Ultimate Truth – Emptiness

Extracted from Transform Your Life by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Emptiness is not nothingness, but is the real nature of phenomena. Ultimate truth, emptiness, and ultimate nature of phenomena are the same.

We should know that all our problems arise because we do not realize ultimate truth. The reason we remain in samsara’s prison is that due to our delusions we continue to engage in contaminated actions. All our delusions stem from self-grasping ignorance.

Self-grasping ignorance is the source of all our negativity and problems, and the only way to eradicate it is to realize emptiness. Emptiness is not easy to understand, but it is extremely important that we make the effort. Ultimately our efforts will be rewarded by the permanent cessation of all suffering and the everlasting bliss of full enlightenment.

The purpose of understanding and meditating on emptiness is to release our mind from wrong conceptions and mistaken appearances so that we shall become a completely pure, or enlightened, being.

In this context, ‘wrong conception’ refers to the mind of self-grasping ignorance – a conceptual mind that grasps objects as truly existent; and ‘mistaken appearance’ refers to the appearance of truly existent objects. The former are the obstructions to liberation and the latter the obstructions to omniscience. Only a Buddha has abandoned both obstructions.

There are two types of self-grasping: self-grasping of persons and self-grasping of phenomena. The first grasps our own or others’ self, or I, as truly existent, and the second grasps any phenomenon other than our own or others’ self as truly existent. Minds that grasp our body, our mind, our possessions, and our world as truly existent are all examples of self-grasping of phenomena.

The main point of meditating on emptiness is to reduce and finally to eliminate both types of self-grasping. Self-grasping is the source of all our problems; the extent to which we suffer is directly proportional to the intensity of our self-grasping.

For example, when our self-grasping is very strong, we feel a sharp mental pain when others simply tease us in a friendly way, whereas at times when our self-grasping is weak we just laugh with them. Once we completely destroy our self-grasping, all our problems will naturally disappear. Even temporarily, meditating on emptiness is very helpful for overcoming anxiety and worry.

To find out more about emptiness, see the books The New Meditation Handbook, Heart of Wisdom, and Ocean of Nectar.