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Advice for Studying Voidness (Emptiness)

Alexander Berzin
Morelia, Mexico, April 2004

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:45 hours)

Tonight, we’re going to be discussing voidness, which is one of the most important topics in the Buddhist teachings and one of the most difficult to understand. But, we shouldn’t be afraid about voidness. As Shantideva, the great Indian master, said in his text, Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, if we'regoing to be afraid of anything, it should be our ignorance, our unawareness, which is causing us all our problems. We shouldn't be afraid of that thing, which, when we understand it, it will get rid of the causes of our problems. It's like instead of being afraid of our enemies, such as thieves, bandits and murderers,, we’re afraid of our bodyguard. So, like that, although voidness is not easy to understand, that’s only natural. Why should it be easy? If it were, then everybody would understand it and nobody would have any problems anymore.

To understand voidness or reality, we need to build up a tremendous amount of positive force – that's usually called “merit.” This is something that can’t be stressed enough. Positive force is built up by, basically, restraining from acting destructively. Now we’re not just talking about simply not killing, for example, “Well, I don’t go out and hunt and fish anyway.” So that’s not the point. What we’re talking about is when that mosquito is buzzing around our arm or our face, to restrain ourselves from killing it, to find some other, more peaceful way, a nonviolent way, of dealing with the mosquito. This is obviously much more challenging and it builds up a great deal of positive force.

We also build up a great deal of positive force from actually engaging in constructive things like going to Dharma teachings, thinking about it, meditating on it and trying to understand as much as possible. We also build up a lot of positive force by helping others as much as we can, even though, at our stage, we often do not really know what to do and what will actually be of great help. We have to try also to get rid of as much negative force or potential as we can with various purification practices. All of this helps us to be more open and our minds to be more clear, or understanding. Because if our minds are closed, which normally they are, or they are covered with confusion, or we are always acting in very destructive ways and not practicing and so on, how can we possibly understand something really difficult to understand, like voidness?

Also, if we try to listen to teachings, or try to work with them, understand them, if we just go into it, like just sit down and start, then it's really hard to make a transition into really having a clear mind, if our mind is still completely busy with what's been going on during the day, or just before. And so what we often do, what Tibetans certainly do, is to recite the Manjushri mantra OM-A-RA-PA-TSA-NA-DHIH and then just the seed syllable DHIH-DHIH, DHIH-DHIH, DHIH-DHIH, like that, with very strong aim or intention for our minds to be clear. We can also apply various visualizations, when we are a little bit more advanced, which help – graphically – to imagine that our minds become clear. But if we are not easily able to visualize clearly, then there is no point in forcing it at an early stage; just the mantra is quite sufficient.

So, as I say, all of this is very, very necessary and especially if we can have at least some bodhichitta, this also helps a tremendous amount. And there are many points associated with it. First of all, if we don’t have a strong motivation, a strong emotion, a strong feeling behind “Why do I want to understand this?” and “What do I want to do with this understanding?” then we don’t really put so much energy into it, as when we do have a strong motivation. Also, the more open our hearts are to everybody, and we are talking not just every human being, but every cockroach: I mean everybody; and the more open our minds are to enlightenment… our hearts are actually, because we are aiming for enlightenment… so the more open we are to enlightenment, which means that we are really thinking in terms of omniscience of a Buddha, that is really vast… so, the more open our hearts and minds are like this and the stronger the motivation, the more our minds are open to being able to understand. We are not “Oh, I can't understand, I am no good!” – this sort of tight, limited thing, or tight, limited into my own beliefs that we may have been holding up to now. We need to be very open with this positive force, this bodhichitta, this open heart, with the mantra recitation, to try to be more clear and open. It is that, which will allow us to eventually understand voidness – without it, it won't be possible.

The way this positive force works in terms of allowing us to get deeper and deeper, to understand deeper and deeper, so that our understanding will build on each other and network together so we can see how things fit together – the way that it works is a little bit like, I think we can understand an analogy from physics. When we put more and more energy, like heat energy, into ice, then eventually it is going to reach a point where it makes what is called a “phase transition”: it turns into water. And if you put more and more energy, heat, into it, it will turn into steam. It is like that. We might stay at one level for quite some time, but in order to jump to the next level we have to put in a tremendous amount of energy, this positive force. And then our mental continuum, our understanding and so on, will – all of a sudden – “Ah! I understand that!”

It is also very important never to be satisfied with our present level of understanding. Until we are very advanced along the path, we have not understood it fully or deeply enough. And we can be sure that we are not at that level yet. No matter how old we are or how many years we have been studying the Dharma, we can always revise our understanding and get it more precise and more precise and more precise, which means studying even more and going even deeper. Because, as our minds become more open and we become less frightened, we realize the importance of understanding, then we can go to more and more complicated and deeper explanations.

In order to progress in this way, we need to be totally convinced of the importance and necessity of understanding voidness. And then we need to be convinced that it is something which can be known, and it can be known fully. And then we have to be convinced that “I can understand it fully, I am capable.” If we have low self esteem, which many of us in the West do, this is going to be a major obstacle, something that we really, really need to work on overcoming with teachings, such as on Buddha-nature.

Also, we are never really going to be able understand it well or even to learn about it, if we do not have some decent level of concentration. It does not have to be perfect, but if our mind is constantly wandering or we are constantly getting dull and falling asleep, no way that we can even learn about voidness – if we cannot even read a book, if we cannot even read a page. We can see that if we really want to get out of samsara and if we want to help others to get out of samsara too, that we need lots of preparation. When we understand that it is going to take a long time and we have to go slowly and we have to go step by step, then we will have the patience for it.

So this is the preliminary discussion, but it I think it is actually very important. We need to be realistic about the Buddhist path and particularly about trying to develop bodhichitta, which is unbelievably difficult and advanced, and gaining a correct understanding of voidness. It is important that we must be very careful not to trivialize these things to either: “It’s not important” or just do it in words, “Blah, blah, blah” and “I’m practicing for all sentient beings,” which in most cases is totally meaningless, and take it seriously.

When we hear teachings and they sound really easy, teachings on voidness or bodhichitta and so on that sound really easy, please be aware that that means that it is being incredibly simplified. It is necessary to first hear simplifications; otherwise we have no clear idea of what it is we are aiming to understand on a deeper level. It is absolutely necessary, otherwise we are just aiming for some sort of “mystery thing,” of which we have no idea what it is, and we soon lose interest. Or we lose our course because we do not have some idea what it is we are aiming for.

When we hear more complex explanations than what we are able to understand now, we need to have a proper attitude toward that. The proper, helpful attitude is to acknowledge that “OK, maybe I can’t understand this teaching now, but there are other people present in the room besides me and maybe they can understand a little more deeply.” And so we rejoice in that, “That’s great!” And everybody is going to understand it at a different level, and so whatever we can understand – fine, there is always something we don’t understand, that is fine, that is the reality, and we accept that. This is being realistic. It is very important in such situations not to feel, “I am stupid.” It’s quite easy and many people fall into that trap and then their minds become even more closed because then they convince themselves that they are stupid. Rather, we understand that, “I am not quite ready yet; I am not quite at that level yet; I am still very young in my studies.” And we can find it very inspiring, rather than depressing that we hear more complex explanations and it is very inspiring that there are some people who can understand it. Rather than being envious or jealous of them, we get motivated to work harder so that we too can understand a little more.

Unless we have built up an unbelievable amount of positive force in previous lifetimes, we are not going to get it; we are not going to understand the first time we hear. We are not quite at the stage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. My teacher was one of his teachers and went to every class that His Holiness ever went to and he said that you ever had to explain something to His Holiness only once and he understood it. That was it. But we are not quite at that level yet, are we? Not only did he understand it on first hearing it, he remembered it on first hearing it and never in the future would you have to say it again. He retained it. To have a mind that can do that requires also a tremendous amount of positive force.

But the point is that if he worked to build up that positive force, we can do it too. Mental activity is mental activity; there is nothing special about any individual continuum of mental activity. It is just the amount of positive force that is behind it. So, if we build up that positive force by training ourselves – and that we will only do if we have the strong motivation and want to do that, see the necessity of doing that – then it becomes easier and easier – not only in this life, but in future lives.

If we take future lives seriously, even though we might not really understand how it works, or what really the Buddhist teachings about it are – because that is also very difficult to understand – but if we take it seriously, then as we get older and approach being senior citizens, then we have even stronger motivation and stronger reason not to stop, but to continue trying to train our minds to build up more positive force, to train more strongly the good habits, because that really is going to affect our future lives, our next life. Unless we have Alzheimer's disease or something like that, we are always able to learn more, to make a little bit more progress. I have a student in Berlin. She is over eighty years old, but she doesn’t give up. She keeps coming to classes, even though it's on two canes or two crutches and it's difficult for her to get there and to walk. But she comes and she tries to understand, and this is very inspiring to everyone. So, especially if we are young, we're in for a lot of work, so don’t give up. Life is complicated, so we shouldn’t imagine that the Buddhist path is not going to also be complicated. Often what teachers say is that if we are attracted to a path that is very easy – we don’t have to put in a lot of work – and very fast, that that actually is an indication of laziness.

So, let us get down to our subject-matter, which is voidness. What I would like to point out are just some general things concerning it, that perhaps form a basis when listening to these tapes in the future, working with them and going more deeply into the points I want to raise. I am just presenting it, and be patient, what you can understand on the first hearing – very good, what you don’t understand – also very good as you can work on it with the teacher and with yourselves and so on and so go further and further.

In many ways, the purpose of visiting teachers is to come and give a dose of other material, perhaps explain it in a little-bit more advanced way or from another angle. And because the visiting teachers are only here for only a short time, visiting teachers cannot go into each point slowly so that everybody gets it, because there is no time for that. A visiting teacher, or going to teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama or somebody like that, is just to give us material, to gather it, then work on it later. In Berlin, for example, I have been teaching Shantideva’s text Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, and its ninth chapter is on voidness. And we have been on that chapter already for two and a half years, once a week; and we are only one third of the way through. This is just to give you an idea of, if you really want to understand voidness, and I am certainly not an expert or anything like that, but it takes time.

And then one more difficulty that you need to appreciate is the language problem. The language in which all of this is studied – the original Sanskrit and the Tibetan – is incredibly precise in its terms. All the different aspects of voidness, these terms are sometimes defined quite differently and it is not easy to find equivalents in our Western languages. So that makes it even more difficult sometimes for us, especially when we have misleading translations based on something that somebody made up as a translation term fifty or a hundred years ago, when they didn’t have very much material available to them to help them make a better choice of translation terms. Especially when you are translating from English, which is not the correct or precise terms, into Spanish, then it becomes even more confusing.

So, what that motivates us to do is, if we really, really are serious and really, really want to understand, at this point in history, more and more of us have to learn the original languages. Unless we are really very talented in languages, it is not necessary to learn the entire language, what we really need, is the technical terms. Because most translators, if they are kind, will at least give a glossary of the terms they are translating. Or like I do on the website, I put them into every article so you could find them, so you know what I am talking about; you know what the author is talking about. Because the biggest problem with Dharma studies in the West and particularly dealing with voidness is that every book you read is going to translate the words differently so you don’t know how to put different presentations together. The only way out of that is to learn the original terms so you look it up and say “Ah-hah! This is what they are talking about” – without that it's hopeless. And when you have visiting teachers if they have sufficient training, then also if you are confused about what they are talking about you ask them what term they are discussing. This is a big problem that we face in the West, isn’t it? And although it means a lot of work I don’t see any other way out of it because you are never going to get all the translators to agree.

OK. So, in our discussion here, it is always very helpful, as I said, to put the teachings in a perspective and in this instance we here we will put them in the perspective of the four noble truths. We speak about true suffering, the first noble truth. We are talking about the all-pervasive suffering we were speaking about yesterday. That is the fact that our tainted aggregates – our body, mind, emotions, etc. – come from and are accompanied by unawareness of reality and, because they are like that, perpetuate even more. And what is the cause of this? The cause of it going on and on and on like that, coming from unawareness, having unawareness with it, and perpetuating it even more – well it's obvious, the cause for that is the unawareness of reality. That is the true cause and that is what that brings what all the other stuff brings, this basic all-pervasive suffering.

The third noble truth, true stopping – what do we want a true stopping of? We want a true stopping of this unawareness of reality, and when we are talking about unawareness of reality, we are talking about unawareness of voidness. What will get rid of it? A true pathway mind. That is a pathway mind that gets rid of this unawareness forever and thus gets rid of true suffering forever – that is a true pathway mind that understands voidness. So we can see how the four noble truths, what the Buddha taught, is all about voidness – what happens when we don’t understand it and what happens when we do.

