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Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/10/11 4:39 PM
We all talk about emptiness on here in a variety of ways and with a variety of meanings. I'd like to see how we all understand emptiness in an effort to make discussion clearer and more accessible since it's something which refers to so many different experiences, each of which is fundamental on the path to enlightenment from the first fruition to arahatship. I know that there's only so much that can be said about something which is nothing at the same time, since this seems to be the main similarity, so this is all based on what I've learned from Dan's book and my own experience so it's subject to correction and subsequent mockery afterwards.

Fruition = Door → Emptiness/Cessation/Whatever goes on. → Exit.

So how would you define emptiness in that sense?

I'd define it as the complete absence of sensation, perception, experience etc etc but it only ever lasts a split second. In my experience, fruition in a purely cyclical i.e. not Path sense never seems to have lasted any more than, based on a guess after the fact, a fraction of a second at most and that's only with really strong mindfulness leading up to a clear entry.

No Self = "In the thinking, only the thought."

Here's where I start to get confused, I understand what the quote I just typed out means as an experience. By that I mean that I often experience periods where there is only sensation, nothing there to experience it but the body is still there doing it's thing like it's supposed to and everything just "is". That's what I understand as emptiness or the absence of self, am I completely wrong here or is this a fairly accurate example of what I'm getting at?

Nirodha Samapatti = The black hole of emptiness.

NS can't really be argued with.

These are just based on what I understand at present so I stand to be corrected at any point here and look forward to learning more from what people can contribute to the discussion.

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/10/11 6:02 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
That's how I currently understand it, as well. Fruition/NS emptiness as an absence of perception and feeling - the difference between them I don't know except the entrance/exit and that NS can apparently last hours or days - and then emptiness meaning absence of self, in the thinking only the thought, etc.

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 10:57 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hi,

Tommy M:
I know that there's only so much that can be said about something which is nothing at the same time


What is the something (which is nothing)?

Tommy M:
Fruition = Door → Emptiness/Cessation/Whatever goes on. → Exit.

So how would you define emptiness in that sense?


This is when the self experiences itself in a way which causes it to "crash" and "reboot," taking the senses down with it. In the moment between crash and reboot, the self is missing in action. In that moment the body is "empty" of self, but since the senses "crashed" too, nothing can be recollected about what went on. Spoiler alert: you were sitting in your chair, or whatever, just like your computer sits on the desk in the moment between when it's operating system experiences blue-screen-of-death ("door") and reboots a moment later ("exit") with knowledge of the "door" ("We strongly recommend you allow this utility to scan for corruption!) but with no knowledge of what happened between the "door" and the "exit."

Tommy M:
That's what I understand as emptiness or the absence of self, am I completely wrong here or is this a fairly accurate example of what I'm getting at?


So long as the experience you allude to is one of not just "thinking just the thought" but also of "seeing just the seen," (etc.), then yes, that's it. In other words: PCE.

Tommy M:
Nirodha Samapatti = The black hole of emptiness.

NS can't really be argued with.


Are you now able to formulate an articulate theory on what is going on here?

Trent

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 12:26 PM as a reply to Trent ..
Trent H.:

So long as the experience you allude to is one of not just "thinking just the thought" but also of "seeing just the seen," (etc.), then yes, that's it. In other words: PCE.


I've heard that MCTB Arahats understand what is meant by "in seeing, just the seen", but they don't seem to live in a PCE... is this a discrepancy, and if so what's the cause of this discrepancy?

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 12:34 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:
I've heard that MCTB Arahats understand what is meant by "in seeing, just the seen", but they don't seem to live in a PCE... is this a discrepancy, and if so what's the cause of this discrepancy?


Speaking for 'me' only, 'I' thought 'I' understood it but simply did not. I suspect that the relative clarity of that stage vs what came before aids in one's misinterpreting such a thing, especially if it is not known that one can progress further.

Trent

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 12:53 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

No Self = "In the thinking, only the thought."

Here's where I start to get confused, I understand what the quote I just typed out means as an experience. By that I mean that I often experience periods where there is only sensation, nothing there to experience it but the body is still there doing it's thing like it's supposed to and everything just "is". That's what I understand as emptiness or the absence of self, am I completely wrong here or is this a fairly accurate example of what I'm getting at?

