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Francis Bennett, Loch Kelly, and Mukti in panel discussion:: “Emptiness is also Form” at the SAND Conference
Rick Archer: Welcome to this presentation. You’ve probably all heard the Buddhist Heart Sutra Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. That’s the topic of this. Watch the the second part of that is the topic of this presentation. And the reason our speakers wanted to cover that topic is that usually the first part of that little phrase is emphasized. There’s a sort of an imbalance between the first part and the second part. So we’re going to discuss that. And I’m not going to spend a long time on introductions because you probably know these people and they can elaborate a little bit on who they are if they want to. So we’ll go through that quickly and then get started. So to my left is locked Kelly lock is a psychotherapist who lives in Manhattan, and is that’s just one of his hats. He’s a non dual teacher, author of shift into freedom, the science and practice of open hearted awareness. To his left is mukti mufti, as a spiritual teacher who lives in this area. Adi Shanti, has the good fortune of being her husband. And to her left is Francis Bennett. Francis spent decades in TRAPPIST and Cistercian monasteries practiced a lot of Zen Buddhist practices in addition to his Christian practices, and three, four years ago, left the monastery and has been picking up more and more steam as a spiritual teacher. So thank you all. And who would like to start? Each each of the speakers is going to just sort of make a little opening statement for a few minutes, and then we’ll get it rolling. Oh, I’m sorry. My name is Rick Archer. And I am the founder and host of a interview show called Buddha at the Gas Pump. Yes.
Francis Bennett: Well, back in my Zen days in the 80s, when I was a young monk, we used to chat The Heart Sutra, during all of our sessions are designed retreats. And at the end of the Heart Sutra, it says Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form is none other than emptiness. And emptiness is none other than form. And I think Rick’s right, there’s a kind of full circle to that insight, that Form is emptiness, but emptiness is also formed. And that the Buddha was really good about that I think about balancing out truth that truth was not a kind of linear black and white thing. But that truth is this very subtle, nuanced reality, that has many different dimensions to it, like, like facets on a diamond, you know, and they’re all necessary to make the full, beautiful diamond. So we all know each other. And we have all I think, had a sense that this is something that needs to be seen a little more clearly in the lives of seekers and in our own lives. So I think we just thought it would be an interesting topic.
Mukti: Going in order, yes. Okay. Well, I think that when we contemplate the sense of who and what we are, there can be a sense that any one leaning just doesn’t quite capture what we essentially are and so in, we could say that fundamentally, we are truly a mystery. But often our experience and our attention goes to more of our, our individual personality and our personal human experience. And often spirituality is sought after, as a way to somehow answer as to the sense of what we are that so much greater than our human experience, and often work were called by some mysterious movement of life or movement within us that that calls us to that. And it can feel sometimes that you know, as a human being, we might might want to have spiritual experiences or Enlightenment or spiritual awakening, but there’s also that which is calling us, which doesn’t quite feel so personal sometimes. And yet affects us deeply on a personal level. And that movement of consciousness, we could say, might be the counterpart to our human experience, our, our divine nature, some might say. And so, these two expressions can sometimes be felt to be seeking to join one another, and to come to know one another. And so they need each other. We as human beings are often feeling separate or divided, or in suffering, when we are without the divine, and the Divine is, is seeking to take up residence in this world and express in our humanity and, and know itself in this manifest world of form. And so I’m hoping that we can, further this this union or this coming together in, in expression of oneness, through this dialogue together today.
