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Zen Emptiness is Enlightenment




In Zen Buddhism people become aware of thoughts. The whole universe is made up of thoughts. Once you become objectively aware of the thoughts, you clearly see that you are not the thoughts. A big mystery then occurs. If you are using the thoughts, you can't be the thoughts. Most people collect a few thoughts and habits and assume that this is who they are. If you are not those thoughts and habits, because you can change them at will, then who are you? The truth is unchangeable.




Thoughts are like clouds passing through the sky. If we watch those clouds come and go, a natural detachment occurs. There is no need to be emotional about them because they are just passing by. They are only notions, not a part of us.


 Once you see that you are separate from the thoughts, a witness, the next question naturally would be who is it that is seeing? Let's back up and look at the seen. The objects and the people that are seen are just empty forms. No one should be offended by that statement because if you look closely you will see that it is a fact.



The Masters

The Buddha and the Zen masters concluded that all forms are empty. This means that all the people, and everything that you are observing has no power. You are actually consciousness observing empty forms. When you remove all of your thoughts, it becomes clear that you have been projecting thoughts at people. They were only shadows. You were only dealing with thoughts all along. When you are talking with someone, the words are needed, the form is secondary. That's why you can use a telephone and get the same results. These words that you are reading indicate certain ideas, but I am not there with you. I have merely sent these words. You are always dealing with words.



