342. The Magician

In Nagarjuna and other Mahayana writings there’s a strange metaphor: that of a magician conjuring up an imaginary person. That is often used as a way of talking about emptiness: experience is real but at the same time doesn’t have a separate underlying essence.

We can also look at this metaphor in a more personal way. I’m the magician—you’re the magician. From our beauty and pain we have created this phantom of self, this imaginary person. But tragically, we are invisible to ourselves, we have forgotten our true nature.

From this perspective we can understand the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is not someone who sees themselves, but someone who sees all other beings in their falsity and in their truth, the creator as well as the conjured person. Not from a position of pity or superiority but from a position of compassion and love.