taoguy

What exactly is emptiness?

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As far as I'm aware of, the Buddhist definition of emptiness is not the same as the Taoist's definition, so let's keep it at the Buddhist's definition in this topic.

 

Sunyata seems to have multiple meanings and is pretty strange to me. For example:

 

  • Some claim it is emptiness of self - which means the principle of anatta,¬†where there is no present entity in either form, sensation, perception, karmic-formations or volition/consciousness.
  • Other masters claim it is in fact interdependence, such as Thich Nhat Hanh and the 17th Karmapa, where we are one interconnected web, so the 'sense of self' should be devoted to this huge web of a bigger Self.
  • Yet others claim that emptiness is the voidness of karmic hindrances.
  • Emptiness also seems to be a realm where false-thoughts/delusions no longer arise, such as in the higher Bodhisattva Bhumi stages where dreams no longer arise, for example.
  • Yet another one is the Jackson's Dzogchen view where no entity has ever risen nor passed away in rigpa and is ever-present.
  • Yet another master claims that emptiness is One Taste, where the entire stream of consciousness whether thoughts rise or do not rise is taken as the object of meditation itself.

 

How exactly are these views reconciled?

 

I do understand how they link in theory, but experientially... what exactly is the emptiness meant in the Prajnaparamita Sutras?

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I am no expert but I will take a swing at some of this. If I am wrong I am sure someone will come around and correct me. :)

 

I often see Sunyata explained in different ways just as you mentioned it but also think of it as changing as one progresses in depth.

 

First, is the dependent arising. A fire can't be a fire without the wood so therefore the fire is dependant upon the wood and is empty of self nature. If you look at all things they are all dependent upon something else, hence empty.

 

Think of that as the mental, thinking aspect of sunyata to help one get an understanding.

 

Next one starts to experience emptiness and this is first done with thoughts. One gets to the point where thoughts become flows of energy and one can reside in the empty nature of that energy, which is thoughts. That residing in the movement of thoughts is what is referred to as Rigpa.

 

That movement of energy isn't just thoughts, it is also everything, all things are energy/light. When one realizes that there form is that energy, that they are that energy, they have realized emptiness of self.

 

At this point one is still within the local mind, still can get caught up in obstructions but they are able to reside in Rigpa and in my experience able to share that realization of oneness that comes with emptiness of self. (That last part isn't a Buddhist belief).

 

As one continues to progress they move from emptiness of self to emptiness of Ultimate reality. They move beyond the local mind.

 

As mentioned earlier I said all things are light, one way I think of that is light is empty, there is no thing within the light.

 

So as one moves to Emptiness of Ultimate reality that is where one becomes a Buddha as one moves beyond consciousness/light which in many traditions is what all things are. It is more like one is the source in which all things/light arises from and returns to.

 

So where some traditions talk of emptiness as the void, silence Buddhism takes is a little farther to include all of reality.

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Glad you mentioned Prajnaparamita as that body of work in the Mahayana canon has a big focus on Emptiness (Sunyata).

 

I will answer from a Zen perspective and also borrow some writings from Shoryu Bradley of Gyobutsuji Zen Monastery.

 

(Before I start this is a philosophical, experimental, and even (something) else topic.  This is a topic you can't really touch with frameworks no matter how eloquent and tirelessly you write on it.)

 

Emptiness is meant to convey the truth as you stated of anatta (non-self).  In Mahayana this truth is taken deeper than simply that the five skandhas are not self (Theravada).

 

In Mahayana there is the view that all things are empty of an ontological essence and so are in a sense only conceptual.  Since they are only conceptual they are like a dream or an illusion.

 

Diamond sutra:

 

All conditioned phenomena

Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow,
Like dew or a flash of lightning;
Thus we shall perceive them

 

In the Tiantai school and the Huayan school they use the Prajnaparamita literature to understand deep aspects of dependent-origination.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_philosophy  Scroll down to the bottom :)

 

You are going to have to also start understanding Trikaya thought.

 

Thankfully some of the Tantric traditions like Dzogchen & Mahamudra have a well framed ways of approaching this as a central teaching.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trikaya  Scroll down till you get to those two.

 

In general this a topic that bleads into a lot of other topics.

 

The void aspect is translational but also has an experiential dimension. 

 

Imagine deep Jhana meditation were the body is let go of, the doer is let go of, the knower is let go of and one starts dismantling the mind.  They realize the mind is beyond the body and go into a full existent state of space, they then realize space is empty of existence and find it is only consciousness that perceives space and so space as a dimension of mind is let go and the more subtle consciousness is the new object of meditation that becomes full being.  Then consciousness is seen to be empty and "no thingness" is what one becomes.  Then there is found to be a more subtle state of "neither perception nor non perception".  Then this is found to still be subtle aggravation and not true peace and so "cessation of perception and feeling" happens.  Then you awaken to what is on the other side when all things are truly let go of.  This could be said to be the void or nirvana though I am not at a level to maybe talk about those realities.  This is the deathless.  The unconditioned. 

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Emptiness is non inherent existence which is not the same as saying nothing exists.

 

You can tie your mind up in knots on this and I suppose understanding and refinement comes with time, study, practice and reflection. 

 

http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/01/lack-of-inherent-existence/

http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/01/dependent-arising-conventional-truth/

 

 

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I've tried to define it but I keep finding that the part cannot contain the whole. My mind wants to make it fit into a nice little box but it just ain't happenin

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7 hours ago, taoguy said:

As far as I'm aware of, the Buddhist definition of emptiness is not the same as the Taoist's definition, so let's keep it at the Buddhist's definition in this topic.

 

Sunyata seems to have multiple meanings and is pretty strange to me. For example:

 

  • Some claim it is emptiness of self - which means the principle of anatta,¬†where there is no present entity in either form, sensation, perception, karmic-formations or volition/consciousness.
  • Other masters claim it is in fact interdependence, such as Thich Nhat Hanh and the 17th Karmapa, where we are one interconnected web, so the 'sense of self' should be devoted to this huge web of a bigger Self.

I recently heard a talk on emptiness by Thich Nhat Hanh. He began by saying, when we speak of emptiness we must first ask - empty of what? He then went on to discuss empty of self and framed it in a discussion of impermanence.

Interdependence, or inter-being as TNH likes to say, and emptiness of self are two different ways to say the same thing.

 

 

Quote
  • Yet others claim that emptiness is the voidness of karmic hindrances.

Not really a comprehensive view of emptiness for me. More like one characteristic of the view. 

 

 

Quote
  • Emptiness also seems to be a realm where false-thoughts/delusions no longer arise, such as in the higher Bodhisattva Bhumi stages where dreams no longer arise, for example.

Emptiness is not a realm, it is a characteristic of the base which gives rise to everything - thoughts, false-thoughts, delusions, non-delusion...

 

 

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  • Yet another one is the Jackson's Dzogchen view where no entity has ever risen nor passed away in rigpa and is ever-present.

Yes, no self-separate or inherent entity has ever risen nor passed away. 

That is a description of interdependence and absence of separation.

 

From a biological perspective there is no such thing as an organism.

There is only organism-environment, they are always inseparable.

 

When you look inside, and outside, you cannot find any self-contained entity. 

All is connected in some fashion.

It is all simply happening and the entire happening is your mind. 

 

 

 

Quote
  • Yet another master claims that emptiness is One Taste, where the entire stream of consciousness whether thoughts rise or do not rise is taken as the object of meditation itself.

One Taste occurs when the illusion of self has diminished to such a degree (eg. one approaches full realization of emptiness) that there is no judgement left.

Good and bad, preferred and despised... these things no longer have an effect on the yogin who has let go of the self to a sufficient degree. It is just as the universe (or the Dao) does not judge or choose. All is as it is, there is nothing out of place or lacking, from the perspective of the absolute. So nothing is preferred or lacking for the one who has truly realized emptiness.

 

 

Quote

 

How exactly are these views reconciled?

 

Quote

 

I do understand how they link in theory, but experientially... what exactly is the emptiness meant in the Prajnaparamita Sutras?

 

All we can talk about is theory and conceptualization of that which transcends concept.

If you want to approach the question with words, study Madhyamaka and continue to study the Prajnaparamita.

Madhyamaka is a structured method which uses the intellect to undermine itself.

I prefer approaching this topic through practice.

That's the only way to get to the experiential part.

 

The Prajnaparamita sutras point to absence of inherent 'self-ness' which implies inter-being.

They also seem to describe the fundamental base of being - space and awareness.

 

It is awareness which elicits form from the formless.

Without ears connected to a brain there is no sound, only vibration in air.

Without the organism, what would recognize an environment?

 

For me, emptiness is a hint, a meditation instruction.

It is telling me that I am not what I think I am.

It is speaking directly to the me that thinks it's a me.

The one investigating all of this is the opposite of emptiness, it is the self that isn't there.

