Emptiness of All Phenomena

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We’ve discussed the impossible ways of existing of a person and voidness, or emptiness, which is the absence of something corresponding to these impossible ways. If we wish to go deeper, then we need to discuss the impossible ways of existing of all phenomena, which would include persons and individuals. Again, we can learn some of them from a system, so these would be doctrinally based, and some we can experience as automatically arising. We won’t get into fine distinctions here. We can also go deeper and deeper and get more subtle in our recognitions of what’s impossible and our refutations of them.

The Chittamatra “Mind-Only” View

First, let’s consider the Chittamatra “Mind-Only” view. With this view, we first need to understand that phenomena, like tables, a body or a person, that are dependent on other things, in the sense of being affected by other things, are nonstatic. They change from moment to moment since they arise based on causes and conditions. Further, such phenomena are devoid of existing in the manner of some totally conceptional object, like a category. 

A category is something that is fixed and is not affected by causes and conditions. A category, like “a table,” is defined by convention in a certain way and then can be mentally labeled conceptually onto various objects also having the same defining characteristics. A category is not affected by what it is mentally labeled on. It doesn’t change, although the defining characteristics of a category can be changed by a new convention. 

Dependent phenomena arise dependently on causes and conditions and are affected by these causes and conditions; they do not exist like some sort of category. Take, for example, the dependent phenomenon “me.” I’m not just some sort of conceptual category. There is a “me.” It changes from moment to moment and is affected by a body, a mind, emotions, what happens to it and so on. Even though it is an imputation on an individual continuum of everchanging aggregates, a person can be seen non-conceptually. It’s not like the category “table” or “person” mentally labeled on many individual items sharing the same defining characteristics and which can only be known conceptually.

According to Chittamatra, when dependent phenomena are cognized non-conceptually – for instance, when we see a table or a person as an imputation on a body – the mental hologram of the table or the body and person do not derive from an external, so-called “natal source.” The mental hologram that appears and the consciousness that cognizes it, plus all the accompanying mental factors, all arise from the mind of the person cognizing them. More specifically, they all arise from the same natal source, namely one karmic tendency, or seed, for this cognition, which is an imputation on the so-called “foundation consciousness” (alayavijnana) of the person cognizing it. Nevertheless, that mental hologram that appears and the consciousness and mental factors cognizing it have truly established existence. This means that their existence is not established merely in the context of conceptual cognition. That is because dependent phenomena are devoid of existing in the manner of totally conceptional objects like categories.     

Further, according to this Chittamatra view, a person, “me,” has a defining characteristic findable on its own side, but only within the context of valid cognition of it, that makes or establishes it as an individual, specific, validly knowable phenomenon. It allows for the fact that when someone, with non-conceptual cognition, sees us, they can distinguish “me” as a distinct object from everything and everyone else around me. Again, this is only within the context of the mental hologram of a body that appears in cognition of a body in a room. As for other dependent phenomena, such as a body, they too have a defining characteristic findable on their own sides that allows for someone, when they see them, to distinguish them as distinct objects from the wall behind them. 

However, when a dependent phenomenon such as a person or a body is an object of conceptual cognition, what it totally lacks is a defining characteristic findable on its own side that can serve as a basis on which to affix a category or name. Because of that absence, I can be mentally labeled with the category “human being,” “man,” “American” and so on, as well as the categories “fat,” “thin, “young” and “old,” and designated with the names “Alex,” “Alexander,” “Dr. Berzin,” “teacher,” and so on. Such labeled categories and designated names are established merely by conventions that can be validated by others. In other words, I’m an individual, but my name is not established on the side of “me.” Before my parents named me, I did not have a name. Nevertheless, Alex, Alexander and so on are my conventionally correct names, and not “Fritz.”

This is quite significant when we apply this to categories like “I’m stupid, I’m no good,  I’m this or I’m that.” There is no defining characteristic findable on the side of “me” that by its own power establishes or makes me like that. All such labels are relative to someone’s conceptual framework and how they define these various categories. Nonetheless, there is a “me” and a defining characteristic findable on the side of “me” that makes me an individual. Being an individual validly knowable thing is not just a conceptual construct. 

This becomes very interesting if we look more deeply into this view. We can only talk about an object in terms of our experience of it. “What is this table?” and “What is a person?” If I talk about either of them, it is in relation to a mind talking about it. If I see such an object, that’s in relation to a mind seeing it. If I think about it, it’s in relation to a mind thinking about it. How could we possibly establish the existence of a table or a person independently of a mind that cognizes it? We might ask, “Well, what about the Big Bang or the Earth before there was any life on it?” Well, we’re not seeing such things, but we’re talking about them, and so that’s in relation to a mind.

