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Nothing for Nothing

Emptying the pool table of your soul.

Charlie Martin


August 4, 2013 - 11:00 am
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Not to keep you in suspense, all those various arrangements that seem like enduring things, but aren’t, are known in Buddhist terms as skandhas, which means “heaps” or “aggregates”. A particular kind of heap of sand looks like a castle, or a church, but wind or waves will take it back to just part of the beach — its ground form.

So to speak.

This condition, this fact, that the things we see have no independent existence is called Sunyata, which means “zeroness” or “emptiness.” There are many Buddhist texts that say something to the effect that “existence is empty” and sunyata is the term that’s being translated as “emptiness”.

This leads a lot of people to think that buddhism is essentially nihilistic, that it asserts that everything is meaningless; this usually is carried on to assert that therefore there’s no real basis in Buddhism for morals or ethics or really any reason to live. This, I think, is a basic mistake that comes about from our cultural insistence on having there be an Outsider who made things, and is watching them work — or even meddling with things as time goes on.

When you practice meditation, when you practice the Eightfold Path, the Eight Beautiful Steps, the 八正道, though, you eventually get a different sense. Yes, everything you look at is a temporary heap that came together in the past, and will dissolve into something else in the future, but under it is the ordering principle, the cause and effect, the natural laws that are the universe. When your thinking shifts to see that, you see that those natural laws don’t have meaning, they are meaning.

And that meaning is, really, completely, and infinitely cool.


images courtesy shutterstock /  jörg röse-oberreich

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Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

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All Comments   (3)
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I heartily recommend, "Lord of Light" by Zelazny,for a different take on the Buddha
PS. Opening office next week
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Fair enough, I think it's cool, too.

But watch out: If you enjoy the infinite coolness -- if you even passively experience it as "coolness" -- rather than encountering it with passive indifference, then you do so only by satisfying a desire of which you should already have purged yourself by traveling the appropriate paths.

One must desire nothing; in the Buddha's system carried to its fullness suffering is ended not by fulfillment but by absence of striving. To experience the coolness of meaning is to have had a need for meaning and to have found it satisfied, however temporarily and inadequately. And there is a value-judgment implied: meaning is better than non-meaning. Gotta watch that!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Because, after all, it's impossible to enjoy something without striving to have that and avoid all those times when you're not noticing it.

Go back and think again, young padawan.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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