Friday, November 12, 2004

My e-mail reply to JP on Nov. 12

>hehe, no I haven't perceived emptiness directly, but I

>have repeatedly
tried to show that "emptiness" and
>"impermanent" are different, so I do
not need to have
>perceived "emptiness" to disagree with the statement

>that such and such are "impermanent".

From the start of this communication, I’ve been wondering
at the back of my mind why you find emptiness and
impermanence so different, whereas from my previous e-mails,
you’d see that I find them to be closely related, such
that emptiness is used to describe the effect of
impermanence. Would you tell me what is your understanding
of emptiness and impermanence in the Buddha Dharma?

>I agree that Gotama buddha's body has passed away or
>died or
something like that, but his mind continues,
>and that is why I believe his
enlightened mind continues
>to exist. The reason I believe this is that it is

>a basic buddhist belief that when the body stops the
>mind doesn't stop.
The mind 'supposedly' according to
>buddhist theory has been existing for
countless eons
>in the past and will continue existing forever even when

>the samsaric body perishes. Somewhere in this paragraph
>is where we
have different beliefs.

Yes, that is where we have our contrasting beliefs. I'd
even venture to say that there lies one of the great
differences among practitioners of the Buddha Dharma.
As I told you, I re-evaluated my beliefs of the Buddha
Dharma during my study of the doctrine of dependent
origination. Just some months ago (yes, only recently),
when I kept encountering the story of the Buddha
reprimanding the Bhikkhu Sati, my fundamental
understanding of a continuing soul or consciousness or,
in your case, mind, after physical death collapsed.
Actually, at first, I thought I misread or misunderstood
the idea in the accounts (from different sources). That
was why I encouraged you to check out the story of
Bhikkhu Sati in relation to the topic. Likewise, the
accounts of the Buddha correcting the other bhikkhus
for harbouring the concept of an eternal entity, which
ran against the Buddha Dharma’s principle of impermanence
and practice in the Middle Path. To my understanding,
one of the Buddha’s campaigns then was to dismantle the
concept of permanence, which was so deeply rooted among
people, perhaps due to Brahmanism or generally accepted

It took me a long time to “assimilate” this particular
concept of impermanence because the old one about a
permanent entity was ingrained in my belief. Somehow,
when things fell into place later (after the assimilation;
this should remind Lizanne of the Borgs, ha ha!), I began
to see why “emptiness” is often used and is so important
in the teaching of the Buddha Dharma. With the new
perspective, for instance, I now find it relatively easier
to comprehend (or find the “deeper” meanings “hidden” in)
the Heart Sutra or by extension, the Diamond Sutra; but
then again, it’s only my observation.

>To say that translating it in that way will have no
>benefit at all, is probably
not true....but on the
>other hand if every generation of translators where

>to add his/her own interpretation to the sutra and still
>maintain the
original title of the sutra ...then after
>100 generations after it might look
very very different
>from what the buddha really said or even meant, which

>dilutes and in a way pollutes the pure teachings.
>this is my concern.

You have a good point there. I will change “translation”
into “my interpretation.”


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