All that we can really deal with are the appearances of things, mental holograms, in the context of our cognition of them. Within that context, the Chittamatra view asserts that objects are like a blank cassette or diskette, or something like that, that exists as an individual item, and then on it, our conceptual minds label or print categories like “good,” “bad,” “Alex,” “Fifi,” or whatever. Although the Chittamatra view is somewhat like that – and more sophisticated Buddhist philosophical systems will refine this view – the main point we need to realize at this initial stage is that we can only establish the existence of anything within the context of a mind. It’s not that objects exist as blank cassettes or diskettes out there by themselves. To consider that they do exist like that is yet another type of incorrect consideration.

This is the Chittamatra view, the “mind-only” view. Let’s say we have a loved one, somebody that we love. There’s no way to establish that they exist out there, like some sort of blank diskette, as an individual with a name, an age, a level of intelligence and so on established from their own side independently of a mind. We can only establish their existence in the context of seeing them, talking about them, reading about them, thinking about them and so on – which are all in relation to a mind. We can’t establish their name or that they are “pretty” or “ugly” and so on outside of the convention of their name, given by a mind, and the concepts of “pretty,” “ugly” and so on, made up by minds. Therefore, these are all relative to the mind that cognizes them.

Chittamatra is a very complex view and not a very easy one to understand, but actually it’s very profound. We don’t have so much time, and the customary way is to go fairly quickly at the end with the most complicated, difficult material. The theory behind that is, either we’ll understand it, or if we aren’t quite ready to understand it, even if we spend hours and hours, we’re still not going to understand it because it requires a great deal of reflection and thought. If we at least get the main point from this discussion– that a person is not established from their own side as wonderful, horrible, or even as Claudia, but is only established as such in relation to a mind – that, at least, is a great help. 

It’s just now in our moment of experience of this person – of thinking of them or seeing them – that we are projecting “wonderful,” “horrible,” etc. on the basis of this individual. Nevertheless, there’s a validly knowable object in our experience and in each different time that we experience or think of them, we may project other things on them. When somebody else sees or thinks of them, they project yet other things on them. What’s absent is that these projections are established as “that’s what they really are.” It’s not like that. Although a person is an imputation on an everchanging continuum of aggregates and can be seen, non-conceptually, it’s not the same as “good” or “bad” that is merely mentally labeled on a person by a conceptual mind.

One brief question – I don’t want to take too many question because then we’ll never finish. There are two more positions to explain.

It’s impossible to fall in love if you only think of things in this way.

Yes, in a sense. We can love somebody and, of course, they do exist. They are not just a figment of our imagination. It’s just that we can’t establish their existence outside of our perception and thoughts of them. But falling in love usually grossly exaggerates the good qualities of the person and that exaggerated picture of them is what arises as the metal hologram when we see them. Falling in love is a disturbing state of mind because when they’re not there, we suffer and lose all self-control, because we ignore everybody else in our life, like our work and so on.

No more love songs.

No more love songs. Nevertheless, it doesn’t refute love. Love is the wish for the other person to be happy, to have the causes of happiness, regardless of what they do to us and regardless of what they do to anybody. We wish them, with love, to be happy just because they are a living being, and everybody wants to be happy, nobody wants to be unhappy.

If we get rid of all projections, then is the person still there?

According to this view, the person still exists, but we can only establish their existence in the context of the mental hologram of them that appears to our mind. We can’t establish the external existence of the person in the moment before we see or think of them.  

In the beginning of this discussion, I was just using “projection” as a general word, but we have to differentiate here between a mental hologram of a person when I’m seeing them, and a projection of “wonderful,” “horrible,” etc. It’s not that these mental labels are necessarily incorrect. They could be conventionally correct, according to a certain convention of what is wonderful and what is horrible, and so on. However, these concepts and their defining characteristics are merely conventions; they are relative. These defining characteristics are not established and findable on the side of the person. 

An example: we serve somebody a meal and at the end of the meal they burp. In Arab society, that’s very polite. It shows that we enjoyed the meal. In Western society that’s very impolite. A burp is just a burp, regardless of what name we give it; however, valid within the context of a convention and a society, it’s either “polite” or “impolite.”

Then if we don’t cognize the object, the object doesn’t exist?

