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Seeing emptiness
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5/9/18 6:25 PM
Seeing emptiness

Ok I have a question.   I  have been studying Buddhism and meditating for many years .   Several years ago there was an experience of falling into an experience/state of  "emptiness"  which was the feeling of the lack of substance in the self and world  and body.   Since this happened during a very stressful time I wasn't sure that it was a "meditative" or spiritual experience or something like a depersonalization/derealization   experience.   Do the two types of experiences overlap in some way?   It was a very visceral experience of emptiness which lasted less than an hour but  I don't know what it was.   
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RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/10/18 3:16 AM as a reply to Ken Feder.
Hello Ken, welcome to the forum! emoticon

Ken Feder:

Several years ago there was an experience of falling into an experience/state of  "emptiness"  which was the feeling of the lack of substance in the self and world  and body.   
I know that it can be hard to describe, but could you tells us more about this feeling of lack of substance? Did the experience repeat itself? Did it leave any lasting change or shift, for example in the way your perceptions are 'interpreted' by your consciousness?



Ken Feder:

Since this happened during a very stressful time I wasn't sure that it was a "meditative" or spiritual experience or something like a depersonalization/derealization   experience.   Do the two types of experiences overlap in some way?   
The fact that something happens during a very stressful time does not  "exclude" it as a valid meditative event at all. I would say that what counts is what you do with it when it comes up, and ultimately the long-term effect it has (if any).

Similarly, the fact that something happens on the cushion does not automatically make it "qualify" as useful or relevant or life-changing or "an awakening" or as a badge of attainment of sorts. Meditative bells and whistles are not inherently much different from any other thing that goes through our six sense doors: Ultimately what counts is what we do with whatever comes up, and what that does to us, rather than the thing in itself, or the conditions under which it arises, which are both empty anyway.

Lastly, there is definitely some overlap between DP/DR and insight into emptiness and no-self. Shinzen calls it "Enlightenment's Evil Twin". Here is a nice video of him talking about it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zIKQCwDXsA

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/10/18 3:10 PM as a reply to neko.
Neko,

I don't know how to use the quote function yet.    I would say that what I experienced was a deep "felt" sense of emptiness rather than an intellectual understanding.    It happened once but  the "flavor" of the experience lingered for a few days.  It was as if the solidity of the world dropped away.  Things were all surface.  Actions and movement and experience were happining  withing the emptiness. 
   The reason I am re-visiting this experience several years later is that I am sitting with a group that is part of the Tibetan tradition and there are references to the experience of "seeing emptiness directly"....    and that the world has no "inherent existence "   So   my experience seemed to have aspects of "seeing emptiness directly"  but I don't know if it may have been more along the lines of what Shinzen talks about. 

I tend to see it as a little bit of both.  A little of the "evil twin" and something that gives me a deeper taste of emptiness.   I make no claims about it...I just continue to sit with it as another experience. 
  I had the thought to put it out on this forum because I know that there are very experience meditators that post here. 

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 3:58 AM as a reply to Ken Feder.
It sounds like you have several questions: What was it? Was that emptiness? Perhaps also: What do I do with it? How can I repeat the event?

I disagree with definitions like "Emptiness means that the world  has no inherent existence". When someone says that, it can be fun to challenge them to walk out of the window on the third floor, or provide a definition that can survive more than 10 seconds of scrutiny emoticon

My experience / understanding / way to talk about Emptiness is: Knowing directly and in real time how everything we perceive is mind-generated. This does not mean that the world does not exist, just that the window that we see is not the actual window, just a mental construct. A seemingly trivial statement to make, something that everyone can agree with rationally, but somehow realising it in real time is very profound and life-changing.

For what it's worth, what you write, and how you write about it, has a ring of actual "seeing Emptiness in real time" to me. Some of the things you write, like "actions and movement happening within emptiness" make it sound like there was an additional flavour of no-self, specifically its agencilessness side: doing without a doer. Does this sound like a good description of what seemed to be going on at the time?

(There is this book by Rob Burbea, "Seeing That Frees", that is all about Emptiness has a good rep. I've only read the intro and had a loot at the table of contents, it seems it might interest you.)

(The quote function is half broken on this website. To use it, I click on "source" and then mess around with square brackets. Not something for the fainthearted.)

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 9:14 AM as a reply to neko.
The quote function is half broken on this website

If you do this quotes work fine:

1. Copy the text from a post you want to quote.
2. Paste that text into your reply.
3. Hit the return key three times.
4. Go back to the pasted text in your reply, highlight it, and click on the quote text button in the posting editor to code the highlighted text as a quote.
5. Return to the last carriage return position in your reply and type your reply.

