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Emptiness, Compassion & Morality in Mahayana Buddhism (ריקות, חמלה ומוסר במהאיאנה בודהיזם)

מרץ 6, 2016

את המאמר הזה כתבתי לפני שנים רבות באנגלית ושמתי אותו בבלוג הישן שלי. קראתי אותו לאחרונה שוב ומצאתי אותו עדיין רלוונטי, והחלטתי להעתיק אותו לכאן. מקווה שיהיה לכם להנאה ולתועלת 🙂 ❤

Being one of the most confusing ideas in Mahayana Buddhism, Emptiness became a very disputable concept. ‘If everything is empty’, some of us might argue – ‘then what will be the point in upholding the precepts, or treading the path of self-cultivation? If there is no path, no Enlightenment, and no “real” suffering to begin with and to be liberated from, is the Buddha Dharma has any meaning at all?’

In this thread I will try to explain (to the best of my little understanding of Emptiness) why the idea of Emptiness does not contradict the necessity for morality, compassion, self-cultivation, liberation from suffering and Enlightenment.

Moreover, I will try to explain how compassion and morality, not only being the foundations for the realization of Emptiness, are also the inevitable consequences of that realization.

Few words about Emptiness:

Basically, we can approach Emptiness from two angles, the first will be from the point of view of someone who realized Emptiness as part of his/her experience of Enlightenment, and the second will be from a conceptual point of view.

From the point of view of someone who realized Emptiness, pouring words on it would be a futile attempt to describe the undescribable, to express the inexpressible, and to discuss the undiscussible. Since we do have to rely on a spoken language to a certain extent, I will pour few words on the matter in hand anyway.

Emptiness as a state of being, is better expressed by actions. Lets see for example, how the Saint Milarepa of Tibet demonstrated his realization of Emptiness to a group of Indian Pandits who came to test his attainment:

Once a group of Pandits from India who heard about the great sage Milarepa came to him and asked for a discourse on Emptiness. Instead of answering, Milarepa took the Pandits to a place where a large boulder was stationed. Uttering not a word, he passed through the boulder to its other side as if his body and the boulder were made of air. Nodding their heads disapprovingly, the Pandits said that his teachings weren’t good enough. Saying nothing, Milarepa Crossed his legs in the lotus position and rouse up in the air, hovering motionless high in the sky above the Pandits heads. This time the Pandits prostrated to Milarepa, acknowledging his great understanding and realization of Emptiness.

More than being just a myth or a legend, I think that the story is trying to tell us that when one realizes Emptiness, the whole Universe of phenomena is in conformity with that person’s mind, or it might be better to say that the person and the Universe are becoming one whole Emptiness-realized-mind. Being in such a profound state, all dualities drop by themselves and there is no confusion anymore.

Did we reach such a state?

From the conceptual point of view, if we understand and except Emptiness of phenomena, all distinctions fall away. For example, every one of us has a nose, but each one of us has a different nose. We can say that “noseness” is the identical essence the multitude of people share, so even that each person’s nose is different, “noseness” nullify distinctions of one nose being “better” than other nose. Distinction between different noses is emptied of relevance. How all of that is connected to morality? When the matters of race, ethnicity, background, religion, gender and so on are being discovered as empty concepts, we have the basis of sila: Any kind of conflict grounded in the distinctions aforementioned above will be uprooted.

Emptiness is embedded in the five precepts, since there is no real self and others, any action of offense such as killing, stealing, wrong speech, sexual misconduct and intoxicating oneself will prove the lack of understanding of Emptiness on the offender’s part. The very initial need or will to commit such acts revolve around the wrong perception of self and others as real entities.

And how come that morality and compassion are the inevitable consequences of realization of Emptiness? As qualities of the Empty mind, morality and compassion, rather than being intentional movements within the mind, will be the total absence of greed, hatred and ignorance. Actively, any action of the Emptiness-realized-mind will be non other then morality and compassion.

