Emptiness – sunnyata in Buddhist thought – refers less to the way we relate to others but it is still an indispensable element in compassion. ‘No self’ refers rather to the essential nature of everything. Nothing has independent or permanent existence. This is reflected in the Beatitude of Jesus that he calls poverty or poverty of spirit. It sounds like a deprivation or afflicted state. But, if as he says, it is the direct way into the kingdom, then it is more truly understood to mean detachment, renunciation or letting go.
These ideas might sound abstract to the non-meditator or anyone who has not reflected on the meaning of their life-experience. Meaning arises through connection. Meditation is a universal way to meaning because – another paradox to add to the list – the solitude we enter when we meditate opens up the reality of our fundamental connectedness. This begins with feeling connected with our selves as we overcome the illusion of separateness and the suffering it brings. But this is only the beginning.
Exactly how these general truths work out in the story of our lives – as it did in the life of Jesus – make for the uniqueness of our existence. This singularity of human existence is also the basis of love and justice. We love another because they are unique and their singularity somehow resonates with our own. Justice treats each case, each person, on their unique merits. All love is solitude transformed in communion.
In the case of the story of Jesus this touches not only the individuals he loved, his family and friends, but us as well – ‘us’ meaning all those who have ever lived or ever will.
However much we like to postpone thinking about it, death is also an indispensable element in the meaning of life. It makes us see that every life-story, however insignificant it may be in terms of the power-and-wealth systems of the world, is a universal drama. Properly reverenced, each human being and his or her unique story, thus reveals the cosmic mystery.