I had studied Zen for a long time, but when I was ordained in 2001 in the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, I began to give particular attention to Hsu Yun's teachings. "Empty Cloud: The Teachings of Hsu Yun" became the goad that made me want to deepen the search for myself, it impressed me so very much. I read the book, over and over again to understand the meaning of ‘Empty’. It was hard for me to comprehend. How could I be empty and at the same time be compassionate? I thought that to be compassionate I had to be filled with feelings of love, of kindness and concern for everything and everyone.
Over and over again I struggled with the same logical thoughts of how this could be. Suddenly, after many readings and meditations, after months of being puzzled, the answer came to me as a flash. The answer was right there. I had it all along during the years that I had spent teaching mathematics.
I had been a math teacher for nearly all my life. Not only had I taught Math, but I also held the view that math and life have great similarities. But I never before put it all together: Zen; Empty Cloud; Teachings; Buddha; Amitabha; Meditation; Concentration; The Law of Causality; the Rules of Discipline; Maintaining an unshakable faith in the existence of the Buddha Self; being determined to succeed in whichever method he chooses. All those words were for me ideas that were separate from any practical ideas about functioning in the world. And suddenly it came to me! They are the same: Perfect demonstrations of the laws of the universe!
Mathematics is a language, the language of number and size. Zen is a language, the language of reality; a language that has no words, just ideas, perfect ideas to put into practice as we put mathematics into practice.
Laying a foundation for technical knowledge and assisting in the practical application of knowledge already possessed, mathematics offers unlimited advantages for mental training.
And what about Zen? Isn’t true that Zen offers unlimited advantages for mental training? If we lay a foundation of knowledge it will assist and offer us unlimited advantages and then we can live our life in a perfect and balanced existence in reality.
Also, Arithmetic consists of the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of a type of numbers represented by the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4… 9. By using the above operations or combinations of them, we are able to solve many problems.
What about Zen? Isn’t true that Zen consists in operations that lead us to solve not only many problems but all problems. And what about the digits? What about the Zero ? What about the empty set? Isn’t it necessary to understand the empty set to then get the concept of other digits: 1, 2, 3, 4… 9?
Rev. Chan Zhi Shakya wrote me once, “People think that empty means 'nothing' but it means everything in a spiritual context. To be empty doesn't mean to have nothing, it means to be devoid if the identification with ego. So when we empty ourselves, we fill up with the universe ... with everything. We recognize that we are like a hologram in which every point in the universe contains every other point in it - a transcendental experience difficult to convey in words...” Then I understood what he really meant.
So it came to my mind... isn’t that what I was doing all my life with those school children? To make them realize what the empty set is?
I knew in that moment the meaning of Empty Cloud. I knew that we have to be empty to really understand what full is. Empty of hate, empty of love, empty of evil and empty of goodness, empty of attachment and empty of detachment, empty, empty, empty. And then we can be in perfect control and can decide what our life will be. How, when, where… with what are we are going to fill it?… We will be able to understand the law of causality and to do what is correct for us. There won't be any more wrong consequences; we will live in Nirvana.
As we can see and understand, the importance of the general number idea cannot be overemphasized. We need to know math to function in the world, but to function in reality, to be in peace, to understand the relationship of man with the universe and of man with other human beings, it is totally necessary to know Zen. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Zen. In Hsu Yun's words, “The importance of Zen cannot be overemphasized!”