Saturday, 12 September 2009

Shunyata as a Transformative Principle

"If you are facing difficulty, meditate on the concept of shunyata."

This is a common enough saying in Tibetan Buddhism. However, it only really hit home today with me. Shunyata meditation is a coping mechanism. Shunyata itself is the realisation (or, at least the concept) that everything is inherently "empty", and so difficulties will eventually resolve themselves. It's a sophisticated way of saying, "It'll be all right in the end, dear." Or so I thought.

It can certainly be related to on that level, but there is more. As our conscious awareness becomes patternised and stuck in certain belief systems, enhanced by "experience", we can lock ourselves into a stuck pattern, or a plateau. Whilst one does not need necessarily to deal with the stuck pattern directly, this is what meditation on the shunyata principle does.

I usually recommend working with complete surrender and compassion to get around stuck states and situations. More recently, I also talk about trust, faith and intention. All this can be combined with the power of decision, which I talk about here. Meditating on shunyata, however, we befriend our situation, and quit mentally shrinking away from it because we think it is unsolveable. Through applying our attention and awareness to it, the "stuckness" dissolves and it becomes more fluid and malleable. In that way transformation is very possible, and even quick.

All those approaches work. It is as though you were swimming underwater and your foot got caught in a rope tied to an anchor. Instead of trying to pull yourself up, which is the instinctive thing to do, you go down to the rope to untie it. This is what meditating on shunyata does for you. It is effective by gently easing your foot out, and not straining so that the knots don't get tighter. It takes the panic and desperation out of the picture.

The power of decision is the use of force. It says, "I will solve this one way or another." It is a commitment that says you will do whatever it takes to get free of that rope, including cut your foot off. Clearly, decisive power works on a different level of manifestation than shunyata. See Levels of Manifestation for more details.

Faith, trust, intention, compassion and surrender are all extremely high level copouts. They do the miraculous, because you effectively transcend all problems without having to deal with them. You become one with the water, and the rope slips off because it has nothing to hold on. It does take a leap of faith though, and if you are uncertain or unclear, or even if you aren't, there are likely to be bits of your that remain "solid" in this metaphor.

Nonetheless, shunyata has its role, for it emphasizes the cyclicity of things, their mutability. So, by meditating and applying your conscious awareness to the mutability principle, it automatically becomes more a reality for you. So meditate on shunyata not only as an acceptance of what is, but as a healing principle of transformation, for it gives you the hope that things can turn completely around. Hope develops into actual experience.

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