There Is No Suffering 36

One can only understand ultimate emptiness, or emptiness as reality, through direct personal experience, wherein one realizes that all dharmas, whether mental or physical, are both empty and existent. In other words, existence is identical to emptiness. If one has no attachments and makes no discriminations based on a self, then one recognizes that every dharma exists and is empty. One recognizes that existence and emptiness are really the same thing. One further recognizes that there really is no such thing as existence or emptiness. This is the true emptiness of the Mahayana.

Perspectives on the Five Skandhas

The line “[Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva] perceived that the five skandhas are empty, and transcended all suffering,” speaks of the bodhisattva’s perception of the true nature of existence. Such a biased view, emphasizing only the negation of the five skandhas, can lead some to develop aversion to the world. People with this view direct their practice toward personal liberation, to depart escape samsara and enter nirvana. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, perceive that the five skandhas, as well as sentient beings, are simultaneously empty and existent. Therefore, they neither attach to, nor avoid self and phenomena; not seeking nirvana, they remain in samsara to help liberate sentient beings.

Of the five skandhas, only form is part of the physical realm. The remaining four—sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness—make up the mental realm. Together, the five skandhas compose all universes, all beings that inhabit them, and all phenomena. Futhermore, form—the physical skandha—traditionally comprises four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire. These four elements are the components of our human body as well as of the environment in which we live.