It is inviting me to let go of my identification with and grasping of the thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

 

It is inviting me to let go into being. 

 

Emptiness is a view, it is the view that the one who think he is looking is also what is being seen.

The view is not a concept or a vision or an explanation. 

It is a letting go of the one trying to "get" the view.

 

It is the very process.

 

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PS - If you like to read, the Avatamsaka sutra is a brilliant and beautiful exposition of inter-Being and emptiness using the metaphor of Indra's net

 

 

800px-Indrasnet.jpg

 

 

Edited by steve
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You will experience emptiness as the winds of position/polarity/willfulness cease.

 

Imagine a large bowl of vortexes (I's) (ME's) spinning closely in it - all positioned, opinionated, reactive. some hot, some cold, some humid, some dry. You constantly flit about IN them and sometimes you rise above them or are dissasociated from them but they are there - it's pretty crowded.

 

and then they cease to exist - you have Awakened.

 

in essence this is Emptiness 

 

in essence this is also Stillness

 

the bowl is not crowded and you are no longer contained in the inertias / positions that so contained you, so entranced you - from which you held yourself.

Edited by Spotless
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Abiding in neither belief or dis-belief is emptiness

(not meant from a conceptual standpoint)

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Karma is the frequencies you reside in - the vortexes of position and the predisposition to frequencies from the gross physical body and other subtle bodies.

 

Stillness is the unsetting of these frequencies - non-held - ungrasped - dissolved setting - no self(identified personality).

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9 hours ago, Spotless said:

Karma is the frequencies you reside in - the vortexes of position and the predisposition to frequencies from the gross physical body and other subtle bodies.

 

Stillness is the unsetting of these frequencies - non-held - ungrasped - dissolved setting - no self(identified personality).

 

That's brilliant! I've actually been wondering about that. Is manifestation the contraction of 'energy' from an infinitesimal source? Thus karma being a 'lower frequency' than that of source, while stillness being a far higher frequency to the point where it seems like it is not moving?

 

For example, I notice things happen either as appearance or non-appearance, but these two polarities still lie within the function of mere witnessing. The function of illumination gives them the 'form' but yet the form itself is an apparition and empty of self.

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When you think you have seen something, its you have seen it second time.

First time seeing is your mouth is open and directly connected to eyes, you suck information from eyes directly to body down the neck. And you can't tell it what it is.

 

Mahayana is just words, you need put things together yourself.

Edited by allinone

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Also if someone talks about something, then calling him/her wrong will send you into hell. Its all right, true always. So basically calling someone is wrong doesn't actually send you hell, because it is also your true mind.

What's wrong is not understanding what is true.

--

you can talk about mahayana endlessly, infinitely. So if it is final then you don't know emptiness, saying its not final is also wrong, but it is right because of what just said. Otherwords its expressable in four lines and it makes it complete, but you can talk about it endlessly.

Edited by allinone

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9 hours ago, taoguy said:

 

That's brilliant! I've actually been wondering about that. Is manifestation the contraction of 'energy' from an infinitesimal source? Thus karma being a 'lower frequency' than that of source, while stillness being a far higher frequency to the point where it seems like it is not moving?

 

For example, I notice things happen either as appearance or non-appearance, but these two polarities still lie within the function of mere witnessing. The function of illumination gives them the 'form' but yet the form itself is an apparition and empty of self.

I would suggest not trying to package this too tightly - the concepts you put forward are excellent to look at but not really what I've tried to convey. Like in the movie Lucy - the idea of a car moving at a speed we see but if it were moving at a high enough rate we would not see it. Fun stuff, true but:

 

Imagine a very large banquet room full of talking and some not talking people - personalities all over the place - lots of warm bodies - many people of many different qualities. Some with loaded guns, some with pepper spray, some are racist, some love and hug, some have poodles and tiny elemental friends and some are chained to closely held beasts.

 

This is the bowl we call "me" - it is the comprises of "I".

When you set an alarm in this room at night "you" thinks "you" sets the alarm - you set it for 5:00am.

In the morning the "you" (the frequency - person in the room) that responds to the alarm is the "person" that happens in the Now 

It may be that you hit the snooze button, change the alarm, call in sick or get up and move about the day - but frequently it is not the same "you" or set of "you's" that set the alarm. (in fact it never is)

 

Suddenly Awakening takes place..........

 

The banquet hall is empty - Awareness - Presence - but the illusion of "person" "persons" and multiple inertias is gone.

Presence is both Stillness and Creativity - intensely alive stillness.

