From “The Center Within” by Gyomay M. Kubose
Emptiness is a central teaching in Buddhism. The sutras constantly refer to it in various ways (e.g. “mu,” “ku,” “sunyata”). The term “emptiness” is not meant to negate things, instead it points out the essence of all things. It refers to an absolute state of no thing as such. This means that no thing is fixed or static. In other words, everything changes.
Emptiness is a process, a function. Life is also a process; life is always moving on. To be alive is to be in a state of constant change. To flow with this change is to live a life that is creative and full of joy. If we do not flow with this change, life becomes monotonous. When asked, “How are you doing?” we reply, “Nothing new; just the same daily routine.” Work and home life seem dead; no stimulation or inspiration.
Since life is a process, we are always doing something. It is nice when one can find something he wants to do, rather than has to do. However, even with something you have to do, if you accept it and do it, there is satisfaction. I remember a window washer who said that people laughed at him and asked him how he could stand such a boring job. His answer was, “I feel a lot of satisfaction when each window is cleaned.” This is a Buddhist attitude. Collecting garbage or washing windows is no different from any other occupation. If one does the work willingly, there is joy. Emptiness is process; this means that something is always being finished and something else is always beginning. One feels satisfaction with the completed accomplishment and is excited by the start of something new.
Emptiness is what makes life interesting. If there were no process or change occurring—how dull! No change implies the opposite of life, everything being stagnant and dead. I enjoyed playing cards the other night. With each deal different cards came; every deal was new. Of course, there are set rules to play by, but the cards are different each time. Sometimes the cards are good and sometimes they are not so good. The change is what makes playing cards so much fun.
Changes make life so interesting. This can be applied to our health. To be healthy is good; there is not much good in sickness. However, sickness is good in one sense. If you are always healthy, you do not appreciate being healthy. When you get sick, then you really appreciate good health. How about when the wife gets sick? Then the husband really realizes what it takes to keep things running smoothly in the house. Usually we take routine things for granted and we lack appreciation. So it is with everything else. Consider recession in the economic world. Some people suffer because of recession but from a broader perspective, recession is good in that it makes people realize that the economy is not always perfect; there are ups and downs.
Life is full of both suffering and joy. Change makes a person aware of this reality. This change can help a person realize the real values in life. This change is called emptiness. It is also called the doctrine of Impermanence; that is, nothing is permanent. This is the essence of the whole universe; it is the essence of our lives. Life moves and changes and that is why it is called empty. Emptiness means freshness; it means each moment of life is ever new, ever changing.
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