Emptiness

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Emptiness

Postby greggorious » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:55 pm

How does the concept of emptiness in Theravada differ from the Mahayana concept?
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah
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Re: Emptiness

Postby seniya » Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:08 pm

You can read about the whole concept of emptiness in Pali literature here: http://vanaradari.blogspot.com/p/concept-of-emptiness-in-pali-literature.html
I'm sorry if my words are not understandable and it is in impolite expression, because my native language is not English....

Mettacitena

_/\_
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Re: Emptiness

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 17, 2013 2:44 pm

This series is one of the best things about emptiness i have heard. Its long and you really need to listen to the whole thing since it builds to a conclusion.
http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... io-732-511
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Aloka » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:00 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:This series is one of the best things about emptiness i have heard. Its long and you really need to listen to the whole thing since it builds to a conclusion.
http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... io-732-511



What does a talk about the Heart Sutra have to do with the concept of emptiness in Theravada ?

:?:
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Jason » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:36 pm

greggorious wrote:How does the concept of emptiness in Theravada differ from the Mahayana concept?


In my opinion, there's ultimately no real, fundamental difference; although I think there's a difference in emphasis and application.

As a doctrinal term, emptiness (adj. sunna, noun sunnata)in and of itself is used in a couple of different but related ways in Pali Canon. In one context, emptiness is used as a mode of perception, a way of looking at experience that's utilized in meditation (e.g., MN 121, MN 122). In another context, emptiness refers to the insubstantiality of the five clinging-aggregates and the six sense media (e.g., SN 22.95, SN 35.85). In this sense, it's synonymous with not-self, or as Richard Gombrich sums it up in What the Buddha Thought, the idea that, "Nothing in the world has an unchanging essence."

Mahayana teachings on emptiness build this view, and are most often expressed from the 'ultimate' point of view that things have no inherent existence. This idea, while philosophically complex and seemingly implicit in the teachings on dependent co-arising, may have actually developed over time as a distinct doctrine, however. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes, emptiness as it's used in the early teachings "is a mode of perception, a way of looking at experience" (Emptiness). Moreover, "... the idea of emptiness as lack of inherent existence has very little to do with what the Buddha himself said about emptiness. His teachings on emptiness — as reported in the earliest Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon — deal directly with actions and their results, with issues of pleasure and pain" (The Integrity of Emptiness).

The evolution of emptiness into the nonexistence of phenomena possibly began with Nagarjuna — a famous 1st-2nd century Buddhist teacher and philosopher — who I believe was attempting to deconstruct all of the prevalent metaphysical views of the time via logical analysis in an attempt to show how these views were ultimately illogical from the standpoint of emptiness, especially in regard to the Abhidhammika's idea that things exist by way of intrinsic characteristics. The own-nature (sabhava) of dhammas (what's often translated as 'phenomena,' but I think better understood as 'an existing cognizable experience or event'), which is a concept that was introduced in the later substrata of Abhidhammic and commentarial literature, was answered (skillfully might I add) by Nagarjuna with the lack of own-nature or emptiness (nihsvabhava) of dhammas. However, this was mainly directed at the Sarvastivadins, who held a more realist position. For example, in his Introduction to Buddhism, Peter Harvey explains:

    'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhammas as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhammas. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada.

Nevertheless, I think that Nagarjuna's logic of emptiness was a much needed counter to the growing body of speculative metaphysics dominating Buddhist thought at the time, and, like the Buddha's teachings on emptiness, was directed towards the removal of clinging. In fact, I believe that clinging to views was what Nagarjuna considered to be the biggest obstacle on the path to awakening, and I think this idea is supported by the verse: "When there is clinging perception, the perceiver generates being. When there is no clinging perception, he will be freed and there will be no being." (MMK 26:7). In other words, he was using logic simply as a tool in order to help people realize emptiness, and consequentially, awakening. Essentially, my view is similar to that of David Loy in Derrida and Negative Theology, who sums it up nicely by saying:

    The MMK offers a systematic analysis of all the important philosophical issues of its time, not to solve these problems but to demonstrate that any possible philosophical solution is self-contradictory or otherwise unjustifiable. This is not done to prepare the ground for Nagarjuna's own solution: "If I were to advance any thesis whatsoever, that in itself would be a fault; but I advance no thesis and so cannot be faulted." [Vigrahavyavartani, verse 29].

Unfortunately, I think that at some point in time, Nagarjuna's logic of emptiness was taken a little bit too far and unintentionally reified by others into some kind of ultimate viewpoint. But to be fair, I don't think that Nagarjuna can be faulted for this. As Nagarjuna warns in MMK 13.8:

    The Victorious Ones have announced that emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. Those who are possessed of the view of emptiness are said to be incorrigible.

