Stage 4



With compassion established, set your sights on the final stage of profound wisdom. Learn to keep your mind clear and open, so that you can see beyond misleading appearances and engage creatively with the world.




Emptiness (shunyata) is like a medicine that corrects the distorted view or misperception we have about how phenomena exist. It points to the absence of something we assume is there but is not there. While emptiness reveals that things don’t exist in the way they appear; it neither obliterates phenomena nor proposes an alternative to replace what has been seen through. Emptiness is not an assertion unto itself; it’s not another reality. This is important, because the mind likes to reify and hold on to things, and it is liable to make emptiness into a false idol, but if you replace one reality with another that seems more real than it is, you will remain fixated and stuck and continue to suffer. One needs to approach emptiness cautiously, like handling a snake, because if you grab the wrong end and misunderstand its power . . . well, look out.


From Gradual Awakening, Chapter 7, Vision.

We have worked with our motivation to develop renunciation and opened our warm hearts with compassion, and as we reach the final stage of our Lam Rim journey we clarify perceptual distortions and align with a “correct view” of reality. This is another term for emptiness, which is often misunderstood. Emptiness may be the most advanced principle in Mahayana Buddhism, a topic that can be studied with increasing depth, each time refining the perception of the nature of reality. Even if you have a thorough conceptual understanding of emptiness, without this wisdom becoming embodied, intuitive, and spontaneous, it won’t be relevant or have critical impact on your life. Unlike Western philosophy, Buddhism is concerned with self-transformation and doesn’t much care about fancy abstractions. The purpose of wisdom is to uproot ingrained mental distortions or projections and their underlying instinctual reflexive habit of reification that is the fundamental cause of suffering.