Loch Kelly: Thank you. Yes. So, yeah, in the spirit of spirituality and science, science being talking about what we see and what we directly experience. And that sense, I think, having seen many people now over the last 20 years, kind of go through an awakening process and being both involved with psychology and spirituality, I’ve been very interested in how does this unfold? And what is the, what is the many unique ways but what are some of the principles of the unfolding of awakening, and certainly, there seems to be an initial, big important awakening, kind of, from the small sense of self, like a little mini me, that’s made of thought and our small mind to a kind of freedom from that, which at first can be like a gap of not ego and not thought. And then the discovery of kind of an emptiness that’s awake, kind of this pure awareness or pure consciousness that you’ve heard. And sometimes, people who come to me as now, a counselor working with people who are in this awakening, is they are in this in this place of transcendence, which is lovely in that it’s free of pain. And when I was I went through this myself about 20 years ago, where I kind of had an awakening that was in the shift into this freedom from the kind of like a sky, big sky awareness with, everything was moving through it. And then my wife said, Hello, anybody home. Come on, down. To Earth. Yeah. And so my wife, Paige, you know, say, you know, called me back to look, look within to realize that this was only the first stage. So important first stage, waking up from waking, to the Wake awareness to the emptiness. But then discovering that emptiness or awareness is formed, is consciousness is this aliveness. From that embracing open hearted awareness, there’s kind of an inclusion and actually more of a support, and more of a dynamic vitality, to be more fully human, once we come back and include so if we just stay within the kind of battery of our body or try to operate from the small ego that’s trying to deal with our emotions and everything. I’ve seen that the small ego cannot live a fully intimate human life. It cannot bear emotions, motions are stronger than the ego. So even those who develop a strong ego center, the best possible people accomplished very psychological, spiritual egos. So it almost requires the transcendence to discover this second operating system of awake awareness, but then you can’t live from there. At least that’s my experience. It seems that that awake awareness has to discover it’s never been other than form, and that there’s a dynamic, embodied, continuous field of openness and aliveness of interconnectedness and an inter relatedness with others from which you can be rate of infant which you don’t have to live in your head, but you feel like you’re living from this great heart.
Rick Archer: Obviously, most people in the world feel like, this is what I am, you know, this, this thing. And it’s and also its likes and dislikes and its job and its, you know, political orientation and whatever else. And then, you know, it seems like many spiritual people swing the pendulum to the other extreme and they say, you know, you are not a person, there are no persons. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing nothing exists nothing ever happened. I’ve been listening to audios course on the falling away of the sense of self. And in the third lesson of it, he said something which for me, what really jumped out at it was that, you know, after all, we’re we’re multi dimensional beings, and we have the capacity to live in, paradoxically different realities simultaneously. So it’s kind of like a bigger basket, which can contain all the, the extremes and everything in between them. I think that if you can do that, both in your understanding and your experience, it resolves a lot of these paradoxes and arguments that carry it people carry on with on Facebook, on Facebook, or on YouTube, in hallways. Anyone want to comment on that?
Francis Bennett: I’ve been thinking a lot lately in terms of context and content. So context, I would call the Buddha also, I just to put in a little few props for the Buddha, the Buddha has great understanding that life is made up of kind of two sides of a coin, two dimensions, the relative and the absolute, the ultimate, and the kind of more imminent kind of ordinary, phenomenal world. And he has really insight into both of those realms, and you understand understood very clearly, the both of those realms have to be integrated, because they make up together, what we call a human life. And that there’s a bigger context of the absolute or pure consciousness, God, if you will, you could call it a lot of things or call it nothing, whatever you like, but there’s this big context. And, but then there’s content. So the context is like the sky, and the content is the clouds and the birds and the planes and, you know, whatever the rainbows in the sky. But in order to have a full experience of the sky, we need both, don’t we, we need the spacious kind of open quality of context. But we also have content, and that they’re not really separate at all, that’s where that that same from the Heart Sutra really is illustrated in that that Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. They’re none other than each other, you know, they’re not separate at all. And I think you’re right at the beginning of our awakening, we’re kind of way on this kind of extreme of form. And we think, okay, all there is, is this body, this personality, the phenomenal world, you know, and all the things in it. And then we kind of understand context, we’re kind of caught up in content, then we the pendulum swings over into context. And for a while, we think context is all that matters, you know, the spacious emptiness, you know, no self, nothingness, whatever the void, you know, but then eventually life, like a wife, or a dog or job or whatever, tends to pull you back down and go, Hey, remember me, you know, I’m the content of your life. And then we have to come back and we have to find, we have to find a middle path, like the Buddha said, we have to find we have to let the pendulum kind of swing. And we tend to remember that old Billy Joel song, why do I go to extremes, there was a song by Billy Joel. And that’s the human thing isn’t it’s a human dance, we just tend to go to extremes. So we go from form all the way over into emptiness. But then eventually, the pendulum life, whatever, pulls us back toward form. And then we might go into form a little bit again, play in that a little bit. But then we go, Well, yeah, that’s not all. It’s cracked up to be either. And then we swing back, but eventually we find a middle path. And that, to me is the comprehensive awakening. Neither one of those things taken independently, is really even true, ultimately, but together, they’re they’re both true. They’re opposite sides of a coin. That’s my sense of it. Yeah.
