The Three Doors of Liberation

Buddhism by the Numbers

The Three Doors of Liberation:

  1. Emptiness/shunyata
  2. Signlessness/animitta
  3. Aimlessness/apranihita

Emptiness or shunyata:

Emptiness always means empty of something. A cup is empty of water. A bowl is empty of soup. We are empty of a separate, independent self.

Emptiness does not mean nonexistence. It means interdependent co-arising, impermanence, and non-self. Emptiness is the middle way between existence and nonexistence.

Everyone we cherish will someday, get sick and die. If we do not practice the mediation on emptiness, when it happens, we will be overwhelmed.

Signlessness or animitta:

The second door of liberation is signlessness. “Sign” means an appearance or the object of our perception.

Signs are instruments for our use, but they are not absolute truth, and they can mislead us. Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion. Appearances can deceive.

If you see the signlessness of signs, you see the Tathagata. Tathagata means the wonderous nature of reality.

Everything manifests by means of signs.

Life span is the period of time between our birth and our death. We think we are alive for a specific period of time that has a beginning and an end. But when we look deeply, we see that we have never been born and we will never die. And our fear dissolves. With mindfulness, concentration, and the Three Dharma Seals, we can unlock the door of Liberation called signlessness and obtain the greatest relief.

Aimlessness or apranihita:

The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness. There is nothing to do, nothing to realize. The purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself.

Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.

According to the Heart Sutra there is “nothing to attain.”

Aimlessness and Nirvana are one.

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

              Waking up this morning, I smile

              Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.

              I vow to live freely in each moment

              and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.

              -Thich Nhat Hanh

These twenty-four hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only realize when we have opened the Third Door of Liberation.

The practice of aimlessness, is the practice of freedom.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Benn Bell