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Emptiness. What is your first thought when you read that word?……………

I think in the west, we’re taught culturally that empty is a negative, or unfulfilled word. We believe if we don’t have things, stuff, junk really, our lives are in some way destined to be empty. It’s a hard mind-frame to get out of at times. Everywhere we look — advertising. Messages about how much of a better life we’d be allowed if we just have this product, or that thing. And at times we really can believe this. It’s weird when you step back and think about it.

Then we come to what I intended to write about when I fired up ecto. The buddhist definition of emptiness. One of the most famous passages from the sutra states, “All phenomena are like a dream, illusion, bubble, or shadow; they are like dew or lightning. You should meditate upon them thus.” Another I like to think about states, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” In summary, or, for those unfamiliar with buddhist thought, you can say that all phenomena is insubstantial on it’s own. A good example is this:

Pick up a pen.
What makes it pen? What gives it “pen-ness”?
Does it, itself make it a pen?
The experience between you, what your understanding is, and the pen — all together — that is what makes it pen; what gives it “pen-ness”.
Think of if a dog got ahold of that very same pen.
To the dog, would it be a pen? Would it have “pen-ness”?
Likely, the dog would see it as a chew toy or something to that effect. Therefore, between the dog, the dog’s understanding, and the pen, it would have no “pen-ness”.

I had a moment of understanding about this the other day in conversation with one of my friends at work. I had just looked at my watch and noticed that it was already 2:30PM. I thought to myself ‘the day sure is flying by’. Not a second later he brought up “can you believe it’s only 2:30? Wow today is dragging!” I kind of giggled to myself and chose to stay quiet,replying with just a smile.

Time itself is also empty.

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