Monday, November 17, 2008

Are you the Empty Vessel or the Hollow Bamboo?

Imagine that the water pouring through the bamboo and into the pot is Love, Light, Source, or Universal Consciousness….God if you will. Take a moment to consider how the bamboo and the pot function, and what happens to each as the water of Consciousness continuously flows.

Many traditions around the world embrace the core concept of the Empty Vessel. The foundation of the practice is that as you become full with ideas, knowledge, or ego, you must give up or give away that which has filled you so that you may attain innocence and egolessness and therefore experience Oneness.

In the Daoist tradition that I follow, there is much talk about being an Empty Vessel. There are even books and magazines and CDs about it. This idea comes from many sources, but one of the originals is Verse 11 of the Dao De Jing (Derek Lin translation) which says:

Thirty spokes join in one hub
In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle

Mix clay to create a container
In its emptiness, there is the function of a container

Cut open doors and windows to create a room
In its emptiness, there is the function of a room

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit

That which is empty is used to create functionality

This teaching shows that only when it is empty can a cup function to hold the liquid you want to drink; only when it is empty can a room contain the furniture for your comfort. Carried into the realm of spirituality, only when it is empty can your mind contain universal consciousness and be filled with Divine Oneness.

Eventually, however, the vessel becomes full again, and either spills over uncontrollably or must be emptied by revisiting the same methods (or trying some new methods) that you used to empty it the last time.

However, if you embrace the paradox of diversity within oneness and are interested in helping others as well as being filled with divine consciousness yourself, the Hollow Bamboo is the way to go. Take a look at the bamboo again: as a channel for universal energies and divine consciousness, it is always full, as well as always sharing this fullness with others.

Here is a lovely metaphor for it, found again in Derek Lin's translation of the Dao De Jing. In the chapter below, the Valley Spirit represents the receptivity of earth. When the heavenly energies settle onto the earth, like the water through the bamboo, they flow to the lowest places. The valley, being the lowest place, collects the most heavenly energies.

Chapter 6

The valley spirit, undying
Is called the Mystic Female

The gateway of the Mystic Female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth

It flows continuously, barely perceptible
When utilized, it is never exhausted

Just ponder the profound truth of that for a moment: It [heavenly energy and consciousness] flows continuously……When utilized, it is never exhausted.

Isn't the same true of Light, Love, Divine Consciousness? As it pours into you from the universe, and as you allow yourself to be a channel that it may flow through you to provide the same for others, do you not participate in the paradox of diversity while at the same time being always and completely filled with Light, Love, and participating in Universal Oneness?

Of course you do!

So, maybe it's better to be a piece of Hollow Bamboo and to remain full of Light and Love, and leave the Empty Vessel to others.

Derek Lin's online translation of the Dao De Jing may be viewed on his True Tao website Follow the links to the translation of the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing).