Chapter 4: Emptiness
You have known emptiness only in a negative way. You go into the room, there is no furniture and you say the room is empty, there is nothing. You come out and if I ask you what you saw in the room you will say it is empty - no furniture, no pictures on the walls, nothing - just empty. You went into the room but you saw only the negative part. The room is filled with roominess that you didn’t encounter. A room is emptiness, a room means space. Something can be brought in because there is room, there is emptiness. The furniture can be brought in - there is space. You have not seen it that way. Otherwise you would have come and told me that the room is complete; there is nothing, only emptiness exists, the room is ready to receive anything - it has space. Then you have looked at the positive emptiness.
Look at the sky. The sky is a positive emptiness when there are no clouds. If you look at the sky as an absence of clouds then you are looking at it from a negative standpoint. If you look at it as the presence of space, the blue emptiness, and out of that blue emptiness everything has arisen, then it cannot be negative. It is the most positive thing in the world, the very ground of being. Non-being is the very ground of being. Everything has come out of it and everything by and by moves back into it. You are born out of it and you will die into it.
How can I know you? Knowledge will become a definition and you are indefinable. No, I don’t know you. I don’t know myself.
I would like to tell you one anecdote. It happened, and I love it, and I have told it so many times, millions of times, but whenever I remember it again it is so new and so fresh.
Bodhidharma went to China - the man who carried Buddha’s emptiness in his hands. Bodhidharma carried the essential Buddhism to China for the greatest phenomenon to happen there. Because of Bodhidharma, Lao Tzu’s whole standpoint - the Lao Tzuan way of life - and Buddha’s realization met, and one of the most beautiful things was born. Nothing like it exists anywhere in the world - that is Zen. Zen is a meeting, a crossing between Buddha and Lao Tzu. Bodhidharma was the midwife who carried the seed to the womb of Lao Tzu.
When he reached China he was a very famous mystic, his name was known all over the East. When he reached China the emperor himself came to receive him on the border. The emperor asked a few questions. He asked, “I have made many Buddhist temples - thousands. What punya, what virtue have I gained?”
If he had said the same thing to any other ordinary Buddhist monk, he would have replied, “Emperor, Lord, you have gained infinite virtue - your heaven is absolutely certain, guaranteed.” But he asked the wrong person. Bodhidharma said, “Virtue? Nothing! On the contrary, you have accumulated much sin.”
The emperor was shocked, he couldn’t believe it He said, “Why? What are you saying? I have made many temples of Buddha. I have published and distributed Buddha’s sayings to millions of people. Every day I feed thousands of Buddhist monks and you say I have accumulated sin? What do you mean?”
Bodhidharma said, “The very idea that you have accumulated virtue is a sin, it is very egoistic. Your hell is certain, Emperor. You will fall to the seventh hell - the first won’t do.”
The emperor could not believe it. He felt a little anger also. And he said, “I have a question to ask. What is inside me? What is it that I am?” - the same question you have asked: Do you know who I am?
Bodhidharma said, “A vast emptiness, a nothingness.”