Some emptiness just hurts more than others
Big Heart on an unconditional level, in other words where there are no boundaries, it’s also not going to be stressful, if we’re really there. When we’re in the ‘conditional Big Heart,’ and it’s dependent on conditions – which is not truly Big Heart, but our heart is open – that can be stressful of course. Any time we put boundaries or limits and conditions, of course stress can come up. And there’s nothing wrong – I mean, stress of course is a huge problem – but there’s nothing wrong with conditional love, or conditional Big Heart. It’s the other side of the triangle, and from that comes empathy, love, caring, all of that, because it’s more or less dualistic rather than non-dual. So you’re going to feel a certain amount of pain and suffering, but to me that’s what it means to be a human being — a Bodhisattva rather than a Buddha.
One of the things I think all our listeners know is that Buddha was said to have been a Bodhisattva for many lifetimes before he became the Awakened One, the Buddha. And then giving up that need or desire or wish to attain complete and full realization or enlightenment and be free from suffering, one chooses to be a Bodhisattva for the sake of all beings and to bring them all to awakening. That’s the difference. So we could say one moves from the left hand corner of the triangle as a human being to the right hand corner of the triangle as a Buddha being, and then back again to the left hand, picking up the human side and the suffering and the samsara, and moving then to the apex as a Bodhisattva, one who embraces their humanness, with all the limitations and difficulties and suffering on the human level, and still sees them all as empty – and yet not.
We can’t forget that ‘and yet not.’ They’re all empty, and yet they’re not. They’re form, and some form hurts more than others. I remember that one great master who was crying, and the monk came to him and said, “Why are you crying master?” He said, “I just got word my mother died.” “Well why are you crying? You teach us that it’s all empty.” He says, “Yeah, but some emptiness hurts more than others.”
We have koans about that, like “Hand me the incense, the powder made of sunyata, of emptiness.” Well, you don’t just hand an empty hand, you hand the incense, or the powder. “Hand me a rake, or use a rake, or a hoe that’s made of emptiness.” You pick up a rake, you pick up a hoe. The form itself is empty, it’s not like it’s void of form. The emptiness is the form, the form is exactly the emptiness. And some emptiness just hurts more than others.
You get hit by certain emptiness, and it just whacks you, right in the head. There’s that koan of the monk coming to the various masters, and he gets to Rinzai and he says, “Why did Bodhidharma come to the West?” And Rinzai picks up a zafu, a cushion, and hits him over the head. Some emptiness just hurts more than others.
This is an excerpt from the teleconference of August 17, 2013. A recording of the full 90 minutes with Genpo Roshi can be ordered through the Big Mind website. Participation in these live question-and-answer calls is open to all. Recordings are available free to those who register for the call. These teleconferences are scheduled throughout the year. Click here for more information.