So, what is this unawareness? First of all, let’s go back to our “mental holograms” that we were using to describe mental activity. What is mental activity? It is the making of mental holograms of objects and the making of a mental hologram is equivalent to knowing that object, either seeing it or hearing it or thinking it, because actually, what is hitting the cells of our eyes is just light. Mental holograms. And we saw that this is all that mental activity is – there is no separate me separate from this whole process which is making it happen and using a machine called mind to make it happen. It is just happening. Because of our habits of unawareness, our mental activity produces mental holograms of things that do not exist – for instance, that there is a separate me seeing this or thinking this. And what is so horrible about it is that it feels like that.

Unawareness is a disturbing mental factor. Remember we had in the aggregates we had these various mental factors that accompany the making of a mental hologram. It accompanies the mental hologram and it is a certain way of cognitively taking this hologram. The first level of understanding of it is that it simply doesn't know that it doesn't exist, that it's impossible, it doesn't refer to anything real, it just doesn't know that. The deeper understanding of it, the way that the Prasangika system – the most sophisticated explanation of it – is that it knows it invertedly, in other words it takes it in an inverted, in the opposite way. In other words, it takes it to be real, to refer to something real. It's not just simply that it doesn't know that it's impossible; it really takes it to be possible.

When we're dealing with things like "this is not real, this is not possible," and knowing that, which is what we need to know when we know voidness, then we're dealing with negation phenomena – we will come to explain that. Remember we had what exists and what doesn't exist. What exists can be validly known; what doesn't exist could be known, like something impossible such as invaders from the fifth dimension, but it can't be validly known.

What exists, what can be validly known, can be divided in several ways. Yesterday, we were talking about things that are static and things that are nonstatic, but there is another way of dividing this pie. Another way of dividing the pie of what exists, what can be validly known, is affirmation phenomenon and negation phenomenon – phenomena that are affirmations and phenomena that are negations. It is like static and nonstatic divides the pie horizontally and affirmation and negation divides it vertically.

We have to be careful here that we are not talking about positive and negative like something that is constructive or destructive. We're not talking about that. An example of an affirmation phenomenon is “a glass” and negation phenomenon is “not a glass.” And so I can know, “This is a glass,” and I can also know, “This is not a glass” – validly knowable, aren't they? We are just affirming, as an affirmation, “This is a glass.” You don't have to know anything else to know, “This is a glass.”

“This is not a glass.” Well, we had to know a glass first before we could know that, “This is not a glass.” We could spend a very long time on this discussion and it really is fascinating, because you would get into the whole thing about how does a baby learn? A baby first thinks that everything is food and puts everything into its mouth, but it has to learn “not food,” doesn't it?

The negation phenomenon has two types. One is: “This is not an apple.” The second type is: “There are no apples on the table.” In technical terminology, I like to call them implicative and nonimplicative, but they are also called affirming and nonaffirming. It is not necessary at this point to go into the technical details. “This is not an apple” and “There are no apples on the table” are both negation phenomena, but they are different, aren’t they? The first one, after it is negated, “This is not an apple,” it throws behind – that is literally what it says – it throws behind it in its wake, like a boat, “this.” Whereas “there are no apples” doesn't throw anything behind it after it has negated apples. That is the difference.

The second type also has two types: “There are no apples” and “There are no invaders from the fifth dimension.” The first is: “There are no something that could be thereapples.” The second one is: “There are no something which is impossible and could never be there.” Voidness is the second type of negation phenomenon: it’s the absolute absence of something. There is no such thing as a referent object of this mental hologram of something impossible; there is no such thing. The child has a mental hologram of a monster under the bed and there is no such thing. The mental hologram does not refer to anything real. It wasn't based on seeing or hearing an actual monster under the bed and then the mind that made a mental hologram. It’s not like that. It just came from the child's fright; it didn't come from a monster under the bed.

Our mental holograms of impossible ways of existing and impossible things are just the creation of our unawareness, the habits of our unawareness. They don't come from these things actually existing, like when seeing it, and so on, and then there is a mental hologram of it. Because of the habits of paranoia, the mind projects mental holograms of everybody being against you. That's impossible. Maybe one or two people are against us, but not everybody that ever existed. Yet that person with paranoia feels it and believes it. To this person, it is real. But it is not real. Perceiving this mental hologram of something impossible really upsets them, yet it is not referring to anything real. This is really oversimplified, but a helpful oversimplification is that voidness is talking about our projections of impossible things and that these projections are really projections. They are not referring to anything real.

