ashtanga wrote:Hi all,
Cacn someone explain how Theravadin meditation practices - following the breath, vipassana etc... - can bring about an experience of Emptiness. I see how the Tibetans do it, via nalytical thought, but I can't see how the same outcome would happen through methods like Vipassana?
Thanks in advance!
"Emptiness" is soo Zen
And "Void" is very Chan.
Those Northern Buddhists get carried away with their metaphysics sometimes. I actually like Zen/Chan though, but I try to keep the Northern stuff apart from Southern Buddhist stuff.
In Pali, Rupa and Arupa aren't as mysical and metaphysical as the Notherners make it. When "Arupa" is metaphysically and magically turned into things like Emptiness and Nothingness, it generates misconceptions about Nibbana/Nirvana: making it seem as if the self is annihilated into nothingness.
Rupa may be dead as a Pali word, but it's still an everyday word in Khmer, which we pronounce as "Rup" [Roobp]. Rup means "Shape," "Form," "Figure," "Body," and so on. A Rup Chalak is a statue. Chalak meaning something chiseled. A Rup Taut is a photograph of a person's Rup. Taut means to take a picture. A-Rupa
thus just means "UN-Form[ed]," "Without physical Form of Shape." It doesn't suggest "emptiness."
In Theravada it's easy to experience Formless things in the forest with Vipassana.
This one time I was hiking up in Big Bear and I found myself a big rock to sit on. Then I went into this deep reflective state of mind. My point of concentration fell on a big pine by the lake. After awhile of refection, I soon came to realize that I was seeing or experiencing 2 separate yet interconnected phenomena: 1) the Rupa of the Tree, and 2) the Arupa of the air or space around the tree. Interconnected because one cannot be observed without the other, meaning that each serves as a reference point for the other. The space/air around the tree helps define the shape/form/rupa of the tree. The rupa of the tree helps define the space around it.
Like being in a vast empty field, or inside the ocean, or in deep space. One does not notice the vastness of the medium until a bird, or a fish, or an asteroid comes by.
But I further realized that the formation of the tree and the formless space around it that I was seeing was not actually in front of me. They were actually inside my own mind. So I drew my awareness inside my mind to contemplate on the image/rupa of the tree I had in my mind's Eye.
Which was when I realized that even when the image/rupa of the tree was in my Mind, that the interdependent phenomena of rupa and arupa were present. The Mind is Arupa. It is formless, but it gives form/rupa to the tree in my mind's Eye.
So when I meditated on the formlessness/arupa of my mind and the formness/rupa of the tree in my mind. I remember the phenomenon of dreams. When I dream the rupa of myself, everyone I interact with, and the entire dreamscape is that arupa/formlessness of Mind coalesced into images/rupa.
This thought lead me to contemplate on the Nature of the Cosmos: It's vast, infinite formlessness, and the forms that exists inside it.
So there I sat, a little person in the vastness of the Cosmos, contemplating on the Cosmos. And I asked myself if my point of view: that of a little person observing the Cosmos was true. In the same sense that I would ask myself that while I am inside a dream, is my point of view of the dreamscape true? Am I the dream-self experiencing the dream, or the silent dreamer beyond that dream-self, which is not even real?
Am I a little person sitting on a rock observing the cosmos? Do I stop where my skin starts? Or is this little person not even real [Anatta] and could it be that the "I-ness" of me being bound in a bag of skin an illusion? And what if I am the unseen silent arupa in which form/rupa exists?
Words like emptiness, void, and nothingness makes it seem like what is arupa does not exist, and we are misled into thinking that things magically arise from Nothing. This idea defies many points the Buddha tried to express. 1: such as Causality [kamma & vipaka] meaning that germ-cause or seed-cause [kamma] unfolds and germinates into fruit [vipaka]; & 2) Codependent Origination, meaning that everything originates from something else. And that "first something" cannot be a nothing, because nothing is the absents of kamma [seed-cause].
Emptiness makes it seem as though everything we know and experience Causally came from Nothing. Which is slightly irrational and magical. Not even the Mind is a nothing. It is formless and shapeless [arupa] but it is not nothing. The Mind is a something. And that something [Mind] needs other somethings to observe as reference points to be conscious and aware of itself.
What do I mean by that? I mean that one's Mind becomes conscious and aware when it is observing or experiences objects in itself. Put yourself in a sensory deprivation chamber and the Mind will strive to flood itself with forms and images [hallucinations]. Why? What do you call that state of Mind where none of your senses are working, where the sense of body is shut off, and when no images and thoughts are experienced? It's called being Unconscious and Unaware. We spend most of our night in such a state of unconsciousness.
This thought I had in my mind, about the formless mind depending on form to be aware of itself, led to to wonder if the formless Cosmos is like my own mind? Why does form exist in the Cosmos? But I stopped my insight meditation there because I was wondering into "heretical" territory
Of course this is just my own experience, and perspective. It is not truth. What I experienced and learned from my insight meditation [as I was taught how to do it] gives birth to Insights that may only be meaningful to me and my own path to sambuddhi [Self-Enlightenment]. Thus, it could be meaningless to everybody here
Vipassana - all of its many techniques and forms - along with Vibhajjavada, and the Forest/Nature, are the 3 "Golden Tools" of sambuddhi, which many Buddhists often disregard for books, texts, and the opinions and interpolations of monks. It's sad. many never ask themselves by what means did the Buddha achieve sambodhi? By reading and studying the Tipitakas? No, it had not yet been written. By asking for the opinions of a Bhikkhu? No, otherwise he would not have been called the SELF-enlghtened one. By going to other Buddhists for answers to his pressing questions? No, there were no Buddhist yet. The Buddha only had three basic tools, or four actually: 1) His own mind; 2) Vibhajjavada [his own experiences]; 3) Vipassana; and 4) Nature. And with those basic tools he achieved sambuddhi. If each Theravadin is thus on a quest for Self-Awkening, we will never achieve it with our minds buried in texts, books, interpretations, interpolations, extrapolations, traditions, schools of thought, sects, debates, arguments, intellectualizations, philosophications, chest beating contests, etc.
All you need is what the Buddha had to work with. Everything else is just a guide.