Emptiness and Suchness

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According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Verse 22 of the Thirty-Seven Practices of the Bodhisattva says:

All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence, free from the two extremes of manifestation (eternalism [unchanging] and nihilism [life is without meaning or purpose]) and beyond all elaboration to understand this nature (Tathata) and to not conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the bodhisattva.

Two basic Buddhist teachings are being expressed in this verse: 1) Shunyata, beings and things have no intrinsic existence in themselves; all phenomena come into being because of conditions created by other phenomena, and 2) Ta.tha’ta – a Sanskrit word that means suchness or the true nature of reality at any given moment.

Tathata or suchness is often best revealed in those seemingly mundane or meaningless experiences, such as noticing the way the wind blows through trees, a sky full of rainbows or watching someone’s face light up as they smile.

We find freedom in Tathata, in the experience of life itself; life just as it is. We develop the capacity to experience thoughts, sensations and feelings completely. Then we do not struggle with what we experience. When we are completely engaged in an activity, we naturally have no sense of self. Our aim in practice is to engage and experience life so completely that we become empty, open, and aware in whatever arises. Quite naturally, without any effort, we become nothing but an ongoing response to the experience of life, including the suffering and struggles of others. That is freedom.

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