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The Buddhist heart sutra says, “Form is none other than emptiness and emptiness is none other than form.”
What is that referring to, in your view?

Rupert Spira:
To begin with we may say that the mind, body and world (form) appears in or is known by the transparent, luminous empty presence of Awareness (emptiness). This understanding is a half way stage in which the belief that ‘I,’ the body/mind, knows the world is replaced by the provisional formulation that ‘I,’ Awareness, knows the body/mind/world.

However, this is still a position of dualism albeit subtler than the one to which we previously subscribed. On looking more closely at experience we find that the body/mind/world is made only of knowing and that the only substance present in knowing is Awareness. In other words, the distinction between Awareness (emptiness) and its object (form) is seen to be non-existent.

This collapse of all apparent separation or otherness in experience is what the Buddhist Sutra is referring to but is more commonly known as the experience of love, peace or happiness.


Scott Kiloby:
We start out in life believing that things exist in their own right, apart from whatever makes them up, apart from our cognition of them, apart from thoughts, emotions, and sensations. When we go looking for “things” that exist in this way, as separate things in their own right, we don’t find them existing that way at all. We find that things lack an independent or separate existence. Things exist only conventionally, like little stories we tell. They don’t exist in a vacuum, which is how we normally perceive them. For example, think of yourself. What appears is a separate object, as if that object, “self,” can exist separately from the air, from the earth, parents, culture, from the body and mind, from the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that make it up, and from others and the world itself. When we look for these things that seem to exist as separate things, we find only their emptiness.

But this emptiness is not a substance or substratum. It is not a thing. In the way I view emptiness, it points to a lack of an object existing in the way we think it does—as its own separate thing. It’s the emptiness of things that allows things to arise in the first place, and to change and flow. If things existed as solid, permanent, separate things, we would not experience the miraculous, seamless flow of changing forms. It is the emptiness of forms that allows life in all its glory and mystery to be, move, change, and flow. What a celebration of life it is to see that emptiness is none other than form and form is none other than emptiness. It leaves nothing out. Emptiness and form are totally dependent upon one another. A form is needed in order for us to find its emptiness. And its emptiness is realized through the form, through seeing that it doesn’t exist as a solid, separate, permanent thing. These two—emptiness and form—depend upon each other, leaving a seamless, ever-changing existence.


This is a wonderful quote because it is so impossible to hold the truth it is pointing to with our mind. Trying to understand this quote with the mind is like trying to put a whole lake into a teacup. Instead we can simply touch or feel our way into emptiness itself, and into form itself. What is this empty space in front of me right now? What is this body and the object I am sitting on right now? How are the space and the objects really different? Where does one really stop and the other begin?

Words do not contain the truth, they only point us to it.


Gary Crowley:
It points to the fact that our mind divides “wholeness” by forming concepts. “Form” and “void” are concepts, and are never that toward which they point. Concepts are dualistic and thereby always have an opposite. It points to the minds tendency to create dualistic concepts, such as a perceiver and that which is perceived. It is wholeness (nonduality) that results from their mutual negation. Ultimately, there is no perceiver separate from that which is perceived. There is only the perceiving of this-here-now, which is what you ultimately are, continually.

“That’s all it is!” said the sage, upon awakening to enlightenment. He then laughed and went on with his daily business. Now you can go about your usual business, as the perceiving of this-here-now as what you are. Do notice that everything has changed and nothing has changed, since it’s what you have always already been.


Randall Friend:
Appearance is essence, essence is appearance. Not-two.


Greg Goode:
By itself, this verse has several profound meanings:

  • Form and emptiness are inseparable. You never have one without the other.
  • Specifically, there is no emptiness unless there is form. You don’t have emptiness existing beyond the realm of form. Form does not arise out of emptiness or subside back into emptiness. Rather, form is of the nature of emptiness, which is that there is no nature.
  • Emptiness itself is empty, because it does not exist apart from form.

Right after this verse, the Heart Sutra goes on to say basically that everything is like this, and is beyond dualistic opposites:

Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.

Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.

Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness -
not born, not destroyed,
not stained, not pure,
without gain, without loss.


Adyashanti - on being "stuck" in "emptiness".



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