Emptiness is often perceived as the central teaching of the Buddhism, however, its actual meaning is normally misunderstood by many. Nevertheless, if one is supposed to fully embrace Buddhism, then there is the requirement to be clear about the true meaning of emptiness, because the wrong comprehension of its meaning might be confusing and harmful. According to Robbins, emptiness mistakenly gasped is compared to the act of picking up of the poisonous snake using the wrong end (14). Further, emptiness is considered to be a central ideology in the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, though it has more than one meaning that an individual can derive from it.
It is important to note that emptiness does not refer to entirely nothingness, that is, it does to denote that nothing occur at all. Besides, this should be the nihilistic interpretation and not the use of common sense (Garfield, and Jan 20). Therefore, what emptiness mean is that things do not normally occur the manner in which the individuals perceive them to do. In this way, emptiness is referred to as the actual nature of events as well as things, however, in order to avoid the misunderstanding that emptiness is an independent true or rather the absolute reality. Therefore, emptiness is not just some sort of heaven or even a distinct realm different from this world as well as its afflictions.
Moreover, Chan asserts that every phenomena within their own existence are empty, not that every phenomena are actually empty (225). This distinction is deemed to be very vital in the understanding of emptiness and in the Buddhist life. In this case, the own existence refers to a totally different independent occurrence. Moreover, the distinction means that all the things people perceive does to occur alone, rather, all the things are deemed to be tentative expression of a person’s seamless, constant changing landscapes. Thus, every person or thing has no permanency, identity that is fixed, and all the things taken together, which is commonly referred to as inter-being.
In the teaching of Buddha, he used terms like voids, calmness, no rising and falling as well as extinction in order to clarify the profound meaning of sunyata, emptiness. Further, if an individual interprets the Buddha teachings superficially from the language and words he used in the teaching, a person can just gain the worldly and not the true intention of the teaching that is the deeper implications of the Buddha teachings. Besides, these teachings have supra-mundane context and not the worldly knowledge (Garfield, and Jan 25). For instance, emptiness and the state of nirvana where, it is common to all that there is no rising or falling, are understood by many people as the state of gloom and non-occurrence. But they fail to recognize that rather the contrary, emptiness is substantial as well as positive implication.
Additionally, the sutras frequently use the terms like great void in order to explain the importance of emptiness. Generally, people do comprehend the great void to be something which contain completely nothing. Nevertheless, from the Buddhist viewpoint, the nature of great void suggests that something that does not hinder the existence of other things, in which every other matter performs their own purposes (Robbins 17). Moreover, the great void cannot be disconnected from the substantial world. Therefore, the profound importance of emptiness as well as the nature of the emptiness in the Buddhist life shows the great void and its non-obstructive nature.
Emptiness does not just infer to the great void but instead, it is the basis of every phenomena that is in both the mind and form. It is therefore the actual nature of the every phenomena and it is the core principle of every occurrence (Chan 226). Besides, this also means that if the existence of the universe was neither empty nor impermanent, therefore, every resulting phenomena should not rise because of the co-existence of many reasons and in this way there will be neither rising nor falling. Therefore, the nature of emptiness is of positive importance.
The concept of emptiness is considered to be a vital ideology in the Mahayana Buddhism. The emptiness referred to here is not actually nonexistence of things but the emptiness of the soul. Thus, the ideology of emptiness can be compared to the principle of Anatta. However, when comparing the Buddhism and other religions, there are two distinctive characteristics unique to Buddhism from other religions (Garfield, and Jan 30). The vital one is the rejection of the occurrence of the soul. Further, Buddha establish the ideology of no soul tactics in the three ways of thinking. The three thinking are mainly based on the three characteristics refereed as Tilakkhana in the Buddhism. Besides, the three characteristics remain very significant in the realization of Nirvana, and the characteristics are found within the methods of insight. The all three ways are established in the three groups of Sutra which is established in Buddhism.
At the period of Buddha, the ideology of occurrence of soul had a deeper place in the heart of the individuals. Moreover, at a time when Buddha talked concerning the first discourse, out of the five listeners only one gained the initial stage of sainthood. This is because, all of them, being Brahmins, believed in the occurrence of the soul which Buddha detested. Besides, the belief in the existence of the soul is significant for the Brahmins. Further, the Brahmins believed that there are two types of the souls, which are the universal soul referred to as Brahna-atma as well as the individual soul, Jiva-atma (Van, William, et al., 52). According to the teachings of Buddha, there is no existence of soul as commonly believed by the Brahmanism, hence in order to make the five ascetics recognize that there is no existence of soul, the Buddha was forced to preach them another discourse which he called Anattalakkhana sutta.
The ideology of emptiness can also be applied to the principle of dependent origination. In this ideology, everything is conditioned as well as related to one another. In addition, they are deemed to be empty of independent occurrence. Hence, within the Heart Sutra, Bodhisattva states that form perception, consciousness, feeling as well as volition are within their own existence which is empty and void. Therefore, in the life of a Buddhist, everything is considered to be empty. Overall, it means that all the things in the world is empty of soul, therefore they believe that nothing occurs independently.
Emptiness is at the center of Buddhist philosophy. However, the term emptiness is often misunderstood especially when one approaches Buddhism for the first time (Kim 15). The notion of Buddhism is common to the traditions of Buddhism, and it usually stressed that the state of emptiness permits access to a broader reach to the teachings of Buddha. Nevertheless, it the term itself, emptiness means actual sense of meaning behind its usage among Buddhists. The term emptiness may mean the state of hopelessness or nothingness or rather the absence of anything. However, the question that then begs is emptiness of what. Because emptiness tend to be a difficult term to understand, it was taught because it gives in-depth insight into the reason why we suffer. Indeed, Buddhist believe the human suffer because of the things they desire and see. And can be owned by ego (Chan 227). The implication is that the term emptiness among Buddhist suggests that everything that human may desire to have is void and that they do not last. Therefore, people are encouraged to pursue only things that will last and have meaning in their lives. Also, the teachings of Buddhism talks to a great extent suffering and the reason why humans suffer. Mahayana perception of emptiness concentrated on realizing enlightenment for everyone and focused in bringing enlightenment to all the conscious humans.
In summary, the teachings of Buddha, on emptiness, places emphasis on the spiritual insight instead of scholarly philosophy. The term could be interpreted to instill happiness among the people as they pursue truth that is eternal. The tradition behind the teachings of emptiness is meant to preach gentleness as well as wisdom, and a sympathetic call for every human being. Moreover, the term denotes an evangelical zeal that aims to liberate humans and persuade them to be able to a pure and a spiritual life.
Van Gordon, William, et al. “There is only one mindfulness: Why science and Buddhism need to work together.” Mindfulness 6.1 (2015): 49-56.
Garfield, Jay L., and Jan Westerhoff, eds. Madhyamaka and Yogacara: Allies Or Rivals?. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.
Chan, Wing-Cheuk. “Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism.” (2017): 225-227.
Robbins, Robert. “Early Buddhism and Nagarjuna on the Subject of Emptiness.” Selected Papers in Asian Studies: Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies. Vol. 1. No. 20. 2016.
Kim, Halla. “Beyond Emptiness: A Critical Review.” Journal of World Philosophies 2.1 (2017).