No, it’s not that the object doesn’t exist if we don’t cognize it; it’s just that we can’t establsh or prove that it exists outside of the context of a mind’s cognition of it. How can we talk about an object out of the context of talking about it? How can we think of an object outside of the context of thinking about it? It doesn’t make any sense. So what’s the consequence of this? Basically, don’t worry about what objects are like out there by themselves. If we want to overcome suffering, deal with overcoming suffering in the context of something that we’re talking or thinking about, or seeing or hearing. That’s the context. What’s the point of Buddhism? It’s to overcome suffering. That’s in terms of our experience.

If we take the table as an example and we get rid of all concepts like “good,” “bad,” “big,” “small,” and so on, then what is left of the table?

From this Chittamatra point of view, we are left with an individual item within our perception of it that we can point to and say, “There it is; here is the object.” It has on its own side the defining characteristic that establishes it as a distinct object distinguishable from the other objects that we cognize around it. It’s as if this findable defining characteristic encapsulates this object with a plastic coating. But there’s nothing on the side of this object that establishes it as a “table” or a “chair,” or as an “antique” or a “piece of junk.” These are all established by conventions, which are established by a mind. I may call it “big”; you may call it “small.” What difference does it make? Why should we argue about that? It’s all relative. 

Now, we could ask, “Does the table exist in the room when nobody is there looking at it?” But now we’re talking about it and asking the question, so that’s related to a mind. If we are asking the question about it, “Does it exist in the room when nobody is there?” – here it is, in the context of a mind asking that question.

If in the other room there is an individual who is suffering, then are they suffering?

Yes, but we can only establish that they are suffering in the context of our thought of the person in the other room suffering. In that sense, we know the person is suffering. Other people don’t exist only in our minds; that other person doesn’t exist only in our mind. However, we can only consider the other person in the context of our thinking about, seeing, or speaking about them. It doesn’t make any sense outside of that kind of context.

Chittamatra is a Mahayana school. There’s compassion, there’s love, there’s helping all beings. Others are not just fictions in our head. However, as I mentioned, this is a very, very difficult view to understand. It requires a great deal of thought and consideration, and so if we haven’t heard about this before, this is an introduction. Don’t expect to instantly understand it. It’s difficult and very, very, very subtle.

The simple version: as long as we understand that somebody from their own side isn’t “good,” “bad,” or “wonderful,” and so on, that’s a start. Obviously, when we believe that they do exist like that from their own side, “You’re truly a terrible person,” then we get the disturbing emotion of anger.

Of course, this has to be understood within the context of the voidness of an impossible soul of a person, so it’s also not that someone is permanently, statically terrible, independent of what’s happened to them in life, what they’ve done, and so on.. Our understanding of how the self or things exist is in the context of this larger presentation.

We’ll take just a minute to swallow and digest this Chittamatra view, and then we’ll go on.

[Meditation]

What Establishes the Existence of Things According to the Svatantrika View

The question that we have to consider more deeply is, “What establishes that something exists?” “What proves that something exists?” We’re not talking about “What creates something?” We’re talking about, “What establishes that it exists?” Some less sophisticated views would say, “Well, if something performs a function, it exists. That establishes that it exists, although, obviously, performing a function, doing something, doesn’t create it.” What establishes that the fire is hot? I stick my finger in it and it gets burned. My finger getting burned doesn’t make the fire hot; it didn’t create the fire as being hot. It just establishes that it’s hot. This is not a terribly sophisticated view. We can look much more deeply. This view has some problems, like how do you know that something can perform a function if you don’t observe it, which is what the Chittamatra view addresses. 

The next view beyond Chittamatra is saying, “Well, you were already talking about the relation with the mind, and that establishing the existence of something has to do with its appearance to a mind. Now let’s analyze more deeply the relation with the mind in terms of precisely how you establish that something exists.” This gets into the sophisticated discussion of mental labeling. 

First comes the Svatantrika view. What establishes that something exists? Svatantrika says that the existence of something as this or that, or even as just a validly knowable object, is established by the fact that when a category or concept is mentally labeled on an appropriate basis, or a name or word is designated on an appropriate basis, it refers to something that valid cognition can verify. The existence of something can be established if it can be validly labeled or designated on a basis that has the same defining characteristic as the concept or category with which it is labeled or as the name or word with which it is designated.  This stipulation is there because, otherwise, we could label and designate anything as anything. The classic example is mentally labeling somebody “a king.” We could mentally label and designate a beggar “a king” or a dog “a king,” but those would not be valid. That wouldn’t establish the existence of the beggar or dog as a king. According to this Svatantrika view, there must be the defining characteristic of a king findable on the side of someone that, in connection with the concept and word “king,” establishes the person as a “king.”

