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Form Is Emptiness
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Form Is Emptiness (22 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
June 5, 2011 - Dallas, Texas

Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. Whenever we are feeling stressed out, irritated, overwhelmed, caught in the drama of life, then we practice form is emptiness, which means all of this is not as it seems. None of this is ultimately everlasting. This too shall pass. That is what form is emptiness means.

Form is emptiness. Form is empty. So all of these different forms, all these different experiences, all these different circumstances, all these problems that we have, they are all empty. They are not ultimately eternal. They will not stay the same. They are malleable, flexible, permeable, not permanent. They can change. They can transform. They can shift. That is one meaning of emptiness, empty. It means malleable, flexible, changeable, transformational, or transformative or transformable.

So any time you encounter form or you are feeling suffering, feeling irritation, feeling overwhelmed, feeling confusion, practice with the truth is empty. It is not as it seems. So your neighbor who you just cannot stand who keeps doing these things to totally irritate you, that neighbor is not what you think he or she is. He is not the enemy. That is something your mind has created, labeling this human being of divine light, this interesting manifestation of Buddha nature, you are labeling as enemy. Source of my unhappiness. Irritant. Pest.

But that form that you have put on that category of being of light, it is empty. Your labels are all empty. They are not ultimately real. Because the reality is every thing and every experience and every one is simply divine light, Buddha nature, manifesting. And some of the Buddhas around us are very immature Buddhas, yes, but all of us at one point or another or maybe even now have been quite immature Buddhas in this lifetime or a past one, whenever. Maybe in this lifetime especially.

So, we need to have some patience and understanding and step back a little bit. That movement of stepping back is the practice of form is emptiness. So do not get so caught up in the forms around you. You don't need to get so caught up in the dramas. When you realize that it is empty, then you do not need to cling to the drama aspect of it. You can have some nonattachment.

The reason why is because ultimately, all of these forms are empty of solid, eternal nature because what they really are is simply energy. And even beyond that, energy is consciousness or spirit or mind, whatever you want to use, whatever word, and that is Buddha nature.

So really, all these different forms, they are just Buddha nature. And whatever form your so-called enemy is in is not eternal, everlasting. It is changeable. Maybe tomorrow they will see the light and will have a change of heart, but you know what makes it really hard for them? You are still projecting the word, the label, the form of enemy on them, and it keeps them in that longer.

Have you ever noticed how your thoughts on someone keep them that way even though they may have changed, but you still perceive them that way? Have you ever noticed how you act around your parents? Even though you have grown up already, at the moment you walk into their house, all of a sudden you are this 12-year-old boy or girl again. And the way you interact with them several decades ago is somehow how you are acting again, even though you have changed. Have you ever noticed that? Because their projection on you has somewhat of a hold on you, as well as your projection on them. You see?

So, we don't need to hold onto our forms because they are empty. They are malleable. They are flexible, changeable. Because they're actually just energy, and energy can change and shift. They are actually just spirit, and spirit can take many forms. They are actually just Buddhas that can awaken.

But if you practice in such a way that you realize that all these forms are not ultimately real and that the only true reality is infinite spirit, true nature, vast, big mind, and only this Buddha nature is real, you might get caught in another little thing. You might then just pooh-pooh everything.

It is like, well, you know, you are not awake yet. But I know the truth. You are not really that way. You're not really real. I'm just going to ignore you. And all the suffering in the world, it is ultimately not real. I'm not let it bother me. I am just going to go to my mountaintop and just meditate, bliss out, om.

Emptiness is form. What you call Buddha nature, what you have realized through your spiritual practice, that infinite vastness, yes that is the ultimate reality, but guess what that ultimate reality does? That ultimate reality manifests as this and this and this and this and this. So if you pooh-pooh the forms, you are pooh-poohing the infinite, because emptiness is form.

So even if you have realized a certain level of enlightenment, go one more step and remember that enlightenment, Buddha nature, always is manifesting as form. They don't say, "I'm going to leave the world behind. The body is an illusion. The world is of the devil. I am just going to be with God." Guess what God is. Guess what God does, if you want to use that word, God. God is you and me. God is the earth and the plants. God is this table. God is always manifesting as everything, if you want to use that word. But you don't have to use that word. Maybe you don't believe in God. Just say, "Ultimate reality, infinite nature, the universe, that essence of the universe always manifest as all existing things."

So even though you may have realized that infiniteness, remember that infiniteness always is right here and now. Emptiness is form. So love the forms. Respect the forms. Honor the forms. Because every single person you meet is exactly that same experience of when you had that infinite reality experience. They are that.

So both are true. Form is empty, and emptiness takes form. But depending on where you are at in your practice, you may need one truth more than the other to whip you up into shape, to kick your butt spiritually. It's so, if you are caught up in the drama of things and if you are taking the forms too seriously and you are being overwhelmed by it all, remember, it is all empty. It is not as it seems, so you can let it go.

But if you have had a lot of spiritual experiences and practice, and you have had these overwhelming blissful states of being and you want to be with that always, remember that is right here and now. You know, there is no separation between that and this. What you think this is? This is the infinite manifesting as form.

So if you want to be one with the divine, then be one with each other. Be one with the flowers. Be one with the earth with every breath and every step. Take care of your meditation center. Volunteer and do vacuuming, watering the plants. Wash your car. I need to do that. Make your bed. Honor it as a manifestation of the infinite. Give your loved ones a hug every day.

Integrating these two truths is our practice, because if you are caught in only the truth that form is empty, you get caught in the emptiness. But if you are practicing only with emptiness takes form, you might get too much caught up in the form. So you need both in balance. That is our practice of integration. Form is empty. It is good to practice without when you're getting too caught up in form. Remember the incident vastness. But then if you're too caught up in the vastness and the ultimate and you don't really care about the worldly things anymore, well, remember emptiness is form.

You know, when you think, I just want to be with God. I just want to get away from the world. I just want to be with this bliss of meditation, well, what do you think that is manifesting as? That infinite that you are seeking is already here in all the forms. So practice with both, and I think for the majority of us, we still need to practice with form is empty because I think we are very much caught up in the drama of the forms, and we need to realize and have a taste of emptiness. So I think most of us need to keep practicing with that. But if there are one or two of you in the room then have tasted it enough to really to know it deeply, then remember that emptiness, that pure, blissful emptiness, is form.

So if you want to sustain that oneness with the infinite emptiness, you can do it with each form, each vow, each breath, each step, each sweep of the broom, each scrub the toilet. That is why I love the Zen tradition of Buddhism. I mean, I love all the traditions of Buddhism, but I especially love the Zen form because in Zen, they understand that integration very deeply of emptiness and form, form and emptiness, and that's why not only is there sitting meditation, but there is also working meditation in every Zen temple.

I have had some very wonderful experiences of insight just from the working meditations. I remember one insight at a five-day retreat where it was very intensive sitting meditation for many hours. We always had to do a few seconds of working meditation right after each sitting meditation, which is basically to get up and vowed to our cushion and wipe the mat and fluff the cushion. You take this cushion, which is very flat because you have been sitting on it and maybe others before you, and you fluff it. So if everyone fluffed them every time after they sat, it would stay soft and be very comfortable for the next person who uses it.

I remember one time thinking, oh my gosh. It is clean already. Why do I have to keep cleaning the mat and fluffing the pillow? It is fluffed already. But one time after the bell rang and I got up to wipe my mat and fluff my pillow, all of a sudden, it was like slow motion, just wiping the mat. And all this energy of opening and the love just washed through me, and tears began to come down my face as I realized that this is a pure act of love and gratitude.

And I realized that how we do the little things is how we do the big things. How we do anything is how we do everything. We were saying all these words and the chanting of: may all beings be happy. And, there are countless beings. We vow to free them all. Big words, but it starts with this little dust particle. It starts with this after sitting meditation this cushion. How can you take care of all beings if you cannot take care of this moment, this place, this mat, this neighbor, this center? It starts here with the little things.

And another time I was at another Zen temple in California, and after the sitting meditation, we were asked to do some working meditation. So I was given a broom, and I was sleeping the outside of the temple by the street. And there is a lot of dust and a lot of leaves and little pieces of gum wrappers and things like that, so I just swept, swept, breathing in, breathing out, mindfully sweeping. And then the wind would blow, and more dust and leaves and gum wrappers would come onto the steps of the temple, so I would sweep them also. And then the wind would blow again. And then I had a moment of pure joy because I realized that sweeping will never end.

So my practice is not to make the temple perfectly clean, but just simply to offer my love in service in this moment knowing that what I do now, it is not going to last, but it is okay because it is eternal now. It is just love now. I just do my little part now, and someone else will do their part later. I just do my part now, and that is all I need to do.

So you do not need to solve all of your problems. You do not need to heal everyone's suffering around you. You just be yourself in this moment and offer your heart and love now. That is all that matters. Just take care of what is here in front of you or besides you or around you, the little things. Just take care of that, and little by little as we each do our small part, lo and behold, the world is transformed.

One little raindrop by itself does not do much. It might even evaporate. But when we add our little raindrops of little acts of kindness together, it forms a mighty river, unstoppable, a mighty river of enlightenment, a mighty river of wisdom, a mighty river of compassion, a mighty river of who you really are. So just sweep, even if it does not always stay clean. So just hug, even if the person isn't going to stay in your life forever. So even just say thank you, even if you may never see that person ever again. So just give that dollar, even if you don't know where it is going to go.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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