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Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness is Form

If you try to understand this part of the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form,” you might feel like you kind of get it, but kind of don’t. Or you may find it difficult to understand at all. This happens when one doesn’t yet know the reality of the way things are in actual fact.

Let’s take a look at the actual fact of the way things are. Please try this. Turn your face to the right, and then slowly turn to the left, and confirm how things are. Turn right, and the fact of the way it is, is the way it is on the right. Turn left slightly, and the fact of the way it is, is the way it is there, slightly to the left. It’s clear that it is the way it is now, and the way it was immediately before now is gone. This is the real meaning of “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.”

Nothing is fixed or is of substance, so the way it is in the direction one is facing is the way one actually is. All there is, is the way it is in the direction being faced, without any self. There is only the way it is in the direction being faced.

The Heart Sutra is about our true nature as humans. What is written in the Heart Sutra is not something to aspire to become. We are already human just the way the Heart Sutra says.

To understand what this explanation is pointing to and to realize this truth for yourself, we encourage you to attend our zazenkai. Receiving live instruction makes a big difference, and we can instruct you in what real zazen is.

By Kenichi Matsumoto

Translated by Madoka

The original Japanese is below the video.






「色即是空空即是色」の真相を自覚したい方は、ぜひZen Onlineにお越しください。正しい坐禅をお伝えしています。もちろん質問もできます。




(All dates and times are Japan time. We find this time converter site easy to use.)

  • [Aug 7] Zazenkai with Matsumoto-san: 
    Sep 4 (Mon) 8:00-noon (N/S America is Sunday, Sep 3)
    Sep 20 (Sun) 18:00-22:00
    Oct 2 (Mon) 8:00-noon (N/S America is Sunday, Oct 1)
    Oct 22 (Sun) 18:00-22:00
    Click here for reservations

  • [July 30] Weekly sitting (1 hour) with Madoka now on Tuesday nights, 21:00-22:00. Reservations can be made here.

  • [July 30] No zazenkai with Matsumoto-san in August 2023.  

  • Please reserve early. Reservations close 24 hours prior to the start of zazenkai.

  • Reservations for online zazenkai twice a month and private sessions. Feel free to contact us with questions too.




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