Though you have infused the sutras with life and humor, for me, Zen remains the stark beauty of the desert, and I long for something else. Why can’t I drop the idea that my way is not via emptiness, but fullness? I still carry this longing for some kind of union, a melting outwards rather than dissolving into nothingness inside.
With whom are you going to melt outside? You don’t know even who you are. And who has told you that Zen is a “stark beauty of the desert”? Zen is perhaps the most beautiful path, full of flowers, songs, joy and laughter.
But the idea of nothingness creates a certain fear of dissolving into a desert. It is just your mind that makes the difference between emptiness and fullness. In realizing either, you will be realizing the other too, because they are two aspects of one thing, of one phenomenon which can either be called nothingness, or can be called fullness.
Zen has chosen rightly to call it nothingness, because fullness can give you misunderstandings. The moment you think of fullness you start imagining. The moment you think of melting into someone outside, immediately a God, a paradise, a heaven, and all kinds of imaginations arise. And those imaginations will prevent you from going anywhere.
I am not helping your imagination at all. I am trying to uproot your imagination in every possible way. I want to leave you without images, in utter silence, in nothingness, because that is the only way to attain fullness.
When the dewdrop disappears in the ocean, it is not that it becomes nothing. Yes, it becomes nothing but it also becomes the ocean. In its disappearing as a dewdrop, on the other side it is also becoming the whole ocean. So the fullness and nothingness are not two things, only two concepts of the mind, but in reality, only two ways of saying one thing. Emptiness, or nothingness, is better because it does not allow any imagination to arise.
Fullness is dangerous. If rightly used there is no problem. Fullness will also dissolve God, and paradise, and heaven and hell, and incarnation. But mind is capable of using the idea of fullness in a way that it cannot use the word ‘nothingness’. To prevent the mind from using the word ‘fullness’ and preventing you from realizing the reality, from Gautam Buddha onwards the word ‘nothingness’ has been chosen. But nothingness is not absence; nothingness is not dead. Nothingness is fullness, but so full that you cannot define it, and you cannot make a limit or a boundary to it. Unbounded fullness and nothingness, in experience, mean exactly the same. But for the beginner, the word ‘fullness’ is dangerous – and everybody is a beginner.
Begin with something which is less capable of taking you astray from reality. Fullness can be used only by a master who knows that nothingness and fullness are synonymous. But for the beginner it is dangerous, because for him fullness means something opposed to nothingness. If ‘fullness’ is synonymous with ‘nothingness’, then there is no problem. Then the desert becomes the ocean, then there is only beauty and song and dance.
Nothingness gives the idea to the mind that everything will be lost. You will be lost, but the truth is, the moment everything is lost, including you, you have gained the whole universe – all the stars within you, and the vast universe inside your heart. It is not losing anything, so don’t be worried about nothing.
Excerpt from The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself, Discourse #7
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Here you can listen to the discourse excerpt Don’t Be Worried About Nothing.