Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.

On page 37, WUTYL, "The three aspects of mind-emptiness, clarity, and unimpeded experience-are the real mystery of being. Well I don't know about you but the lines-Form is emptiness and emptiness is form have been part of that mystery of being. Here Ken gives us a glimpse of what these lines are referring to.

Form and Emptiness (from HSW03 00:42:36.06 - 00:49:13.02)

(download into iTunes)

So Form is emptiness. I have an experience of form, seeing things. We'll use seeing for now, we could use hearing things, we could thinking wouldn't make any difference. So what is this experience of seeing? Goes back to our friend, now this morning we went through this and everybody I thought was on the same page. Now wasn't that clever! Though there is the experience of seeing, this seeing doesn't take place anywhere, it doesn't come from anywhere and it doesn't go anywhere. We all recall that from this morning.

So here we have a very interesting situation, you have this experience of seeing and everybody does see a page here, right? We're all on the same ...okay. And when you look at the experience of seeing it doesn't seem to exist anywhere, right? That's what form is emptiness means. It seems like there's something very solid there but when we really look at it, there's nothing there. So now look around this room and look at it the same way. Look at other people or what you think are other people, anyway. What's that like? If I'm not mistaken or maybe I'm completely alone in this department, every thing takes on a kind of dream like quality, doesn't it? That's how things are in a dream, we experience all this stuff vividly but there's nothing there. This is what Form is emptiness means. Now, stay right there.

We come to the next line: Emptiness is form. Well, you look at this room or this dream of a room that we're having right now and there's a certain amount of space here, isn't there? Like all this space, all this space. Suppose we were to fill this room completely with people. Stacked up on top of each other right up to the ceiling. You know, five or six layers. Would that effect the amount of space in the room?

Student: No.

Ken: No. And if we look at it from this point of view this is just an experience, just imagine this room is filled. It doesn't have to be with people, you can think of objects. We can have cars sitting on top of us or flowers, it doesn't matter. But it absolutely full of things. And you are experiencing this. Emptiness is form. You follow?

Emptiness is form. So whether it's full or empty, it's still an experience. So now this is good, we're all clear here. We have form and we have emptiness.

On this Hakuin says,

Rubbish! A useless collection of junk.
Don't be trying to teach apes to climb trees
These goods have been gathering dust on the shelves for two- thousand years.

He goes on:

A bush warbler pipes tentatively in the spring breeze,
By the peach tree a thin mist hovers in the warm sun.
A group of young girls, cicada heads and mock eyebrows
With blossom sprays one over each brocade shoulder.

So we have form which is experience and emptiness which is the space in which experience arises. We can't say what it is, but there's this space in which experience arises. And then we hear, Form is emptiness. We say, "Okay, form doesn't mean these solid things, it means that what arises in experience arises in this space. And it's there but it's not there at the same time." And when we hear Emptiness is form, we go, " That's fine." There is this space that allows everything to be. Makes it possible.


Two Worlds of Experience

In Wake up to you Life, Ken describes it thusly on page 379, "Experience is a mystery... The names we give to objects are not the experience of the object, whether it be a thought, feeling or sensation.Language abbreviates and condenses experience for the purpose of communication. Because connection is a basic human need, we readily forget or neglect the world of our own experience (limited and conditioned by habituated patterns) and take the world defined by communication, the world apparently shared, as what is real."

Two Worlds of Experience (HSW03) (from Heart Sutra Workshop03 00:33:56.1 - 00:42:36.6)

(download into iTunes)

Now whether you do it with a table or a chair or a chariot, which is a very traditional thing, you know--a glass, a cup--things seem solid. You know a book (Ken bangs the book on a table) seems solid. But we have to be careful here, because Buddhism is not talking about the world of things.

We have two worlds: The world I think I experience and the world I actually experience.

The world of objects, careers, family, responsibilities is this the world I actually experience or the world I think I experience?

How many vote for think? How many vote for actual?

Student: Do we have a choice? (Great laughter) We picked a winner.

Ken: If you think that's practicing the middle way, think again. (giggling)

The sensations, thoughts and feelings I talked about earlier--are they the world you actually experience or the world you think you experience?

Student: Closer to actual.

Ken: Yeah. In the world that we actually experience there are only three things: sensations, thoughts and feelings. That's it! There isn't any drum, there isn't any bell, there isn't any paper. There isn't any paper--there's white, rectangle, seeing. This is what the Sarvastivadins were getting at with their dharmas.

The world that we think we experience is a shorthand which we use to communicate. There is a very interesting difference between these two worlds.

I know this is California and we talk about sharing experience, right? So anybody have a good lunch today?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: What'd you have for lunch?

Student: Falafel.

Ken: Falafel, I'm not going to ask you to share that experience, I hate falafel. (Laughter) Anybody else? Who had a good lunch? (giggling)

Student: I had salad.

Ken: Oh, very nice. What kind of salad?

Student: Greens and tomato and avocado and walnuts.

Ken: Sounds good what kind of dressing?

Student: Like a Chinese chicken salad.

Ken: Oh, excellent. Did you enjoy it?

Student: Very much.

Ken: Could you share that experience with me, please?

Student: I don't think so.

Ken: Are you being selfish?

Student: No.

Ken: Why do you say I don't think so?

Student: Because it happened already.

Ken: Well, can you recall it?

Student: Oh, okay, you want me to share the product I experienced?

Ken: Well, do you have a memory of it?

Student: I do.

Ken: And when you have that memory can you sort of feel the textures and the tastes and all of that?

Student: Exactly.

Ken: Could you share that experience with me?

Student: I could try.

Ken: Please. I mean I had a salad but I didn't have that salad. I didn't have the walnuts.

Student: Would you like words about my experience?

Ken: No, I want to share the experience. I'm not interested in words. I want the experience.

Student: I can share with you tomorrow. (Laughter)

Ken: How would you do that?

Student: I would make you a salad.

Ken: Oh, so now we're going to eat out of the same salad? This is getting a little intimate but we'll go with it.

Student: Out of the same large salad.

Ken: Yeah, yeah, okay. Two separate plates here, you know we're not cohabiting yet. (giggles) So when I eat that salad I will have an experience and you're going to have an experience. I want to share your experience! I know my experience but I want to share yours.

Student: I'll...that same one.

Ken: Well, are you going to share it or not?

Student: If I could I would!

Ken: What do you mean if you could?

Student: My experience is going to be different experience from yours. My experience--you won't be able to experience the same thing.

Ken: I can't experience your experience?

Student: No.

Ken: You can't share your experience?

Student: No.

Ken: Is this because you're being selfish?

Student: No.

Ken: Well I don't understand. How did this phrase, "share experience", come about if you can't share experience? I mean I moved to California because I heard that everybody (laughter) shared experiences. And now you're telling me I was lied to. (greater laughter) Is that right?

Student: Yes.

Ken: So in this world there's no possibility of sharing experience?

Student: No.

Ken: Wow! Okay forget about sharing, can I buy it?

Student: No matter what you pay you will not experience what I experience.

Ken: Wow! So no buying, no trading, no exchange, no sharing, none of that stuff! It's interesting isn't it? In this world there is no form of exchange possible. Your experience is your experience and that's it.

In this world, we buy and trade and exchange all over the place.But in this world, it's not possible at all. This is the world that Buddhism is talking about and that's often not understood.


There is experiencing and experienced

One of the hardest parts about my practice is recognizing when I've divided the experience from just experiencing it... into an experienced moment. Instead of just be aware and in the moment, I bring other "stuff" into it. As Ken describes that action, I have appropriated the experience. Thus I changed what is, into what my conditioning has dulled me into believing is real. Ken calls this the dead world.
Experiencing and experienced (from Heart Sutra Workshop03-HSW03 00:13:44.5 - 00:19:59.5)

(download into iTunes)
Any other questions? From this morning, Speak now or forever hold your peace, because I'll launch into bunch another of stuff. Yes?
Just hold for the mic, for a moment.
Student: Yeah, I'm not sure I really completely understood your pencil example about the eraser and the missing the middle and if you could maybe give a different turn at that?
Ken: Okay. You have the experience of seeing this, right? Seeing this piece of paper is something you experience. What's the experience made of?
Student: Sight, physical sensations in my body, thoughts.
Ken: No the physical sensations those are other experiences, what's the experience of seeing this piece of paper made of? Do you want me to make it a little bit easier?
What is a thought made of?
Student: I don't know if it is made out of this but there's supposed to be an energetic charge that (inaudible)
Ken: Yeah, certain thoughts. Definitely, but what's the thought made of?
Student: Memory?
Ken: Well, that just leads me to ask what's a memory made of. It doesn't get us anywhere. It's very interesting you know...how often do you wrestle with thoughts in your meditation? You can't even tell me what they're made of? Strange isn't it? So, what experiences a thought?
Student: Intellectual images.
Ken: Intellectual images experiences the thought? No, I'd say that is the experience of the thought. That isn't what experiences the thought. What experience the thought? It's a little difficult to say, isn't it?
Student: The mind that thinks it's the experience, the mind...
Ken: The mind, yeah okay. I've heard rumors about that. What's the mind made of?
Student: It's thinking stuff.
Ken: I like that (laughter), I'd say the same thing: "It's thinking stuff". You know, we can say that the thought is made of stuff. So what's the relationship between what the thought is made of and what the mind is made of? Do you have two different kinds of stuff or is it the same stuff? You say?
Student: Same.
Ken: Same, how many of you vote for same? Can't say what it is but there it is. Experience arises...in each moment of experience, there is experiencing and experienced. Because of our conditioning, we appropriate the experiencing to ourselves and thus relegating experienced to object.
Touch the back of your hand with your finger, there's a sensation there, right? Do you feel it in the back of your hand or in the finger?
Student: Can't say.
Ken: Just so. It's exactly like that. We make this division but actually there's just the experience. The awareness aspect we appropriate for ourselves thus we experience a dead world. In which there is no awareness, because we have appropriated the experience of awareness to ourselves.


The function of a feeling...

