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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Sep 29, 2021

In this episode, we explore Right View connoting the realization of emptiness. Right View is part of the Noble Eightfold Path, laid out by Buddha as the gradual path to enlightenment. All eight parts of the path are practiced concurrently as we move along our spiritual journey. The eight parts are not sequential or practiced one-at-a-time, but you could say that the realization of emptiness is what directly leads to enlightenment. All the other parts are absolutely necessary to prepare and purify the mind until it can realize the true nature of reality, emptiness. Emptiness describes how reality actually exists as opposed to the way it appears. Emptiness does not mean nothingness. When you say your glass is empty and you want a refill, it means your glass is empty of something. Similarly, when Buddha says reality is empty, it means reality is empty of something specific: reality is empty of inherent existence. A chair is empty of existing inherently as a chair, for example. You are empty of existing as “I” (there are countless other beings also perceiving themselves as “I”). We are empty of existing inherently as old, young, a painter, a lawyer, smart, dumb, or any other label we have accepted. These are just mere labels, mere appearances to mind. To explain how conventional reality does exist, Buddha explained that all things are mere labels or mere appearance to mind. Right View then has two parts: the ultimate truth that all things are empty and conventional truth, that all things are mere name, mere label, mere appearance, and impermanent. Conventional and Ultimate Truth are two sides of the same coin. They are the two ways that reality does exist, and not the way things normally appear to us. 


We grasp at things as inherently attractive; if we didn’t, we would never get attached. We grasp at things as inherently unattractive; if we didn’t, we would never get upset. We believe our mind’s projections of beauty and ugliness. A traditional analogy to help us understand how conventional reality exists is the magician’s illusion. A magician might conjure the illusion of a ferocious tiger lunging into the audience, and the audience is frightened and crying. The magician, however, is unmoved because he knows it is an illusion. We are like a magician casting an illusion of the reality of our personal world, but believing the illusion we created. We chase attractive illusions and run from unpleasant illusions. 


Why does our reality appear the way it does?

Our karma causes appearances to be attractive or unpleasant, not the things themselves. The karmic appearances that come from good karma are beautiful or pleasant. Karmic appearances from negative karma are unpleasant or frightening. But these appearances are all just like magician’s illusions--things are not inherently beautiful or unpleasant. Realizing the conventional truth of reality, that things are mere appearances to mind, is like the magician knowing his illusion isn’t real. This knowing magician remains at peace in the midst of illusion.  Similarly, when we understand conventional and ultimate truth, even a little, we have more flexibility of mind to change the way we see things. We can choose to see a difficult situation differently. We can even come to see that challenging situation in a way that we will feel grateful for it. When we understand that reality is empty of existing inherently, it becomes infinitely full of possibilities. 


“All created things are suffering.” 

Seeing this with insight, 

One becomes disenchanted with suffering. 

This is the path to purity. (278)*


“All things are not-self.” 

Seeing this with insight, 

One becomes disenchanted with suffering. 

This is the path to purity. (279)*


Links and References


Her Daughter Was Kidnapped by Traffickers. So She Trafficked Herself. Vice World News.


Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 72 (Link)


Yeshe, Thubten. Introduction to Tantra. Wisdom Publications; Revised ed. edition (June 10, 2005). (Kindle). Link