If everything is empty, then what ceases in Nirvana and is born in rebirth? How can you live in the world without feeling trapped by it? Guy Armstrong tackles these questions and more in this richly informed, practical guide to emptiness for the meditator.
It may seem odd for emptiness to serve as the central philosophy of a major religion. In fact, emptiness points to something quite different than “nothingness” or “vacancy.” And by developing a richer understanding of this complex topic, we can experience freedom as we live consciously in the world.
Guy Armstrong has been a leading figure and beloved teacher of insight meditation for decades. In this book, he makes difficult Buddhist topics easy to understand, weaving together Theravada and Mahayana teachings on emptiness to show how we can liberate our minds and manifest compassion in our lives.
Armstrong, a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society, offers a robust meditation on emptiness for more experienced practitioners. Emptiness is a core teaching of the Buddhist tradition, but it remains one of its most elusive and difficult concepts to grasp. By using critical inquiry, reflection, and intuition/meditation, Armstrong reveals the mystery of emptiness as the lack of substantiality of self, others, and the world. Through basic Buddhist teachings on the 12 links of dependent origination or the five aggregates, Armstrong critically breaks down the traditional Buddhist steps of the formation of reality, consciousness, and meaning. He unravels assumptions about the permanence and solidity of identity and existence. Armstrong is careful: he makes sure to remind readers that conventional identity and the everyday mundane world are equally meaningful and even authentic. Emptiness is not merely an abstract concept or mystical experience but is rooted in the deeper purpose of meditation: "to understand deeply how our minds lead us to unhappiness so that we can stop the activities that lead to those states." Through wisdom of emptiness gained from intuition, one drops the story of self and creates the grounds for being ethically responsive and compassionate. Armstrong's book is an insightful exploration of one of the most confusing Buddhist teachings; inexperienced and experienced practitioners alike will find it very rewarding and thought-provoking.