Empty Your Bowl: Chung Hyun Kyung on Introducing Emptiness to Westerners

Emptiness is a fundamental tenet of Buddhism. Many Westerners find it confusing. Perhaps they think, “How can I be empty when I’m so full of thoughts, of experience, emotions?” Maybe it seems like something negative.

Prof. Chung Hyun Kyung. Courtesy Old Dog Documentaries.

Prof. Chung Hyun Kyung. Courtesy Old Dog Documentaries.

Professor Chung Hyun Kyung, both Christian and Buddhist, relates the experience of emptiness to being available. She says,

“You have a bowl. If it is filled with everything, if I want to give you great ice cream or something, there is no place you can put this new thing. But if your bowl is empty, then you can receive everything.”

She also compares experiencing emptiness to using the delete button on your computer.

“Think emptiness in a positive way… Emptiness is as your delete button on your computer… You just delete and then there is a beautiful, clean screen and you can really create your life.”

To read Hyun Kyung’s full discussion of Buddhism, visit the original blog on Old Dog Documentaries’ site. ODD interviewed her for their documentary, Jesus & Buddha: Practicing Across Traditions.

Chung Hyun Kyung is Professor of Ecumenical Theology and Interfaith Engagement at Union Theological Seminary and a Buddhist Dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen. She trained with Seung Sahn Sunim and Thich Nhat Hanh. She is a peace activist and an author of many articles and books on eco-feminist theologies and peoples’ movements, all based on her extensive research in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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