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Lions Roar : January 2019
What is the difference between emptiness and nothingness? Emptiness is one of the central doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism. It does not mean that things don’t exist. It describes the way they do exist. What are things empty of? They are empty of an independent, solid, unitary self. In reality, they are ever-changing, compounded of many parts, and the product of infinite causes. That’s how they really exist. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, everything in the universe is present in a flower except one thing—a self. Another way to look at it is that things are empty of all the concepts and dual- isms we project on them, including the very idea of existence and nonexis- tence. Experientially, emptiness means that things are more open, momentary, and interconnected than we think. When we experience them that way, they become vivid and sacred. Does any of this matter to our lives, or is emptiness just an interesting phil- osophical concept? The Heart Sutra is Buddhism’s most famous text on emp- tiness, and at the conclusion the Buddha says, “When there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear.” When we see the truth of emptiness—when we are freed from the delusion of a solid, fixed self—there is nothing left to defend and no need for struggle or fear. Can you recommend some Buddhist books by and for people of color? It used to be that pretty much the only Buddhist books in English were written by Asian teachers or white Buddhists. Fortunately, Buddhism is changing and diversifying, and many of today’s most interesting and insightful Buddhist writers are people of color. Here are seven books by and for Bud- dhists of color to get you started: Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice, by Charles R. Johnson (Shamb- hala); Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, by Ruth King (Sounds True); Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness, and Belong- ing, by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (Wisdom); A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment, by Spring Washam (Parallax); Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, by Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah (North Atlantic Books); Dream- ing Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist—One Woman’s Spiritual Journey, by Jan Willis (Wisdom); Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community, by Larry Yang (Wisdom). ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at email@example.com COURTESYOFWWW.LACMA.ORG TARA TARA IS TIBET’S most beloved female deity. Her name is Sanskrit for “one who liber- ates” and she is viewed as a female manifestation of enlightenment. She is also known as “the Mother of all Buddhas” and is closely related to the female deity known as Kuan Yin or Kannon. The subject of myths and legends, Tara has many stories that explain her origin. According to one, she was an ancient princess devoted to the dharma. When a monk told her that she needed to be reborn as a man to reach enlightenment, she said: “Here there is no man, no woman, no self, no person, and no consciousness.” The princess then attained enlightenment in a woman’s body, encouraging Bud- dhists to overcome prejudice, discrimination, and discouragement. As an enlightened being, Tara is “she who ferries beings across the ocean of samsara,” and Tibetan Bud- dhists meditate on her for protection and wisdom. Tara is often depicted with her right foot slightly extended, ready to spring into compassionate action, and her right hand open on her knee, a gesture of generosity and willingness to help. It is said that she rushes to the aid of those who call upon her during times of suffer- ing and fear. Throughout history, Tara has manifested in myriad forms based on the needs of practitioners. Some Bud- dhist schools have up to twenty-one Taras, each with a different color, energy, and attribute. Her most famous manifestation is as Green Tara, the savior and protector against fear. Other forms include White Tara, deity of long life and healing; Red Tara, manifestation of posi- tive attraction, and Yellow Tara, who is connected to wealth and prosperity. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 29 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE