“The function of the self is to empty out the self, so as not to be full of itself.” – Hongzhi

When I saw this quote by Hongzhi I was reminded of the description of meditation which is: the self watching the self selfing the self. There’s a lot of selves there. At first glance it might look quite different than Hongzhi’s suggestion that we empty out the self. But how do you do that? Hard enough to empty out the garage, or the attic, or that closet.

Emptying out the self does not mean getting rid of the self, anymore than emptying out the garage means getting rid of the garage. In the same way Hongzhi’s image of the empty field does not mean a place with nothing in it. Quite the opposite. The condition of the self not being full of itself is to say the self is empty, like the garage. However in the case of the self, unlike the garage, here empty does not mean void, or without content, but again, quite the opposite.

When the impulse to name is resisted, what the self is has infinite possibilities. The infinite selves have access to infinite possibilities to respond to the moment as it is arising, which is another way of describing freedom.


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