This process, while a bit lengthy, will make nice with the quote capability here.


There is this book by Rob Burbea, "Seeing That Frees", that is all about Emptiness has a good rep.

I highly recommend this book!

I also agree that "seeing" emptiness is much more about the realization, in real time, that all objects are creations of the mind. They don't need to appear any differently and usually don't, in order to be known as empty. Emptiness is a realization/insight and not necessarily a change in the way objects look, sound, feel, taste, or touch.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 2:16 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
  Chris:

Emptiness is a realization/insight and nor a change in the way objects look, sound, feel, taste, or touch.


The realization of emptiness involves no changes to the way objects (directly) look, sound, feel, taste or touch?  Am I reading this right?


Edit: To the reader, remember to be mindful of the present before, during & after this discussion of maps!

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 9:14 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Oops, I made a typo - I'll fix it now.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 9:14 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
  Chris:

Emptiness is a realization/insight and nor a change in the way objects look, sound, feel, taste, or touch.


The realization of emptiness involves no changes to the way objects (directly) look, sound, feel, taste or touch?  Am I reading this right?

I love this question. It brings up a bunch more for me:

- Assuming some changes correlate with emptiness, are they a necessary consequence of emptiness, or just a possible side effect?

- Is there a variability from person to person?

- If there are, indeed, changes, are they part of / attributable to emptiness or luminosity?

- Could any of those changes show up without any insight into emptiness or luminosity?

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 9:19 AM as a reply to neko.
Let me ask this -  does Coke still taste like Coke? Does ice steel feel cold? Does fire still feel hot?

I'll wait for some others to answer.

emoticon

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 1:02 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Let me ask this -  does Coke still taste like Coke? Does ice steel feel cold? Does fire still feel hot?
Yes, and no. They also all taste-feel-look like mind.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 2:15 PM as a reply to neko.
My thoughts...

Neko:
- Assuming some changes correlate with emptiness, are they a necessary consequence of emptiness, or just a possible side effect?

It's the thing itself - the knowing of (or knowledge of) emptiness.  Which is as good as it's gonna get for us humans as far as I can tell.  Its starts as a peripheral-intuitive sense that something has changed in the relationship to sensation & then becomes more & more direct over time.
- Is there a variability from person to person?

Yes people have things open up in different orders & few ever complete the path.  This creates the appearance of legitimate variability.

- If there are, indeed, changes, are they part of / attributable to emptiness or luminosity?

What do you mean by luminosity? One way the term 'luminosity' has been used is to refer to the knowing of the vibrancy of objects *in the object itself* rather than on the observer side.

Here's what luminosity means in the traditional sense (it covers a larger area, I think) - http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Clear_light

The totality can be divided in mutliple ways.  One of my favorites is rigpa/tsal/ghzi, which would be knowing/object/background.  Another would just be to slice it by emptiness & luminosity.  

- Could any of those changes show up without any insight into emptiness or luminosity?

Yea.  That's like a type of dissociate disorder.  For instance, attention doesn't particularize the body, yet there is still a sub-process of ownership running, so things feel quite wrong.  

Edit: To the reader, remember to be mindful of the present before, during & after this discussion of maps!

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 2:45 PM as a reply to neko.
They also all taste-feel-look like mind.

Is mind the sweet or the bitter taste?   emoticon

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/11/18 3:57 PM as a reply to neko.
The best way I would describe emptiness is to understand that things are empty of any meaning at all.  You can see them as concrete objects, mental fabrications or the will of God - these are all generally non falsifiable ways of seeing,  but as soon as you start applying meaning to stuff, you become delusional.  Every single bit of meaning requires an entire metaphysical universe to exist featuring independent entities moving around doing stuff for some reason with some kind of God that cares and imbues these beings lives with meaning.  That just isnt the case. 

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 4:07 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
They also all taste-feel-look like mind.

