Emptiness

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Emptiness

Postby Myotai » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:52 am

I was speaking to a Tibetan Buddhist friend last night - his presentation of Emptiness was so clear it reminded me of my time fraternising with the Gelug school and how Shantideva, Chandrakiti and Nargajunas explanations of Emptiness were a huge revelation to my mind to the fact that I have an utterly delusional view of reality.

The logic that is used in the Tibetan Schools dosn't seem to be of much interest in the theravada, why is that?

Also, I see how analytical meditation in the Tibetan tradition can lead to an experience/understanding of Shunyata - its very mthodical and process driven; but how can practices like Vipassana in the Theravada, nore so Jhana lead to similar experiences?

I am of course relatively new to the Theravada but am presuming that there is no difference in Theravadain Emptiness and Tibetan Emptiness...

Thanks :namaste:
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Re: Emptiness

Postby fivebells » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:32 pm

There actually are significant differences. If you want to get into the details, Thanissaro's IMC workshop on the matter gives a good (possibly biased) overview.

http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/16/ (Search for the big block of "Emptiness" talks.)
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Myotai » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:43 pm

fivebells wrote:There actually are significant differences. If you want to get into the details, Thanissaro's IMC workshop on the matter gives a good (possibly biased) overview.

http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/16/ (Search for the big block of "Emptiness" talks.)



Thanks...
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Re: Emptiness

Postby reflection » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:03 pm

Hi,

I know little about the Tibetan view of emptiness, but the little that I came across sounded pretty compatible with how I think most Theravadans look at it. So at least in my eyes the two may well be the same. For example, this is I think the most prominent way the concept of emptiness is used in Theravadan texts:
85. Empty Is the World

Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One … and said to him: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘Empty is the world, empty is the world.’ In what way, venerable sir, is it said, ‘Empty is the world’?”

“It is, Ananda, because it is empty of self and of what belongs to self that it is said, ‘Empty is the world.’ And what is empty of self and of what belongs to self? The eye, Ananda, is empty of self and of what belongs to self. Forms are empty of self and of what belongs to self. Eye-consciousness is empty of self and of what belongs to self. Eye-contact is empty of self and of what belongs to self…. Whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition—whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant—that too is empty of self and of what belongs to self.

“It is, Ananda, because it is empty of self and of what belongs to self that it is said, ‘Empty is the world.’”
http://suttacentral.net/sn35.85/en/


Compare this with a quote of the Dalai Lama:
According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded in the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is simply untenable.
All things and events, whether ‘material’, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence [...] [T]hings and events are 'empty' in that they can never possess any immutable essence, intrinsic reality or absolute ‘being’ that affords independence.


Also in Theravada Buddhism there are many ways to practice meditation and contemplation is certainly one of them. Jhana and insight are results of the practice, not the practice itself. These are very much connected with the concept of emptiness I would say, but perhaps you can give me more of an idea of what you would like to know before I elaborate on it.

Then again don't forget that one tradition doesn't share one view. Both in Tibetan Buddhism and Theravadan Buddhism views will differ from person to person.

:anjali:
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Samma » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:12 am

Often abstract and difficult topic, so I'll let some experts speak here.

Start with Analayo's encyclopedia entry:
http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... unnata.pdf

For some context of the Tibetan view an article from the Dali lama:
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?o ... ew&id=1672
A major point of divergence I know of is the two truths mentioned above.
We do not find the idea of Two Truths in the Pāli suttas, nor, so far as I am aware, in the early Buddhist texts preserved in other languages. So we cannot cite any Pāli sutta in defence of this idea. And this is, unsurprisingly, my first point. The idea is a later development. If the early Buddhists did not feel the need for such a theory why did later Buddhists invent it? (This is a question worth asking for many other ideas as well!).
http://jayarava.blogspot.com/2011/08/no ... ruths.html
See also: http://jayarava.blogspot.com/2013/02/em ... nners.html