In this clip, Ken assures us we won't die or the world won't come to an end if we let our feelings/emotions be felt.

Often this avoidance of feelings gets me in trouble. So now I have a wee bit of a podcast to remind me, I won't die if I just let them arise and fall away.

The function of a feeling (from Heart Sutra Workshop 03- 00:00:40:9 - 00:09:55:0)

(download into iTunes)

Okay, well any questions from this morning? Microphone, Sophie isn't it?

Sophie: You know when you're talking about like who experiences the experience, if you're having like a lot of pain, who's experiencing that? I mean you know it's very difficult to transform that experience into emptiness, when ...

Ken: You can't possibly transform it into emptiness, who ever told you you could do something like that?

Sophie: Well I think ...I once saw a lama in Tibet who was in tremendous pain and he laid there smiling, as people came in to bow before him. I just curious about that because if you have pain or you see someone suffering , what's going on there if there's no experiencer and no experience, you know I'm just ...and I know I am confusing relative world with absolute..

Ken: Well, I think this is a very good question. Because I think there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around this. The...you know you can't transform pain into emptiness for the same reason you can't wake up a person who is pretending to sleep. (laughter) I'll let you chew on that for a little bit. But it is actually the same reason.

Now, I'll answer your question more completely in the last section this afternoon, but for now because we are going to go into this, it isn't a question of transforming an experience into something else. It's a matter of experiencing what is arising as completely as possible.

Because, I'll put it very simply when you experience things completely, then you know what they are.

How many of you got angry over the last week? How many of you were/took the anger that arose as a fact that you just HAD to act on? Yeah, let's be honest. You got angry all of you did! And we do that because we don't know at that moment what anger is. It appears to be very solid and have a lot of force, etc. But if we experience it completely then we know it is a movement in mind. In the same way that a wave is movement in water.

I imagine most of you have had the experience in your meditation of sitting there fuming over something that happened the previous week or the previous day and just sitting there, GRRRH! Grrr! Err. And then back to the breath, but he said this and he said that, Grrr!

Any body had this experience? (laughter) And it goes on for ten minutes or fifteen minutes or twenty minutes or whatever then suddenly you find yourself sitting there like this...and you're not angry at all. And you didn't decide not to be angry, you didn't say to yourself, "Oh self, I've worked through this now." It just stopped. Right?

What happened, I was angry two minutes ago? And you're trying to remember the situation but there's ... you can't get any juice in it. Anybody had this experience?

That arises because the anger has actually been felt. You know it may sound a little stupid but I say a lot of stupid things. So that's nothing unusual. But the function of a feeling is to be felt. And a feeling can't be complete until it is felt.

Now what happens if a feeling comes up and you try not to feel it? NO, I don't really love him. How long does that one work? You know...I'm not really angry with you, I just have a few things to tell you.(laughter)

Or the Charlie Brown version of this. Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "I'm going to do you a favor Charlie Brown, I'm going to tell you every thing that's wrong with you. Next frame, "Why don't you get a sheet of foolscap (paper)? Nest frame, "Draw a column...line down the center." Last frame, "On second thought, get two sheets." (soft laughter)

No anger here at all.

But when you experience it and a lot of us don't do that very gracefully but when it's actually been felt, been experienced than its finished.

When we know this about feelings, then we can open to the experience of them. And we experience them vividly, just like our friend here this piece of paper. And they come and they go. And something very important happens then.

Can you be what...can you be something that you experience that comes and goes ? No, if it comes and goes in our experience, we can't possibly be it.

So we can't be anger. Anger arises but it can't be what we are in the way we were talking about this morning. Oh, okay. Not only that, we experienced it , we felt it and the world didn't come to an en Most people don't actually experience the emotions because they are afraid that if they do the world will come to an end. Or they'll die or something like that will happen.

So the more intimately we know our experience, the more we're able to just experience something.



The experiencer, the watcher, the self. When we separate from experience all sorts of disconnects happen. Stories abound. A short discourse by Ken on subject-object.

Heart Sutra Workshop02 (from  HSW02 1:01:25.7 - 1:03:57:8)

(download into iTunes)

So we have this experience of seeing and at the same time--we'll come back to this again this afternoon--we don't know where it comes from. We can't say where it comes from. We can't say where it is and we can't say where it goes. Which ordinarily we say doesn't exist. But I want to point out one particular thing.

When you focus on the experience of seeing, what happens to subject-object? 
Student: Dissolves, unite?

Ken: Dissolves, unites, either way sense of subject-object just disappears right? It's like what subject, what object, okay?

The twelve sense fields was a map developed by the Sarvastivadins to eliminate the notion of the self as the experiencer. Or as you say the objective pole of experience; that's what the self is. And you see when you actually look at experience itself, that sense of being an experiencer that somehow stands outside of experience just vanishes.

In simple terms, to talk about an experiencer and an experienced makes as much sense as talking about the two ends of a pencil without talking about a pencil.

We actually have a far more intimate relationship with experience. You know, everything that we experience we're intimately connected. As connected as the two ends of the pencil. But we ordinarily ignore this. So we have the experience of separation.

So that's what this particular map is about.