Emptiness

Written by on May 29, 2008 in The Healing Journey with 0 Comments

I’m reading Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, and was struck by a passage in Chapter Four. I love this analogy. It is what inspired my book, “Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes”.

Thich Nhat Hanh is addressing non-elements, using paper as an example. The clouds, sun, forest, logger, wheat that fed the logger, the logger’s father are all non-paper elements. If you remove them, the paper is empty.

Empty of what? he asks.

Empty of a separate self. It has been made by all the non-self elements, non-paper elements, and if all these non-paper elements are taken out, it is truly empty, empty of an independent self. Empty, in this sense, means that the paper is full of everything, the entire cosmos. The presence of this tiny sheet of paper proves the presence of the whole cosmos.

Emptiness that means emptiness of an individual through the fullness of everything. This made me just sit back and think about our western conception of what nirvana or attaining that state of emptiness means. Culturally, this is not a very attractive form of “heaven”. I mean who wants to be nothing? To the western way of thinking, this equates with annihilation – ceasing to exist.

But in the Buddhist way of thinking, emptiness is actually “more”. I think it’s the equivalent of the dying of the seed to become the wheat. Only, we’ve come to believe or hope it means the salvation and glorification of the seed into a better seed in a happier pot.

How many gifts from other cultures do we…does any culture miss that cannot accept them through the filters of our own confined understanding? And to what depth of understanding can something “foreign” have on our understanding of the teachings of our own teachers?

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. "For the Sake of Love” is her collection of songs written on Demian's healing journey, and “Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes” is a children’s book she wrote for her daughter about the interconnectedness of life published by Illumination Arts and endorsed by Jane Goodall. Currently, Demian is working on recording episodes for her podcast and writing on the "Where There's Smoke Series on Covert Abuse". .

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