Space and spaciousness are very important concepts in Buddhist practice, in our reflections philosophically and in our practices, and in our reflections upon our lives and our world. Sometimes we think of space as, you might say, the container of all the other elements. But space, really, is just as mysterious as all those other elements. Scientists have agonized over whether it is truly possible to have completely empty space and we learn that nature abhors a vacuum. Well, it seems to be possible to create a certain sort of vacuum anyway. But here, talking spiritually, we’re more concerned with the idea, the image, the way that a sense of space permeates our thinking, makes our thinking possible, makes our practice possible. We need psychological space, spiritual space. When we can put things into a spaciousness then the perspective changes. And in Buddhism, of course, we talk a great deal about shunyata, about the void and this is a kind of space.
Some schools of Buddhism have asserted that space, along with nirvana is something that is not impermanent. Other schools have denied this. So, over the centuries there has been a good deal of philosophical debate about the nature of space. But, be that as it may, we have all of us some sense of space, and when we have a sense that there is no space, we feel pressured, crowded, our lives become difficult and unpleasant. So, the reflection on expansiveness, on creating space is a very useful meditation. We talk about Big Mind or about having a Big Heart, having a heart that has space within it to receive many people, many circumstance. This can be taken as an easy reflection that gives us a sense of what Buddhist faith, Buddhist practice is like. Buddhist faith and practice is a matter of living spaciously.
There are practices in Buddhism where one by insight tries to identify the self. Is the self in the earth element? Well, not really, because the earth element is something we come up against. Is the self in the water element? The same. The air element? The fire element? Even the consciousness element: the self cannot be found. Is the self a certain kind of space? Again, it’s ellusive. Buddhism invites us to let go into a great spaciousness while at the same time realising that even space is an incomprehensible mystery, something that slips away whenever we try to grasp it.
In a simple, practical sense we depend upon having space. Psychologically we need mental space. But this space is not me, not mine and I cannot find myself in it. Such is the Buddhist view.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much