The Empty

It may take time, but once you see that the world is empty, you are liberated. Nothing has any power to disturb you. As Master Lu-tsu said, "strength is in envisioning the empty, therewith the matter is settled." If you can see that you are only dealing with your thoughts, certainly all forms are empty. How can an "empty form" disturb you? It's like saying a shadow or a statue can disturb you. When was the last time a shadow or a statue hurt you? Other people are just like the shadow or the statue, they have no power. It's only your thoughts. The disturbance comes from our own thoughts, feelings and reactions to what we perceive as happening to us. As long as nothing physical has happened to you, nothing is happening but thoughts, your thoughts. Nobody makes you suffer. You can stop at any moment. It is only in your mind, not from outside. Suffering is an illusion based on your thoughts, feelings, memories of bad experiences and situations that you are imagining. The other person may have said or done some action toward you, but there is no power in it. It is void. They can't do anything to you. They are just an empty form, an appearance. Only you have the power within yourself. You can only feel your own feelings, not others feelings or opinions. You must remove the habit of instantly reacting negatively to your perception of rude behavior. You should have no conditioned reflex to whatever others are doing. Be free of it with detachment. Remembering the emptiness of forms will help you. If you remove the thoughts of them from your mind, what is happening right now? Nothing. You are always free because without your thoughts, nothing happens to you. You need not react at all. It has nothing to do with your being. Maharaj described others as hollow shells without any content whatsoever. Again, this is not a cruel statement about people, it is a deep insight that awakens you to the fact that you are always only dealing with your own mental concepts. More proof? Maharaj said he used to sit for hours repeating the words "I AM". After a while the whole illusion of the world that was in his mind disappeared. Only silence, peace and bliss remained. You can try it for a minute or two. Just repeat mentally the words "I AM". Don't think about anything else. After a while, stop and return to your normal thoughts about anything. Now it is clear that you are creating your own world with these thoughts. It is your own private world. A Zen teacher named Huang Po said when thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish. He said every phenomena that exists is a creation of thought; therefore I need but empty my mind to discover that all of them are void. Just let your minds become void and environmental phenomena will void themselves; let principles cease to stir and events will cease stirring themselves. To eliminate environmental phenomena, just put an end to your conceptual thinking. When this ceases, environmental phenomena are void. If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything. He said, if we practice stopping of thoughts, the mind will become tranquil. Pai-chang said, everything is in a state of quiescence right where it is. Fenyang said, once you realize universal emptiness, all situations are naturally mastered. You are always free of others and the world. Get rid of any thoughts that suggests you are in trouble. The whole illusion depends on your thoughts. Without your thoughts, it does not exist. It is not there. The Buddha said, the sage knows what is true reality, and sees all conditioned things as "empty" and powerless. Papaji said, all is mental construction. It is only your concepts. Nothing ever happened. Get rid of any ideation and tell me what is left. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said, remain in equanimity in the understanding that all phenomena are nothing more than projections of your own mind. He said, take a closer look at all these appearances, you will find that they have no true existence. When examined they are empty forms. Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, whichever way you think, the conclusion is that everything is empty of existing from its own side. All environmental phenomena are void as soon as you empty your mind because it is your thoughts. There is no power in the behavior, attitudes or actions of others. You live in your own thought environment and your thoughts are the only cause of any disturbance. You are creating it as you think. Otherwise, the whole world is just an empty, silent movie. For example, you can turn on the television and turn the volume down completely. You will only see objects and images of people doing certain actions. You will hear your own thoughts about what you are seeing. You are thinking thoughts about the people and what appears to be happening. It is the same in the outer world. You are continuously using your interpretations as you observe the people. It is only your thoughts. Whatever others are doing is irrelevant because they are just empty forms. They are the same as the people on the television screen. No one has ever had any power to disturb you and no one ever will. Maharaj said, once you realize that the world is your own projection, you are free of it. As soon as you realize this, you will become fearless. Bodhidhama said, all existents are empty, all appearances are empty. As you go deeper into this awareness, you will discover that all is an illusion. Only you have the Power. Never give power to other people no matter who they are. If you give them power, which is an illusion in your mind, you will never have peace. You will be at the mercy of their moods and attitudes. By way of a conditioned habit, you falsely think they have some external power to disturb you. In reality, the only energy that you can feel is your own. They have no power to affect you because they can only dwell in their thought world, not yours. Each person lives in their own world. You can remove anybody from your mind by simply not thinking about them. So how much power do they have? None. It is your Universe. The whole world is fighting over concepts. One guy says, you should obey the concepts floating through my head! The other guy says no, no, no, you should obey the notions floating through my head! When you step out of it, you laugh and understand that both of them are ridiculous. Each one is trying to lean things in favor of himself. You are primarily dealing with yourself and your thoughts. Just watch your own mind. Your whole drama is in your thoughts. You are commenting, judging or criticizing what you see in others. Then you are offended by your own thoughts and interpretations. You may even continue the offensive mental movie for hours or days when the person is no longer present. You are caught in a daydream. Osho said, between the dream and the actuality there is no difference. In both cases you are confined in your mind. You live in a dream world of your own. We remain enclosed in our own world. Why should you dwell on offensive thoughts? You are reviewing them over and over becoming more angry or frustrated. It's better to wake up. Clearly it's all internal now. It is an illusion from your memory. It is not a reality. The Buddha said, the past is empty. Those memories are only concepts. If you can remember when you started school, all the little kids and the teacher were there every day. Now return to the present moment. You are an adult. Those little kids are grown. Those concepts of the school, the teacher and the little kids are not a reality. They are only visual concepts stored in your memory. Life has moved on. Everything has already changed into something else. The same is true with any of your past experiences. They are not real. They do not exist now. Those concepts are illusions in your mind that you are choosing to dwell on. That's why Zen teachers say come back to now, the present moment. Drop the past. Osho said, the past is no more, it is absolutely irrelevant. In order to free yourself, you have to stop thinking about the offensive thoughts. Don't torture yourself with the past. If you have a negative reaction to other's behavior just relax, laugh and forgive yourself. Remind yourself that they have no power to affect you. It was only your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Maharaj said, there are no persons, only threads of memories and habits. Forget the past drama/experience immediately. Let go of it and stay with the truth, not the illusion. Ignore it. Ranjit said, be indifferent to things because they do not exist. It is only your thoughts. Just as in a dream, its all in your mind. What happens and what you experience is nothing but an illusion. You have to go beyond concepts. Stay in the present moment. Osho said, come back home. Take your reality back. Things are only as real as you make them. It is your projection. Otherwise they are empty, of no significance at all. Neither to be indulged in nor to be renounced. Both are irrelevant. Rest in yourself. Papaji said, whatever you see around you is your concept only. You are agitated by your own notions, but know they are empty, they do not exist. Just keep quiet. Don't entertain any notions. It has to work. Nothing is happening. Kalu Rinpoche said, simply recognizing mind's true nature as emptiness, clarity, and unimpededness can completely destroy emotional distractions. He said this kind of instantaneous power of recognition completely crushes one's emotional and mental imbalances. Foyan said, just detach from emotional thought and understand that there is no objective world. Ramana said, what is called the world is only thought. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world.