Again, to know, “This is not an apple,” we had to know “apple.” To know that “There is no such thing as this impossible thing,” we have to know “this impossible thing.” However, you cannot validly know something that is impossible, because it is nonexistent. So how do you validly know something that is impossible in order to know that there is no such thing? You can validly know the appearance of something impossible, but not the impossible thing itself. This is why Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa, emphasizes so much “knowing the object to be refuted” is how it is called, or knowing what it is that is being negated, in order to know “there is no such thing.” If you can’t identify correctly what it is that is impossible, you are never going to be able to get rid of it.

Also, in terms of the appearances of what is impossible, we have projections of many, many different levels of what is impossible. It is not just the projection of one impossible thing. And so we have the Buddhist philosophical positions – the tenet systems. These are extremely helpful to study because what they help us to understand, in a graded order, what’s impossible, the gross level first. Then, once you can get rid of that, then the more subtle level of this projection of something impossible. And then more and more subtle as you go through these schools so that eventually you can get rid of the most subtle projection of something impossible. You could think of it in terms of levels of projection. It’s only when you get rid of from – let’s say – the first level of projection does it become clear to you what is left over. Then you can remove the next level of projection.

Without going through that process, it really is very, very difficult. To go immediately to the most subtle level of projection and negate that, often what happens is that it sounds trivial. “Where is the self? Is it up your nose, in your armpit, is it in your legs, in your stomach? You can’t find the self” – so what! It’s trivial. It’s trivialized because you haven’t gone through all the steps and seen what it is really talking about. It’s like when we come in out of the cold in the winter and we want to get undressed, first you have to take off your coat, then you have to take off your sweater, then you have to take off your shirt, then you have to take off your underwear. You can’t just take off your underwear. I think that is a helpful image to remind us of the importance – it takes patience and a long time – to go through each of these systems and really understand what they are talking about, because each of them is complex and profound.

We read all sorts of books, those that have been translated, and they explain voidness from the deepest level, Prasangika. Well, who are they intended for? They are intended for monks who have been studying for a very long time. They are not intended for people as their first introduction to voidness – we have to understand that. Tibetans in their training in the monastery do not study these first. They have been studying many, many years before they ever get to this material – not just simply lam-rim and the stuff that we study, much more difficult stuff.

Although it is a long process, it is helpful to start with the so-called simple explanation of the first school of philosophical tenets and really try to digest that. Because, as Shantideva says, if we can understand on a simple level, then using that as an example, we can go deeper and deeper. Let me give you an example. The first school that we study is called Vaibhashika. And Vaibhashika tells us, they point out that actually there are two types of a true phenomenon. There are things that seem to be solid and there are the atoms that they are made of. It’s both things, but if you really think about it deeply, not just superficially – the two truths, it’s called the two true phenomena – one is superficial. What is superficial is that everything is solid, but the deepest true phenomenon is the atoms. Both are equally real, but one is a deeper point about it.

If we think about it: “This chair is a collection of atoms and my body is a collection of atoms. So that means energy fields and mostly empty space, and yet I do not fall through the chair to the floor.” If you think about the implications of that, that’s really extraordinary. So, we can understand from that the example of an illusion. “It is an illusion that the chair and my body are solid. It appears to be solid, but there is more to it than that. Actually it is a collection of atoms, so it is like an illusion.” But now you have to add the most important phrase after that, which is “Nevertheless it still functions, I don’t fall through the chair.” And so, if we could really, really digest that, not just go “Oh, sure!,” but really think about that, really apply that; and if we could accept, without freaking out, that things are like an illusion, because they appear to be solid yet they are not, and nevertheless they function; if we can accept that and deal with life like that, then we are ready to go to the next level of a more subtle illusion.

This is with “my mood.” “My mood appears to be solid, but actually it is a collection of tiny, tiny little moments, all of which are different. So it is like an illusion and yet this bad mood has made my day terrible.” Language is even more miraculous in how it functions, because all that ever happens at one moment is one tiny part of a sound of a letter of a word. That is all we ever hear at one moment. In the next moment, that does not exist any more. Nevertheless, doesn’t it appear as though the words and sentences that we say and other people say are solid and real? …. It is like an illusion, nevertheless we can communicate. So, do not think that the Vaibhashikas, “This first school is so...” “Oh! I can skip over that, that’s kid’s stuff.” It has an incredibly profound insight into the world, which is true and it takes a long time to really digest that and be able to see that in our life, and deal with it. It is only when we really have digested, that we are – I mean we could learn it, like the other tenets, that’s not a problem, but really emotionally ready to go on to the next level, and giving off the next projection.

