Emptiness Meditation

Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

Emptiness Meditation

Posts: 178 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Hello,

I'm interested in cultivating insight into the idea of emptiness. I know that Rob Burbea has a well-known book about it, but it's a bit philosophy-heavy for me. I'd actually like to work this out in my sits rather than trying to wrap my mind around 500 pages of information. Call me impatient! 

I do like Rob's writing and I have attempted to read his book twice. I think I just need something more straightforward to "look for" or "observe" while meditating. I tend to forget 90% of what I read.

Thank you for your help.

-Kelly 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Kelly,

Your question is a good one and maybe other people know of other books. I know you said you read it twice. My experience is that Rob's book is densely written, and you have to go slowly, unpack and then actually do each meditation for it to work. Just my experience.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Hi Sam. I said I tried to read it. Lol. I haven't even made it to the meditations! 

Thank you for your help. 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Oh the meditations are critical emoticon
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Are they like 400 pages in? 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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They are spread all through out
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Gotcha. I better just try a third time! Thanks!
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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I like The Shorter Discourse on Emptiness, Cūḷa Suññata Sutta  (MN 121)

https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN121.html

Just be careful not to fall into the trap of reifying emptiness ... emptiness is itself empty! Emptiness is not an independent "thing" in and of itself, it's just another property of conditioned objects/states. Nagarjuna is the best on this, concise but tough. Burbea is more user-friendly!


Nagarjuna, Mulamadhyamakakarika (Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way)
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​The victorious ones have said
That emptiness is the relinquishing of all views.
For whomever emptiness is a view,
​​​​​​​That one will accomplish nothing. 
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

Posts: 178 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks, George! I'll check this out.
B B, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Hi Kelly,

It's awesome that you're interested in this!

I too found that I didn't resonate with the approach of applying conceptual reasonings to realize emptiness. I resonate more with the Mahamudra practice of investigating the nature of thoughts and concepts directly, and arriving at a non-conceptual state. A book I found most useful for this is Clarifying the Natural State. Once one has achieved a glimpse of this non-conceptual state, it's possible to realize emptiness much more easily, because one can observe directly how we think our experience into being.

Simply applying mindfulness to the mind (one of the Four Foundations) is a great place to start. One can notice the many unverbalized concepts in our minds and how they change in response to sensory input. One can contemplate the conditioned nature of concepts, i.e. how no concept makes sense on its own, but only has meaning in relation to other concepts.

A very common practice, which I found most useful, and which is found in many Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice manuals (e.g. Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo GangsharVisionary Encounters: The Dzogchen Teachings of Bönpo Treasure-Revealer Shense LhajeThe Nature of Mind: The Dzogchen Instructions of Aro Yeshe Jungne), is to very gently try to locate a thought or concept and rest in the experience of not finding anything. This can bring about a collapse of concepts and glimpse of the non-conceptual state. Definitely read at least one of the books with the instructions though.

A shortcut to the non-conceptual state (for the impatient) is to shout "PHET!" very loudly and quickly. This comes from Dzogchen. There are many other Dzogchen practices, such as guru yoga, which are like shortcuts compared to the Madhyamaka conceptual reasoning approach.

A key point is that there is no specific emptiness state. Every state is the emptiness state. It's very easy to find oneself chasing after states, but this will always obscure the realization. There is an initial phase of removing doubts, which may last for years, but eventually one learns to rest in the practice of non-meditation/contemplation. This can be applied in all circumstances, even while sleeping. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu has some good teachings on this.

Also, working with a teacher is of increased importance because one is getting into especially subtle territory with many pitfalls.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Excellent! I'll check out those books and report back. Thank you for taking the time to write this up!
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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B.B. Thank you for adding this perspective to the discussion. I am a Dzogchen student but didn't think from that perspective. It seemed like Kelly wanted information on Rob Burbea's book at the time.

Simply applying mindfulness to the mind (one of the Four Foundations) is a great place to start. One can notice the many unverbalized concepts in our minds and how they change in response to sensory input. One can contemplate the conditioned nature of concepts, i.e. how no concept makes sense on its own, but only has meaning in relation to other concepts.

Yes

A very common practice, which I found most useful, and which is found in many Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice manuals (e.g. Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo GangsharVisionary Encounters: The Dzogchen Teachings of Bönpo Treasure-Revealer Shense LhajeThe Nature of Mind: The Dzogchen Instructions of Aro Yeshe Jungne), is to very gently try to locate a thought or concept and rest in the experience of not finding anything. This can bring about a collapse of concepts and glimpse of the non-conceptual state. Definitely read at least one of the books with the instructions though.

Right. This is what I practice in Dzogchen is try to locate a thought or concept and then rest in the awareness of not finding anything. I have the Dzogchen books we use if you would like me to list them Kelly.

A shortcut to the non-conceptual state (for the impatient) is to shout "PHET!" very loudly and quickly. This comes from Dzogchen. There are many other Dzogchen practices, such as guru yoga, which are like shortcuts compared to the Madhyamaka conceptual reasoning approach.
Yes, whenever I do this, I'm afraid my neighbors will call the police -). This is the first word that the strikes the vital point.
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Kim Katami, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Hi Kelly

The only difference between no-self/anatta and emptiness/sunyata is in compassionate-motivation/bodhicitta. Without bodhicitta motivation, the span of insight meditation is reduced. With bodhicitta, full scope is accessed and this opens a possibility to reach full attainment/buddhahood.