Loch Kelly: And so like the like you’re saying, using that metaphor, almost like we’re in content of like a cloud. And we feel like we’re at stormy cloud, and we’re trying to clean up the cloud and fix all the contents. And then we realized at some point, oh, we’re the sky. And then we realized, Oh, the sky is inherent within the cloud. On the cloud is made of the sky, and the storm has never hurt the sky. But now there’s this huge vast support of spaciousness and embodiment that are both held by that which is bigger than ourselves, and allows us to be simply the cloud, fluffy or not so fluffy that we are.
Mukti: Well, I just like to say that whether a person said senses that they’ve had an awakening, there many, many different kinds of awakenings. And in one way to speak to your, your intro to this segment, about the sense of layers, you know, there’s, there’s many different types of awakening. But even if I were to set awakening aside, there are ways that in most any human beings experience that there, there is some sense of this, this, the whole gamut of who and what we are, at any point in life, and with just even some, some simple pointing that, that maybe you’re seeing when, you know, people appear your moves, moving their hands, you know, the sense of context and content or, or even just in your own everyday life observations, there can be a way that there’s a sense of these various expressions. And it seems that a lot of the process of I think what you are calling integration, Francis, is, is something that, that doesn’t necessarily need to be on the back end of awakening, so to speak, that that many people are on what we might call progressive paths, where a lot of integration of of their, their deep wisdom and heartfulness. And some of what I was speaking of earlier, as the divine some of our divine qualities are, are coming forward and, and being integrated into our lives, into our human expression and our human experience, all throughout our journey of life. And so it also seems that with this topic of embodiment, some of that embodiment in a mysterious way may be taking place, even prior to some of the various awakening experiences that maybe you’ve been hearing about in this conference. But there’s something about certain types of awakening that really accelerate this process of integration. And in particular, types of awakenings that are really predicated on a deep sense of stopping within ourselves stopping the momentum of who we take ourselves to be an opening, to a kind of shift. And it seems it somehow when that sense of stopping comes online in a very deeply known way, that even as this pendulum is swinging, from from one side to another, and finding its way back to the middle, that there’s some sense from that awakening that what we essentially are is essentially, and paradoxically, ever unchanging and infinitely present. Excuse me eternally present, and unconditionally present. And yet, it’s a paradox because in our human experience that you’re describing, of this swaying, and all these things that might happen in embodiment, there’s also some deep, deep knowing that what we are and what it is, is, mysteriously also, in a sense, unchanging as, as it also is, is changing. And that deep sense is something that creates a whole different paradigm of being, that that really throws a wrench into the prior constructs of a more Sep experience of separate self or egoic. Self that’s really organized around a sense of time, a sense of space, a sense of, I’m here locally inside, so much can can shift in that sense of our nature as the eternal or infinite With respect to these patterns of referencing our ideas of ourselves, our ideas of space and time and, and not only ourselves but also other, so a whole bunch of things get get shifted. And because of those shifts that we come to through our own direct experience, there’s a knowingness that is, precedent for this whole process that we’re talking about. And, and I would say that that knowingness is available at any time in our spiritual path, whether there’s a real, full, bright clarity of that knowingness that may be experienced with awakening and post awakening. But, but even if it’s not in that, right, like, turn up the volume, you know, fully online type expression, it it’s it’s often experienced all along the way beforehand.
