One-Taste: The Dance of Emptiness and Form

Emptiness and Form, according to Aro’s teachings, can simply be thought of as contrasting characteristics of existence.   David Chapman skillfully re-names Emptiness and Form as Nebulosity and Pattern.    For me the classic Taoist Ying-Yang symbol is helpful in understanding these characteristics.  Looking at the qualities, it can be seen that the mind naturally rests in the “form” mode and thus Emptiness must be cultured, valued and nourished to be deeply understood.    Below the diagram are quotes of Ngakpa Chögyam from Chapter 1 of his “Wearing the Body of Visions“.

  • ‘Emptiness’ and ‘form’ are the most important terms in attempting to establish a relationship with the structural symbolic aspects of Tantra, both as theory and practice.
  • Unless emptiness and form become the experiential terms with which we interpret our life-event, the ritual and symbolic aspects of Tantra could simply become a way of passing time in a florid spiritual ambience.
  • Emptiness is a quality of existence, just as form is a quality of non-existence.
  • Emptiness is the quality of reality that gives rise to form.  Form can only exist because of emptiness; which is why emptiness is often referred to as ‘the Great Mother’.  It is called ‘the womb of potentiality’.  It is called ‘the Mother of the Buddhas’.  Without this life-generating quality of emptiness, form remains our sole reference of security.  But it is impossible to relate to form unless we also relate to emptiness, because emptiness and form are non-dual;  they are aspects of each other.  We only fear emptiness because we image it to be an experience in which form is lost and we fear that form could be lost forever.
  • Emptiness is bound to reflect form.  This endless self-reflection is the limitless dance of Tantra.
  • This requires that we allow every polarity to exist within us — deliberately entertaining experiential and existential paradox.  So, we need: both wariness and unwariness; caution and folly; credultity and skepticism.  We need both craziness and absolute sanity.  Unless we’re prepared to feel the texture of these erratically alternating states — the energy of Tantra will remain incomprehensible to us.
At a basic level, I see exercise of understanding the emptiness-form issue as being about understanding and participating with both sides of our brains — not living isolated primarily in one hemisphere.  (Of course it is not as simple as hemispheres, but you get my neuro analogy).  But NC is saying more than this, he says both states can be tasted simultaneously and enrich the dance.  (pg39)  He suggests that behind apparent duality  of emptiness and form there is One-Taste of both simultaneously.  Thus, for example, even pleasure and pain have a shared taste when experienced from this perspective.
Understanding these principles is one thing.  Experiencing emptiness is another.  Freely and often experiencing emptiness is yet another.  Finally tasting the non-duality of both form and emptiness is yet another.  I think I have had clear experience of all of these such that NC’s writings ring very true to me.  But I have had neither consistency, frequency or depth to have had them effect me too deeply.   Most my encounters have been by blind luck.

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