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Chapter 27: The Contemplation of Emptiness

Master Lu-tsu said:
If you are not yet clear, I will make it clear to you through the threefold Buddhist contemplation of emptiness, delusion, and the center.

Emptiness comes as the first of the three contemplations. All things are looked upon as empty. Then follows delusion. Although it is known that they are empty, things are not destroyed, but one attends to one’s affairs in the midst of emptiness. But although one does not destroy things, neither does one pay attention to them; this is contemplation of the center. While practicing contemplation of the empty, one also knows that one cannot destroy the ten thousand things, and still one does not notice them. In this way the three contemplations fall together. But, after all, strength is in envisioning the empty. Therefore, when one practices contemplation of emptiness, emptiness is certainly empty, but delusion is empty too, and the center is empty. It needs great strength to practice contemplation of delusion; then delusion is really delusion, but emptiness is also delusion, and the center is delusion too. Being on the way of the center, one also creates images of the emptiness; they are not called empty, but are called central. One practices also contemplation of delusion, but one does not call it delusion, one calls it central. As to what has to do with the center, more need not be said.

A Zen Story..

Just before the Zen Master, Ninakawa, passed away, another Zen Master, Ikkyu, visited him. “Shall I lead you on?” Ikkyu asked.

Ninakawa replied, “I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?”

Ikkyu answered, “If you think you really came and you are really going, if you think that you come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going.”

With his words Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled, and without saying a single word, nodded and passed away.

This is a beautiful story. A few things have to be understood about it. They will help you to enter into the sutras of Lu-tsu.

First: to a man who is in search of truth even death is an occasion, to the man who is not in search even life is not an occasion to learn. People live their lives without learning a thing at all. They pass through life but without gaining any maturity through it. They remain almost asleep.

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