Turban Askew: Full or Empty

By Steve Bhaerman

The Swami runs on. Dear Swami:

    I'm a bit confused. For millennia, the Buddhists have been telling us that the key to enlightenment is achieving emptiness. But physicists now say that empty space isn't empty at all, but instead filled with enormous amounts of energy. So Swami, what is it – fullness or emptiness? And – whatever it is – how does one go about achieving it?

Lou Minocitti,
Grass Valley, CA

Dear Lou,

Let me first say you came to the right Swami with this question. Not to brag, but many times I have been told, "Swami, you are so full of emptiness!" You can only imagine how tempting it is to take on an emptier-than-thou attitude – you know, like those vacuums putting on airs about how vacuous they are. Talk about having nothing to talk about. No wonder nature abhors a vacuum. This also might explain those "Vacuums suck!" bumper stickers I've been seeing lately.

But I digress. As you have suspected, true emptiness is nothing more or less than infinite fullness. The void is so full of everythingness you cannot distinguish anythingness so it might as well be nothingness. The scientist, looking for something, sees fullness. The Buddha, looking for nothing, sees emptiness. Same difference.

But whether you call it the All-That-Is or the All-That-Isn't, this is a very peaceful state because once you are one with everything, there's nowhere to go and nothing to do. Now, that's relaxing. So, how does one achieve this state of full emptiness? By ceasing to identify with the separate identity, or ego.

In this regard, too, you've come to the right Swami. As one who takes great pride in my humility – twice a finalist on America's Most Humble – I will share my secret, a mantra guaranteed to banish the ego in three easy steps: Ego … egoing … egone.

Dear Swami:

I have a friend from college who used to be one of the deepest people I knew. He was into philosophy and the arts, and was knowledgeable about everything. Heck, he was the one who first turned me on to Chopra. But right after school, he took a really high-pressure corporate job – and he's a different person. Maybe it's the extreme stress he seems to be under, but now he can barely carry on a conversation. He comes home from work, and sits in front of the TV eating Pop Tarts and drinking bad beer. Last time I visited, I caught him watching re-runs – from the Weather Channel. What's going on, Swami? Is it the pressure? How did someone with such great promise become so shallow?

Chuck Itall,
Columbia, M/issouri

Dear Chuck:

Coincidentally, I was just reading a book about a similar case written by a member of the British upper class named Hugh Mayfair-Badleigh. He started out as a scholar of Ayurvedic medicine, gave that up for rap music, and then finally hit bottom in beer-soaked haze. He wrote a book about his recovery called "From Deepak to Tupac to Six-Pack – and Back," and his message might offer an encouraging note for your friend. For him, it was the pressure of too much doing, and not enough being. After a while he got tired of being a doer, and decided to do a beer instead. One thing led to another, and before long he just went off the shallow end. But his story has a happy ending. He tuned out the static in his head, and attuned in to the ecstatic in his heart, and ended up finding a deep center that is even deeper than Deepak. u

Visit the Swami online at www.wakeuplaughing.com.

This article was originally published on June 28, 2007.