Rick Archer: I think that’s a great point. I’ve talked to people for whom awakenings were quite incapacitating, you know, for quite some time. And I remember Scott killaby, saying to me a couple of years ago that he’s encountered people who he felt were kind of psychologically unhinged by having had some sort of awakening and really needed some help. But I think ideally, it would be possible and it is possible some in the right through the right procedures for the pendulum swing, not to be an extreme thing from you know, hedonism to monasticism but but to integrate for the pendulum swings to go, you know, many times a day as it were, and to integrate at every step of the way. So that you find that the non dual awareness grows commensurately with an enhancement of the relative practical aspects of your life.
Loch Kelly: So that small kind of small glimpses, many times that small ways of touching back into to the awakeness, that’s here that Mukti was talking about, it’s never not here. Even as crazy and you know, agitated and whatever strong emotion, some sense that it’s never not here, that there’s something that’s, that’s always already awake. And it’s not something we need to create or develop. And yet, because of the almost like a foreground background shift, we either have to stop, as mukta says, or have to step out, or just shift from the perception or point of view. So for instance, right now, if you were just to become aware of sensations, thoughts and feelings, in that knowing of them, yep. So just whatever’s happening with your body or your head, mind and just not changing them, just allow them to be just as they are. And just notice that you’re, you notice that you’re, there’s a knowing of them. Notice that a wareness of content. And then see if you can just turn the awareness to be interested in the Awareness itself. Rather than being aware of content just rest back or find that awareness that’s aware of itself. That isn’t coming and going. It’s always it doesn’t feel like it’s always here and unchanging. While it’s knowing that it’s already stopped while there’s something else moving, you feel that and then Do you also feel in some ways that that which is unchanging and that which is changing, are really not two things that there’s some kind of fabric of dancing, pervasive alive that the awareness and movement are not two things but are inseparable are kind of a unity you’re kind of just just alive just this. Yep. Anyone want to say anything? Notice that?
Rick Archer: Yep. Do we have someone with a mic or is that my mic that the audience would need to use as a fellow right here that wanted to make a comment?
Audience Member: Okay, here comes Have you asked, did anyone have experiences from you Electress led us through and I was fortunate to be at your talk a little bit earlier. And yes, it brings to the forefront, a greater connection and accessing of that space of that sense that it’s there. And that, you know, it isn’t, you know, to reach for it so much, it’s a matter of just sort of letting things be as they are and being there. So I just love the exercise. Yeah.
Francis Bennett: That’s the sense I have is that awakening or Enlightenment, or spiritual maturity, or whatever name you want to give, it is really all about coming to see who we really are. on every level. Like, I think a lot of times it’s looked upon as, okay to awaken or to come into that awareness. So that spaciousness that’s awakening, it’s like, yeah, that’s awakening that’s part of awakening. But also part of awakening is just being a human being with a particular personality and particular roles and functions. And, you know, it’s a seamless kind of thing. It’s not either, or, I remember just growing up, my dad used to have this thing he would say, where he was an engineer, and he worked as an engineer with Boeing, but he also had all kinds of hobbies he did. You know, he restored cars, he fixed bikes, he did all these things. And he would tell people, well, I wear a lot of hats. You know, I wear a lot of hats in this world, I’m, sometimes I’m an engineer, sometimes I’m a husband, sometimes I’m a father, sometimes I’m this and that. But he just sort of would go from one thing to the next and do this and change hats, you know. And it’s kind of like, I think awakening is like that we awaken to who we are on this absolute level, so that we can move more skillfully through the relative level, you know, and we just change hats. And I know my friend, Jerry Freeman, who’s here, he talks a lot in some of his teachings. And in writing about that, the absolute and the relative or not, we don’t just like, it’s like, now we’re in the relatives of the pendulums over here, then we awaken to the absolute and we’re over here, it’s more like, in an in an ordinary day, we were all these different hats, we flow into the absolute, when we need to respond to something from that level. And then sometimes we need to respond to something from a very human personal level, you know, when our little kid like cuts their finger or whatever, you don’t need the absolute consciousness to deal with that, you know, you need mommy or daddy to deal with that. And that doesn’t mean that the context isn’t still the absolute consciousness flowing through mommy, but mommy’s, the vehicle for that at that moment. And it’s beautiful. It’s just like this dance. It’s the Leela. You know, as they say, it’s just the dance of God, just seamless.