As emptiness is in this case a short hand for 'empty of self nature', then you perhaps ought to include something like:

No Self = "In the sense of self, only the sense of self."

This to indicate an experiential understanding of the true nature of phenomena, as empty of self nature, rather than simply the experience of the absence of a sense of self, which is just an experience, without necessarily any understanding.

Claiming that an arising sense of self is no more important than an itch on your thumb misses this point.

~~~

'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.'

There's a lot of talk about the first part (itches & thumbs, there's 'no one home', no self etc.). I wonder what the second part is supposed to mean, or how it is generally understood.

To me it means 'and there is no emptiness'.

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 2:06 PM as a reply to mico mico.
Hi,

mico mico:
This to indicate an experiential understanding of the true nature of phenomena, as empty of self nature, rather than simply the experience of the absence of a sense of self, which is just an experience, without necessarily any understanding.


How is it that the two can possibly be separated?

mico mico:
'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.'

(...)

I wonder what the second part is supposed to mean, or how it is generally understood.


How it is generally understood (and the only way it is understood) is via direct experience. If that is not enough to quell your questioning about it, then here is a useful bit of literature. And a snippet from it:

Thanissaro:
In fact, the one place where the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. Thus the question should be put aside.


Trent

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 3:14 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hi Tommy,

Here's how I understand the various meanings:

Fruition In the language of emptiness: empty of sense input, empty of memories, empty of plans, empty of thoughts, empty of a sense of time passing, empty of a sense of space, empty of a sense of presence, empty of an observer, empty of what-have-you.

(Fruition in the language of causality/conditions: it comes as a complete surprise (i.e. can't be "caused"), it doesn't affect memory, sense of presence etc., and is not affected by it, and so on; the moment after it follows from the moment before it - the unconditioned).

(Fruition in terms of Truth with a T, as in True Self: "Death is nothing to us", as Epicurus observed. The Deathless. Etc.)

* * *



In cognizing only the cognition - No sense of "I think therefore I am". Just thoughts. No sense of "I see therefore I am seeing - just images. (Not images seen by a seer). The body does what it is able to do (see, hear, smell, stand upright, drive a car, type at a computer); the mind does what it is able to do (form thoughts and concepts, manipulate symbols, interpret language). All this is natural, elegant, beautiful in a way (but not Hollywood-violins-beautiful, not hot-babe-beautiful), perfect in the sense of it being what it is, not what it should or should not be; there are no strings attached, no puppet master behind the scenes pulling at the hands and looking out of the eyes.

In short: empty of all the scheming, agendas, regrets, fears, desires, aversions; empty of the hiding, masking, shielding, tuning outs and other assorted delusions; empty of all the tedious harmful crap resulting from intention based on greed, aversion, and delusion. Empty in the sense of not holding any secrets, dirty or otherwise.

(In terms of conditionality: the case where there is no ignorance; in the absence of ignorance, ultimately, suffering does not arise. Dependent non-arising, or whatever you want to call that enumeration)

(In terms of Truth: Not lacking truth, ignorance is eradicated - or True Will.)

* * *



Can't comment on Nirodha Samapatti.


Cheers,
Florian

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 5:09 PM as a reply to Trent ..
Before I respond I'd like to say that the choice of words I use is in no way an attempt to sound smarter or more realised than I am. What I say is based on my interpretation, like everyone else's, of what "I" experience and expressed in the language I would use in daily life. It appears, through the repsonses I've received on occasion on this site, that I often need to explain what I mean in a different way and make my use of certain terms clear to maintain a mutual understanding of the subject in hand. For this, my apologies.

Trent - "the something (which is nothing)" was my attempt at pointing to moment between the crash and the reboot. I chose this phrase because it fits with my experience of cessation since there is nothing, no experience, no awareness, at the moment it occurs, but afterwards we become aware of that absence having occured. You're better than I am at expressing this stuff in intellectual terms and, although I understand your responses, I find it difficult to communicate at the same level. To word it based on my own experience, there's awareness of entering fruition, like a steep but short upwards gradient from Equanimity leading up to it, but no experience of the stage itself until there's a moment when "I" don't know what just happened before moving back to normal consciousness and realising a fruition had occured.

So long as the experience you allude to is one of not just "thinking just the thought" but also of "seeing just the seen," (etc.), then yes, that's it. In other words: PCE.


Yes, I should really have quoted the entire line or at least indicated that I wasn't referring to one particular experience. I didn't think to compare it to a PCE, I just thought it stood on it's own but I get what you're saying. Would you mind saying a bit more about this?

As for being able to formulate a theory, the best I could offer would be that the PCE is the ultimate no-self experience until one attains AF. The emptiness of Fruition is the "Ultimate Reality". Whatever that "is" is beyond comprehension and I'm content to call it emptiness for the time being. The same applies for nirodha samapatti, in the single experience I've had with this attainment there is the same absence of anything that's only realised afterwards, the difference lay in the feelings of entry, exit and beautiful afterglow.

MicoMico -

No Self = "In the sense of self, only the sense of self."

This to indicate an experiential understanding of the true nature of phenomena, as empty of self nature, rather than simply the experience of the absence of a sense of self, which is just an experience, without necessarily any understanding.

Claiming that an arising sense of self is no more important than an itch on your thumb misses this point.


I get what you're saying, there's experiencing the "absence of the sense of self" without understanding it in the fundamental sense, perhaps similar to what one may experience spontanteously (or, more likely, while tripping balls with their friends. Ha!) Would you think, if I'm right in what I'm saying here, that the understanding of fundamental truth such as no-self requires a context to be effectively understood?

I don't consider the sensations of the thumb to be any more or less important than the sensations of self, they're all observable, not self and temporary. Would you mind saying a bit more about your view on this?

Florian -

You summed it up nicely and your definitions sit perfectly with me. I can't offer anything else to what you've said so thank you for such a wonderful response.

Cheers folks!

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/11/11 10:19 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hi,

Tommy M:
Trent - "the something (which is nothing)" was my attempt at pointing to moment between the crash and the reboot. I chose this phrase because it fits with my experience of cessation since there is nothing, no experience, no awareness, at the moment it occurs, but afterwards we become aware of that absence having occured.


Okay.

Tommy M:
You're better than I am at expressing this stuff in intellectual terms and, although I understand your responses, I find it difficult to communicate at the same level.


Well, if you say so. If this is in response to my manner of phrasing the question proposed, may it be known that criticism was not implied.

*

So long as the experience you allude to is one of not just "thinking just the thought" but also of "seeing just the seen," (etc.), then yes, that's it. In other words: PCE.


Tommy M:
I didn't think to compare it to a PCE, I just thought it stood on it's own but I get what you're saying. Would you mind saying a bit more about this?


I don't mind, but you will have to provide a question or some other source for direction.

Tommy M:
As for being able to formulate a theory, the best I could offer would be that the PCE is the ultimate no-self experience until one attains AF. The emptiness of Fruition is the "Ultimate Reality". Whatever that "is" is beyond comprehension and I'm content to call it emptiness for the time being.


Do you mean beyond comprehension (period) or beyond (your current) comprehension?

Tommy M:
The same applies for nirodha samapatti, in the single experience I've had with this attainment there is the same absence of anything that's only realised afterwards, the difference lay in the feelings of entry, exit and beautiful afterglow.


If fruition is the computer crashing itself, does it sound plausible that NS is the computer shutting itself down, then restarting after a few brief moments [1]?

Trent

[1] Before this thread, I did not think so highly of one of my PCs...but now I'm wondering if I should refer to it as "Venerable POS."

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/12/11 2:39 AM as a reply to Trent ..
Hi Trent,

Trent H.:
mico mico:
This to indicate an experiential understanding of the true nature of phenomena, as empty of self nature, rather than simply the experience of the absence of a sense of self, which is just an experience, without necessarily any understanding.

How is it that the two can possibly be separated?

Because there's a difference between a sense of self and the sense of a separate self. And there's a difference between abeyance and transcendence.

Trent H.:
mico mico:
'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.'

I wonder what the second part is supposed to mean, or how it is generally understood.

How it is generally understood (and the only way it is understood) is via direct experience.

