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Emptiness Week at lanau: a great experience of nothing

Emptiness Week at lanau: a great experience of nothing

Emptiness Week –   20-23 March, 2022

This focused week on the topic of emptiness began with two very intense teishos by Guy Mokuhō Mercier, and the seminar immediately immersed us in emptiness from the perspective of our Soto Zen tradition. Interaction between the practice of zazen, which started and ended our days, and the various morning and afternoon workshops, was like an echo of subtle little touches.

During his lectures, Christian Miquel introduced us to many elements of thought of the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna (2nd and 3rd century). He showed us how Nagarjuna applied himself with a terribly effective critical mind to systematically deconstructing a number of concepts from contemporary Buddhism to finally arrive at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. That is to say that ultimate reality is none other than Suchness (Tathatâ: Things as they are in themselves), immutable, unconceptualisable.

For Nagarjuna, the Middle Way lies at the boundary of two distinct truths; the relative, conventional truth of our ordinary life and the truth of ultimate meaning that recognizes the emptiness of things in the phenomenal world. Christian Miquel has shed very different light on the thought of Nagarjuna, from the reflections of Western philosophers of all periods to the theories on emptiness of quantum physics.

Obviously many of us, his listeners, have repeatedly gotten lost in the twists and turns of sentences heavy with meaning. But in the end, for many participants, there remains a feeling of peace and well-being even if the understanding was only fragmentary. There is something comforting in the fact that the Dharma, and therefore our practice, has been subjected to very profound criticism by human thought and has come out of it legitimized.

The workshops offered by the nun Sarah were of a different nature. Through experimentation, we were able to discover situations of “Headless Vision” which is a path of self-knowledge initiated by Douglas Harding. The rhythm of the interventions was very different and we took the time, on the one hand to realize ourselves what we were going through and on the other hand to exchange with others, discover other approaches, other ways of reacting. and so to complement and advance our own understanding.

In conclusion, if this seminar had taken a human form, Guy Mokuhō Mercier would have been the skeleton and the nervous system, Christian Miquel the thinking head, Sarah the breath and the present Sangha, the flesh and the muscles.

But of course, this human form exists but does not exist, it neither has existed nor is has non-existance. In short, emptiness!