Heart Sutra a deeper look (Part 6)
Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form. So, too, are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.
Shariputra is also commonly spelled Sariputra, and was consider by the Buddha as the best hearer among his students or disciples. The term hearer means more than just listener, and denotes someone who was actively learning though the conversation, unlike many students who listen in a lecture hall. In this sentence the Buddha restates what he stated in the first sentence with more detail, and expands a little more on the five skandhas. Any form that we can encounter through our ability to see and/or touch is included. Mountains, trees, and other people to name just a few. The next type of form is those we encounter through smelling, tasting, hearing and/or touching.The third type are what we refer to as objects of the brain, thoughts or ideas, that do not interact with our external senses. Each of the physical senses is a specialist and only knows it’s own type of input, and can not process the other inputs. The brain can process all of these inputs from all the senses. None of the five physical senses can understand the brains thoughts.
You may notice, I used senses of the brain, not senses of the mind. This is to differentiate between the brain and the consciousness that is found with, while we are inhabiting this body of ours. If you could see your body, one second after you died, you would look the same as you did one second before you died. yet something is missing, that spark we call life, that energy that caused our physical body to operate. There have been unsubstantiated reports of the body instantly weighing several grams less upon death, yet science can confirm that upon death there are no brain waves after that point. The mind is still there, the rest of the body is there, yet that spark has left the skin bag, it called mine. This energy has gone somewhere, for science tells us, that the law of conservation of energy and matter is a balance. This life force or thought ability, can not be traced, and impossible for us to truly understand. It is this that the Buddha refers to as emptiness or void. To use a chicken and egg analogy, which came first the seeing or the seen? Ask yourself, which comes first, form or nature of seeing? If your answer is the nature of seeing comes first, then consider how it can manifest itself in the absence of form. The physical form needs to be present. If, on the other hand, the answer is form, then ask yourself, how can you become aware of it, without seeing your nature. They require each other in harmony to allow the process to occur.
It is when we accept that birth and death do not define permanent, that we begin to understand our true nature. Consider a bald of grass one hundred centimeters in height. A blade of grass that tall is no longer sprouting, so we can use this as an example of no birth for one already born. Yet if we allow the grass to grow another hundred centimeters, we can not say that additional one hundred centimeters were born either, because there is no act of birth. If you would like a more detailed description, and possibly easier to understand description: http://buddhism.about.com/od/mahayanabuddhism/a/madhyamika.htm
I have discussed this with several Buddhist and non-Buddhist friends, and each of us seems to understand it in a slightly different manner. This is because each of us sees it though our own filters. Emptiness is one of those topics, you study, think about, feel like your just going in circles with, then one moment click, the light bulb switches on. I will leave this here for today, and will post the next part of the series on Tuesday.
Previous postings in this series: