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)