Alchemy is the transmutation of something base that has no value into something that has value. Buddha said Live is Suffering or Loss. So that is the base metal of which we have plenty. In our culture drugs are the Alchemy that turns the base metal of mental suffering into a mind that isn’t in pain; but it is only temporary. But we are not interested in a temporary fix, are we.
We have to get empty. And we get empty by letting go of all our temporary fixes, our substitute Philosopher’s Stones, which is that the Alchemist believed would work this magic of transmutation. Buddhism is a permanent fix. But I also see Jesus as an alchemist too. But then I see the legendary Philosophers Stone everywhere. A monk ask the Zen Master how he got enlightened (what’s your philosophers’s stone, as enlightenment is the Gold we are looking for) He said: “By watching my cat.” So even your Cat can be the mystical Philopher’s Stone.
If you are really seeking it, and you finally become empty of seeking, having tried everything and it doesn’t work, you come to the Great Emptiness, and in that dark night, the Philosopher’s Stone will appear. But it’s not a real stone. You could call the Stone the Holy Grail. There are many symbols of it.
When you are totally empty, you are totally full. When you real total emptiness so there is not even one thought of being full, one though of resisting being empty, when you get to that Virgin Mary, you will give birth to fullness. Total fullness and total emptiness are the same. If you are full and you have one thought of being empty, BAM! you are no longer full. But this is common experience. When you are happy, if you have one thought of this happiness going away, BAM, it goes.
We all think we are empty, but there is always some insurance, a little piece of left over fullness, the idea or hope of fullness, that keeps us from total emptiness. Zen says that just one thought can turn heaven into hell.
All the Indiana Jones movies are about this search for the famed Philosopher’s Stone.
You know, every time I give a talk I discover something new. I had not seen the meaning of Emptiness so clearly as I did tonight. It must be the Martini. One of the great mysteries of the Buddha Dharma is the meaning of Emptiness. Let me tell you, it’s always a discovery. You never come to the end of emptiness and say I’ve Got It! You can’t grasp emptiness. You can’t conceptualize emptiness. You can’t catch it. But you can chase it. And once in a while, if you are lucky, you fall into it. And when you are complete empty, you are completely happy, but happiness is not a good word because it implies conditions that make us happy. There are no conditions to emptiness because no conditions are there. It’s empty!
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot
When I see this moment and know it for the first time, that’s because I’m empty of the past. I bring nothing to this moment, nothing.
There was a Seinfeld skit about running on the tank of a car until it was empty. Kramer and the salesman kept pushing the envelope to see if. your could get one more inch out of the empty tank. Seinfeld skits are spiritual metaphors. You laugh while you are being enlightened. The Philosopher’s Stone is being able to read life as a metaphor that makes form transparent to the transcendent. What is the transcendent? Emptiness, total emptiness…and total fullness. The spiritual path is learning how to run on empty. Is there anything left in the tank? Is there anything you are clinging to?