Introduction to Voidness (Emptiness)

Voidness, or emptiness, is an extremely important and central topic in the Buddhist teachings. What it means is an absence; something is absent, not there. What is absent is an impossible way of existing, something that has never existed at all. It is very important to understand this and to understand why. This is dealing with the whole problem of projection. We all have a great deal of confusion, some of which is very gross. We might be aware that we are confused, but there are very subtle levels as well.

We project all sorts of things that are pure fantasy. We believe that they are the reality and then we respond to these projections in inappropriate ways. For instance, when a loved one that we are quite attached to is late in meeting us, because of traffic, our mind projects, “You are late because you don’t love me anymore,” “You have abandoned me,” and “You are never going to come.” Because of our insecurity and attachment, we become very unhappy. Then, when they finally show up, we get angry with them, “Why are you late?” and we don’t even give them a chance to explain.

These things happen all the time in one form or another. We have all sorts of funny projections about ourselves, about other people, about the situations in the world, etc. Believing that reality corresponds to them, we create more and more suffering and problems for ourselves, and for others. The whole point of voidness is to understand that what we are projecting does not correspond to anything real. Basically, what is absent, what’s not there, is a real referent to our projections. They do not correspond to anything. What is absent? A real referent of our projections that was never there to start with. It is impossible.

Now, of course, what is impossible has many different levels of subtlety. In working to understand voidness we need to deconstruct our projections, our personal and social myths, because there are many myths that we project, that all of society is projecting, not just our own personal ones. But we have to go step by step in deconstructing them and try to realize that each layer of projection is just garbage.

It’s really important to understand that we don’t have just our own personal myths and projections, but there are certain ones that our whole society might share, for example, “The national enemy, these people, every one of them is bad,” and these sorts of things. That is the grossest level of it, but there are more subtle ones as well.

The point of all of this discussion about projections is to try to understand that they are the cause of suffering, the cause of our problems, the cause of everybody’s problems – these projections of what’s impossible. Because we want to overcome our problems and suffering, we need to understand this, and so does everybody else. If we want to overcome our problems and suffering, and gain liberation, then basically we have to understand that these projections do not correspond to anything real; basically, we have to stop believing in our false projections. We need to think, “This is garbage,” and then not believe in them. 

Let me give as an example the scorpion we just found on the floor here a few minutes ago. Our minds could make it appear as a monster. If we believe that this appearance corresponds to reality, we experience a great deal of fear, which is not a very pleasant state of mind. However, in understanding that it is not a monster, that doesn’t mean that the scorpion doesn’t exist and it’s not dangerous. Of course, it is. We have to take it out of the room very carefully, put a piece of paper underneath it, something on top, and take it out. Understanding voidness doesn’t mean that we are no longer careful about the scorpion. Of course, we need to be careful. I am speaking on a very superficial level; voidness is much more subtle than this, but just using this as an example, if we realize that this scorpion does not exist like a monster, we can handle it without fear. We are not upset by it.

Like this, we can think of many examples in which this understanding is very helpful, even on a very superficial level. We love somebody very much, for example, and are quite attached to them, then they don’t call us and don’t come to meet us when they are supposed to. Some time can pass, and they still don’t call us, and we get very upset. What is the projection here behind our getting upset? This is what we need to analyze. “What is wrong with the way this appears to me?” There are many things that are wrong, but one of the things that is very common here is thinking, “I am the most important thing in the universe,” and particularly, “I am the most important thing in this other person’s life, and they have nothing else happening in their life except me. Anything that they do has to do only with me.” If they don’t call, it’s because “They don’t like me,” or whatever.

This is not reality. People have lives; we are not the only ones in their life. They have other people in their life, many things that are happening to them, and many other people that they are interacting with. Even if they are our marriage partners, they have many things in their life besides just me. This gets us a little bit more down to earth in terms of our relations with this person and then, when we see them again, we might find out that they had been busy with something, or something important had come up. Then we can ask in a calm way, “What happened?” In order to overcome our own suffering and making ourselves miserable about the whole thing, then even if our mind makes it appear like “I am the only reason for anything that happens in this other person’s life,” then we say to ourselves, “Come on, this is ridiculous!” and we don’t believe it.