In summary, this is the way to freedom. Look at your thoughts. If you can see that you are only dealing with your thoughts, who are you? Zen says first, toss all thoughts. Drop the past illusions, feelings, experiences, perceptions and mistakes. Let go of everything. Don't cling to anybody or anything. Just be still. Now that there are no more thoughts, what's left? Empty space or nothingness. There is nothing to comment on. Now you can relax. You are only in this moment. Only silence is there. The people and the objects remain in the world, but you know they are just empty forms. Remember, peace and freedom has nothing to do with other people's moods, faults or strange behavior. If it did, nobody could have peace. Emptiness within and in the outer is the key. The no thought state. Now you are freedom itself. Sri Ramana called this state solitude. It is the nonduality state. Maharaj said, there is no question of duality because nothing exists except me. Only I exist. Hold on to the sense of 'I AM' to the exclusion of everything else. Refuse all thoughts except one: the thought 'I Am'. He is simply acknowledging the reality that he is only experiencing the concepts and himself, nothing else. By removing the concepts, only consciousness remains. He said, be aware that whatever happens, happens to you, by you, through you; I am fully aware that it is a projection of memories. No memory will persist if you lose interest in it. Refuse attention. Cease being fascinated by the content of your consciousness. He said, the final answer is this: nothing is. Outside the self there is nothing. Nothing else has being. All is momentary appearance in the field of the universal consciousness; continuity as name and form is a mental formation only, easy to dispel. Abandon false ideas. Let things come and go. However the picture, beautiful or ugly, you are painting it and you are not bound by it. Maharaj also states, to take the world as real and one's self as unreal is ignorance. There is nothing else but illusions. The nothingness state is infinite and eternal. If you want to be absolutely free, this is the true nature of things. This is clarity and peace. If you have a bucket and you fill it with water, the weight of the bucket increases. When you pour the water out, the bucket becomes lighter and free of the water. It is also true with the mind. When you empty the mind, you become free. If there are no thoughts, there are no disturbances. Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, you should abandon disturbing thoughts. You can use thoughts when you need them and when you don't, abide in the nothingness state where nothing exists. Thus, Zen emptiness is enlightenment. The Buddha said, since I have ignored and forgotten all worldly objects, I have fully realized this mysterious, enlightening nature of pure essence of mind. Nityananda said, once you realize the Self, talking about the illusory world becomes a waste. The past does not exist. What is the point in arguing, complaining or discussing something that does not exist? They are only thoughts in your mind. One need not accept this method. Most people won't. Most people prefer to be entangled in the thoughts. At least there is some identity to hold on to. The identity was given by others. Most have received a name, an origin, a historical culture, a false identity etc...but these are not you. The energy that you really are has no name. You exist beyond names, territories and descriptions, even the concept called earth. There are many people who have transcended this whole earthly illusion. They live and work in a totally euphoric state because they know how to be free of all concepts. Think about it. It's the ideas, words, or concepts that has people bound or restricted. Take away all those words, opinions, categories, judgements, rankings, condemnations, criticisms, documents, propaganda and nonsense and everybody is free. If you take away all of the words, the world is just a lot of animals and people roaming around from place to place. Whatever they are thinking is within them. They are living in their own creations, opinions, fantasies or illusions of how they think the world is or should be. It is a long daydream that is built on their thoughts. It lasts for a lifetime or they may switch to a different daydream or illusion.


