True Emptiness, Wondrous Existence

Life is good and to be enjoyed.

The individual self is one with nature, an integral part of the vast universe. The Buddhist quest is to realize our “greater self” and to obtain liberation from the “lesser self”, the self of ego, self-cherishing and clinging. The view from the greater self is like the view from the top of mountain. It’s hard not to be enthralled with the vista. The lesser self is like standing on the land below in the fog. The view is limited.

To me, this is what is meant by the phrase chen-k’ung miao-yu (Jp. shinku-myou) or “true emptiness, wondrous existence.”

Chen-k’ung or “true emptiness”, refers to the realm of thought, the mind that realizes the emptiness of all things. It’s a state of mind that, free from attachments, is likened to space – it’s non-obstructive, open, infinite. Miao-yu, “wondrous existence”, says Buddhist scholar Ng Yu-kwan, “would imply an affirmative but non-attaching attitude toward the dharmas [things] in the world.” In other words, emptiness does not deny or reject existence, rather it offers us insight into the mystery of existence, it’s inexplicableness, and the glorious interdependency of everything.

Chih-i interpreted the word miao as “subtle.” Paul Swanson, in Foundations of T’ien-T’ai Philosophy, states, “For Chih-I the word ‘subtle’ symbolized and summarized that which is beyond conceptual understanding and thus it is the word most appropriate to describe reality, which is ultimately indescribable.”

This is similar to what is expressed in the Tao Te Ching:

The Tao that can be known is not the infinite Tao.
The name that can be named is not the infinite name.
The unnamable is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is mother to ten thousand things.
Those without constant desire see into its subtlety.
Those with constant desire, only see its limit.
These two have the same origin
But are given different designations.
We call them both mysteries.
Deepness within deepness:
The gate to all subtleties.

It may sound strange but you should be pleased to know that things are empty, for it is what makes existence truly wondrous.

In The Heart of Understanding, Thich Nhat Hanh, commenting on the maxim “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” from the Heart Sutra, says,

‘Emptiness’ means empty of a separate self. It is full of everything, full of life. The word ‘emptiness’ should not scare us. It is a wonderful word. To be empty does not mean to be nonexistent.”

When one has attained this understanding of the oneness of true emptiness and wondrous existence and is liberated from thought processes that form attachments, our saha or mundane world is transformed into a world of ten thousand wonders.

The message today then is that letting go of attachments does not mean that we cease enjoying life and seeing emptiness does not mean to depreciate beauty.

Because, as Han-shan Te-ch’ing said, “so-called existence is called ‘wondrous existence’ because the illusory existence is fundamentally non-existent”, we can see the world around us clearly, without veils of desires and attachment before our eyes, or as if we were standing on a mountain above the fog, and that enables us to embrace what we see and what is enjoyable about life from a profoundly higher level of appreciation.

Life is good and to be enjoyed.

Enjoy being a laughing, smiling, happy Buddha all day.




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