Or: What the Hell Does ‘Emptiness is Form’ Mean?
Way, way back during the Trails of Cold Steel Drama CD, Rean gets a letter from Master Yun Ka-fai. That letter contains the following:
That’s nice, but what does it mean? Not even Rean gets it at first, though he later comes to the conclusion that it means he needs to stop running away from himself. As it turns out, the phrase “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” comes from the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist Scripture. The sutra itself is really, really obtuse to read and kinda makes no sense when you first look at it.
Basically, it’s about the true nature of reality, and the knowledge one must have to reach enlightenment. It says things like “All things are empty: Nothing is born, nothing dies” and “In emptiness there is no body, no feeling, no thought.” This sounds…kind of insane. We clearly have senses – so the world can’t be empty and without feeling or thought or form. Well, here’s the answer. You know what else emptiness can mean? Meaningless. Everything in existence eventually fades away. Time moves on, emotions fade, things crumble away. Everything changes, so there’s no point in becoming upset when it happens. Don’t get too attached to things, just keep moving forward. If you really wanted to, you could also say that reality is an illusion.
Here’s the thing, though: everything being meaningless sounds pretty depressing, right? Well, yeah, but emptiness – or in other words the void – is also limitless and open. Everything is united in this emptiness, and so everything is without limit. Everything eventually fading means that even the bad stuff will fade – even suffering. Time heals all wounds, etc.
There’s also a section1)http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/heartsutra.html that goes like this:
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness —
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.
Even our emotions, thoughts and consciousness are linked to the empty world around us. Thus, the way we perceive things shape the image of that world in our minds. This is how Rean reaches the conclusion that he needs to stop running from himself.
There’s a second letter Rean gets during Cold Steel 3, which can be read here. The important part of the letter is this:
So, as I discussed in the previous section, the Heart Sutra is about the true ephemeral nature of reality. There’s no point in getting overly attached to the things that prevent you from moving forward in life, because everything eventually fades away. This is where Cassius and Arios failed to understand the true nature of the world.
Cassius lost his wife, and as a result became attached to his remaining family, refusing to ever take up the sword again. Arios’ decision to duel Guy Bannings resulted in the latter’s death, and so Arios became attached to his feelings of guilt, even though it wasn’t his fault.
Rean carries a lot of guilt over many things- his powers, abandoning his friends, not saving Crow, the annexations of Crossbell and North Ambria and most likely will feel guilt over Millium’s sacrifice and unwittingly cursing Erebonia. He’s also very attached to the people around him. However, if he can manage to move past his guilt and not let his fear of loss keep him from being the best person he can be, he’ll succeed where his seniors failed. Not only that, but all of his flare-ups happened because someone he was close to was in danger. If he can learn not to flip the heck out over his attachments, his powers should be easier to control. I’m not saying that he should stop caring about people at all, though. This is covered by the next section I want to look at.
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.
Or in other words: Cleaving ignorance and lighting the way! Bodhisattvas are also known for leading others to enlightenment in the name of alleviating their suffering. They have limitless compassion for the people of the world. To be honest, this sounds like a thing Rean would do, so perhaps Ka-fai sees this potential in him. Also, not having fear – of loss, of the future – is exactly the kind of thing Class VII and Rean need to move forward and save the world.