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The Spiritual

"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


"If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation"
J.Krishnamurthi


"From the first, nothing is"
Buddha


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life"
Thich Nhat Hahn


"A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey"
Sufi Proverb


Guest Authors

Emptiness I

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Emptiness is a key concept in Buddhist philosophy, or more precisely, in the ontology of Mahayana Buddhism. The phrase "form is emptiness; emptiness is form" is perhaps the most celebrated paradox associated with Buddhist philosophy. It is the supreme mantra. The expression originates from the Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra, commonly known as the Heart Sutra, which contains the philosophical essence of about six hundred scrolls making up the Maha Prajna Paramita. The Heart Sutra is the shortest text in this collection. It belongs to the oldest Mahayana texts and presumably originated in India around the time of Jesus Christ.

The Heart Sutra

Translation by Edward Conze

Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy!
Avalokita, The Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdomwhich has
gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their ownbeing
they were empty.

Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not
differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever
is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

Here, Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are not produced or stopped, not
defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Therefore, Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor
consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or
objects of mind; No sight?organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind?consciousness
element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no
decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping,
no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non?attainment.

Therefore, Sariputra, it is because of his non?attainment that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on
the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought?coverings. In the absence of thought?coverings he
has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.
All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and
perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.Therefore one should
know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, 
allayer of all suffering, in truth ? for what could go wrong? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered?
It runs like this:

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all?hail!

Translations and commentary
Avalokita = Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion
Sariputra = disciple of the Buddha
sunyata = emptiness, void
prajna = wisdom
paramita = that which has reached the other shore
prajnaparamita = wisdom acquired experientially, by means of intuitive insight, and
perfected through cultivation to the level of transcendental knowledge
hridaya = heart
nirvana = ultimate attainment
bodhi = awakened mind
sattva = being

According to Buddhist scholars, the dialog between Avalokiteshvara and Sariputra is inspired by the Buddha. This is to say it occurs spontaneously without the speaker's intention. The content of the conversation is determined entirely by the power of the Buddha's concentration. The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara represents the idea of perfect universal wisdom, while Sariputra is regarded as one of the Buddha's closest and brightest disciples. The dialog takes place at the Vulture Peak near the ancient city of Rajgaya where the Buddha and his community of monks stayed. Sariputra requests
Avalokiteshvara to instruct him on the practice of the perfection of wisdom, which means prajnaparamita in Sanskrit. The perfection of wisdom refers to the wisdom that directly and intuitively understands the ultimate nature of phenomena. Sariputra answers with the profound words, "Emptiness is form; form is emptiness," and proceeds to state the emptiness of the five aggregates (skandhas), the emptiness of the teachings (dharmas), and the emptiness of all phenomena. The sutra ends with the celebrated mantra "gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha" which can be translated with "Homage to the awakened mind which has gone over to the other shore." The one who has gone over means: the enlightened one, who has done away with views, ideas, and perceptions and who looks upon reality without any obstructions of mind.

What is Emptiness?

The Buddhist notion of emptiness is often misunderstood as nihilism. Unfortunately, 19th century Western philosophy has contributed much to this misconstruction. Meanwhile Western scholars have acquired enough knowledge about Buddhism to realize that this view is far from accurate. The only thing that nihilism and the teachings of emptiness can be said to have in common is a sceptical outset. While nihilism concludes that reality is unknowable, that nothing exists, that nothing meaningful can be communicated about the world, the Buddhist notion of emptiness arrives at just the opposite, namely that ultimate reality is knowable, that there is a clear?cut ontological basis for phenomena, and that we can communicate and derive useful knowledge from it about the world.

Emptiness (sunyata) must not be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is not non?existence and it is not non?reality. What is emptiness then? To understand the philosophical meaning of this term, let's look at a simple solid object, such as a cup. How is a cup empty? We usually say that a cup is empty if it does not contain any liquid or solid. This is the ordinary meaning of emptiness. But, is the cup really empty? A cup empty of liquids or solids is still full of air. To be precise, we must therefore state what the cup is empty of. Can a cup be empty of all substance? A cup in a vacuum does not contain ny air, but it still contains space, light, radiation, as well as its own substance. Hence, from a physical point of view, the cup is always full of something. Yet, from the Buddhist point of view, the cup is always empty. The Buddhist understanding of emptiness is different from the physical meaning. The cup
being empty means that it is devoid of inherent existence. What is meant with non?inherent existence? Is this to say that the cup does not ultimately exist? ? Not quite. ? The cup exists, but like everything in this world, its existence depends on other phenomena. There is nothing in a cup that is inherent to that specific cup or to cups in general. Properties such as being hollow, spherical, cylindrical, or leakproof are not intrinsic to cups. Other objects which are not cups have similar properties, as for example vases and glasses. The cup's properties and components are neither cups themselves nor do they imply cupness on their own. The material is not the cup. The shape is not the cup. The function is not the cup. Only all these aspects together make up the cup. Hence, we can say that for an object to be a cup we require a collection of specific conditions to exist. It depends on the combination of function, use, shape, base material, and the cup's other aspects. Only if all these conditions exist simultaneously does the mind impute cupness to the object. If one condition ceases to exist, for instance, if the cup's shape is altered by breaking it, the cup forfeits some or all of its cupness, because the object's function, its shape, as well as the imputation of cupness through perception is disrupted. The cup's existence thus depends on external circumstances. Its physical essence remains elusive.

Those readers who are familiar with the theory of ideas of the Greek philosopher Plato will notice that this is pretty much the antithesis to Plato's idealism. Plato holds that there is an ideal essence of everything, e.g. cups, tables, houses, humans, and so on. Perhaps we can give Plato some credit by
assuming that the essence of cups ultimately exists in the realm of mind. After all, it is the mind that perceives properties of an object and imputes cupness onto one object and tableness onto another.

It is the mind that thinks "cup" and "table". Does it follow that the mind is responsible for the existence of these objects? ? Apparently, the mind does not perceive cups and tables if there is no visual and tactile sensation. And, there cannot be visual and tactile sensation if there is no physical object. The perception thus depends on the presence of sensations, which in turn relies on the presence of the physical object. This is to say that the cup's essence is not in the mind. 

It is neither to be found in the physical object. Obviously, its essence is neither physical nor mental. It cannot be found in the world, not in the mind, and certainly not in any heavenly realm, as Plato imagined. We must conclude that the objects of perception have therefore no inherent existence. If this is the case for a simple object, such as a cup, then it must also apply to compound things, such as cars, houses, machines, etc. A car, for example, needs a motor, wheels, axles, gears, and many other things to work. Perhaps we should consider the difference between manmade objects, such as cups, and natural phenomena, such as earth, plants, animals, and human beings. One may argue that lack of inherent existence of objects does not imply the same for natural phenomena and beings.

In case of a human being, there is a body, a mind, a character, a history of actions, habits, behaviour, and other things we can draw upon to describe a person. We can even divide these characteristics further into more fundamental properties. For example, we can analyse the mind and see that there are sensations, cognition, feelings, and ideas. Or, we can analyse the brain and find that there are neurons, axons, synapses, and neurotransmitters. However, none of these constituents describe the essence of the person, the mind, or the brain. Again, the essence remains elusive.

More in Part II

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