Nobody owns the sun or the moon, at least not yet. Nobody owns your mind or your energy. You are totally free. The Zen teachers say just be, don't be this or that. Don't carry any of world's labels or classifications. They say abide in the state of mind prior to your conception. Yuanwu said, act as though there were not a single thing happening. He said, cut off all entanglements. Osho said, it is as if the whole world has completely disappeared. He said, you remain in your absolute purity, as if the world never existed. Only you are. You live in your consciousness and that is your only world. Nothing else exists. That wisdom will free you of all the opinions and suggestions that you have received from others. You remove all of the thoughts and become empty. You throw off all of the judgements, appearances, negativity, rude attitudes, criticisms, conflicts, ignorant statements, condemnations, rankings, labels, belittlement, faults, the past and categories created by ancient and modern day people. There is no need to carry any of their opinions or problems within you. You are never really involved with what others think of you or what category the world has tried to force on you as a classification or an identification. Their opinions of you does not even exist in your mind. You return to your original nature as a totally free energy. Only emptiness remains. Your original nature has no concepts, opinions, conditionings or categories from the society. You are an infinite being but you unknowingly allow all of these names, divisions, territories, opinions and descriptions to limit you. All names, descriptions, opinions and limitations have been created by humans and you have decided to go along with them according to the society that you live in. You are letting others define the parameters of reality for you. They are all opinions, limitations and delusions from their imaginations. Why should you run your life by others wrong opinions? Who's opinions are they? Who started these concepts? Who do they belong to? Are you the concepts and descriptions that the world has labeled you as or something far greater? Are you bound by the ancient concepts of others? Why should you carry the world's limitations and delusional opinions of you? Are you a being that exists beyond the opinions of others? Just something to think about. If this was too deep, I will leave you with this thought; play the game of life, continue with your duties, but always remember that it is an illusion based on the thoughts that you are carrying within you. Whenever you forget and get caught up in your thoughts, just have a good laugh and return to emptiness. Ignore and forget the past mistakes. Don't carry any sorrow. For years you didn't know the illusion was only your own thoughts. Maharaj once said, you need not free yourself of a world that does not exist, except in your own imagination. You create the world in your imagination like a dream. The world you think of is in your own mind. When you have seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be done. He said, you can tell me what you like about your world, I will listen carefully, even with interest, but not for a moment will I forget that your world is not, that you are dreaming. It all comes from you. It's all a concept. It's all an illusion. Shift your attention from words to silence. Robert Powell said, to see concept as concept immediately brings a silence into being. Osho said, once you can see that thoughts are floating, that you are not the thoughts but the space in which thoughts are floating, then you have attained to your Self-mind, you have understood the phenomena of your consciousness. Stop being deceived by the thoughts. Nothing is happening but your thoughts. Ranjit said, if that thought wouldn't have come, then no dream. It is your thought, thought has come upon you. Mind is simply your thoughts, nothing else. No one is doing anything to you. All of their thoughts, feelings, opinions, behavior and actions are empty. You have the only power. If you cannot see that nothing has happened to you right away, it's no problem. Sometimes the old habit of thinking that others have done something to you will return. Eventually you will come back to the truth. Once again, you have only had another thought experience in your mind. The other person was empty all along. They never had any power to upset you. They may have said some words, or displayed a certain emotion or attitude. Whatever they appeared to do to you is irrelevant because they are always just empty forms. Their problem is only within them, not inside of you. They have absolutely no power to disturb or offend you in any way. Your thoughts have played a trick on you again. You have activated your own feelings based on your thinking about them. You have given power to something that isn't real. It is all in your mind. It is an illusion. So never put the blame on others behavior, statements or actions because there is no power in it. Can you see that nothing is happening to you but your thoughts and feelings? The most important thing to remember is, everything is an illusion. You are always and only dealing with thoughts wherever you are and wherever you go. That is all you need to understand if you want freedom. Just drop all of your thoughts right now and see the nothing. You are free of everything now. A clear infinite, eternal space, emptiness itself. Ranjit said, you are the thoughtless reality. Osho said, not thinking about anything is Zen. Get rid of the internal chattering. Stop all the little stories, dramas, memories of injustices or complaints about what you think you are experiencing. They are illusions. Once you stop creating those little stories, what is happening right now? Nothing. Lama Zopa said, you have called it a problem, so it appears to you as a problem. Even though the problem appears to exist from its own side, it is completely empty. Just look at your thoughts objectively and then you are in control of the illusion at every moment because you are creating it. It is all in your mind. It is just another daydream. It is only your inner self talk and your imagination. It is a complete hallucination. No one knows what you are thinking. Remain calm and have a little compassion for yourself. Love yourself even more. Come back to the present moment. There is no need to fight with yourself. In fact, there is nothing to do. Just relax in the emptiness state. When you completely realize emptiness, all suffering ceases. Emptiness is freedom. Let go of all concepts and see if you are not free. Don't take the illusions, other people or yourself too seriously. Take it lightly with ease. Clarity is always there waiting for you. Just empty your mind.