If someone is late in meeting us, or our teenager is late in coming home at night, we might also project that they were in an accident and so we worry incessantly. The same analysis applies here. Being concerned about the safety of our child is not the same as obsessively worrying about them. In most cases, their being late is not because of something horrible happened to them. We need to calm down and be patient for them to come home. After all, coming home late is typical of all teenagers.

However, if we really want to be able to help everybody, what we really need to do is to reach the point where our mind stops projecting such scenarios. Because even if we don’t believe in the junk that our projections make appear, still, if our mind is projecting this, it prevents us really from seeing reality clearly. We need to accustom ourselves over and over with voidness. What are we doing when we are focusing on voidness? We are focusing on “There is no such thing, no such thing as a real referent that corresponds to what my mind is projecting.”

Now, when we are focusing on “no such thing,” nothing appears, there is nothing. Let’s use a simpler example first. For instance, if we focus on, “There is no chocolate on the floor here,” what are we focusing on, what appears? Nothing. First, maybe the floor will appear, but our main interest is not the floor. We are focused on “There is no chocolate.” The more we absorb ourselves in that absence of chocolate, what is happening? Our mind stops projecting “chocolate.” We can have great hope that there is chocolate there, but there isn’t. We go to the refrigerator and there’s no chocolate. We go to the cabinet, there is no chocolate. Then we sit there, and eventually, we understand, “There is none.” So, there is “nothing” that is appearing. We understand that that means that there is no chocolate; there is none. So, our mind is not projecting “chocolate” or the “hope of chocolate” anymore. The more that we accustom ourselves to this, then eventually our mind will stop projecting “chocolate.”

But chocolate is something that exists. There might not be any on our home, but it does exist somewhere else. Voidness is talking about the absence of something that doesn’t exist – it never did and never will. Suppose we are projecting, for instance – the example I love to use because it is so common – the Prince or Princess Charming on the white horse, the perfect partner that we are all longing to find, so that we will live, like in the fairy tale, “happily ever after.” We are all hoping, at least most of us have hoped, and maybe still are hoping, that we will find the prince or princess on the white horse, the perfect partner. And of course, we project that onto someone that we meet, in the great hope that they will be like that. However, when they don’t live up to that, we get very disappointed and angry.

As sad as it might be, we have to understand that there is no such thing. Nobody exists as the prince or princess on the white horse. Eventually, if we familiarize ourselves enough and really can believe on an emotional level that “There really is no such thing,” it is not that, “Everybody else finds one, and I don’t find one, poor me, I am the loser,” but, “There is no such thing, it is impossible,” then eventually our minds will stop looking for one. Maybe, in the beginning, we cry, “Oh, how sad it is that there is no such thing.” The great Indian master Shantideva said it’s like a little child crying when their sandcastle by the ocean falls apart when the water comes in.

Actually, it is a relief that there is “no such thing.” Because there is a great relief, it is very joyous actually when we realize that we were just – like the English expression – “banging our head against the wall” trying to find something that doesn’t exist. Not only do we want to stop believing that our partner is the prince or princess so that we stop suffering, but if we could stop projecting that, then we could see our partner just the way that he or she actually is, and we’re in a much better position to help them. Although I am simplifying greatly, nevertheless, this is the general principle that we follow. If we want to gain liberation, we have to stop believing in these projections of fantasy; and if we want to gain enlightenment, we have to get our minds to stop projecting them.

Therefore we have to understand voidness, this total absence of any real referent to any of this fantasy that our mind is projecting, and familiarize ourselves with it, over and over and over again, so that our mind stops projecting it, by focusing on “there is no such thing,” like we used in this example, “there is no chocolate.” Then, we work in stages to deconstruct and get our minds to stop projecting more and more and more subtler levels of what is impossible. Of course, each level that we deconstruct is very helpful, but it is important not to stop halfway.

This is what is actually quite difficult. There are many, many things about the understanding of voidness that are difficult. No one ever said it was easy. However, what we need to identify is our projections, because we really believe that they are real. We have no feeling for the fact that “This is just garbage projected by my mind”; and so, for this, we need to work very hard and be very open. We need to study and learn what is this garbage that our minds are projecting. Somebody has to point it out, whether it’s in a book or a teacher; it is not so obvious, and we have to think about it, try to understand what is going on here and really examine ourselves and examine the way that the world appears to us, and how other people appear to us, and how we appear to ourselves. It requires a great deal of reflection, and this is an active reflection to try to understand and recognize what is appearing here.