To abide in this may not be immediately apparent but the stillness is - the room is vacant of bodies except for a few hidden here and there or in some cases quite a few hidden and some not hidden - none the less the reduction is very large.

 

Lets assume nearly completely cleaned out:

 

In the hall remains some chairs and tables and partitions and rugs.

 

Over the next few years we come to see the remaining personalities - in general a well Awakened person is no longer identified with the personalities but may still appear to live in them and this is the way it is (go with me here) - but the rugs and the tables and partitions are assumed to be "dead" things - real, incontrovertible generally and not taken as part of the Presence. This is the DNA. Subtle "structural" patterns that still very much effect in a wholly automated way remaining proclivities, patterns and inclinations.  Great swaths of this may also have fallen away but much remains.

 

The rugs may cover over blind spots we have deeply buried within our skins - and the patterns on them may still hold vast symbolism of our heritage and birth rank - our family coat of arms. We walk right over them and sit in chairs that soooth us in ways entirely suited to this coat of arms unaware we are sitting - the fit is so perfect that no resistance is required to hold us - it is like a no-gravity chair.

 

We don't notice the partitions - they are where they have always been and where they "should be" for the "required" outlets and plumbing - not a thought is given to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Spotless
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I think it is useful to distinguish between the intellectual or philosophical presentation of emptiness which leads to correct understanding of the View and the actual realisation of emptiness.  The philosophical view depends on understanding that all phenomena are themselves dependent on causes and conditions and thus are not independent or autonomous - are made of parts of constituents (e.g. atoms etc.) and are time limited (ephemeral).  This view is consistent with and supports the realisation but is not the same.

 

The realisation of emptiness is ultimate bodhicitta - that is the awakened mind which in a relative sense leads to compassion.  As such it is beyond conceptualisation and words do not really describe or explain it.  Although it is called emptiness it is actually the basis for positive qualities such as generosity and so on.  So it is important not to fall into nihilism.

 

 

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you need to see limitedness of your own actions. So if it takes you many years to see that or you go through it in your own mind by mere reflections and see etc. There is no limits there, if you can't realize it by mere words then you need use other way.

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21 hours ago, Apech said:

I think it is useful to distinguish between the intellectual or philosophical presentation of emptiness which leads to correct understanding of the View and the actual realisation of emptiness.  The philosophical view depends on understanding that all phenomena are themselves dependent on causes and conditions and thus are not independent or autonomous - are made of parts of constituents (e.g. atoms etc.) and are time limited (ephemeral).  This view is consistent with and supports the realisation but is not the same.

 

The realisation of emptiness is ultimate bodhicitta - that is the awakened mind which in a relative sense leads to compassion.  As such it is beyond conceptualisation and words do not really describe or explain it.  Although it is called emptiness it is actually the basis for positive qualities such as generosity and so on.  So it is important not to fall into nihilism.

 

 

 

yes. Buddha level is wet enlightenment, wet bodhicitta. Will use that in cultivation afterwards its realized. Bodhisatva practice ~50 stages of them are using it but don't realized it yet.

Edited by allinone

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12 minutes ago, allinone said:

 

yes. Buddha level is wet enlightenment, wet bodhicitta. Will use that in cultivation afterwards its realized. Bodhisatva practice ~50 stages of them are using it but don't realized it yet.

 

 

Wet???  Sorry I don't understand.

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Yes, wet emptiness.  That is when your cup is full and you turn it up-side down the result is an empty cup and a wet floor.

 

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Just now, Apech said:

 

 

Wet???  Sorry I don't understand.

 

dry and wet stages. As i understand then wet stage is after dry stage, when the path has reached to hand. It is wet feelings, coming after you are tired, there rises certain type of feelings what have different base than just dry feelings.

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2 minutes ago, allinone said:

 

dry and wet stages. As i understand then wet stage is after dry stage, when the path has reached to hand. It is wet feelings, coming after you are tired, there rises certain type of feelings what have different base than just dry feelings.

 

Are you translating this from something?  I am not familiar with dry and wet stages.

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2 minutes ago, Apech said:

 

Are you translating this from something?  I am not familiar with dry and wet stages.

 

Surangama Sutra. There are stages put together, described. And instructions:rather explanations.

Edited by allinone
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Emptiness is this. You have a dream, you meet there something, eat something, have fun, sex or anything but when you woke up from that after night and realized that was only a dream without substances that's emptiness. This existence is too empty like a dream and you can realize the same way to wake up. I wish everybody could experience it. 

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