The way Mahayana talk of emptiness often seems too much abstract metaphysics...
the phrase "Buddhist wisdom" conjures up teachings more abstract and paradoxical, flying in the face of common sense — emptiness being a prime example. Emptiness, we're told, means that nothing has any inherent existence. In other words, on an ultimate level, things aren't what we conventionally think of as "things." They're processes that are in no way separate from all the other processes on which they depend. This is a philosophically sophisticated idea that's fascinating to ponder, but it doesn't provide much obvious help in getting you up early on a cold morning to meditate nor in convincing you to give up a destructive addiction.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html
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Re: Emptiness

Postby santa100 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:46 am

The Two Truths (or Twofold Teaching to be accurate) actually already existed in the Majjhima Commentary(Majjhima Atthakatha or MA). Ven. Bodhi's footnote to MN 5 reads:
MA, picking up on the venerable Sāriputta’s use of the word “person” (puggala), explains that the Buddha has a twofold teaching—a conventional teaching (sammutidesanā ) expressed in terms of persons, beings, women, and men, etc.; and an ultimate teaching (paramatthadesanā) expressed solely in terms that possess ultimate ontological validity, such as aggregates, elements, sense bases, impermanent, suffering, not self, etc. The Buddha expounds his teaching through whichever approach is best suited to enable the hearer to penetrate the meaning, dispel delusion, and achieve distinction. The use of the word “person,” therefore, does not imply a misconception of the person as a self.
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Re: Emptiness

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:11 am

santa100 wrote:The Two Truths (or Twofold Teaching to be accurate) actually already existed in the Majjhima Commentary(Majjhima Atthakatha or MA). Ven. Bodhi's footnote to MN 5 reads:
MA, picking up on the venerable Sāriputta’s use of the word “person” (puggala), explains that the Buddha has a twofold teaching—a conventional teaching (sammutidesanā ) expressed in terms of persons, beings, women, and men, etc.; and an ultimate teaching (paramatthadesanā) expressed solely in terms that possess ultimate ontological validity, such as aggregates, elements, sense bases, impermanent, suffering, not self, etc. The Buddha expounds his teaching through whichever approach is best suited to enable the hearer to penetrate the meaning, dispel delusion, and achieve distinction. The use of the word “person,” therefore, does not imply a misconception of the person as a self.

I think an example of this is Right View with residue and Right View without residue.
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Myotai » Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:50 am

[/quote]
The way Mahayana talk of emptiness often seems too much abstract metaphysics...
the phrase "Buddhist wisdom" conjures up teachings more abstract and paradoxical, flying in the face of common sense — emptiness being a prime example. Emptiness, we're told, means that nothing has any inherent existence. In other words, on an ultimate level, things aren't what we conventionally think of as "things." They're processes that are in no way separate from all the other processes on which they depend. This is a philosophically sophisticated idea that's fascinating to ponder, but it doesn't provide much obvious help in getting you up early on a cold morning to meditate nor in convincing you to give up a destructive addiction.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html


Thanks for the links....

But ...Whoa! Massively surprised at Thanissaro for saying this. Can't believe that! :jawdrop:

Some would say getting up on a cold morning to do what we do is not inspiring per se...each to their own eh?

I totally disagree with him. Getting up to do anything that goes some way towards grounding out an intellectual understanding of Emptiness is worthwhile.

Dare I suggest that this type of comment displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the Prasangika view. :guns:
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Re: Emptiness

Postby SamKR » Wed Nov 13, 2013 2:03 pm

Myotai wrote:
The logic that is used in the Tibetan Schools dosn't seem to be of much interest in the theravada, why is that?

Also, I see how analytical meditation in the Tibetan tradition can lead to an experience/understanding of Shunyata - its very mthodical and process driven; but how can practices like Vipassana in the Theravada, nore so Jhana lead to similar experiences?

I am of course relatively new to the Theravada but am presuming that there is no difference in Theravadain Emptiness and Tibetan Emptiness...


I find Mādhyamaka view of emptiness in line with the Buddha's teachings in Pali suttas. The Buddha's teachings about emptiness is directly related to dependent origination and can be found in many suttas. He has used the word "empty" in Pali Suttas like Phena Sutta, and this is how we can actually practice:
"Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a glob of foam? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in form?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Last edited by SamKR on Wed Nov 13, 2013 2:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Emptiness

Postby SamKR » Wed Nov 13, 2013 2:10 pm

Myotai wrote:Getting up to do anything that goes some way towards grounding out an intellectual understanding of Emptiness is worthwhile.

I agree.
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Myotai » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:00 pm

SamKR wrote:I find Mādhyamaka view of emptiness in line with the Buddha's teachings in Pali suttas. The Buddha's teachings about emptiness is directly related to dependent origination and can be found in many suttas. He has used the word "empty" in Pali Suttas like Phena Sutta, and this is how we can actually practice:
"Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a glob of foam? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in form?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Perfect...
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Samma » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:30 pm

Ok so some version of two truth is in MA, so roughly after abhidhamma but before Mahayana? Or borrowed idea from Mahayana. Dont know timeline, and it may be unclear anyway, or simply fuzzy how ideas first sprung up.

Don't really get your point Myotai, or rather not sure if you get his. Abstract words about how things are not things does not do much for me practically, thats all. But hey if someone finds some (non obvious) way it works for them, good I guess. Prasaṅgika seems to be tied up with Mahayana anyway, so not something he would especially care about.

In any case, all this emptiness stuff tends towards much obfuscation and proliferation, so I'll see myself out.
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Re: Emptiness

Postby reflection » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:14 pm

Myotai wrote:The way Mahayana talk of emptiness often seems too much abstract metaphysics...
the phrase "Buddhist wisdom" conjures up teachings more abstract and paradoxical, flying in the face of common sense — emptiness being a prime example. Emptiness, we're told, means that nothing has any inherent existence. In other words, on an ultimate level, things aren't what we conventionally think of as "things." They're processes that are in no way separate from all the other processes on which they depend. This is a philosophically sophisticated idea that's fascinating to ponder, but it doesn't provide much obvious help in getting you up early on a cold morning to meditate nor in convincing you to give up a destructive addiction.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html


Thanks for the links....

But ...Whoa! Massively surprised at Thanissaro for saying this. Can't believe that! :jawdrop:

Some would say getting up on a cold morning to do what we do is not inspiring per se...each to their own eh?

I totally disagree with him. Getting up to do anything that goes some way towards grounding out an intellectual understanding of Emptiness is worthwhile.

Dare I suggest that this type of comment displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the Prasangika view. :guns:


Well, in my eyes Venerable Thanissaro is hardly to be seen as representative of the most common ways of thought in Theravada Buddhism. Things most see the Buddha meaning as statements about reality, he sees only as practice instructions - I'm talking about the teaching of non-self here. Since emptiness and non-self in my understanding are virtually the same thing, it should not be surprising he is of the opinion that emptiness is also only a practical advise. (If he is because right now I don't have the time/wish to read the full quoted article. Just wanted to say this in case you didn't know.)

Then again I always say see one teacher as one teacher and not as a representative of any group or any other person except their own view. Personally I gave up on the quest to understand what "Theravada" and "Mahayana" teach long ago and instead tried to find out what the Buddha himself taught.

That aside, just googling a bit I found this.
Ajahn Chah listened to one of his disciples recite the Heart Sutra. When he had finished, Ajahn Chah said, "No emptiness either… no bodhisatta." He then asked, "Where did the sutra come from?" "It’s reputed to have been spoken by the Buddha," the follower replied. "No Buddha," retorted Ajahn Chah. Then he said, "This is talking about deep wisdom beyond all conventions. How could we teach without them? We have to have names for things, isn’t that so?"


(Sorry for the bad sentences, I'm a bit tired)
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