The concept of space in Buddhism

The concept of Space as discussed by Dainin Katagiri (in You have to say something – Manifesting Zen Insight), is very interesting.


Everything (and everyone) occupies a certain space (lower case space) that is part of a larger single SPACE (upper case space). In order for the larger SPACE to be ‘complete’, each smaller item needs to be in its correct space. For e.g.  – if you have one shoe in a shoe-rack and the other one lying on the floor, then the pair of shoes is not in it’s correct space. To get it there, one must pick up the floor shoe and place it in the shoe rack. This applies to everything – not just shoes on the floor. Dainin gives the example of a coffee mug that is placed on a high-shelf. It’s correct space is the lower shelf, from where, it has a lesser chance of breaking. Hence, mindfully picking it off the higher shelf and placing it on the lower shelf, is an example of completing the larger SPACE.

Everything belongs in its own ‘space’ – when it isn’t in it’s natural resting space, there are incongruences – which can lead to accidents (e.g. someone tripping over the shoe, or the coffee mug breaking).

Now, take this shoe-in-the-wrong place (or coffee mug on the wrong shelf) analogy and extend it to people. Each person is also trying to occupy their correct ‘space’ in life. The world, at large, is the larger containing SPACE.

While this smaller space is unique for each individual, we all get to our rightful space through the same road/path. Mindfulness is that road, the only road, that can lead one to their rightful space.


Dainin Katagiri is just full of zen insights. He tackles topics that I have yet to find in other books on Buddhism and mindfulness. This particular concept of ‘space’ is one such example.

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