What is the Nature of Nothingness? Happiness, of course.

Philosophy-FighterOn occasion I find myself in the midst of spiritual conversation.  Sometimes this conversation can manifest itself as a spirited debate about the nature of nothingness or if this whole entire world is in fact just an illusion.  There might even be people present who believe themselves to be right and that others are wrong (as if one can ever be certain about nothingness, doesn’t nothingness preclude certainty just by the nature of being nothingness?).

My answer, if ever I am asked, “What is the nature of nothingness?” is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

May all beings in all worlds be peaceful and happy.

The reason that is my answer is that it is useful. It might not be directly related to the question, but it is relevant to what is important.

So many times when there are these heated spiritual debates about the nature of nothingness or “is a table really a table when to a termite it would be dinner?” with each person doing their darnedest to prove their point and come up with the right answer, I just think – who cares? Does it matter if a table is really a table?  Does this make me a more loving and conscious person?  And by conscious I mean aware and mindful of my connection to all of life, not more knowledgeable about the exact nature of tables.

There are many spiritual topics that we can go in mental circles about, and that might be entertaining, so have at it – have fun.  But before we start taking it all too seriously and worrying about who is right and who is wrong and who is the more enlightened about the nature of nothingness, I think the main question we need to ask is – does this help me make the world a better more compassionate place?  Does this help alleviate suffering for anyone?  Does this bring more love to the world?

When I moved to St Augustine I discovered a sweet peaceful little retreat center west of town called Chinmaya Mission.  I had not heard of Swami Chinmayananda before but I 220px-Sourire_coul_2have grown to hold him with sweet affection in my heart and I am grateful to have this Hindu refuge as part of my Interfaith life.  When I was getting to know more about him, I was reading the Chinmaya wikipedia page and it says their motto is “To give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time.”  And I thought, that is the most perfect mission statement I have ever seen.

So often we have these lofty spiritual goals to “Uplift Humanity,” “Awaken the Divine in the human spirit,” or even “Liberate humanity from the illusion of attachments” etc etc etc.  And these are all good things, all worthy missions, and I have participated in several groups with similar purposes – but sometimes it’s hard to know what it really means, how is this mission really changing real life for real people?  And it was so refreshing to see a mission statement that goes so directly for what matters most.

So, the next time you are grappling with high minded esoteric existential questions and you feel like you don’t quite understand the complexities of it all – just come back to this question:  Does this give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time?