Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Content of Emptiness

What is this “emptiness” that some religious teachings indicate to be a desirable human state? Does it mean that one should empty himself or herself of every inner thought and perception, to reduce the person, body, mind and spirit, to absolute nothingness? This is a very deep question.

It is not hard to conclude that this at least means emptiness of and towards all material possessions. This is a form of material detachment. The sincere believer will strive to this end, letting go of the desire for such possessions and contenting himself or herself with only the bare essentials for life. Describing Baha’u’llah, the founder/prophet of the Baha’i Faith. It is written:

“ ‘I, myself with two others lived in a room which was devoid of furniture.’ Bahá'u'lláh entered it one day, and, looking about Him, remarked: 'Its emptiness pleases Me. In My estimation it is preferable to many a spacious palace, inasmuch as the beloved of God are occupied in it with the remembrance of the Incomparable Friend, with hearts that are wholly emptied of the dross of this world.' His own life was characterized by that same austerity, and evinced that same simplicity which marked the lives of His beloved companions.”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 137)

But it may go further than this. On one view it requires the foregoing of the ego, of all earthly desire. The Buddhist Writings state:

To show the Egolessness, utter emptiness of existence, Visuddhi-Magga XVI quotes the following verse:

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there;
Nirvana is, but not the man that enters it;
The Path is, but no traveler on it is seen.

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
((The Eightfold Path), Buddha, the Word))

But it does not necessarily involve letting go of the Divine spirit within every human being, the quest for union with the Absolute. We can empty ourselves of all things of this world, only so that we can better become immersed in the greater spiritual world. One notable Christian writer wrote:

“Strive thus to desire to enter into complete detachment and emptiness and poverty, with respect to everything that is in the world, for Christ's sake.” - St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel

This at the very least involves a rejection of all religious extremism, bigotry, exclusivity and superiority, because this is spiritual emptiness, not a desirable state. Thus it is said:

“The violence and disruption associated with religious fanaticism testifies to its spiritual emptiness. Fanaticism destroys the very foundations of human solidarity by dividing the world into contending factions, each believing itself to be superior to others and to have an exclusive claim on religious truth. These actions and attitudes negate the very purpose of religion.” - Baha'i International Community, 1987 Mar 03, Eliminating Religious Intolerance

In this way the stream can merge into the Most Great Ocean and be united.

- contributed by G. N. / guest blogger from Australia


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