by Martin Choi
It's been about eight months since I enrolled in DDM's Exploring Buddha Dharma Course. Although I had a difficult time understanding many of the content and materials, I still contemplated certain concepts like Emptiness and how it was applied in the Diamond Sutra.
Near the beginning, Fashi gave a great example of what "emptiness" means. A cell phone by itself has no separate entity which makes it "empty". The phone cannot work without all the pieces that are "within it" and "outside of it". The battery, the cpu chip, the circuits, the electricity, the towers, the metal that went into towers, etc., are all pieces that are interconnected in an infinite number of ways that link materials, capital, labour, thought, and energy together. This interconnectedness means no thing/form can exist in isolation and thus has no separate entity. Another example she gave was when she showed us her fist. She then opened her fingers to illustrate that there really was no fist - just a hand that changed its form. These concepts of impermanence, interconnectivity, and no self can be applied to everything around us, including "us". The concept helped me understand that it's the causes and conditions that influence phenomenon, our thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and form. This concept supported many other important ones such as understanding what is "real" vs "not real" and how practices such as meditation can help us become more aware so that we can see things more clearly and not get swept away with thoughts that are influenced by our causes and conditions.
Although there are many experiences I wanted to write about, one that stands out for me was about the topic of health and illness. In my group, members talked about personal experiences where a loved one was dying or who had passed away. They expressed how they coped, suffered, learned and gained wisdom. Hearing their stories made me feel quite emotional. I broke down in tears when I told them about my father who recently died of cancer. It was through the teachings of the course and with the support of my group, I began to change my perspective about sickness, life, and death. This greater understanding helped me heal.
I'm sincerely grateful to all the participants and organisers who took the time and effort to run this course. I'm appreciative of the interpreters who did an amazing job expressing the content in a meaningful way. And even though I wish I understood Mandarin, I'm glad the causes and conditions placed me with other English speakers who all participated in meaningful conversations. Our group leader, Rebecca, demonstrated incredible leadership skills. She created a safe and secure environment where everyone supported each other and shared resources outside of the class. Finally, I wanted to thank ChangHui Fashi who so passionately taught us how these concepts can be applied to our daily lives. Thank you for exposing us to all the wonderful resources at hand so that we can continue to learn, grow, and gain further wisdom moving forward.