It’s like this understanding of “Everything is like an illusion, but nevertheless it functions” – that’s like a ladder. If we can understand it on the first rung of the ladder, then we are ready to go to the next rung of the ladder, for that same ladder “Everything is like an illusion but nevertheless functions.” Or in lingo, you have to start to get on this ladder with the first rung, because the other ones are too difficult, actually. OK?

So then maybe we stop here and maybe we have time for a few questions.

Question: The question is, “Is it or is it not the same phenomenon, the same type of phenomenon, the projection that a little child makes of the monster under the bed – that projection – the same thing that we as adults do with our neurotic projections. We love somebody or we hate somebody or – is that the same type of process? Because I think we as adults have been conditioned for a long time, while a child hasn’t been as conditioned as us. But is it the same type of phenomenon or not?

Alex: It is the same type of phenomenon. These are things that automatically arise: you don’t have to teach the child to project “monster under the bed.” But we project ... on a simple level, we can say we exaggerate. But what we do is, we add things that are not there. Anger exaggerates the negative qualities of someone; so now it becomes a horrible thing, “You said that to me,” as if this is the “Totally forget about everything else in our relationship, you said that to me.” We exaggerate its importance and we get angry. We forget about our whole relationship with this person.

The same thing, “Uh, you looked at me with this type of look!” and then we exaggerate this and now we are really attracted, all of that, exaggerate a positive thing. And with unawareness, then either we are unaware that this inflated mental hologram, either we just don’t know that “This is not really who the person is,” it’s not the actuality, or take it in the opposite way “Yes! This person is the most fantastic one in the world, or the worst one in the world.” In fact it is just a person, that’s all, who just said something, that’s all. Now, of course your culture could encourage exaggeration.

Translator: Culturism.

Alex: A culture, a theoretical culture.

Translator: You said “your culture.” So, I take that personally.

Alex: …that one’s own culture…

Translator: Yes, of course.

Alex: One’s own culture, whatever that might be, that might encourage exaggeration,

But one has to be really very careful, so that one does not start to believe this.

Question: For the example of undressing when we get home, we cannot start with our underwear, but these tenet schools have the aim to get rid of our own levels of projections? Do the different tenet systems have the aim to give us graded stages through which we can get rid of the different levels of our own projections?

Alex: This is the way the Tibetans understand them, yes. Although historically they developed one by one and often in different places, but they still already started to study them together in India at the later monastic universities and the Tibetans really do look at them as a graded path. You have to understand, some just present it. But the way that it is intended and meant in the Tibetan teachings is as a graded path.

But originally there were people and schools that just followed one and it went like that to China. And, what is also said and which is important is that the deepest, most profound school may not be the most suitable for a particular person. I mean, eventually it may; but we have to see, “Maybe this school, this explanation works for me, and is enough for me, and that’s all that I can handle now.” That’s fine, particularly if we are aware that there are deeper levels. All of them are very beneficial, and this is what is important and we can make great progress at each level. It is also important, although we can study them, don’t push it in terms of what we can emotionally actually deal with.

So even though, when we read the Prasangika texts and they point out the absurd conclusions that follow from the beliefs of these other schools, Serkong Rinpoche, my teacher, always used to say, “Don’t for a moment think that these other schools are stupid. That is a sign of your own arrogance, if you think like that. Buddha taught them, he taught them to help people.”

Anyone else?

Question: When we are under tension and projecting at a very high speed, one after another, very, very quickly, and one is in front of the other. We can’t help it, right. What can we do at least to stop the train from further projecting more and more?

Alex: Well you know there are temporary measures that we can take and so-called ultimate measures. Understanding voidness and applying that is an ultimate measure. As I explained earlier, we need a tremendous amount of preparation – positive force and concentration and so on – to be able to apply it. So earlier, we apply temporary measures, the simplest of which is to focus on your breath. Why? Because it brings you back to your body and is regular. It might not be totally regular, but it keeps on pretty regular, pretty constant, and so it takes us out of getting lost in all these mental things that are going on. It grounds us. So that is usually recommended as the most fundamental, temporary measure. It’s certainly not going to solve the problem and make it never come again; but it helps us to calm down, which is necessary.

OK. So let’s end here and we’ll continue tomorrow.

Whatever understanding we’ve gained and whatever positive force has been built up – may this act as a cause for it going deeper and deeper and reaching enlightenment for the benefit of all. Thank you.