Without getting this crucial point people end up thinking and making the mistake that emptiness of mahayana (incl. mahamudra and dzogchen) would be the same as no-self of the classic vehicle.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Interesting. I still have yet to thoroughly wrap my mind around no-self. I feel as though I may have gained some insight into it on the cushion and I have read various things about it including MCTB and other websites. However, it still seems paradoxical and something that is difficult to understand with words. 

I've been trying to uproot the sense of self as being behind the eyes inside my head. Sometimes I'm able to drop form while in jhana. 

Thank you!
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Kim Katami, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Kelly: Interesting. I still have yet to thoroughly wrap my mind around no-self. I feel as though I may have gained some insight into it on the cushion and I have read various things about it including MCTB and other websites. However, it still seems paradoxical and something that is difficult to understand with words. 

Kim: Yes, gross selfing needs to go first.

Kelly: I've been trying to uproot the sense of self as being behind the eyes inside my head. Sometimes I'm able to drop form while in jhana. 

Kim: This will do the trick: https://www.pemakobuddhism.com/113
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Thanks Kim! I'm not sure if this exercise will work for me. I've had pressure in the base of my nose for over a year now and that overwhelms any sense of tension in my body. The only way that I've found to work with this pressure is to keep the object of attention as the breath at the belly. As soon as I focus on the nose or head area I'll get sucked into 1st samatha jhana. 

Perhaps once this pressure is released I'll be able to work with other parts of the body. I'm not sure!
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Kim Katami:
Hi Kelly The only difference between no-self/anatta and emptiness/sunyata is in compassionate-motivation/bodhicitta. Without bodhicitta motivation, the span of insight meditation is reduced. With bodhicitta, full scope is accessed and this opens a possibility to reach full attainment/buddhahood. Without getting this crucial point people end up thinking and making the mistake that emptiness of mahayana (incl. mahamudra and dzogchen) would be the same as no-self of the classic vehicle.
<br />It depends also on what the bodhicitta hinges on. WIll everyone saved through compassion achieve 3rd path/pureland equivalent or just stream entry. This is also a key point!
John H, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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George S I like&nbsp;The Shorter Discourse on Emptiness,&nbsp;Cūḷa Suññata Sutta &nbsp;(MN 121) https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN121.html Just be careful not to fall into the trap of reifying emptiness ... emptiness is itself empty! Emptiness is not an independent "thing" in and of itself, it's just another property of conditioned objects/states. Nagarjuna is the best on this, concise but tough. Burbea&nbsp;is more user-friendly!
Nagarjuna,&nbsp;Mulamadhyamakakarika (Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) ​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​The victorious ones have said That emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. For whomever emptiness is a view, ​​​​​​​That one will accomplish nothing.&nbsp;
George, that sutta is amazing. From my reading it doesn't so much say what emptiness is but rather how to realize it and achieve release. Starting with the jhanas using Earth as a nimitta it moves to the formless jhanas, then concentration without an object. At that point the Buddha invites the reader in the guise of Ananda to notice this too is fabricated and mentally fashioned.

“He discerns that ‘This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated and mentally fashioned.’ And he discerns that ‘Whatever is fabricated and mentally fashioned is inconstant and subject to cessation.’ Thus knowing, thus seeing, his heart is released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’"

I'd like to understand Nagarjuna, and his Mulamadhyamakakarika. I've read some summaries of the meaning of Madhyamaka but I get stuck almost right away on the real deal.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Thanks everyone for your input. I have a lot to consider here.

I'm going to attempt to finish Rob's book. Because it is so dense I have little faith that I'll retain much from it. Perhaps the meditations throughout will be more helpful.

There seems to be a lot introspection involved. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if my current crazy lifestyle with small children supports this level of reflection off the cushion. I need to be in high beta most the day in order to manage them and my small business. Perhaps when I have more time to be mindful I'll be able to actually tackle clinging and aversion, which seems to be a big part of emptiness.

Maybe I'm making excuses or I'm just in over my head. Either way the timing seems off. 

Thanks!

​​​​​​​
Steven E Barnes, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Michael Taft does weekly guided meditations, usually involving non-dual awareness. His approach is very accessable. I guess he is developing a course about non-dual awareness, but I did not get in that.

https://deconstructingyourself.com/nonduality

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnKdQDH10tUQNhdyXhAy0Tw
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Great suggeston.

I've have done two of his videos on YouTube. One was called "Dropping The Ultra Ball" and the other was an emptiness one. I can tell that they helped my practice.

I'll go back and try a Non dual one.

Thanks! 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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I am in his non-dual class Vast Sky Mind and I think you can get a lot of the same results by his Thursday night meditations on non-duality and awareness.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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Thanks Sam!
Mathew Poskus, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

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What helped me is look from where thought arises where it goes also body sensations.
​​​​​​​Good luck
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Emptiness Meditation

Posts: 178 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
I've been reading Dreams of Light by Andrew Holecek and it's been mindblowing. Ironically, emptiness is sort of the theme of this book. I got into him originally by exploring lucid dreaming.

I can already see that emptiness in my experiences. I made the connection today while I was reading Holecek's book. He writes that after you get a glimpse of emptiness experiences are no longer as extreme. "Instead of being tossed around by highs and lows, hopes and fears, through the realization of emptiness you live a balanced life, riding evenly upon whatever occurs."

I have definitely felt this in the past year with my practice. There's no longer a release or grasping for escape. Experiences are no longer extreme and things that once brought great pleasure seem to exist just like everything else, ordinary. There is no release as there is no contraction building up to an experience.

A couple of weeks ago emptiness seemed like such a vague idea. It's starting to make much more sense to me since I've already been observing the contraction and release of things for a couple of years. Sometimes thoughts or sensations simply feel like tension. 

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