Mind is often referred to as the inseparable union of clarity and emptiness. The Supreme Teacher described the nature of mind in many different ways: alternately as the union of appearance and emptiness, the union of great blissfulness and emptiness, and the union of absolute truth and relative truth emptiness. On the level of reality, all arising appearances are the inseparable union of these qualities, which exist in a single, indivisible state. The teachings often compare this union to a fire and its warmth, since one cannot be distinguished from the other. Likewise, emptiness and appearances cannot be separated from each other; they are reflections of a single state, or nature, with two different aspects.
In his Mula-madhyamaka-prajna, Nagarjuna compares this situation to molasses and sweetness in addition to fire and its warmth. In the same way, emptiness and appearances are inseparable. The entire phenomenal display—all appearances without exception—are empty. Usually when we say that something is a “union,” we imply that two different ingredients have been added together to make a whole. Such is not the case with the nature of reality, which cannot be divided at all, in the same way water and its moisture can only be separated at the level of concepts. The true nature cannot be divided, categorized, or separated. This is the nature of everything!
But if the entire universe and world—including our own minds— are in an indivisible state of union, why do great masters such Nagarjuna and the Buddha himself emphasize emptiness, emptiness, emptiness? Why not appearances? It is because duality mind does not grasp very much to notions of emptiness; rather, it tends to grasp and cling to appearances, or objects of perception. Because we are overwhelmed by dualistic conceptions, we tend to hold on to everything we experience, including the places we go and the activities we engage in. So all this talk of emptiness is designed to help us see past the mere surface of appearances and break down our beliefs about substantially existent phenomena.”
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