Emptiness: The Most Misunderstood Word in Buddhism

“Emptiness” is a central teaching of all Buddhism, but its true meaning is often misunderstood. If we are ever to embrace Buddhism properly into the West, we need to be clear about emptiness, since a wrong understanding of its meaning can be confusing, even harmful. The third century Indian Buddhist master Nagarjuna taught, “Emptiness wrongly grasped is like picking up a poisonous snake by the wrong end.” In other words, we will be bitten!
Emptiness is not complete nothingness; it doesn’t mean that nothing exists at all. This would be a nihilistic view contrary to common sense. What it does mean is that things do not exist the way our grasping self supposes they do. In his book on the Heart Sutra the Dalai Lama calls emptiness “the true nature of things and events,” but in the same passage he warns us “to avoid the misapprehension that emptiness is an absolute reality or an independent truth.” In other words, emptiness is not some kind of heaven or separate realm apart from this world and its woes.

The Heart Sutra says, “all phenomena in their own-being are empty.” It doesn’t say “all phenomena are empty.” This distinction is vital. “Own-being” means separate independent existence. The passage means that nothing we see or hear (or are) stands alone; everything is a tentative expression of one seamless, ever-changing landscape. So though no individual person or thing has any permanent, fixed identity, everything taken together is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “interbeing.” This term embraces the positive aspect of emptiness as it is lived and acted by a person of wisdom — with its sense of connection, compassion and love. Think of the Dalai Lama himself and the kind of person he is — generous, humble, smiling and laughing — and we can see that a mere intellectual reading of emptiness fails to get at its practical joyous quality in spiritual life. So emptiness has two aspects, one negative and the other quite positive.
Ari Goldfield, a Buddhist teacher at Wisdom Sun and translator of Stars of Wisdom , summarizes these two aspects as follows:
The first meaning of emptiness is called “emptiness of essence,” which means that phenomena [that we experience] have no inherent nature by themselves.” The second is called “emptiness in the context of Buddha Nature,” which sees emptiness as endowed with qualities of awakened mind like wisdom, bliss, compassion, clarity, and courage. Ultimate reality is the union of both emptinesses.
With all of this in mind, I would like to highlight three common misunderstandings of emptiness: emotional, ethical and meditative.
When we say “I feel empty,” we mean we are feeling sad or depressed. Emotionally speaking, “emptiness” is not a happy word in English, and no matter how often we remind ourselves that Buddhist emptiness does not mean loneliness or separateness, that emotional undertow remains. At various times I have looked for a substitute translation for the Sanskrit sunyata — I have tried “fullness,” “spaciousness,” “connectedness,” and “boundlessness” — but as Ari Goldfield points out, “emptiness” is the most exact translation. “Emptiness” is also the term that my own teacher Shunryu Suzuki used, though he usually added context. Once, speaking of emptiness he said, “I do not mean voidness. There is something, but that something is something which is always prepared for taking some particular form.” Another time, speaking of the feeling tone of emptiness, he said, “Emptiness is like being at your mother’s bosom and she will take care of you.”
Some Buddhist students rationalize or excuse bad behavior of their teacher by asserting that through his understanding of emptiness the teacher is exempt from the usual rules of conduct. One student said, “Roshi lives in the absolute so his behavior can’t be judged by ordinary standards.” While it is true that Buddhist teachers sometimes use unusual methods to awaken their students, their motivation must come from compassion, not selfishness. No behavior that causes harm is acceptable for a Buddhist practitioner, teacher or otherwise.
Some Buddhist students think that a meditative state without thought or activity is the realization of emptiness. While such a state is well described in Buddhist meditation texts, it is treated like all mental states — temporary and not ultimately conducive to liberation. Actually emptiness is not a state of mind at all; it is, as the Dalai Lama says, simply “the true nature of things and events.” This includes the mind. Whether the mind of the meditator is full of thoughts or empty of them, this true nature holds.
Finally, since emptiness seems so difficult to understand, why did the Buddha teach it at all? It is because of his profound insight into why we suffer. Ultimately we suffer because we grasp after things thinking they are fixed, substantial, real and capable of being possessed by ego. It is only when we can see through this illusion and open ourselves, in Ari Goldfield’s words, “to the reality of flux and fluidity that is ultimately ungraspable and inconceivable” that we can relax into clarity, compassion and courage. That lofty goal is what makes the effort to understand emptiness so worthwhile.

10 Most Common Habits that Damage Your Kidneys

Kidneys are one of the most important organs in the human body – they detoxify the blood and flush out waste materials through the urine, essentially acting as the body’s filter for toxins. They are also responsible for eliminating excess water from the body or retaining it when required. Kidneys regulate the levels of minerals such as potassium and calcium in the body,and there’s more: they also regulate your blood pressure and produce important hormones, besides producing red blood cells which carry oxygen to the body tissues.
As you can see, the kidneys are responsible for different functions so it’s crucial we keep them running properly. The usual symptoms of kidney problems are change in the quality and color of your urine, vomiting, dizziness, nausea, breathing problems, anemia, fatigue, feeling cold all of the time, sudden pain, itchy skin, etc.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should visit a doctor in order to prevent kidney disease. Kidney problems and damage are caused by different factors, but the following 10 are considered the most common:
  1. Delaying urination
You need to understand that not emptying your bladder on time is the main cause of kidney damage. This way, your urine sits in your bladder, allowing bacteria to multiply quickly and increasing the risk of kidney and urinary tract infections. Delaying urination will eventually resultin renal failure – change the habit before it becomes too late!

  1. Insufficient water intake
Not drinking enough water can lead to serious kidney problems. When the body lacks water, the blood gets too concentrated which makes the blood flow to the kidneys reduced, leading to impaired kidney function and retaining toxins inside the body. Adults need to drink 10-12 glasses of water daily to keep properly hydrated, but don’t drink more as too much water can also harm the kidneys.
  1. High salt intake
Consuming excess amounts of salt can lead to serious kidney damage and serious diseases as well. 95% of the sodium we intake through food is metabolized by the kidneys, so consuming too much salt will overload the organs and reduce their function. This will result in water retention which can increase the risk of kidney disease and high blood pressure. According to studies, salt intake increases the amount of urinary protein, a major factor for kidney disease. The recommended amount of salt is 5 gr. daily, so you need to stick to it in order to prevent further problems.
  1. Regular analgesics use
People usually take analgesics and over-the-counter drugs to lower inflammation and fever and to reduce pain. However, this damages the kidneys and other organs. According to studies, analgesics can reduce the blood flow to the kidney and spoil their function, while long-term use of analgesics can cause acute kidney injury and intestinal nephritis. People with reduced kidney function should consult their doctor before taking painkillers – people with normal kidney functions should use carefully as well.
  1. High protein diet
Excess intake of protein-rich foods can increase the risk of kidney disease. Kidneys metabolize and eliminate nitrogenous waste from the body, which is a by-product of protein digestion. High protein intake raises the glomerular pressure and hyper filtration, increasing the metabolic load of the kidneys and the risk of kidney disease as well. Limit the amount of red meat you consume in order to prevent further complications.
  1. Too much alcohol
Alcohol is a powerful toxin that stresses the kidneys and other organs. Excessive alcohol intake can cause severe kidney damage, which is why you should limit the amount of your favorite drinks. Too much alcohol will store uric acid in the renal tubules, causing tubular obstruction and increasing the risk of renal failure. Alcohol will also dehydrate your organs and impair normal kidney function. The recommended daily amount of alcohol is 1 drink for women and old people, and 2 for men.
  1. Smoking
Smoking is bad for every organ in the body, but it’s especially harmful to your kidneys. According to the American Association of Kidney Patients, smoking is the #1 cause of end stage renal disease (ESRD). Smoking increases your heart rate and blood pressure while decreasing the blood flow and narrowing the blood vessels in the kidneys. This awful habit will aggravate existing kidney disease, and impair the organs’ normal function.
  1. Too much caffeine
Drinking too much coffee will raise your blood pressure and overload the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney damage. According to a 2002 study, consumption of caffeine is related to kidney stones, and coffee can also raise the concentration of calcium in your urine. On the other hand, consuming moderate amount of coffee is fine – 3 cups of tea and 1-2 cups of coffee daily is enough. However, you should know that caffeine is also present in cocoa, soft drinks, chocolate, certain drugs, which is why you need to eliminate them from your diet.
  1. Ignoring common infections
Ignoring coughs, colds, the flu, tonsillitis, pharyngitis and other common infections can result in kidney damage. Not treating these infections on time will overload the kidneys with bacteria and result in kidney damage, so take antibiotics and rest properly to prevent further problems.
  1. Lack of sleep
People ignore the importance of sleep due to our modern, hectic lifestyle. 6-8 hours of sleep is recommended for proper overall health. Organ tissues are being renewed overnight, so if you don’t rest properly, you interrupt this crucial process and damaging your organs, including the kidneys.
According to several studies, improper sleep can clog your arteries and increase your blood pressure, eventually increasing the risk of kidney damage. Try to balance work and rest, and adopt healthy sleeping habits to protect your kidneys and your overall health.

Why Japanese Woman Never Get Fat and Live the Longest

Japanese women have been holding the world record for longest living women with an average lifespan of 84.5 years. On top of that, they seem to never gain weight! So, what’s their secret?

Naomi Moriyama leads readers of her book “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat” into her mother’s kitchen and gives us an insight on the Japanese secrets for long and healthy life. Moriyama says that Japanese women don’t gain weight as their traditional diet includes foods that aid weight loss such as fish, seaweed, fruit, soy, rice, vegetables and green tea. All these foods have anti-aging properties as well, which is why Japanese women always look young.
The Japanese eat homemade cooked meals mostly consisting of grilled fish, a bowl of rice, cooked vegetables, soup, green tea and fruits. They consume about 10% of all the fish in the world, although they make up 2% of the world’s population. Moriyama also notes that parents teach their children to eat slowly and appreciate every bite – this is why the Japanese never fill their bowls to the top or serve huge portions of food.
Japanese mealsareeasy – the food is slowly cooked, usually grilled or cooked, and instead of bread, the Japanese eat rice. A usual Japanese breakfast consists of many foods and drinks, including a piece of fish, rice, tofu, seaweed, soup, young garlic, omelet and green tea, all in small portions.
Sweet desserts are a rarity in Japanese cuisine, but even when served they are also small. It’s not that they don’t like chocolate or cookies – they simply realize the consequences and adverse side-effects of sweets on our health.
“Exercise is part of the daily routine in Japan and in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle they built an entire culture of biking, walking and hiking,” Moriyama concludes in her book.

7 Crazy Facts About Buddha You Didn’t Know

Here’s some things about Buddha that most people never know about:

Buddha was Most Likely Not a Vegetarian

Buddha had a certain creed that was important to him and his followers: do no harm.
That extended to animals and diet…hence many Buddhists are vegetarian today.
But Buddhists eat what is given to them, and do not request anything or complain; especially meat.
Because of this simple philosophy and Asia’s culinary history, it’s very likely that in his travels Buddha was offered meat and ate it.

Buddha was Canonized by the Christian Church

Buddha’s story spread by word of mouth quickly in the ancient world, but had many different “versions”.
European travelers documented their discovery of a religion known as Buddhism in Asia. They would often retell the stories.
This, of course, included the origin of Buddhism. But over time, the origin became the transformation of a sinner into a saint in Christianity…and instead of Buddha, it was Josaphat.
Many other stories were written about Josaphat, and his tales were loved by many Christians. They included healings and prophesying.
Eventually the tales became so popular that he was canonized into sainthood!
If you’d like to do more reading on this fascinating subject, you can read a book about it here.

Buddha Probably Didn’t have the Top-Knot Hair Bun

When Buddha’s stories began to across the world, Greek architecture and sculptures dominated artistry and influenced much of the work.
This also extended to Buddhist statues.
The hair bun, the toga style robe, the halo, and the stylistic realism are all elements that most likely came from Greece.
For more info, click here.

Buddha Treated Women Equally

Most monastic orders, especially at that time, did not allow females to participate.
But Buddha did.
This was a stark contrast to the exclusive Brahman caste of India, with its male dominated system.

The “Fat Buddha” was not Buddha

Many times, people think that the “fat Buddha” (often seen in Chinese restaurants) is Buddha; but that’s not true.
The fat Buddha is a representation of a Buddhist monk that lived in the early 900’s. This saintly monk was known as Hotei a Budai.
The confusion comes from the teaching that everyone is a Buddha themselves, but has yet to uncover it…but apparently this man did.
That’s why you’ll only see China with this depiction; the rest of Asia shows Buddha as slender.

Buddha did not Care about “Gods”

Buddhism was a stark contrast to many of the orthodox teachings of Hinduism in its day.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is the conception of gods in Buddhism: there are none!
Buddha did not believe that gods or goddess were really relevant to the supreme goal of enlightenment…therefore, they could be left out of the main teachings.
It’s up to the practitioner to find what works for them. But belief of their existence is needless.

Buddha’s Tooth

Supposedly, Buddha’s tooth is still around today.
It was removed during his cremation ceremony and smuggled into Sri Lanka where it is still present today.

Some Amazing and Unknown Facts. Did You Know?

Go ahead and check these weird facts that will sound totally untrue, but they’re not.
★ Ants never sleep.

★ When the moon is directly overhead, you will weigh slightly less.

★ Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, never called his wife or mother; because they were both deaf.
 image credits
image credits

★ An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.

★ “I Am” is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.

★ Babies are born without knee caps – actually, they’re made of cartilage 
and the bone hardens, between the ages of 2-6 years.
★ Happy Birthday (the song) is copyrighted.

★ Butterflies taste with their feet.

★ A “jiffy”, is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

★ It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

★ Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

★ Minus 40° Celsius, is exactly the same as minus 40° Fahrenheit.

★ No word in the English language, rhymes with month – orange – silver -or- purple.

★ Shakespeare invented the words “assassination” and “bump”.

★ Stewardesses is the longest word typed with only the left hand.

★ Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.

★ The names of all the continents end with the same letter that they start with.

★ The sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 
uses every letter in the English language.

★ The shortest war in history was between Zanzibar and England in 1896. Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes.

★ The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.

★ The word “lethologica” describes the state of not being able to remember the word you want.

★ Camels have three eyelids to protect themselves from the blowing desert sand.

★ TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters on only one row of the keyboard.

★ You can’t kill yourself by holding your breath.

★ Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself.

★ The dot over the letter “i” is called a ‘Tittle’.

6 Common Habits Of Unhappy People (And How To Be Happy)

If you know someone who has recently become depressed or simply unhappy in general, then you may want to look for these six bad habits to identify what kind of behavioral issues they are suffering from and how you can help them overcome these struggles.
Being unhappy or depressed can be a very energy consuming process that is constantly draining them of all motivation 24/7. It is important that you remain patient with them as they go at their own pace in restoring their happiness once again.

1. Future Worry

People who are depressed or unhappy usually have a sense of worry for what might happen in the future. They are never truly living in the moment and choose to look far ahead into their lives thinking of all the horrible outcomes they could suffer from.
It is important you try to remind them that they must live fully in the present, otherwise they will never truly be happy with what is going on in the future. Focus on the here and now, what they can improve on and how they can get themselves back to being happy.

2. Won't Let Go Of The Past

Depressed or unhappy people often dwell on their past mistakes and regret a lot of the things that they use to do. This ties to the first habit we discussed of not truly living in the present moment.
In order for them to regain their happiness, they are going to have to stop being so hard on themselves for previous mistakes that they will never be able to fix. They must be able to forgive themselves as well as whatever happened in order for them to move on officially.

3. Extremely Negative

Depressed or unhappy people will resort to extreme negative addictions. Usually food being the main go to for comfort or sometimes going even further to more dire substances like drug abuse and alcohol abuse for relieving themselves of existing.
It's important that we try to get them the help that they need in order to get over their nasty habits and for them to begin the recovery process from all of the horrible things they've consumed in the past years or however long they've been unhappy.

4. Impulse Spending

This is usually one of the more obvious habits of depressed and unhappy people is that they will impulsively buy things to get an additional emotional boost for themselves for a chance of feeling temporary peace within.
This can result in a very self-destructive manner, sometimes people do not know how to turn off their impulse buying and over-spend way too much money on things they never even needed to begin with.

5. Hard On Themselves/Others

People who are depressed or unhappy are more often than not hard on themselves as well as others. They find unnecessary criticisms to make on themselves and deliberately tell others what they are doing wrong without giving any friendly advice afterward.
They focus on the things that need desperate improvements, yet, they carry themselves in a very ugly way because of it. It's important to remind them that everyone is built differently and that it's not a competition between anyone but themselves.

6. Consistent Complaints

People who are depressed or unhappy tend to complain almost about everything. They have a hard time finding the bright side in things they want to enjoy, so they feel the need to let others know just how unhappy they are with whatever is going on. Even if it's the smallest of details, they can sometimes over-exaggerate just how big the problem really is. It's important to remind them that even if things aren't perfect, at least they still have the chance to experience something they've never had before.
Hopefully this has helped with identifying who is unhappy or depressed among your people, it's good to let them know that you will be there for them through thick and thin, regardless of whatever happens. If the situation appears to be way too out of control, then you may have to remove yourself from their life entirely.

Buddha’s 10 Rules Of Success

1) Find your own path

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Life isn’t about following others; you have to find what works for you.
That means discovering your passions, and what you consider to be your life purpose.
Without this, you may feel lost.
Though friends and family mean well, taking time to yourself is extremely important so that you can understand what in your life you need to change or shift to be in alignment with what you need.

2) Become undaunted

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”
Your life purpose or passion may seem like a dead-end or nearly impossible, but it’s part of who you are.
Without that mindset, you can make it down the road of life and have a lot of regrets.
Success isn’t dependent on money or recognition; it’s dependent on the happiness and fulfillment that flows from what you’re doing!
Honor your truth.

3) Take small steps toward your goal

“A jug fills drop by drop.”
An insurmountable task or objective isn’t as overwhelming when take small steps everyday.
Write down small goals for each month of the year, and what you need to do make it happen.
Then go do it.

4) Work hard

“To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.”
One thing is for sure: success does not come from sitting on the couch and doing nothing.
Once you set your mind to being successful, be prepared to work feverishly hard at what you want.
You will need to make sacrifices…but they’re worth it when you’re following your goals and dreams.

5) Think positively

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Watch your thoughts; think of them as actual things rather than imaginary constructs.
This helps you to understand how powerful they can really be.
Coming down on yourself only hinders you and holds you back.
Thoughts are powerful creations that shape our lives.

6) Embrace your failures

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Take a step back and really look at your successes and failures.
Wouldn’t you say that your failures informed you how to be successful?
That’s true of all endeavors.
Keep on working, and move on to the next step.
It’s all just part of the process.

7) Don’t compare yourself to others

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
By comparing yourself to others, you put yourself in a negative state of being.
This makes you more nervous and less assure of yourself.
The happier and focused you are, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

8) Get the right friends

“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”
Environment is stronger than will.
If you want to be successful in whatever you’re doing, embrace those that lift you up and encourage you in your goals.
Negativity weighs you down.

9) Live a balanced life

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”
Being successful isn’t just about working all the time; you need to play and find your spiritual practice too!
Being a balanced is the key to not losing fatigue or wearing out, which in turn increases your chances of success.

10) It’s about the journey

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
Ultimately, the joy of success comes from what you’re doing.
Recognizing this can save you lots of heartache.
The best perspective to have on the path to success is to be present to what you’re doing and enjoy it.
This gives you freedom and a sense of fulfillment…and that’s true success.

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