53 Aphorisms on Emptiness

53 aphorisms on Emptiness.  Some of these are original, some are taken (out of context) from classic texts, scriptures, and poems, others from modern texts and commentaries. Some developed in the course of classes at DeepDharma as a way of approaching and understanding emptiness.

They are like the slogans of the Tibetan Lojong, though they are not meant to be practiced sequentially. Also, they are deliberately not clustered by topic. This is to lead us to a many faceted perspective, without implying a connection from their numeric placement.

How to practice with these aphorisms: Pick an aphorism that appears to be particularly meaningful to you. Consider what it means in its relationship to emptiness. You can do this as a formal contemplative meditation, or more casually just whenever it pops into your mind during the day. Question every thought about the aphorism/emptiness, every phrase, parse each word. Think hard and stay focused but let your mind wander wherever it needs to during the contemplation, as long as you don’t stray from the aphorism. Keep delving into it until you realize deeply the emptiness it is implying or that you are inferring from it. Stick with one aphorism for a week or so.


  1. Don’t burn down the house before it catches fire.
  1. There are no beginnings (arising, birth) and no endings (ceasing, death).
  1. Avoid believing your preferences.
  1. It’s not about having shiny stuff.
  1. Abide in conditions.
  1. Less isn’t more, it is enough.
  1. Reified beliefs are the problem, not the solution.
  1. Emptiness here, emptiness there, emptiness emptiness everywhere.
  1. The opposite of permanence is emptiness, not impermanence.
  1. We are ignorant active structures.
  1. Let things be “Just so.”
  1. More is never enough.
  1. Something is what it is because of what it is not.
  1. Right View is no view.
  1. Suffering arises from perceived suffering.
  1. Our karma creates an external world to match our internal world.
  1. We do not say that because things are empty they do not exist; we say that because things exist they are empty.
  1. Emptiness is a negation of inherent existence, nothing more.
  1. Just question everything that arises until awareness arises that there is nothing arising.
  1. Abandon blame.
  1. Don’t expect applause.
  1. All is and is not.
  1. Relax into uncertainty.
  1. Objects do not exist through their own nature; they exist through the force of convention.
  1. Preferences are the problem, not the solution.
  1. Abandon hope.
  1. Have no regrets.
  1. Suffering arises from ignorant clinging.
  1. To develop a patience practice leading to emptiness: stop, wait, and shut up.
  1. Where there is perception, there is deception.
  1. Notice conditions with an open, curious, and accepting mind.
  1. Our karma forces us to perceptually distort everything to conform to the structure of the patterns we have imprinted in our memory.
  1. Don’t be outcome-oriented.
  1. Avoid expectations.
  1. Stop being so needy.
  1. No wishing.
  1. Reflect on the universality of loss.
  1. Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
  1. In a place where there is something that can be distinguished by signs–by seemingly permanent, autonomous characteristics–in that place is deception.
  1. What is is and isn’t enough.
  1. Abandon gratitude.
  1. Focus on practice, not outcomes
  1. Don’t be swayed by externals (shiny stuff).
  1. Relax into impermanence.
  1. Realize the duality of all perceptions.
  1. Live peacefully in our perpetual state of growth and decay.
  1. Meditation is a shining of the light inward to realize emptiness and no self.
  1. Know and Not-Know simultaneously.
  1. Nothing is lacking; nothing is in excess.
  1. Avoid thoughts of gain and loss.
  1. Not two; not one.
  1. Go beyond appearance.
  1. Don’t go on the battlefield.