Taking the Buddha and the other Buddhist saints as an example of human beings who realized Emptiness, we can see that they harbored non-of these confusions as “falling into Emptiness”, or that Emptiness will lead them to luck of compassion, or that their morality and chastity will be violated. The Buddha and his saints didn’t indulge in sex, or acid parties. They didn’t entertain war affairs in their minds, nor they held any political views.

Their sole aim was to do what is beneficial and good to all sentient being, no matter what the circumstances were. They never launched wars thinking that because everything is “empty”, “no selves” are “not killing” the other non Buddhists “no selves”, or when that “no self” is commiting sexual offense against another “no self”, thinking there is no infraction of the third precept that prohibiting sexual misconduct.

Regarding the importance of practicing self-cultivation I would like to cite two Great Masters on this matter:

KarmaChagmeRagaAsay

Mahamudra and Dzogchen Master Karma Chagmey Rinpoche

(An extract taken from the book The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen  by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche pp-164 Rangjung Yeshe Publications)

"Sometimes, your body, mind and everything becomes voidness.
Perceiving everything as being empty. You will start to use high
Dharma words.

You might think that just as the empty sky can not be tainted by
anything whatsoever.

There is no reason for good and evil deeds to bring benefit or
harm.

If you keep a wild life-style and do not practice what is virtuous.
This nihilistic view of Emptiness is the cause of falling to the
lower realms.

It is called the ‘perverted view regarding Emptiness’
Although you may perceive everything to be empty in that way.

Maintain the essence and exert yourself in excepting and
Rejecting that which concerns cause and effect."

הענן הריק

הענן הריק

Grand Zen Master Hsu Yun

(An extract from Master Hsu Yun’s Discourses and Dharma words, edited, translated and explained by Lu Kuan Yu pp 14-15)

Strict observance if the rules of discipline (commandment)

"In striving to perform one`s religious duty, the first thing is to observe the rules of discipline. For discipline is the fundamental of the Supreme Bodhi; discipline begets immutability and immutability begets wisdom. There is no such thing as self-cultivation without observance of the rules of discipline. The Surangama Sutra which lists four kinds of purity, clearly teaches us that cultivation of Samadhi (-mind) without observance of the rules of discipline, will not wipe out the dust (impurities). Even if there be manifestation of much knowledge with dhyana, this also will cause a fall into (the realm of) maras (evil demons) and heretics. Therefore, we know that observance of the rules of discipline is very important. A man observing them is supported and protected by dragon-kings and devas, and respected and feared by maras and heretics. A man breaking the rules of discipline is called a big robber by the ghosts who make a clean sweep of even his footprints. Formerly, in Kubhana state (Kashmir), there was nearby a monastery a poisonous dragon which frequently played havoc in the region. (In the monastery) five hundred arhats gathered together but failed to drive away the dragon with their collective power of Dhyana-samadhi. Later, a monk came (to the monastery) where he did not enter into Dhyana-samadhi; he merely said to the poisonous dragon: `Will the wise and virtuous one leave this place and go to some distant one.` Thereupon, the poisonous dragon fled to a distant place. When asked by the arhats what miraculous power he had used to drive away the dragon, the monk replied: `I did not use the power of Dhyana-samadhi; I am only very careful about keeping the rules of discipline and I observe a minor one with the same care as a major one.` So, we can see that the collective power of five hundred arhats` Dhyana- samadhi cannot compare with a monk`s strict observance of the rules of discipline.
If you (retort and) ask me (why) the Sixth Patriarch said:

`Why should discipline be observed if the mind is (already) impartial?
Why should straightforward men practice Ch`an ?`

I will ask you back this question: `Is your mind already impartial and straightforward; if the (lady) Ch`ang O came down from the moon with her naked body and embraced you in her arms, would your heart remain undisturbed; and if someone without any reason insults and beats you, will you not give rise to feelings of anger and resentment? Can you refrain from differentiating between enmity and affection, between hate and love, between self and other, and between right and wrong? If you can do all this, then you can open your mouth widely to talk, otherwise it is useless to tell a deliberate lie.`"

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