The purpose of this meditation is to generate the understanding that everything which appears to our mind of self grasping is a non-existent and does not exist at all. Following this we meditate on what this means in light of the practice of exchanging self with others.
I began with breathing meditation and slowly, slowly, my thoughts became increasingly stilled until my mind felt like a perfectly smooth sheet of glass – completely smooth and flawless.
Once I had achieved this, I moved on to the meditation on the emptiness of phenomena.
I began by recalling that all phenomena are mere appearances to mind – mere appearances which lack any trace of inherent existence. Just as a rainbow appears in the sky, so phenomena appear to my sense consciousnesses. The rainbow appears to have a certain size and shape, and a physical location. In the same way, phenomena appear to have inherently existent characteristics such as size, shape and locations. The rainbow appears to be independent from other phenomena – floating in space, quite different and distinct from the ground, trees, clouds and sky. In the same way, phenomena appear to be quite independent from everything around them and not dependent on any causes.
I know a rainbow will fade. I have seen many rainbows and I know they fade, given a few minutes. I tried to take this understanding to other phenomena. All the phenomena I perceive are like a rainbow – an appearance dependent upon causes which lack inherent existence. I found my attitude to phenomena changing, and I felt a mental detachment take place. I began to stop grasping at phenomena (such as the room I was meditating in, the house I was in etc.) as being inherently existent. Instead I perceived them to be like rainbows. They will fade and disappear.
Finally, I thought of my body. This was more of a challenge. My body is also like a rainbow. It is a mere appearance. It will fade. I felt some alarm at first at the thought of my body deteriorating and dying, but I strengthened my view that it is a mere appearance. Of course it will fade – it is impermanent and lacks inherent existence. There is no inherently existent body – there is no inherently existent ‘I’. As I thought this through, I felt a balance, an equanimity fill my mind. I also felt a determination – ‘I will not cling to phenomena as being inherently existent – they exist as functioning things, but they are still mere appearances and completely lack the inherent existence I normally believe they possess’. I focused on this for a long time in meditation.
After this I decided to look at what this means in light of the practice of exchanging self with others. Neither my ‘self’ nor ‘others’ exist inherently. In this sense we are all equal. Despite being empty of inherent existence, my self and others are still functioning things. They function to experience the karma of previous actions and to create the causes of future experiences. Therefore, the best course of action I can take is to cherish others and to abandon self-cherishing while maintaining the recognition that neither my self nor others exist inherently. With this in mind, I returned to my meditation on all phenomena being mere appearance, and lacking any trace of inherent existence.
Through the virtues I have collected by contemplating and meditating on the lack of inherent existence of all phenomena, may I and all living beings realise emptiness directly, and by overcoming all obstructions, attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will regard all phenomena as being mere illusions, and although they function, remember that they are transient, dependent upon causes, and lacking in inherent existence.