Nevertheless, I'm not an expert on the subject, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Emptiness

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:09 pm

Aloka wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:This series is one of the best things about emptiness i have heard. Its long and you really need to listen to the whole thing since it builds to a conclusion.
http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... io-732-511



What does a talk about the Heart Sutra have to do with the concept of emptiness in Theravada ?

:?:

I was just offering the heart sutra and the talk as a reference point for the mahayana view since the original post seemed to be about comparing the two. If it really bothers you, i will delete the post and the link. So whats the verdict, do you want me to delete it? :)
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Aloka » Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:13 pm

m0rl0ck wrote: I was just offering the heart sutra and the talk as a reference point for the mahayana view since the original post seemed to be about comparing the two. If it really bothers you, i will delete the post and the link. So whats the verdict, do you want me to delete it? :)

The OP #1 was:
greggorious wrote:How does the concept of emptiness in Theravada differ from the Mahayana concept?


...and as Greggorious already posts at Dharma Wheel and ZFI and this is a Theravada forum, I just assumed he was interested in the Theravada view.

:shrug:
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Re: Emptiness

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:47 pm

greggorious wrote:How does the concept of emptiness in Theravada differ from the Mahayana concept?


Hi Gregorious,

I think its more appropriate to speak of emptiness as an approach to teaching rather than as a "concept". If we look at it that way I think it becomes easier make a meaningful distinction between the Mahayana and Theravada. The Suttas tend to teach that if we parse our experience we can understand that it is not appropriate to apply the notion of self to any of the parts we discern because they are all Dependently Arisen. In the Mahayana as expounded by Nagarjuna an analysis of the terms used to point to experience exposes the limitations of those terms so that we can understand that no fixed entities correspond to them. Both teachings are meant to help us directly perceive Dependent Arising.

I hope this helps

Take care

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Emptiness

Postby convivium » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:50 pm

there's the sort of monadology of indra's web in chinese mahayana that gives another layer of meaning to mahayana emptiness (no real separateness between objects and states of affairs). then there's going beyond the doctrine of anicca in saying that object or state of affairs a-at-t1 can neither be numerically nor qualitativey (at a more refined level of analysis) identitical to object or state of affairs b-at-t2. this is how i understand it (but someone should correct me if i'm wrong or if theravada says the same thing which is quite possible). i've heard it explained as something to the effect of not only can you not step in the same river twice, but you can't step in it once. also the correlation between attamayata and related mahayana ideas is worth considering (ajahn amaro has a lot of interesting things to say about this in the island http://www.abhayagiri.org/books/the-island, p110-122).
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Emptiness

Postby pegembara » Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:00 am

Some suttas with connection to the subject of emptiness/sunnata

Mogharaja's Question
View the world, Mogharaja,
as empty —
always mindful
to have removed any view
about self.

This way one is above & beyond death.
This is how one views the world
so as not to be seen
by Death's king.

Dhamapada 13.170
The World : See it as a bubble, see it as a mirage: one who regards the world this way the King of Death doesn't see.

SN 22.95 Phena Sutta: Foam
Now suppose that in the last month of the hot season a mirage were shimmering, 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 mirage?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any perception 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 perception?

Kaccāyanagottasutta
"This world, Kaccāyana, for the most part, bases its views on two things: on existence and non-exis­tence. Now, Kac­cāyana, to one who with right wisdom sees the arising of the world as it is, the view of non-existence regarding the world does not occur. And to one who with right wisdom sees the cessation of the world as it really is, the view of existence regarding the world does not occur."
"`Everything exists', Kaccāyana, is one extreme. `Nothing ex­ists' is the other extreme. Not approaching either of those ex­tremes, Kac­cāyana, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma by the middle way:

Kalakarama Sutta
Whatever is seen, heard, sensed or clung to,
is esteemed as truth by other folk,
Midst those who are entrenched in their own views
being 'Such' I hold none as true or false.
This barb I beheld, well in advance,
whereon mankind is hooked, impaled,
'I know, I see `tis verily so'---- no such clinging
for the Tathàgatas.

Malunkyaputta Sutta
"What do you think, Malunkyaputta: the forms cognizable via the eye that are unseen by you — that you have never before seen, that you don't see, and that are not to be seen by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?"
"No, lord."[1]
"The sounds cognizable via the ear...
"The aromas cognizable via the nose...
"The flavors cognizable via the tongue...
"The tactile sensations cognizable via the body...
"The ideas cognizable via the intellect that are uncognized by you — that you have never before cognized, that you don't cognize, and that are not to be cognized by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?"
"No, lord."
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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