Is mind the sweet or the bitter taste?   emoticon

Yes! emoticon

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 4:08 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
The best way I would describe emptiness is to understand that things are empty of any meaning at all.  You can see them as concrete objects, mental fabrications or the will of God - these are all generally non falsifiable ways of seeing,  but as soon as you start applying meaning to stuff, you become delusional.  Every single bit of meaning requires an entire metaphysical universe to exist featuring independent entities moving around doing stuff for some reason with some kind of God that cares and imbues these beings lives with meaning.  That just isnt the case. 
Noice.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 9:58 PM as a reply to Ken Feder.
Hi Ken,

So for me, seeing emptiness came about during a Shinzen retreat in January 2015. I had a pretty intense path moment experience in vipassana meditation, which, during the next two days was followed by multiple fruitions. I came out of the original path/fruit meditation and went outside and was standing in the breezeway of the meditation center. Suddenly, I saw what the Heart Sutra was talking about, that it was true and that reality couldn't be any other way. The key lines in the Heart Sutra are:

Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
Form is no other than emptiness.
Emptiness is no other than form.

I've spent the last 3 years studying Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, which is a Shentong or "Empty of Self" text, and struggling with some texts from the Rangtong, or "Empty of Other" school (right now I am reading Taranatha's commentary on the Heart Sutra), but it is just that moment of clear seeing that really stands out in my mind.

Hope that helps.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/12/18 11:53 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Have you looked at seeing that frees by Burbea? 

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/13/18 1:28 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
I appreciate all the comments.

I now have a Kindle copy of Seeing that Frees and  it seems like it should be an illuminating read.  

I re-watched  Shinzen's Youtube video on the subject.    I used to sit with Shinzen when he was in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

I continue to sit and study Buddhism.   I plan to read Daniel Ingram's book when the new edition comes out.   In the meantime I am working with a group led by Michael Gregory who teaches in the Tibetan tradition.

WIth regard to the "emptiness" experience I had in 2014:   I feel that it might have been triggered by stress.  I had what I consider to be some negative aspects  (fear and anxiety)  but paradoxically a spiritual quality.      

   Not sure if the experience has deepened my practice but I am working on deepening my practice.   

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/13/18 9:14 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
Hi Seth,

I'll check it out, thanx. Nagarjuna is the gold standard for the Mahayana as far as emptiness is concerned. That said, he lived in the 3rd century and wrote in Sanskirt, so his work sometimes took a couple readings and discussion with my teacher before I understood it. The Shentong work is similar, and I am still working on it.

           jak

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/14/18 7:25 AM as a reply to svmonk.
I found the mind experiments - particularly later in the book - helped my mind see and accept emptiness as "reality".   It really has been freeing for me, because it completely undercuts all the narratives about my life and the world that have knotted my mind and nervous system up for all these years. 


Meaningless meat in a sea of unbounded love. 
So focused on my mission and my pain
I missed the moment for so long. 
No one cares

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/14/18 8:51 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
Hi seth,

Thanx!! emoticon

     

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
5/15/18 12:50 AM as a reply to Ken Feder.
The experience I had two experience related to the definition of emptiness:
-One was a complete dissolution of the "thingness" of all sensory objects, it feels like a depersonalization but you are not separated from you emotions, it is rather a sense of equanity with a little bit of awe. Things started getting luminous then they lost there "thingness" (I do not have another word to explain this). Lets say there was a glass of water, in that experience the glass of water wasnt a glass of water anymore in the way I knew it before, it wasnt something else like an "other". I is hard to describe but I am sure if ti happens to you you may know what I am talking about.
-Another one was a mix of no-self and boundless vast awareness. I would equate that with an insight into the interdependence. In the infitity of awareness every single object had its own role to play in creating the experience. This happened off cushion. The mind, the body, the external and inner field, all work in the matrix of boundless spaciousness. There was no doer, nothing to be done, fullness and perfection. But the most striking aspect was how experience was created moment to moment while I was walking in the street. How things related with each other in a nexus of events. I have to note that this was strikingly different from my first full blown A&P. 

These may or may not be emptiness or may be an aspect of it. All I can say among the vast range of experiences a meditator will have in daily life, many mysterious things will happen. But I think the more and more you break down your experience through practice and specially maintain strong mindfulness throughout the day, the more you may have these particular profound moments.

RE: Seeing emptiness
Answer
8/8/18 8:29 PM as a reply to Bhumi.
Hi all,

The way I live and experience emptiness is quite like Nikolai feel. But he didn’t describe it as emptiness but non stickiness.  

My fb group....living Dhamma where I wrote extensively about the changes and phenomenons.

In the Pali sutta, the Buddha called it themeless and elsewhere Sariputta called it emptiness.  It all the same “state” of mind. There is this empty space in your mind where nothing touche, no time, no thoughts, unchanging, empty.  It’s feel like you talk from emptiness, you remember in emptiness, you think from emptiness, you even get angry from emptiness. There is no focal point of self.