We must first be aware of these two categories, ’empty of I’ and ‘not empty of I’. The former is called ’empty’ and the latter is called ‘disturbed’ and to save time that is how they will be referred to from now on.
Here your common sense may say straight away that nobody likes being disturbed. If I were to ask those people who like being disturbed to raise their hands, if anyone did so it would have to be a joke. Everyone likes to be empty in one way or another. Some people like the lazy emptiness of not having to work. Everyone likes to be empty of annoyance, not having the kids coming to bother you. But that emptiness is an external thing, it is not yet true emptiness.
Inner emptiness means to be normal, to have a mind that is not scattered and confused. Anyone who experiences this really likes it. If it develops to its greatest degree, which is to be empty of egoism, then it is Nibbana.
The disturbed mind is just the opposite. It is disturbed in every way — in body, speech, and mind. It is totally confused, without the slightest peace or happiness. For people whose minds are disturbed by ‘I’ and ‘mine’, even if they go and take refuge in the Triple Gem, receive the precepts, offer alms and make merit, there can be no Buddha, Dhamma or Sangha present – it is all just a meaningless ritual. For the true Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha abide in the empty mind. Whenever the mind is empty of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, then the Triple Gem is present right there.
An Extract from Heartwood from the Bo Tree by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. © 1985 suanmokkh.org
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