There are words and concepts for things but they don’t create things. How do we know, how do we establish, that there is such a thing as a wall? Well, there is the concept “wall.” I can mentally label it on that object over there. In addition, on the side of this object, there is a findable defining characteristic that I’m labeling “wall” on top of. That defining characteristic is “a flat surface between a floor and a ceiling.” The combination of a findable defining characteristic on the side of the object, plus the word or concept “wall,” which is a category after all, establishes the existence of this object as a wall.

“Wall” is a category. It has a definition – a flat surface between a floor and a ceiling. Nevertheless, in order for that category to be correctly labeled on an object, the object has to have those same defining characteristics as the category has. Maybe “muro” and “wall” are defined in the same way. Maybe they’re not. Nonetheless, to be able to call something a “muro” or a “wall” or anything, there has to be some defining characteristic on the side of the object, in connection with the label having that same definition, that establishes that it’s a wall. Mental labeling, however, doesn’t create the wall. The wall is made out of stone and plaster and was made by people.

Even if we don’t deal with calling it a “wall,” a “muro,” or anything like that, there is something on the side of the object that makes it a “validly knowable object.” It’s like there is something findable on its side that, in a sense, separates it from the ceiling and the floor and makes it a distinct, distinguishable, validly knowable object. What makes it a distinguishable, validly knowable object is that it has on its side the defining characteristic of a “validly knowable object,” and in connection with the label “validly knowable object,” “thing,” or something like that, that establishes that it’s a “thing.”

If we apply this to persons, what is a person? I can designate someone a “person.” A “person” is what the word “person” refers to on a basis of an individual continuum of everchanging aggregates. However, there’s something on the side of the aggregates, like a defining characteristic, that makes it an individual; it’s “me,” not “you.” The basis of the table is not a basis for labeling “me.” It’s not a valid basis; although sometimes we have really crazy ways of speaking. I don’t know if you express it like this in Italian, but in English, we park our car somewhere. “Where are you parked?” “I’m over there.” I’m over there? No, the car is over there. It’s really quite funny. According to Svatantrika, the defining characteristic of a person is findable on the side of an individual continuum of mental consciousness.

We, as a person, “me” are not just a category. Categories do not exist independently of items that fit into categories as the bases on which they are labeled. If we apply a label of a category, we validly apply it only to individual items that have the same defining characteristic as the category. This object here has the defining characteristics of a table, that object in front of you also has the defining characteristics of a table. It also has the defining characteristics of an individual, validly knowable object. This table isn’t that table. However, what establishes it as a table is the word or concept “table” and the basis having the defining characteristics of the word or concept “table.”

Is the object something that can only be known conceptually? No. I can see it and seeing is non-conceptual. I can validly see it as a validly knowable object and most people would agree that what I am seeing is a table. What establishes that it’s a validly knowable object and a table? Well, there’s a label, a concept of a “validly knowable object” and a label, a concept of “a table,” defined in a certain way, plus, on the side of the object, the same defining characteristics as these two concepts. Just having the defining characteristic feature of a table by its own power alone doesn’t establish its existence as a table. Likewise, just the concept or category and the word “table” by their own power alone don’t establish this item’s existence as a table. Only the combination of the two establish its existence as a table.   

Mental labeling is not a very easy topic to understand; it’s something that we really have to work with. Mental labeling is what establishes the existence of something; it doesn’t create things. We don’t create the table just because we give some object the name “table.” How do we establish the existence of something as a table? It is established as existing as a table by the fact that when this object is mentally labeled as a “table,” the label “table” correctly refers to this object, because this object has the defining characteristics of a table on its own side.  

Suppose we’re in love with a person. What is a person? A person is an imputational phenomenon that exists and can be validly known non-conceptually on the basis of an individual continuum of everchanging aggregates. But “what establishes the existence of a person?” is a different question from “What is a person?” All we can say is that there is the concept and category of a “person, with a certain defining characteristic, and that same defining characteristic is found on the side of the continuum of mental consciousness in that set of aggregates. Because of that correspondence of defining characteristics, the concept of a “person” mentally labeled conceptually on that continuum of aggregates refers to what is conventionally accepted as being a “person.” That’s what establishes that the object I love is a person and not a table. It is not a table, because although I might label that object in front of you as a person, that would not establish it as a person because that object does not have the defining characteristic of a person on its side; it has the defining characteristics of a table. 