Rick Archer: There’s a line in the Gita, which goes yoga karma sukoshalam, which means yoga is skill and action. And by yoga, it’s not meant asanas, but union, you know, unity, or unified awareness and your yoga and so it’s not like you have to put on the unified hat and then take it off and put on the mommy hat. No, but you can wear both hats at once. And by virtue of having the absolute hat, the relative hat is enhanced, and you know, one can be more skillful in action. Mukti you haven’t talked in a while I thought I’d got you to say something.
Mukti: Well, when you were describing that, Francis, it reminds me of an analogy that sometimes I like to use where there can be a sense sometimes that we’re almost functioning like a camera lens, you know, where, here, here we have this sense of directing our attention, and we could say that could be a way of shining the light of our awareness in a more focused way. And sometimes it can feel like we’re a camera lens really zoomed in on the human experience. And then sometimes what you know when when the the child cuts its finger, or whatever it is that we all do in our in our human experience, although the roles we engage in activities, but then there can also be a sense sometimes of like panning back camera panning back and having a greater cause, like a greater lived experience of that context that you’re mentioning. And, and yet, you know, the, the camera even though it it, the lens functions in different ways. It’s all a shining of the light of a kind of consciousness. And sometimes that consciousness feels more like my human consciousness that’s in this personal experience. And when the sense of context when that wakes up to itself, by note coming to know itself through entering a human life stream, more wastefully, then that sense of the light of awareness can can feel, perhaps, more empty of the personal or, or more formless or, or it can feel more like that context that you’re mentioning. But it’s all different expressions of awareness, which is sometimes called, you know, used synonymously. With consciousness, there’s our human consciousness. And then there’s sometimes consciousness with a capital C. that can, that can be a very wake wakeful consciousness when when it unites with a sense of human form.
Rick Archer: Everybody’s mic still working?
Francis Bennett: Is it?
Mukti: Yeah, didn’t that just pull us right? In the human experience?
Francis Bennett: It was a glimpse practice. Yeah.
Rick Archer: It would have been interesting to see what had happened to our galvanic skin responses and then see how much people reacted or not?
Francis Bennett: Oh, yeah
Rick Archer: they don’t do tests like that on meditators where they shock them with loud noises and see, you know, how much reaction there is?
Francis Bennett: Nobody jumps. So.
Rick Archer: So we’re all cool.
Mukti: I think we
Rick Archer: did you get to finish your point. mukta. That was like, rather?
Mukti: I did.
Rick Archer: Okay.
Mukti: Yeah, I guess I kept talking through the whole thing.
Rick Archer: Perhaps we should take another audience question at this point, then wait till you get the mic. Okay. They’ll, they’ll bring a mic around.
Loch Kelly: Yeah, maybe just to say that there’s, you know, one of the studies they’ve done with long term meditators, similar to what you said is that they took meditators and gave them a shock response. This is Richie Davidson at University of Wisconsin. And then they would say, Okay, we’re gonna give you another one, and then say, Okay, get ready in a few minutes, we’re gonna give you another one. And so people who weren’t trained, started doing anticipatory anxiety. And then they had the spike of the of the pain, and then after effects association of the, the feeling to past associations, the past associations, whereas people who were in kind of awake who had done, Tibetans were then like, 10,000 hours, there was almost no anticipation. And then they would have equal or more feeling, but then have very immediately returned to baseline. So it’s almost the lack of suffering about pain that goes not the human pain. So the human experience, you jump fine, then just, you come back, where do you come back to, to associating about fear from a fearful part of your brain, maybe, but then there’s also the learned kind of familiarization to come back to kind of a loving presence,
Rick Archer: You need to jump if your hands on the stove, or a bus is coming or something.
Francis Bennett: Or a bear is chasing you.
Mukti: So I think some of that capacity to be open to that kind of pain or suffering, you know, really comes by way of embracing it a lot, you know, so, you know, it’s like, oh, that was kind of, you know, this alert, alarming when that happened. Right. You know, so just like, including that human experience, and, you know, taking care and, and acknowledging it, and bringing it into the fold of our experience, is, is, is typically the way to become comfortable with, with pain and suffering in a way that we know it so intimately that it’s not, not as as shocking.
Rick Archer: This fellow here.
Audience Member: I have a thank you for sharing those perspectives on form and emptiness. And I can see we talked about context and content and pendulum swings and foreground background. It seems to me that there is also this sense that form and emptiness is an identity that they are they were never separate to begin with. So the foreground is not the background, and the background is not the foreground, they’re just called as such. So in that sense, Nirvana and samsara and transcendental phenomenal. These are empty terms to begin with. We are using them but my understand meaning of this sutra is that the two are really empty to begin with. And the reason for the sutra is to, to point to that total emptiness from the absolute point of view. So the absolute and relative exist only in a relative sense. Outside of the relative. There is no absolute and there is no relative.
Loch Kelly: Yes, I think we would agree and but also, on the relative sense, it’s relatively real. It’s the ultimate in the relative Yep.
Francis Bennett: Well, it’s like that’s true. And yet, there’s no problem either with the terms or the experience of relative and absolute that. Yeah, on an absolute level, there’s no such thing as relative and absolute. But on a relative level there is and since the relatives included and that’s okay, too, you know, so, yeah,
Rick Archer: none of us are physicists. But it’s worth reminding us all that we’ve all heard talks, you know, by physicist in which they actually illustrate this Form is emptiness, emptiness is form statement by, you know, telling us how empty form actually is, and how the form we see is, in a way comprised of emptiness, you know, made up of it. And if anyone wants to comment on that, but I like I always like sort of been, it’s the theme of this conference, how modern science and some of its principles can be an adjunct or an aid to spirituality and clarify a lot of things.
Loch Kelly: I mean, just toward embodiment, just saying emptiness in some ways is empty, like space. But another definition of emptiness from the root word. Seed means that you often say, it’s the invisible lifeforce within a seed that helps it grow into a tree. So invisible, but dynamic, not empty, meaning vacuum,
Rick Archer: there are two science says that at the subtle levels, there’s an incredible dynamism, you know, a cubic centimeter of empty space, there’s more latent energy than there is in the entire manifest universe, at a certain level.
Loch Kelly: The other the other definition of emptiness is means interconnected, meaning there’s no no thing in itself that’s in that is an entity in itself, that’s independent, which means that a tree a tree is not independent of Sun water, that it can exist, no thing exists in itself. That emptiness in some ways, which we’ve associated with vacuum in the West, means interdependent means we’re all interrelated, interconnected. So it also ultimately points to everything is empty means everything is interconnected. And one or unit has a unity, about a dynamic, dynamic unity is what emptiness means.
Rick Archer: Mike to one of these guys.
Audience Member: Hi, thanks. And we’re talking about a high class problem about getting from enlightened back down to the humanity, but I don’t have that high class problem. So I heard Loch elegantly answer this in another session. So I’m gonna ask this to Mukti, and Francis. For someone who wants to maximize the probabilities of getting to Enlightenment, what would be some steps and processes you would suggest?
Mukti: Well, I would suggest to be really true to your nature. Meaning, there’s a tendency like earlier, lock mentioned something about how I referred to stopping and then he proceeded to do an exercise it was kind of a would you say, like stepping back or moving out until you find something that stopped? Yeah, yeah, you till you find something that’s already stopped. But I think essentially, the, this is a kind of a mechanical way of answering it. But there’s some there’s a way of this subject object relationship that we experience often. And especially, you know, prior to awakening that’s more predominant. And so one would be like a path of so you could say stepping forward or, or and or maybe forward and down or something that would be perhaps thought of more as a path of union of like really offering our, our lens of awareness through our attention, you know, into a sense of a path of union. There can also be a kind of stepping back or out, and just growing the sense of our self that feels at the center of experience growing our attention in a very global way, and opening to a sense of awareness that is in a way like bridging our sense of subject with this, this world of objects is just opening our awareness. And so, that could be maybe thought of as a different path as opposed to a path of union you know, maybe it would be a path of you know, kind of contemplation of, of this. It could be as a stepping of unhooking, stepping back could involve a lot of unhooking concepts of minds are more of the neti neti approach. So, so some people would be more drawn to that some people would be more drawn to the Union path, whether it’s, you know, giving their concentration and their their heart and their, their being to a sense of presence of the mystery of what we are. And then as I had mentioned, there can be a kind of stopping and either that stopping, you know, just is right. Right, independent of stepping it out, or, or, or in, or some kind of movement of our consciousness, it could just be independent, or it could be somehow connected with like, when I lock said, you can like, open out till you sense what is already stopped, then there’s the point of stopping, or maybe through a path of union, there’s a way of entering the offering your human consciousness to something so completely, until that offering, unites with whatever is the object of its interest, whether it be, you know, a sense of presence, or divine or a prayer, whatever it might be, but then there’s a kind of stopping, because the joining is complete. So those are kind of like, really big, broad strokes of trying to speak to your question, but then there could maybe be something more particular as
Francis Bennett: well, like, what I hear you saying, basically, is, you find a path of spiritual practice. I mean, that’s what it boils down to. And I, you know, and I, often, I think I’m a very, very practice oriented teacher, which isn’t always the most popular thing, I think all of us actually are. But my sense is that I boiled down practice to three, like primary practices, and the way I boiled it down was I just reflected on my own path, in my own life, and what worked for me and what brought me to a sense of clarity. And that was the path of meditation, some form of meditation, the path of surrender, and the path of service. And I think much like a fitness program, you know, when we want to get fit, when we want to get in shape to run a marathon, or, you know, compete in the Olympics, or whatever we’re doing, we often take a kind of multi dimensional approach. So you get like, you know, nourishment, you get proper nourishment. So you get diet, you get aerobic exercise, and you get anaerobic exercise, you know, you try to build up the muscular system and skeletal system, and you try to pare it down and get it sleek and slim and fit. And then you also put food into that. So there’s like three prong approach to bringing out that’s what’s already here, that, that, that that kind of wholeness, or fullness or optimum health, which is already intrinsically within us. And I think awakening is very similar. It’s already here. We’re already really in one sense, we’re already all awake, but we need to kind of bring that potential out. And I think spiritual practice helps us like locs practices are, I think, kind of crystallized or boiled down. Essential what spiritual practice is, which is just touching in to our true nature, touching into it again, and again, briefly, just touching and touching and touching. And till we finally get all this has always been here, and then that’s awakening. But I think we go a little bit off kilter when we start thinking of awakening or Enlightenment is something I don’t now have. And then I need to do all these things to get what I don’t have. When really it’s about like discovering, and I think like Mukti said, there’s all these different approaches at different seasons in our lives, different people are karmically different different ages, different maturity levels, and so it’s something you have to kind To find your way with but I would say like a one phrase answer to your question is, it’s again, not always popular, but we need to live a life of focus spiritual practice.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I think we have to be careful that that thing about we already have Enlightenment because a lot of people hear that phrase and think, Oh, great, check that off my bucket list. And their experience may be a far cry from what’s possible.
Francis Bennett: Well, that’s why I said, it’s not. That’s true on one level. And I think it’s important to understand that we don’t lack it, really. But we do need to do things to bring out what’s the potential that’s there.
Rick Archer: It’s like we all have, we’re all multimillionaires, we all have this bank account. And most of us have forgotten that it exists. And we don’t know how to access it. You know, but somebody comes along, say, Hey, you’re a multimillionaire, it’s not enough to say, Yeah, great, I’m a multimillionaire, you have to figure out how to access the bank account and begin withdrawing money from it, so to speak.
Audience Member: What’s the number?
Rick Archer: I’ll tell you later on, once you go in, and my
Francis Bennett: What’s that pin number again?
Rick Archer: I’m gonna throw a monkey wrench in the work and call into question the whole use of the term emptiness. There’s, you know, many of you have heard that Upanishadic saying of purnamadah, purnamidam, purnaat purnamudachyate de means this is full, that is full, taking fullness, from fullness, fullness remains, and, and I think science collaborates in in a way, when you know, every little bit of creation is just full of energy and intelligence. And, you know, that can be examined in a number of different ways. So I guess it’s maybe just a way of a matter of how you look at it. But in my feeling, and understanding, I tend to think of everything as, and if we want to term it in terms of God, everything is just permeated by divine intelligence, and there’s no gap or hole in that anywhere.
Loch Kelly: I’m gonna just say one quick thing, which is, I think that’s how it ends up. It ends up as emptiness is fullness, fullness is emptiness, but it ends up very full and open hearted. And but it’s almost like, I don’t know if I can say this, right. But most of us currently are full of shit. So in other words, we’re full of it, we’re full of our own attempt to get free. And then there’s almost in discovering emptiness that then we discover the fullness. So the fullness is on what’s the form. So the form as its constricted, small lens of the camera, that’s trying to, you know, trying to find freedom and looking with a seeker and a doer, that can never find fullness, steps out, being free of that. And that’s kind of a classical awakening from, and then there’s a discovery of something greater than ourselves, that’s already awake. So almost like I was using the metaphor today of para parasympathetic awareness that’s already aware. So just like your breath is happening by itself. Is there also an awareness that’s happening by itself. And when that awareness experiences your body and this world, it feels full. So it seems like Form is emptiness, emptiness is fullness.
Rick Archer: And just aside from your experience, I can feel like reality is full. Mukti,
Mukti: I’m super excited about this. I would love to make two points. One is, there’s a way I think that often terms begin to collapse on each other, you know, and like, if you think of times in your life, where, you know, maybe something happened, and you thought, like, oh, like, that was bad. And then later you realize, oh, that was good. And, and, you know, when you live enough of life, you start to see how a lot of what you thought were opposite ended up harder and harder to, to land on on those opposites. Because things start to come together, you know, and into the point of when you point to direct experience of of emptiness, you can sense that it’s, you know, it’s vital and dynamic alive. But it may take a while to kind of register all those things through direct experience. And when the other point I wanted to make when I heard you bring it up is along the lines of direct experience, and along the lines of practices. I’ve been very much a proponent of inquiry. And so what I love about these kinds of dialogues is the things that don’t get answered You know, the the kind of question of like, what, what actually is emptiness? If it’s not an idea of something a nerd or flat or vacuous? What actually is it? And that’s exciting to me is to live with that question and let let it reveal itself and reveal itself and, and not answered and thought not answer it in concept. Yeah, that’s
Francis Bennett: great. And I was thinking when you said that then one minute, okay. I can think I can say this in 30 seconds. That my old teacher in the Theravada tradition I ordained for a year and a half in the Theravadan monastic tradition, and bunting and erotica was my teacher and Preceptor. And he came in one day in a retreat, and he said, if you say that you have a self, you’re deluded. And everybody was like, Yeah, okay. And then he said, and if you say you have no self, you’re deluded. And everybody was like, what? And then he’s talked about walking on a tightrope. He said, It’s like walking on a tightrope. There’s no self, and there’s a self. And just like the tightrope, you can’t just like lean one way, you have to kind of balance it. And you have to it’s a constant little dance on the type rope to stay on the type rope. And I think that kind of, for me, sums up the emptiness and form dilemma, so called, it’s not really a doing.
Rick Archer: Well. Thank you, everybody. I’m sorry we couldn’t take more questions and all. And I’ll just put in a plug. Francis and I will both be giving presentations tomorrow at 11. Dueling Banjos kind of situation in different rooms.
Francis Bennett: You’re my competitor.
Rick Archer: Yeah, come to one or the other. I wish they weren’t conflicting, because I would love to come to your presentation. Do you have anything else scheduled Loch?
Loch Kelly: Not out here. But just please welcome to look at my website. I have practices, particularly I have a book out. But I also have an audio which is basically just these glimpse practices, which is really can be downloaded.
Rick Archer: And I’ve interviewed all these folks, and you’ll find their interviews on batgap.com and links to their websites and links to their books and all that stuff. So thank you very much.
Mukti: Thank you so much.