Geshe Michael Roach Comes to Mahasukha Center

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Emptiness:  A Deep Dive – Contributed by Ivy Dally

On August 29th Geshe Michael Roach gave a profound teaching entitled “Emptiness:  A Deep Dive”.  This talk focused on understanding the concept of emptiness from an intellectual standpoint and the supporting causes that prepare one for the direct perception of emptiness (DPE).  He concluded with an emotional account of what it is like to have the DPE, and the blossoming of true love that is born within one’s heart after this experience.

The evening began with a joyful kirtan and a story of compassion people feel when faced with death.  Geshe Michael then outlined five supporting causes to prepare one for the DPE.  First, you must serve other people.  This is easily achieved by visiting old people, by letting others be first in line, or by helping children who are confused.   Secondly, you must be meditating on a regular basis.  The DPE happens during a deep state of meditation and nowhere else.  Third, you must find your heart teacher.  Find them at all costs, and do not assume they will show up in one form or another.  One you find them, you must serve them in any way they need.  The last step is to study what they are teaching.  They must tell you what you need to know, they must teach you emptiness.

At this point the teaching dived into deep territory.  Geshe Michael implored the audience to stay with him as he clarified concepts which are hard to put into words.  In order to understand the final moments before the DPE, he explained, one must study logic.  One must understand how a human mind thinks.  Within logic studies there is a concept called chi-jedrak, or general and specific.  If you prefer, you can also think of chi-jedrak as set and subset.

How do the concepts of general and specific work?  Geshe Michael held up a small clock.  “Is this the clock?”  Yes, the audience agreed.  “Is this a clock?”  Yes.  Since it is one of the clocks in the world, it can also be understood as a clock.

But hold on now…“Is this clock?” He asked the question again, utilizing some well placed air quotes around “clock”.  “Is this clock?”  No.  Why?  Well, the object in his hand was not the sound “clock”.  Furthermore, the object in his hand was not the idea “clock” because ideas are in our mind, they are ineffable, and he couldn’t hold such a thing in his hand.  So the item out there could not have been “clock”.

According to the second school of Buddhism, when someone asks, “Is this a clock?” the mind looks at the object to determine if there are enough “clocky” things about it.  It goes though a host of mental images in order to make a correct identification.  So what is a clock?  A clock is defined as the opposite of all that is NOT a clock.

But the clock in your mind, the clock in the mental library, is an image.  Is that “clock”?  Yes.  You have a bright, clear, perfect picture of “clock” in your mind.  That is your clock, your general idea of clock.  It is your clock archetype.  Now, there are objects out there that resemble that mental image, and so you place the label “a clock” or “the clock” onto that specific object.  But “clock” is not out there…”clock” is in your mind.  “Clock” is a tiny image in your mind, placed there through karma.  That is dependant origination.  That is how emptiness is working.

With a smile Geshe Michael explained that everything is working this way!  From clocks to pens, we are putting our mental pictures on colors and shapes and creating our entire world.  This understanding blossoms in the mind that is ready to experience the DPE.  This understanding is what is necessary to change our world.

And then it happens; one has the direct perception of emptiness.  With tears in his eyes, Geshe Michael walked the audience through this experience.  During a deep meditative state, one enters the realm of higher reality.  There are no objects to compare it to in this world.  It is a realm beyond thoughts and words.  The experience takes about 20 minutes, but while it is happening there is no concept of time.  Following the DPE, the heart chakra opens and the newly born arya has the perception of a clear beam of light shining out of the heart.  In an emotional voice, he spoke of how faces appear in the mind, and then there is a vision of the face of every single living creature in the universe, seen together and yet separate.  There is nothing but an overwhelming sensation of true, compassionate, love for everyone and everything.  The experience ends with a vision of the future in which the ultimate goal of Buddhism has been attained.

The evening ended with a moment of silence, in which the audience allowed the wisdom of Geshe Michael’s words to enter their hearts and change their minds.  It truly was a rare and precious teaching, and we thank you Geshe Michael from the bottom of hearts.

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