Lesson
15

Seeing Empty Beings

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The third type of compassion is called compassion seeing empty beings—sentient beings empty of existing in and of themselves, independently. Chandrakirti says:

Homage to that compassion for transmigrating beings
Seen as empty of inherent existence,
Like a moon in calm water.

Have you ever come by a lake at night when there isn't any wind? You see a moon reflected on the smooth surface of the water and think it is the actual moon.

It happened to me once when I didn't know a lake was there, and upon seeing what actually was the near side of the lake, I thought I was looking at the horizon.

Have you ever been unable to locate the walls of a mirrored restaurant at first glance? Or unexpectedly passed by a mirror in a store and, seeing yourself, thought it was somebody else?

Once in an airport shop in Australia, I looked over at a fellow and thought, "Who's that seedy character?" It was my reflection.

In Chandrakirti's example, if you take a good look at the moon without superimposing the thought "This is just a reflection in water," you see something that appears to have every characteristic of a moon. Yet the reflection of a moon in water is not a moon; the reflection of a face in a mirror is not a face.

Chandrakirti is suggesting that we engage in reflection, analysis, and meditation, to see that the reflection appears to be the object but it is not. In this way, we can develop an intimate experience of the conflict between appearance and reality. First we need to explore the false appearance as if we did not know it was false.

Meditation on such examples aids in realizing that persons, bodies, and other phenomena appear to have a concrete status that they actually do not have, that they are empty of such solidity. This is what is meant by "empty beings."