Understanding Projections

In Buddhism there are so many practices that deal with how things appear, which actually help us to understand projection, and this is very helpful. I am sitting in front of you and I could be frightened, for example. I could think, “All of these people are looking at me; they are judging me,” and “What are they going to think of me?” I could become very nervous and this could become a very torturous event for me. What is the problem here? The problem is that I’m just thinking in terms of, “me, me, me,” and everything is all revolving around “me,” and what you think of “me.”

It is true that I am sitting here, and most of you are looking at me, but so what? Now we are talking about projection. Rather than looking at you as people who are judging me and probably don’t like me, or who think that I am an idiot, I can change my attitude. Buddhism always speaks about changing our attitude to a more positive, helpful one. I could look at you as my best friends, as my brothers and sisters, like my parents or my children, and I am explaining to you with as much concern for you as I would have for my best friend. Then, I am really concerned that you understand, and there is a great deal of at least friendliness, if not love. Further, I am not going to pretend something. How can you pretend something with your brother, your sister, or your best friend? Thinking like that, with that change of attitude, then I am very relaxed; this is a very enjoyable evening.

What is involved here? It is projection, isn’t it? In actuality I don’t know any of you, I mean, one or two I’ve gotten to know a little bit, and Claudia I know from before, but I haven’t met most of you before this evening. So, that’s not true that you are in fact my best friend, at least not in terms of this lifetime. In Buddhism, we speak of previous lifetimes, so at some long-ago lifetime you could have been my best friend, sure – that is the basis for thinking like this. But what I am projecting – your being my best friend – is not completely unreasonable. In Buddhism, we speak of everybody having been our mother in a previous lifetime; however, if that is not comfortable, then we can think that everybody has been our best friend. Everybody has also been our worst enemy in some previous lifetime by that logic, but that doesn’t help.

Maybe you are sitting there and judging me. So what? If you want to judge me, you’ll judge me. The problem is not whether you are judging me or not. That’s not the problem. The problem is my being focused on “me,” and worrying about “me,” “What do you think of ‘me?’” I am worried about “me” because I want everybody to love “me.” I mean, everybody wants everybody else to love them, don’t they?

Then, we remember that not everyone liked the Buddha, so, “If not everybody liked the Buddha, then why should everybody like me?” That’s very helpful, but if that is a little bit too distant, then, “Not everybody likes His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Look at the Chinese, they don’t like him, so what am I going to expect? That everybody is going to like me? So, if you don’t like me, if you are judging me badly, well, that’s OK.” Here is the point. The point is that, initially, we understand that so much of what we experience is based on projection. When we understand that, then we can change the projection. Rather than project something that’s going to make us miserable, like, “You’re all judging me,” we project something that is helpful, for instance, “You are all my best friends.”

Then, eventually, we don’t have to project anything. Each of you is an individual person, and you may judge me, you may be a close friend, or you may be an enemy. Fine, no problem. However, as His Holiness always points out, everybody is a human being – well not everybody, a dog is not a human being – but anyway, everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to be unhappy. So just speak to everybody as being equal, and then no problem.

I think this illustrates the fact that there are stages of how we can work with projection in order to diminish and eventually stop any suffering, stop any problems. However, for both types of projection – helpful and unhelpful – we have to understand that what is causing me to be miserable is thinking, “me, me, me,” “Everything is all about me,” and “What does everyone think of me?” That’s the problem. 

Nevertheless, here we are in an interaction. And even if I understand that this projection of you as being my judges – “You don’t like me,” and “You’re not going to love me,” and so on – is garbage, and I don’t believe in that anymore, but still my mind is projecting. That’s the way our minds work: they project. So, I might as well project a more beneficial thing, like, “You are all my best friends.” That allows me to help you to a certain extent, but not to the fullest. Why? Because maybe you are judging me, and maybe you in fact don’t like me.

Now, in order to really help you, I need to be able to deal with that reality. Not just, “Everybody loves me; everybody is my best friend.” Once I am no longer afraid of you and no longer just focusing on, “me, me, me,” then I am ready to do away with these “nicer” projections and just really be open and deal with the reality of each person individually. Some may not like me, some may like me, some may be a close friend, some may be distant, whatever it is; then we just deal with it, whatever it is.

This is an introduction to just the general way of working with voidness and the garbage that our mind projects. Sometimes our projections are not beneficial; they’re not helpful at all. At other times, we project something that is helpful; however, eventually, we want to stop projecting at all. 

That gives a little bit of an idea of what we are talking about here. I think that this is enough for this evening. We can have some questions now, and then, starting tomorrow, we’ll speak a little bit more in detail about what is the garbage that our mind is projecting, and how we can we recognize and deconstruct it.


If we deconstruct so much, then won’t we deconstruct our good sentiments?

Well, no not necessarily. Voidness is not nihilistic. We are not asserting here that nothing exists, that there is nothing. What we want to get rid of are our projections of fantasy and exaggerations. 

Now, when we talk about greed, attachment, or anger, that is basically an exaggeration of either the good points or the bad points about something. However, the energy underlying the exaggeration of good points can be helpful. If our wish to have something is exaggerating the qualities of, let’s say, ice cream or money, then it is a very disturbing state of mind. However, if we get rid of that exaggeration, then we need that energy, which says, “I wish to achieve something,” like, for instance, “to help you.” This is simply the energy to strive for something, which, in this case, is positive and helpful, and we need that. So, when we deconstruct, what we’re deconstructing is the exaggeration, which is that “Whether what I do is successful in helping you or not depends totally on me. I am the only cause for your overcoming your problem and gaining happiness. If it works, then I am the greatest, and if it fails, it is my fault and I am guilty.” That, we want to get rid of. That is the exaggeration.

When we deconstruct here, we are still left with the wish to help others – love, the wish for them to be happy, and compassion, the wish for them to be free from their suffering. We are still left with them, but with a realistic attitude of them. It’s like, excuse me if you are a vegetarian, but if I can use this example, it’s like a piece of meat. You want to cut off the fat around it, get rid of that, and be left with just the nutritious part.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Like you have compassion for somebody, but then, if you get carried away, this is all the fat around it. Like, your child is hurt and you just, “Aaah!” and you scream, and you cry, and you yell, and you carry on, and you don’t do anything to help the child. This is just, “Poor me, I can’t deal with this.” Get rid of all of that fat, all that garbage. See, “Ah, my child is hurt,” and then just take care of them with compassion. Feeling compassion doesn’t have to be dramatic or melodramatic in order to be very positive.

It seems very difficult to distinguish between reality and exaggeration.

That is correct; it is very difficult to differentiate between the two. That is why we need to have a teacher. Just from reading in a book it might not be so clear. We need someone to answer our questions, to point things out. However, even if we have a teacher that works with us personally – which is rare – but if we have one, our mind has to be open. If we are not open, then Buddha himself could be there trying to teach us and it won’t help. To become open, we have to do – what is called in Buddhism – “purification and building up positive force.” There are a lot of practices that we can do to help us to open up and overcome mental and emotional blocks. Then, teachers can help us.

I can give you an example from my own experience: Geshe Wangyal, a great Kalmyk Mongol teacher. He died long ago, but he was tremendous. Mongols are quite different from Tibetans, but, in any case, a little bit more like what we imagine a classic Zen master.

Geshe Wangyal always had people build things for him, which he supervised very closely. He had one student, a friend of mine, who was helping to build a house for the students and Geshe-la to live in, and one day he was on the roof building it. Geshe Wangyal climbed up on the roof, went over to this friend, his student, and started yelling at him, “You are doing it completely incorrectly. You’re ruining the whole thing, get out of here!” My friend snapped back, “What do you mean, I’m doing it incorrectly? I am doing it exactly the way you told me to do it.” And then Geshe-la said, “You see, that’s the ‘me,’ the ‘false me.’ That is the projection you have to get rid of.”

Geshe Wangyal was the master at this. He was an old man when I knew him. One day a few of us were sitting in his living room, and this woman came in. She was very upset and wanted to speak to Geshe-la privately about some personal problem. Geshe-la said, “It’s OK, we are all friends here. You can just speak freely.” So, she told her story, and it was very, very emotionally difficult for her to get through it. When she finished, Geshe-la put his hand by his ear and said, “What did you say? I didn’t hear you. Say it again, louder. Hard of hearing.” Then, she had to repeat it and shout it word by word into Geshe-la’s ear. Sometimes he would make her repeat words two, three, four times, and by the time that she had finished, she herself realized, without Geshe-la having to say anything, that she was making too big a thing out of this and was exaggerating and getting too upset. She was then able to calm down.

However, you have to be a really great master to be able to do that, to know who you can do that with and who you can’t. For some people, it would be helpful; however, some people would get very upset. That’s why somebody needs to be open and ready, and then, with the guidance of a skillful teacher, they realize themselves what their exaggerations or projections are. It is very difficult to really know, as a teacher, who is ready for a method and who isn’t. That’s why one really needs to get rid of projections, especially about people we are trying to help. However, it is very difficult to differentiate between our projections and reality because the projections feel so real, and not only that they feel so real, we react very emotionally to them.

If I were to think that everything is a projection, that might be dangerous. I could become careless, taking possible dangers for projections.

That is why I used the example of the scorpion. We stop projecting that it’s a monster, but the thing is dangerous and so we are very careful. As I said – and I think this is very important to repeat over and over again – voidness doesn’t negate or do away with everything. What we are getting rid of is the projection of what’s unreal, what’s impossible.

Realizing all the trouble associated with projections, particularly in relationships, I can try to reduce them on my side, but the projections of other people are still there. Somebody might say, “You are the worst person I know,” but even if I don’t project “poor me,” and realize “This is their projection,” how to deal with that?

I think that it was Buddha who said, “If someone wants to give you a present, and you don’t accept it, who has the present?” The person who is offering it still has it in their hand. We haven’t accepted it; it’s still theirs. If somebody projects something onto us, it’s very difficult to get them to stop projecting; but, at least from our own side, we don’t accept it and don’t react that way.

Let’s use an example, rather than speaking theoretically. Suppose we are in a relationship and the other person says, “You don’t love me.” Now, that may be true, I mean, maybe we don’t love them, but let’s say that it’s not true. Now we can say, “But that’s not so.” However, we can say that based on being really upset, or we can say that based on being more calm about it. 

If, on the basis of being very upset, we deny not loving them, we get angry with the other person, we feel insecure, or whatever. That is we want to get rid of. What we want is to respond without getting upset. There are many ways of dealing with this accusation that we don’t love them. If we are very calm about it, then we examine, “Is there a basis for this? Am I ignoring the other person, or what is it?” And if we think the person is rational, we can discuss it with them, see maybe there is some part of it that is true, maybe some part that’s not true.

Just as an aside, something very helpful in this type of situation, whether they are projecting onto us or we are projecting onto them, is to think in terms of the analogy of different currencies of money. For instance, they want us to pay them in a certain currency, let’s say euros, and we say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have euros, but I can pay you in dollars.” Like each person can pay someone in a different currency, each person shows love and affection in a different way, “Maybe I can’t show you in the way that you like. I can’t give you the money in euros, although that’s what you want, but I can give it to you in dollars. Like that, this is the way that I show my love and affection.” We point out, “Well I do love you. I’ve been doing this and this and that, and that’s how I show love.” Or the other way around, if we want payment in dollars, but our partner is giving it in euros, we need to recognize that they are paying in a different currency. That’s very helpful. They only have rupees or lira, which is no longer a valid currency, but this is all that they have.

The point is not to get emotionally upset by their projections, like the projection that we don’t love them. We don’t accept it, but rather we deal with it because this is what they are projecting. This is what they are feeling, so we deal with it, but in a more rational type of way. However, sometimes we have to deal with the other person like they are a small child, for example, when we have a two or three-year-old child and we say, “It’s time to go to bed,” and the child says, “I hate you, I hate you.” This is a projection, obviously, but do we take it seriously and believe, “Oooh! They hate me?” We just say, “It’s time to go to bed.” 

Sometimes it’s not the time to discuss something further with the person if they are really upset; we need to wait until the next day. In such situations, we say, “Look, it’s a very emotionally volatile, strong moment now. Maybe this is not the best time to discuss it. Let’s wait until tomorrow.” In that sense, we put the baby to sleep and discuss it when the person is more calmed down.

If, through the understanding of voidness, the “I” collapses, then who understands voidness?

It is not true that the “I” is collapsing. What is collapsing is the exaggeration of how the “I” exists.

So is there an intrinsic existence of an “I”?

Now we have a problem of technical terminology, so I am not quite sure what you mean by “intrinsic existence of an ‘I.’” However, if it’s a belief in an impossible way of existence for an “I,” then when that is gone, we are left with what is known as the “conventional me.” I am sitting here, I’m talking to you, and you are asking a question and that’s still happening. I am listening to you; it’s not that somebody else is listening to you or nobody is listening to you. And you’re asking a question, and not somebody else or no one.

If the problem is the attachment to the “I,” and I believe in this conventional “I,” then I could become attached to the conventional “I” again.

Who is getting attached to the conventional “I”? Is it somebody else? Are there two people here: “me” and the conventional “I?”

If there is “I,” then I might be afraid of dying.

You see, what I was trying to point out a little bit in this introductory talk is that it is very, very important to study, to get instruction, to think a great deal, and to make ourselves open enough to be able to understand what really is the projection, what is it that is impossible, and what is it that is possible? If we don’t have a very precise, clear idea of what’s possible and what’s impossible, then the danger is that we negate either too much or too little.

We are dealing with very, very subtle issues. Just sitting here and trying to recognize our projections ourselves with no guidance, maybe we’ll recognize them correctly. However, the chances are that we are going to sit here for a very long time and not identify them correctly or go deeply enough. Nevertheless, if we correctly recognize the conventional “I,” and how it actually exists, and cut off all the “fat” of the exaggeration of what doesn’t exist, what’s impossible, then there is no reason to feel afraid of death. There is no reason to be attached to anything. The problem is gone. The cause of the problem is gone, and therefore the problem is gone. If we are still afraid of death, then we haven’t understood voidness deeply enough.

Then that’s why I am here.

Perfect, that means that you’re afraid of death. That’s a very serious fear that most people have, and one that is very important to deal with. It is very good to face that problem and try to deal with it because there are a lot of people who deny death and don’t want to think about it, and don’t want to deal with it, and then they are very terrified at the end of their life.

You say negative projections could be transformed into positive projections. But then, anyway there are projections. Is it not better then, to focus on intention and motivation?

Intention and motivation are important regardless of what method we use to deal with a problem. Intention and motivation are what we start with for dealing with a problem, but then we have to apply a method. We could come across somebody who has had an accident and they have fallen down on the street. We could have the motivation of compassion and the intention to help them, but that is not enough. We could also have the projection and attitude that, “This is too horrible and I can’t deal with this, and all the blood, it’s so awful,” and like that, we completely freak out. Although we want to help, we can’t because we get too emotionally upset and frightened.

Nonetheless, if we change our projection, “What if this were me that was lying there? I would certainly want somebody to help me, and not just freak out,” or “If this were my child, it wouldn’t matter how horrible it looked, I would do something.” However, as I said, that is not the deepest solution. The best is not to project anything. “I have the motivation, I have the intention, and then I just deal with it. I see what I am capable of doing, what am I not capable of doing, and maybe the best way I can help is to call a doctor.”


Let’s end here with a dedication. Dedication is very important at the end. The example that I often use is with a computer, as we are familiar with computers. We type a document and then we want to save it. The same thing is with building up some positive force. If we don’t do anything special, the default setting is that whatever understanding or positive force that has come from our discussion this evening will go into the “samsara” folder, improving samsara. That’s where it will automatically go if we don’t do anything at the end with no dedication.

What we want to do is have that positive force not go into the “samsara” folder. We want to press the button, with the dedication, and save it into the “enlightenment” folder: “May this act as a cause for reaching enlightenment.” But it will only do that if we dedicate the positive force like that. If not, it is just going to go into making, say, having a nice, interesting conversation about this with somebody over coffee. It makes a nice samsara, but it doesn’t lead to liberation or enlightenment. Dedication is to put the positive force in the “enlightenment” folder and save it there.

Our computer, however, doesn’t work by just a voice command; we can’t just recite the words, “May it act as a cause to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all.” We have to actually press the button. So, we have to actually internally, very strongly, intend and wish that it goes toward enlightenment. There needs to be some movement of our energy; it’s not just, “blah, blah, blah,” only words. With that in mind, “whatever positive force…” 

This is, by the way, the way that I translate “merit.” “Merit” sounds like, in the scouts, we get a badge at the end, if we have enough points. I don’t like the word “merit,” but use instead “positive force.” “Whatever positive force and understanding has come from this discussion, may it act as a cause to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all.”