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Spiritual Life and Practice is Empty

“We must remember that even spiritual life and practice are fundamentally empty.”

(Great Wisdom Heart Sutra, Hollow Bones Sutra Book p. 5-6)

If we pay attention to the Heart Sutra one may say it’s ridiculous, crazy, nuts or doesn’t make any sense. That may be closer to accurate than one might think. Wisdom one could say?

Not just on a fundamental level, but how we perceive or see the world. What we think or believe. How we react emotionally to ourselves and others.

The Heart Sutra kind of pulls the spiritual rug out from underneath us and leaves us with absolutely nothing in tact and nothing to cling to.

Our logical mind will not be satisfied nor receive these words well. We are receiving punches and blows to the head from all sides breaking us from our fundamental delusion.

If the sutra came in a nice little packag neatly and clearly, leaving no loose ends, we might be in danger of thinking we had grasped the Perfection of Wisdom.

The Heart Sutra can seem to trash all the hallmarks of Buddhist philosophy itself, such as the four noble truths, the Buddhist path, and nirvana. The sutra not only says that our ordinary thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are invalid and that they do not really exist as they seem, but that the same goes for all the concepts and frameworks of Buddhist philosophical schools and non-Buddhist schools, etc.

How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?

Without developing a soft heart and compassion, which like water softens our mental rigidity, there is a danger that the teachings on emptiness can make our hearts even harder. If we think we understand emptiness, but our compassion does not increase, or even lessens, we are on the wrong track.

Thus, the Heart Sutra teaches emptiness through the epitome of compassion. It is often said that, in a sense, emptiness is the heart of the Mahayana, but the heart of emptiness is compassion.

The Heart Sutra does not say “no home,” “no partner,” “no job,” “no money,” which are the things we usually care about. Therefore, in order to make it more relevant to our life, we have to fill those in. The Heart Sutra gives us a basic template of how to contemplate emptiness.

When everything else is torn away all that is left is thus… Heart… Compassion… Love…

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