a forest of emptiness

May 29th, 2013



Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, doing deep prajna paramita,
Clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions,
Thus completely relieving misfortune and pain.

Heart Sutra

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. This single phrase is the summation of the Buddhist path, the culminating insight of the Way. But having uttered it, I’ve already strayed from it. Having read it, you’ve missed it, because now your mind is running amok trying to understand it, and here I am trying to chase after you. So let’s come back together in one big, empty place, and start over.

What looks solid is not solid; what has no shape comes in all shapes. In a physical sense, bamboo is strong because it is hollow. It is supple and resilient; it bends without breaking. It supports incredible weight. It grows unimpeded by any known barrier, spreading outward everywhere. This is true of you, too. Where do you think you begin and end? Your feet? Your head? Your skin? Your eyes, nose, mouth, ears? Your thoughts, memory, feelings? The way we limit ourselves imposes a bunker mentality and defies scientific reality.

It helps to remember what you took on faith in fourth grade science. All matter is composed of atoms. Atoms are mostly empty space. By definition you can’t see emptiness, but you can be it. Now, to live and let live in emptiness. That’s the secret to paradise.

First, be quiet. Give away your ideas, self-certainty, judgments, and opinions. Let go of defenses and offenses. Face your critics. They will always outnumber you.

Lose all wars. All wars are lost to begin with. Abandon your authority and entitlements. Release your self-image: status, power, whatever you think gives you clout. It doesn’t, not really. That’s a lie you’ve never believed.

Give up your seat. Be what you are: unguarded, unprepared, unequipped and surrounded on all sides. Alone, you are a victim of no one and nothing.

What appears in front of you is your liberation. That is, unless you judge it. Then you imprison yourself again.

Now that you are free, see where you are. Observe what is needed. Do good quietly. If it’s not done quietly, it’s not good.

Start over. Always start over.

Excerpted from the upcoming book Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

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  1. Start over. Be still. Just sit. Let go. Eight years after finding your words, I am finally understanding these simple ones. (I didn’t say the easy ones 🙂

    Comment by shannon esposito — May 29, 2013 @ 7:40 am

  2. Sounds great! I am excited for this book.

    Comment by Daniel Scharpenburg — May 29, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  3. With Shannon… Totally. It’s taken a while but I’m beginning to understand your words more… Looking forward to your new book

    Comment by Jen Heimert — May 29, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  4. You always bring me to the still point, the place of no understanding, where all that is simple and uncomplicated becomes vital and essential. I just ordered two of the books you recommended on your last post, as as I wait for yours. Thank you for so much light!

    Comment by Daisy Marshall — May 29, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

  5. Sheesh. Really fine work on the Heart Sutra.

    Comment by Ray Watkins — May 30, 2013 @ 3:05 am

  6. Always yes to you, and thank you!

    Comment by Anissa — May 30, 2013 @ 5:23 am

  7. The more I ruminate on this, the better it gets. Red Pine will be jealous. (Or maybe buy you some chocolates and a long stem rose.)

    Comment by Ray Watkins — May 30, 2013 @ 8:03 am

  8. Replacing one set of programs for another, complete with various arbitrary conditions, such as being “unguarded, unprepared, unequipped and surrounded”, etc. is just adding more baggage, more idealism, and does not amount to true freedom. All one is doing is exchanging software. Becoming spontaneous and free of all conditional programs is another matter altogether.

    Comment by Bob — May 30, 2013 @ 8:28 am

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