If you are ever reading to or listening to a Dharma talk, sutra, or any discussion of Buddha Dharma, and something strikes you as strange or perhaps off-putting, there’s a good chance the word(s) being used can be translated into other words that are not so off-putting or confusing. One example is the word emptiness. Emtpiness doesn’t mean that something doesn’t exist. It means means that it may not exist in the way you see it. (Or hear, or taste, or touch, or smell, and so on.) Often we see something, perhaps a person walking down the street, and we superimpose our preconceptions and judgements upon that person. We then see them through colored, or perhaps scratched and dirty, lenses. We may judge a homeless person as a loser, a danger, or despicable in some way. And the truth may be that this person fell upon hard times through no fault of their own and is actually the sweetest, kindest, most gentle person you will ever meet. They may have their PhD from Stanford University. They may have problems due to an abusive childhood. We don’t know the story of other people. Strip away our preconceptions and judgements, and you will see just a person. A person who wants peace and happiness, a person who is worthy of peace and happiness, just like you and me. Emptiness also means that dharma (things) are impermanent. Are you the same as you were yesterday? Will you be the same tomorrow? Will you live forever? Have you lived forever ago? No. Things change. Fighting that can cause suffering. Being at peace with change and impermanence can lead to a more peaceful relationship with the world. Being at peace with change and impermanence can lead to a more peaceful relationship with ourselves.
Emptiness: Without a permanent, independent existence. Without one’s judgements and preconceptions. No big deal.
No-self: Strip away all your labels–American, German, Vietnamese… Democrat, Republican… Buddhist, Hindu, Christian… Athlete, Scholar, Rich, Poor… Just be. As soon as you fill in the blank, “I am ________.” you’ve labeled yourself and made yourself different from others.
Right: Harmonious (Ven. Ghante Pathago)
Sending Metta: (by Mangala/rob W.) In Buddhism the topic of Metta, lovingkindness, comes up a lot. In our group we often talk about “sending” Metta to specific people. I have also heard it referred to as “projecting” or “radiating” Metta. I do not practice Metta in this way. I try to “live” Metta in all aspects of my life. Read Rob’s full explanation
Mangala/rob W. on Metta
My name is Rob, Pali name Mangala. I am primarily a practitioner in the Theravadan tradition. I also participate in a meditation/discussion group with the Mt. Adams Buddhist Temple, a Zen temple.
In Buddhism the topic of Metta, lovingkindness, comes up a lot. In our group we often talk about “sending” Metta to specific people. I have also heard it referred to as “projecting” or “radiating” Metta.
I do not practice Metta in this way. I try to “live” Metta in all aspects of my life. I also practice in another discipline other than Buddhism where we have two references that I try to incorporate into my Metta practice. One is “love and tolerance of others is our code.” The other prompts me to “practice these principles in all our affairs.”
So my Metta practice is to practice Metta in the form of Love and Tolerance to all beings and to strive to practice this in every part of my life. The suggestion is not ambiguous. It tells me to practice love and tolerance of OTHERS. It doesn’t say “love and tolerance of people like myself” or “people I like”. It says “Love and tolerance of others” which I take to mean ALL others. I extend it to mean “all beings, human or not human, sentient or non-sentient. I don’t try to send it out or project it or radiate it but to practice it in all aspects of my life and with all beings I come in contact with, directly or indirectly.
My Pali name, Mangala, means blessing. I did not ask for a Buddhist name or even think I wanted one but this one was bestowed on me by my first teacher, Ajahn Fa Thai, a monk who I respect and think most highly of. The fact that he felt this was an appropriate name for me, touched me deeply and today I try to live up to that name and to be a blessing in the lives of those I meet and practice with. I don’t know how well I do that, you’d have to ask them but that what I am trying to do.