Shernae Miller from Bahamas on November 21, 2017:

This is hub is old but it’s timing for me is perfect. It’s exactly what I needed. Excellent Job!

Mont Merci on February 08, 2015:

I needed this info, very much. It answered all my present time questions on Zen. Very well said.

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on January 20, 2015:

No. I am interested in philosophy. I don't carry a category. I just like to learn many teachings.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 20, 2015:

one question, are you a follower of buddha? A buddhist i mean?

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on September 11, 2013:

Thanks for commenting. Peace to you!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2013:

Zen Emptiness is Enlightenment indeed an interesting hub and so useful to readers.

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 31, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and blessings to you.

LKMore01 on July 31, 2013:

Thank you Sri T ,

After spending my morning reading sensationalistic headlines in the news this article was instant calm. Peace always.

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 31, 2013:

Thanks very much! I will take a look!

KenWu from Malaysia on July 31, 2013:

Hi Sri,

There's a link I also like to share, it's the teaching Ven Master HsuYun (emptycloud), http://zbohy.zatma.org/Dharma/zbohy/Literature/xyb...

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 31, 2013:

Very good point! In The Zen Teachings Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind, he also mentioned sudden enlightenment.

KenWu from Malaysia on July 30, 2013:

The whole concept is really hard to grasp. Particular when describing 'emptiness', all those saints have said, words merely point you the way, it does not show you what it really is. Only experiencing it that one can understand. That's why the Zen Master, 6th Patriarch Hui Neng only accepted students with high wisdom, else sudden enlightenment would never happen.

But for a lay person, this article is superb, that's why I'm back :)

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 30, 2013:

I used the term remove, but in a certain sense there is no need to remove it because it never really existed. It is the ultimate illusion. Just awareness that it is an illusion is enough. Ramana said, simply ask yourself, "who am I"? There will be no answer. You are not the body. You are not the concepts. If there are no words, who are you?

VC L Veasey from Detroit,MI on July 30, 2013:

have u removed your

I thought?

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 30, 2013:

Yes, the "I" thought is an illusion. It is a false personality, a collection of concepts created for and by the society. When you remove it, you become that which is eternal. This is beyond words. That which is, prior to your birth. You still use words in dealing with people, but you never lose the realization.

VC L Veasey from Detroit,MI on July 30, 2013:

Ok does that mean you're an illusion?

Have you "removed the "I" thought?

I'm trying to "see" how you "see" yourself in your worldview that you're presenting

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 29, 2013:

The "I" is the final concept. When I remove the "I" thought only the cosmic exists.

VC L Veasey from Detroit,MI on July 29, 2013:


are you an illusion to yourself?

Sri T (the mystic) (author) on July 29, 2013:

Beyond the physical. But even deeper, all is illusion or concepts in your mind. Is the body permanent? No, it is an illusion also. I am the only reality to myself but I am empty to you. You are empty to me, but you are the only reality to yourself. This insight only comes to form. When inner and outer are one with no human body, what is left? Only emptiness. Can you kill emptiness? Can you hurt emptiness? What can be done to empty space?

VC L Veasey from Detroit,MI on July 29, 2013:


Would you clarify this statement you made "This means that all the people, and everything that you are observing has no power. You are actually consciousness observing empty forms."

Are you saying that people have no power hurt you or kill you?

explain how people are empty forms including yourself.

KenWu from Malaysia on November 05, 2012:

Wow, this is a brilliant article. This Zen idea might be hard to grasp but there is absolute essence in them. Voted up, useful and interesting!

dafreesan from India on September 27, 2012:

Hmm, this is good interpretation of zen. I like your work. Awareness is the key! Awareness automatically brings clarity.

yoginijoy from Mid-Atlantic, USA on June 30, 2012:

Love this hub! Great descriptions! One quote I heard recently is that "Awareness is greater than mind." I find that calming and relaxing. It helps one get past the mind and to the emptiness that you so well describe.

Jeyaprakash on May 07, 2012:

A well written hub on Emptiness. A good read! We are completely living with our thoughts, considering them to be real. When the emptiness is revealed, the way we value the thoughts changes and we realize the impermanence of the thoughts. Just the awareness remains.

An interesting book on emptiness "Zen Mind, Empty Mind" could be found here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/159119

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