No, I meant how is the statement understood (or originally intended), as in what is it that people think it points to, or what is being expressed, not how is that understood. (Like 'my chair is good' is something you really can only understand through direct experience but I wouldn't complain if you asked for a little more information first about what I meant, perhaps to see if it was worth your while, or that I hadn't developed an unhealthy relationship with it.)

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/12/11 8:22 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
I don't consider the sensations of the thumb to be any more or less important than the sensations of self, they're all observable, not self and temporary. Would you mind saying a bit more about your view on this?

But my thumb gets up to less trouble in the world than myself, in fact it is rather passive, utilitarian and generally quiet, a friend to anyone really. Qualities I can only imitate, even on a good day ;)

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/12/11 4:55 PM as a reply to Trent ..
Well, if you say so. If this is in response to my manner of phrasing the question proposed, may it be known that criticism was not implied.


You express things very well and in a very precise, clear way. There's nothing ambiguous about your writing and it's something I'd like to be able to to do since I feel that my own writing could do with that sort of clarity. I didn't take it as a criticism, I just wanted to say that I respect your style and endeavour to be able to express myself with similar clarity.

I don't mind, but you will have to provide a question or some other source for direction.


I entered a PCE the other night for the first time, consciously, and was amazed by how simple and direct perception is while in that mode of being. It was only when you made a connection between the experience of emptiness in the no-self sense and the PCE that I thought of how the sensations of "no-self" in both cases are the same although experience of deliberate movement into PCE mode is minimal at present. There was the same freedom and spaciousness which occurs when we stop creating the illusion of a self, so do you consider AF to be the permanent stopping of this illusion?

Do you mean beyond comprehension (period) or beyond (your current) comprehension?


Both. At present I believe I can make a fair claim to having attained 3rd path but no further. I think that there may be further levels of evolution in perception beyond what we can attain at present although this is purely speculation. The move from enlightenment to exploring PCE and AF indicates to me that people are seeing that there is more to be done after enlighenment, something which was once seen to be the ultimate goal by many, if not most spiritual adventurers. I don't have the experience to really go into this at a fractal level but I suspect that approach would prove interesting at least.

If fruition is the computer crashing itself, does it sound plausible that NS is the computer shutting itself down, then restarting after a few brief moments?


Absolutely. It's the difference afterwards in particular that suggests a complete restart, wheras fruition seems to be more like a crash. Sense-wise, there's a freshness and peaceful silence after NS and the entry felt like a plug being pulled out which, on thinking about it now, suggests that it's the "hardware" that's being shut down. Fruition always happens in a really quick way, just like your crash analogy, the perceptual "software" glitches out and comes back online running a bit more effectively each time. My programming knowledge is limited but this really works for me.

Thanks Trent!

MicoMico -

But my thumb gets up to less trouble in the world than myself, in fact it is rather passive, utilitarian and generally quiet, a friend to anyone really. Qualities I can only imitate, even on a good day ;)


I get your point and I really love your take on this. I'm just sticking to viewing sensation as sensation for the moment, regardless of what it is but I appreciate what you're saying.

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/13/11 2:48 AM as a reply to mico mico.
Take2 for Tommy...

Tommy M:
I don't consider the sensations of the thumb to be any more or less important than the sensations of self, they're all observable, not self and temporary.

This then is your teaching of not-self, of emptiness. It has as much to do with not having a sense of self as it has to do with not having sensations in your thumb. Which is why I suggest 'In the sense of self, just the sense of self'. But I don't think it's often taken this way, especially when in the mix with a lot of statements about no self experiences. This is also the difference I was pointing to between experiential understanding, that transcendence of self (and the thumb, of course), and it's simple abeyance.
(And the lack of this understanding is what takes the sense of self into what you've called the 'illusion of a self', or the sense of a separate self. It's the illusion that goes away, not the sense.)

But I really appreciate your honest enquiry, and I don't want to misshape it's evolving form with my perpendicular approach...or something.

RE: Discussing Emptiness
Answer
1/13/11 5:08 AM as a reply to mico mico.
Right, now I see where you're coming from. No worries, it's not confusing at all and has actually helped my thinking on the subject. I like to see as many approaches as possible, it's always useful to see how others interpret the experience so I'm glad you took the time to explain your views.