how do we get to what is the highest truth? We have to drop everything, and then we will come to the point of formlessness, or nonattachment to all forms. Forms are products of causes and conditions. As such they are changing and nonsubstantial. They still exist; it is just that the enlightened mind does not abide in them.

From this view, any Western notion of God is still a form that must be dropped to get to the emptiness that is enlightened mind. This feels correct to me, even though I have never even had a glimpse of what it might feel like.

I have been sloppy in my thinking in the past. I have equated God with Kosmos with enlightenment. The first part might be correct (or not), but enlightenment is the absence of all forms, so even any notion of God is short of the truth. I think many others have made this same equation.

I've read other authors talking about enlightenment as formless emptiness, but I somehow never made sense of it in the way that Master Sheng Yen's article makes clear. Having even a slight intuitive sense of it helps me to understand it better.

What do the rest of you think about Master Yen's position?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

No comments: