The practice of emptiness in daily life

Once we realize that phenomena are empty of inherent existence we can begin to understand their subtle conventional nature by meditating on them as manifestations of emptiness using some of the reasons and analogies given in this chapter. We can then carry the practice of seeing phenomena as manifestations of emptiness into our daily activities. Although we ordinary beings cannot meditate on emptiness while we are eating, working, talking and so forth,we can nevertheless see the objects around us as manifestations of emptiness. If we do this, our food, our body, our friends and so forth will still appear to be inherently existent but we will not accept this appearance. We can continue to perform our daily activities, yet at the same time remember that the things that we normally see do not exist. In this way, our wisdom realizing emptiness will increase continually. If we see everything as manifestations of emptiness our mind will naturally be free from delusions and our actions will be virtuous. Through this practice, our everyday activities can become extremely meaningful.

Emptiness is a permanent phenomenon, but manifestations of emptiness need not be permanent. Functioning things such as our body are impermanent, momentary phenomena, being the results of past causes and the causes of future effects, but they are all manifestations of emptiness. Our body functions and changes moment by moment but it does not exist from its own side; it is merely imputed by thought. Our body remains empty of inherent existence at all times, and out of this permanent emptiness our body appears to us in its constantly changing form.

With respect to the minds of Superior beings, conventional truths such as our body are false. However, with respect to the minds of ordinary beings, conventional truths are true because the mind of self-grasping of these beings holds the apparent inherent existence of conventional truths to be true. We need to understand that the forms and so forth that appear to us are manifestations of their emptiness and are mere name, but that they function and appear true to ordinary beings. Therefore, when performing our everyday activities, we should be satisfied with the mere name of phenomena without investigating them further. At that time there is no point in trying to discover a truly existent phenomenon because no such phenomenon can be found.

If, having realized emptiness, we are able to accept phenomena as mere name and engage in our various activities on this basis, this indicates that we have realized the subtle conventional nature of phenomena. Then we can still say that a particular object is large or small, for example, but we know that the object is mere name and cannot be found upon analysis.

If we have this correct understanding of the subtle conventional nature of phenomena we can understand that phenomena are empty of inherent existence but also perform their individual functions. In this way, the conventional nature of phenomena and their emptiness are seen not as contradictory but as mutually supportive. For example, realizing the emptiness of our body helps us to understand the conventional nature of our body as mere name or mere appearance, and realizing that our body is mere name helps us to understand that our body is empty of inherent existence. We need to strive to realize the two truths in this way.

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