The same analysis applies to labeling this person as beautiful. The person can only be validly labeled as beautiful if they have on their side the defining characteristics of beautiful as asserted by either the conventions of our society or perhaps merely by our own convention of what is beautiful. The same analysis pertains to the words with which we designate things. If the sounds that comprise words did not have conventionally agreed up on meanings, based on definitions, communication would be impossible. We couldn’t communicate with each other.

The Prasangika View

Within Madhyamaka, the Prasangika school goes a step further and asserts that the only thing that establishes the existence of something is merely that it is what a concept or word labeled or designated on a basis refers to, but there is no defining characteristic findable on the side of that basis or object. Even defining characteristics are mentally labeled based on convention. 

The example that I always use, which I think is an example that’s easy to understand, is color. What color is this rug? Well, I could label it “red” and another person could label it “orange.” What establishes that it’s red or orange? Is there a certain wavelength on the side of the object that is red or orange? Well, if we look at wavelengths of light, there are no boundaries on the side of light that delineate on this side of the boundary it’s red and on that side of the boundary it’s orange. Categories and words like “red” and “orange” are mental constructs; they are made up conventions fabricated by minds, as are their definitions.  

This becomes quite profound, the more that we think about it. What about emotions? Do emotions exist in the boxes of categories? On this side of the line, what I feel is “liking someone,” and on that side of the line, it’s “loving someone?” Where is the boundary between liking someone and loving someone? These categories and their defining characteristics are both mentally labeled on something we experience, but they’re made up by a mind.

Another example, we experience jealousy. Was every moment and every incidence of jealousy in our life exactly the same? Is what I experience and call “jealousy” the same as what you have experienced and called “jealousy?” No it isn’t, but there is a category and concept “jealousy” and there is a word “jealousy,” and they refer to something we experience. However, there is nothing findable on the side of what we experience that by its own power alone or in conjunction with the category “jealousy” establishes its existence as “jealousy.” Jealousy is merely what the category or word “jealousy” refers to on the basis of what we are experiencing. What we are experiencing doesn’t have anything on its own side that generates a solid line or plastic coating around it as some solid “thing” that we are experiencing each time we experience what we call “jealousy.”

We need to differentiate here in this view between an “object that a label refers to” and a “referent thing.” If I use the word “jealousy,” or I use the word “good,” “red” or “orange,” it refers to something conventionally existent – an object that the word refers to, a referent object. What is a person? A person is what the word “person” refers to, on the basis of the aggregates, for example. A conventionally existent person is the object that the word “person” and the concept or category of a “person” refer to. 

A “referent thing,” on the other hand, would be something established as the referent object of a word or concept by the power of a defining characteristic findable on its own side, as if that object existed as a findable “thing” in the mental box of the category. I think that that’s the difference in very simple language. Things don’t exist in mental boxes, which is what our dictionaries and words would imply. It seems to us that since we can point to the word in this box-like entry in the dictionary, with its definition right there, so that must mean that the object or thing it refers to must exist out there also in a box. Nonetheless, things don’t exist like that; it’s impossible. To consider that they do exist in that way is yet another incorrect consideration.

However, words and concepts do refer to something, and the only way that we can establish the existence of anything as this or that is in our communication and thinking – it’s what our words and thoughts refer to.

Even words are just made up by convention. The sounds themselves don’t have any meaning in them. Some ancient people put together some sounds and decided, “This sound means that object over there.” So, even the meaning of words is just mentally established through labeling. It’s the same thing we had with “nevertheless, you don’t fall through the chair” – nevertheless, words communicate, don’t they?

When I say, “I love some person,” what is a person? There’s a whole continuum of a growing and aging body, a history of moments of awareness of various events and the cognized objects of those events, and all their experience, which has been influenced by all the people that they’ve ever met, all the things that they’ve ever done, their emotions, their health and so on. So, who am I in love with? The person is an imputation on that entire continuum. But there is no findable defining characteristic anywhere on the side of their basis for imputation, their five aggregates. Where in all that network of everchanging factors could it be located and found?

