Emptiness - Preface

A Practical Guide for Meditators

If everything is empty, then what ceases in Nirvana and is born in rebirth? Guy Armstrong tackles this question and more in this richly informed, practical guide to emptiness for the meditator.

 

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328 pages, 6 x 9 inches

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ISBN 9781614293637

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ISBN 9781614293798

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The world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance
ever observes.
—Sherlock Holmes
Truth lives all around me but it’s just beyond my grasp.
—Country Joe McDonald
I’VE ALWAYS LIKED A GOOD MYSTERY. From Sherlock Holmes to
John le Carré, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that there’s more going on
than meets the eye. In college I majored in physics, because I loved the
way science reveals things that are hidden from ordinary view. In grad
school I studied computers to find out how machines could do such amazing
things. Psychology was always an interest, because the mind, too, is a
vast, unknown land. In all these disciplines, I discovered that close observation,
pointed questions, and sustained reflection were the keys to unlock
the gates.
When I stumbled onto Buddhism, I was delighted to find a whole new set
of mysteries to explore. From the age of twenty-eight, I began to dedicate my
life to learning what I could from teachers and meditation, including a year in
Asia as a Buddhist monk. Many of the teachings I encountered made good common
sense, and I was grateful for their emphasis on wise choices in speech and
action. Meditation was a marvel that brought me a measure of calm, but my
conceptual mind was most intrigued by things I couldn’t quite understand, like not-self, enlightenment, nirvana, and emptiness. It seemed that comprehending
these subjects must be necessary to realize the path of transformation and
freedom, but however much I thought about them in the beginning, I couldn’t
penetrate them. Still, the glimmerings of these mysteries inspired me, and I was
determined to explore them further. After some years, I began to teach what I
had learned, primarily through leading silent retreats in the Insight meditation
tradition.
The word mysteries has long had religious connotations. In both ancient and
modern cultures, there have always been priests and priestesses, nuns, monks,
and shamans seeking to learn from the mysteries and thereby shift their relationship
to themselves and others, to life and to death. This book is intended for
those today who are drawn to these subtle realms. Emptiness is the theme, as it is
a core teaching closely connected to the other mysteries. For the truth of emptiness
to reveal itself fully in our hearts and minds will require inquiry and reflection,
as well as a deep intuition born from meditation, which is is simply another
name we give to close observation. In truth the keys that unlock the mysteries of
science also unlock the mysteries of spirit.
For two and a half millennia, Buddhist practitioners have explored emptiness
and found the highest levels of happiness and freedom. This book is offered in
the hope that it might encourage a few more people to take a few more steps
along this sacred path.