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Automatic emptiness - a Mahamudra / Dzogchen concept

In my first and so far only meditation retreat I learned the term "automatic emptiness".

As an ex-IT specialist, I immediately liked the idea that something in meditation could be automated. After all, all my working life I had worked on some sort of process automation. Ok, let´s automate meditation!

(Sorry for the graphic. I had no better idea how to represent "automatic" "emptiness". So I overlaid an automatic gearshift on the idea of black emptiness. Please note that Buddhist emptiness does not mean "black nothing"!).

So, in meditation, what does automatic emptiness mean? Which process is automatic, and what (apparently) is automatically transformed into emptiness?

The two terms mean this:

  • Emptiness: in Mahamudra, this term does not denote nothingness or absence of something. It means that something is "empty of self-nature". This signifies, that whatever appears in consciousness is a fabrication, a construct by the mind itself. It has no independent existence as a self-standing object of perception, whether outer or inner.

  • Automatic: this term refers to the meditation activity. As soon as a mental event (a thought, an emotion, a sensation) arises and is seen by the "watcher", it it recognized as a fabrication, a construct - as empty. For the experienced meditator, this is no longer an effort - hence it has become automatic, or self-driven.

Automatic emptiness therefore means that without any effort, the trained meditator any moment recognises all mental events as insubstantial, as empty.

And that is a good thing, because it is liberating: in simple terms, one doesn´t have to take everything so serious any more.

This term is related to a few other concepts:

  • Sealing: In Tibetan Mahamudra, this term denotes the idea that as soon as a mental event occurs, it is "sealed" with the seal of consciousness, with the knowledge that it is empty. Sealing is a practice where one tries to recognise any mental event as close to its source as possible.

  • Self-liberation: the idea that a thought as soon as it becomes object of awareness "dissolves" (in concentration meditation), or that the thought is seen as "irrelevant" (in insight meditation), as it is just another manifestation of mind. Both types of self-liberation of thought are good for equanimity.


Gebel, T. (2022i, August 11). Sealing and nailing in Mahamudra - and emotional triggers in Western psychology. Till Gebel.

Gebel, T. (2022k, August 29). Sam Harris’ Daily Meditations: Self arising / Self liberation. Till Gebel.

Gebel, T. (2021h, September 5). Pattern recognition in reverse: Emptiness through drawing, meditation, psychedelics. Till Gebel.

A thought on...

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