When we come across instructions that ask, “Try to find your mind. Is it in your brain? Does it have a color?” – things like this, if we don’t have all this background of these graded teachings on voidness, then, as I said earlier, the conclusion we come to is, “So what? Of course, my mind is not something I can find in my brain and it doesn’t have a color.” If we conclude, “so what,” our understanding is too superficial.  However, if we understand the instruction in the context of the whole progression of explanation that we’ve covered – and specifically in the context of the assertions about imputation, mental labeling, designation and defining characteristics – then we understand that the mind is not some sort of “thing” with a defining characteristic that is findable on the side of its basis, the brain, and which establishes its existence there as a “mind.” A mind is merely the referent object of the concept and word “mind” on the basis of a brain. 

The Indian master Shantideva uses the example of a hand. Where is the hand? Is the hand in this finger, or that finger, or that finger? Where is the finger? Can we find a finger? Well, there are the joints. Is it just that joint, or that joint? We can’t find anything. Is there a hand? Sure, there is a hand. How do we establish that? Well, there is the concept “hand,” and it refers to something that can do things, and so on. Then we get into trouble, “Ooh! My hand is ugly,” and “Ugh! My fingers are too short” and so on. Then we have to go back to what we were saying before. There’s nothing on its own side that establishes it as ugly or short; such concepts depend on their definitions and are relative.

We are not denying the existence of things. When we talk about voidness, we’re talking about an absence of impossible ways of existing, such as something existing as an actual, findable referent thing that we can point to. There’s a difference between what words and concepts refer to and what corresponds to them.  Words and concepts refer to conventional objects; but there is nothing that corresponds to them, because something that corresponds to them would have to exist “out there” sitting in a box called “red,” or the box of “good,” or the box of “bad,” like in a dictionary entry. There are no such things. The referent objects of words are devoid of being established as referent “things.” That’s impossible. However, our words do refer to something, and we can validly cognize what they refer to and other people would agree.

This is very, very subtle. I exist; you exist; however, what establishes that I exist? Is it something on my own side? Is it a findable defining characteristic that makes “me” me? We’re an individual; that’s true. I am not you, but is there something special that makes “me” me? We could say, “Well, this genome.” However, what’s a genome? It has an enormous number of parts. Like a hand, is it this part or that part? What is there that’s findable in the genome that makes “me” me? We think that there is something that makes “you” you, therefore, “you” are special, and I need to be loved by “you.” Somebody else doesn’t count. I have to be loved by “you.” When we understand this view, we’re able to deconstruct on a much, much deeper level the confusion that causes our suffering.

If we have a very disturbing type of love with attachment and desire, and we feel miserable when we’re not with the person, then we have to apply these gradual stages of analysis to examine why do I love this person? What’s a person? What is it that I’m loving? What is it that I’m so attached to? And who is the “me” that feels that, somehow, it’s going to gain something from having this love? This is the way that we work with this understanding of voidness and deconstruct these various things.

Then, we find a more reasonable basis for loving the other person, not because “You’re so special!” or because of the concept of “beautiful” we have that we have defined in our own personal way. We’re left with everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to be unhappy, so we wish you too to be happy.

“Maybe there’s some karmic connection?” so then we have to get into the voidness of cause and effect of the “special connection” that we might have. Where is that special connection? What is it? How does it exist? Is it some findable bond between us, like some sort of stick that attaches two balls? What is it? We need to analyze further and further and further.

Why do I love you? Well, I could say, “Because you’re nice to me and make me feel good. You show affection to me,” and so on. But that’s my own definition. Maybe we could even find “showing affection to us” in the dictionary as a defining characteristic of someone “lovable.” Nevertheless, what is “showing affection?” Is it always the same in every single moment? What do you actually do that makes what you do “showing affection?” Is it your finger touching me? Is it your palm touching me? Is it another part touching me? Can you just touch “me,” or do you have to touch some part of my body in order to touch me? What part? Can it be any part? For how long? Like this, we deconstruct our love for you. In the end, it’s not that we’re left with no emotion whatsoever. However, there is no exaggeration; there is no disturbance there. We’re left with warm affectionate feelings not just for someone we consider “special,” but for everybody, because everybody is equal in wanting to be loved.

On this basis of an equal attitude toward everyone, with no favorites, we can eventually function as a Buddha to be able to help everybody. Of course, some people will be more receptive to us than others. That’s something else. Nonetheless, our willingness and attitude toward everybody are the same; there are no favorites.

Let’s end here with a dedication. We think, whatever understanding, whatever positive force has been built up by our discussion, may it go in the direction of being able to rid ourselves of incorrect consideration and gain a correct understanding of voidness, so that we are best able to help everybody reach enlightenment with an equal attitude of love and compassion toward all. 

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