By Wes Annac, Editor, Karma Yoga Daily
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To some extent, we all want to fill the emptiness within. We fill it with anything we can find – food, material things, anything that brings even the slightest bit of pleasure – because for some reason, acknowledging and living with the emptiness is scary.
Why can’t we be content with the emptiness, explore it, and maybe let it teach us a thing or two? What if, instead of trying so hard to avoid the void, we try to see what’s in there? Nothing is in there, which is precisely what scares us so much about it.
Of all the aspects of spiritual life to discuss, spiritual teachers often emphasize getting comfortable with exploring the emptiness because in it, we find the answers we seek. For most of us, exploring it is the last thing we want to do.
It’s akin to jumping off of a cliff without knowing if we’ll make it.
What do you mean I should empty my mind? What will I do? What will I think about? What kind of life would that be?
Some people have no conception of this inner emptiness. A mere mention of it would sound like gibberish to them because they literally can’t imagine it. In their eyes, it’s nothing more than spiritual mumbo jumbo.
Anyone who’s had an authentic meditative experience will know exactly what emptiness is. It is the state of consciousness you fall into when you breathe, put your erratic thoughts to rest, and leave yourself with nothing but the infinite void they usually fill.
It is peace, contentment, and relaxation amplified. In this state, you need nothing. Every ounce of fulfillment you could ever hope to find in the world is abundantly present, and a mystical, otherworldly quality is present throughout the experience.
It’s difficult to explain, but living comfortably in this emptiness is, in my opinion, the key to true fulfillment and spiritual bliss. If it’s true that we evolve spiritually or reach some tipping point and become enlightened, then this is one of the best routes to take.
Put simply, we need to empty the mind. I’m not advocating mindlessness or anti-intellectualism, as the intellect is not necessarily what we need to rest. We need to rest the ego, because if not, it jams up our consciousness and prevents emotional maturity.
Jiddu Krishnamurti explains that relaxing our thoughts can lead to a state of love.
“Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.” (1)
According to Bodhidharma, emptiness is the consciousness of the Buddha.
“To know that the mind is empty is to see the buddha. The buddhas of the ten directions have no mind. To see no mind is to see the buddha.” (2)
He also tells us:
“The essence of [the mind’s] function is emptiness. And emptiness is essentially motionless.” (3)
Franklin Merrell-Wolff explains that emptiness is difficult for the ego to comprehend.
“This Emptiness is Absolute Fullness but, as such, never can be comprehended from the perspective of egoistic consciousness.” (4)
He tells us about his experience with the void.
“I saw that genuine Recognition is simply a realization of Nothing, but a Nothing that is absolutely substantial and identical with the SELF. This was the final turn of the Key that opened the Door.
“I found myself at once identical with the Voidness, Darkness, and Silence, but realized them as utter, though ineffable, Fullness, in the sense of Substantiality, Light, in the sense of Illumination, and Sound, in the sense of pure Meaning and Value. The deepening of consciousness that followed at once is simply inconceivable and quite beyond the possibility of adequate representation.” (5)
“The critical stage in the transformation”, he writes, “is the realization of the ‘I’ as zero. But, at once, that ‘I’ spreads out into an unlimited thickness. It is as if the ‘I’ became the whole of space.
“The Self is no longer a pole or focal point, but it sweeps outward, everywhere, in a sort of unpolarized consciousness, which is at once self-identity and the objective content of consciousness. It is an unequivocal transcendence of the subject-object relationship.” (6)
I could only hope to one day go as deep as Franklin and other teachers have. Of course, it requires dedication, extreme discipline, and love for the journey. One meditation session might be enough to calm your mind and gain a little insight; but if you want to get to the places Franklin and others describe, you’d better be in it for the long haul.
Proponents of psychedelics say that those drugs can get you to the same place – or a more intense place – without the need to build your life around them. Those teacher plants and substances can be helpful for curious seekers in a hurry, but whether you use them or not, it’s best to commit to your inner work.
The effects of psychedelics will eventually fade. By dedicating yourself to your spiritual path, you can create lasting peace, self-awareness, and higher consciousness. If you decide to go this route, I highly recommend reading the works of Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and similar teachers.
They all implore us to work on ourselves over seeking spiritual awareness externally. Either path, if adequately explored, can lead to a profound understanding of the emptiness we often avoid.
(1) Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, “Krishnamurti: The Core of His Teachings,” 1980, downloaded from http://www.katinkahesselink.net/kr/core.htm, 4 Nov. 2007.
(2) Red Pine, trans., The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. Port Townsend, WA, Empty Bowl, 1987, 24.
(3) Ibid., 22.
(4) Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Pathways Through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 12.
(5) Franklin Merell-Wolff, Philosophy of Consciousness without an Object. Reflections on the Nature of Transcendental Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 36-7.
(6) Ibid., 38-9.
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