Notes from “Essentials of Mahamudra” by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.

In a previous article, the nature of non-self was discussed.  Here, in this article the lack of self in external phenomena is discussed.  Your house, your car, the ground, the sky, trees, even thoughts and feelings are selfless.

Things are not independently originating.  That is, they do not exist on their own.  They are given existence from other things – they exist dependently.

While we know intellectually that phenomena is not permanent, we often act quite contrary.  In truth solid, permanent things do not exist.  As my old lama used to say, “nothing exists they way you think it does.”


Every object or thing depends upon another object to give it context.  Six people could be standing next to one another.  They might range in different heights and I could ask, “who is the tallest?”

In that context one might say, “well that fellow is the tallest,” if we remove the shorter people and added two even taller people, now the previous fellow is the shortest.

There is no self existence short or tall thing.

Together & Separate

Another example is that of an object comprised of other objects. In fact everything is this way.  Take your laptop.  As you look at your computer, what part of it is the laptop?

The laptop doesn’t exist without the dependencies of other parts. There’s a keyboard, display, cpu, memory, hard drive, etc.   Each of these objects on their own is not a laptop.

There is no inherent “laptopness” here, as the “laptop” is really a collection of other things.  Even those components that make up the laptop further break down into other components.  The keyboard (for example) breaks down into individual keys.  The display has a case, glass, filament, pixels, etc.

In the atomic age, we know that everything can be deconstructed to an atomic level.  Even there we can break down below the atom into sub-atomic particles.

In short, there is no laptop.  There is no hand.  There is no house.  There is no job.  There is no fear.  Each of these depends on something else to give it context.


All of this to explain how everything is empty: Empty of Self-Existence.

Even consciousness, the mind is empty of self-existence.  Consciousness itself can be broken down into different parts.

Within the construct of emptiness, anything can appear – yet the things that appear don’t really exist.  Becomes something appears in your world view, doesn’t mean it is not empty.  It is empty.  Because it appears, it is empty.

Emptiness gives rise to all things.

This, I suppose, is the teachings of the Tao Te Ching – that all things come from the Tao.  To which, all things return.  Similar to the Tao Te Ching Chapter 1, again it should be emphasized that experience is far greater than understanding.

Understanding and analysis is good.  Analysis helps us evaluate our experiences and see if the meditation was upon emptiness or not.

But our meditations can not be on the conceptual or analytical understanding of emptiness.  If it is, it will just be a fake thing – much like the Tao Te Ching says, “The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”   To hold it in the mind as a mental concept, shrinks the thing and makes it fake.  Experience is key.