Six Flavors of Emptiness:
The Six Flavors of Emptiness A Meditation on the Great Seal The following are six different "flavors" of emptiness that are taught by the different schools of classical Indian Buddhism. They are culled from different texts in the lineage of Tsongkapa the Great (1357-1419). Please note that not all of them would be called true "emptiness," but rather "selflessness" in different classical schools.
- Emptiness, Flavor #1 The lack of a self which is unchanging, whole, and independent. [According to the Independent group of the Middle-Way School, this is the gross lack of a self to the person.]
Change is Inevitable.
We seek Stability.
Change is often Uncomfortable.
We can learn to be Kind to Ourselves as we Feel Uncomfortable as we experience Changes in Our lives.
We can learn to be Kind to Others as they Feel Uncomfortable as they experiences Changes in Their Lives.
2. Emptiness, Flavor #2 The lack of a self which is self-standing and substantial. ["Substantial" can mean a lot of different things; here it refers to the lack of a "driver" or "director" of the five heaps over the five heaps. According to the Mind-Only School, this is the lack of a self to the person. According to the Independent group, this is the subtle lack of a self to the person.]
We can think of the short hand for this flavor as "we have no control of the present moment." This does not mean that You have no control rather that whatever You are experiencing right now is the result of multiple causes set in motion likely separated from this moment by a significant period of time. This can help us to relax in the present moment and act according to our own morality and principles because we know that breaking our morality in this moment might have no impact on the outcome of the situation.
This can help us when we think about making a change in our lives we can begin to think in terms of our long term goals and begin to make small changes now with the knowledge that these small changes can give rise to large changes at some point in the future.
Further we can think of this flavor as meaning that "there is no driver." We can think of this as being an expression of the fact that there is not some "true self" that is driving Your body but rather that Your self is comprised of multiple "selves" these can be thought of as competing drives within ourselves that comprise the totality of our self.
We can be kind to ourselves when we seem to be thinking or behaving in ways that are at cross purposes to our long term goals. For example we might be fulfilling some short term drive which is not consistent with our long term goal. We can seek to be kind to ourselves in the recognition that in us we have multiple drives that are often in competition with one another and that none of these drives or the actions that they inspire define who we are by themselves. This can help us to remember that we are not our behavior.
3. Emptiness, Flavor #3 The fact that a visible object and the valid perception which grasps the visible object are devoid of any separate substance. ["Devoid of any separate substance" means: "It is not true that they come from a separate karmic seed; rather, they both arise from the same karmic seed." According to the Mind-Only School, this is the lack of a self to things. According to the Independent group, this is the gross lack of a self to things.]
We can think of this flavor as meaning "there is no chance" or "everything that we are experiencing has a cause" Here we need to think of those causes as being limited to the causes that shape and condition our subjective experiences of our reality. Had we had a different life or experienced different mental, emotional and physical conditioning we would be experiencing our reality differently than we are now. The fact that we are experiencing things that way that we are, is a direct function of our individual life experience along with the biological, sociological and our individual psychological conditioning.
This can help us to remember that we are doing the very best that we can at any given moment. If we could do better we would do better. On any given day we are expressing and experiencing the culmination of all that has come before.
4. Emptiness, Flavor #4 The fact that the fact that any particular thing is called what it is is something which is devoid of existing by definition. [Put simply: The fact that things are called what they are is not something which is automatic. According to the Mind-Only School, this is also the lack of a self to things.]
We can think of this flavor as meaning that there is "no best song" This can also be stated as things do not have the quality of being good or bad from their own side. This does not mean that things are not good or bad. If You dislike something that it is OK to say that You don't like it while holding onto the truth that the unpleasantness of the person, thing or experience is dependent upon Your individual Bio-psycho-social contexts and conditioning.
It is OK to like things and to dislike other things. We simply do not need to fight or argue about if a thing has inherent goodness or badness because it has neither by itself.
5. Emptiness, Flavor #5 The fact that objects are devoid of existing from their own side through any unique identity of their own, rather than existing simply by virtue of having appeared to an unaffected state of mind. [According to the Independent group, this is the subtle lack of a self to things, or real emptiness.]
We can think of this flavor as meaning that "fifty percent of our reality is 'out there' and fifty percent of our reality is determined by our internal factors" or "Every problem is a Path". Using this flavor we can use the challenges in our lives as a means and a method to develop ourselves. As we have looked at the conditions for change and those factors that support change we can see that vertical changes are not easy and will likely always be accompanied by some challenges and stresses. If we can understand these challenges as being part of the process we can welcome them as indications that we are undergoing a period of growth and development and perhaps searching for or actively developing new strategies and capacities for our lives.