Emptiness Is Form and Form Is Emptiness
Published 05 Dec 2016
The phrase, ‘Emptiness is form and form is emptiness’ is considered as a paradoxical statement in Buddhist philosophy. The Heart Sutra is the shortest text in Buddhism and contains the philosophical essence of the scrolls that make up the Maha Prajna Paramita. The abstract of the Heart Sutra is ‘great path for the perfection of wisdom’. According to the Heart Sutra, mind is the biggest thing that is termed as ‘maha’ here because many of us might think about various big things but our mind covers them instantly. So it is considered as the biggest thing. Here stress is given on mind and how you think which means anything in this world whether it is joy or sorrow or suffering or achievements, all are in our mind.
If you see around yourself there is suffering all over and you will feel that everyone is suffering in this world. But from where these sufferings come from? People are running after success, love, desire, to be recognized or approved by others. All these things for the time being gives happiness but ultimately leads to unlimited desire that will never end. We can attain some or all for sometime but we cannot keep them and this goes on like a mirage that is formed in a hot day on roads or in deserts. And ultimately we never get out of this sufferings and they go on increasing from time to time. But when you die, where does that suffering go? This is because after death you reach a state of emptiness, which frees you from all the sufferings. But if you want to find your mind and think over it, you won’t be able to find it unless you stop thinking.
The Heart Sutra says that the five skandhas, i.e., form, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness, to which you are attached, are actually empty. Mind is also completely empty so there is no place for the sufferings to stay. You might think of one thing that is quite durable and stands lot of weight or offers great service to you is empty in front of some stronger thing. So ultimately the fact is that nothing is permanent and abiding and everything has to change its form and attain some other form. Form has the quality of emptiness and so the Heart Sutra teaches us that, ‘ emptiness is form and form is emptiness’.
It is very important to learn the deep meaning inside this philosophical statement because almost every human being is attached to his name or form, which is the root to all sufferings. We will have to tell our mind that name and form are always changing and it keeps on changing. All these things that give you suffering and you struggle for them are empty. You cannot carry anything with you when you die neither your beautiful body nor your money or name or anything with you. So all these things are empty that is, form is empty. If you understand that these things are empty you will leave these things from your mind and just live without any suffering from these impermanent things. Our true nature is completely empty and when you attain this you experience the complete stillness. Step by step we learn how to do things compassionately for others when they are in need. This is the real teaching of the Heart Sutra.