Author Topic: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form  (Read 4877 times)

Offline katersy

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Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« on: February 13, 2010, 03:50:54 am »
I'm a bit confused about the word "emptiness." In conventional terms and in general usage, this word has a slightly negative connotation. When a non-Buddhist says that a concept, or a thing is "empty", they usually mean that it is devoid of meaning, pointless, not worth bothering with.

In Buddhism, though, I guess the word "emptiness" doesn't have these negative connotations. Am I right?

What does emptiness mean? What is it?

(I realise the irony in my attempt to find a concrete definition of something called emptiness  :teehee: )

Best wishes

Katy
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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2010, 04:17:29 am »
There is 'emptiness' which defines a view of phenomena without the delusions our deluded  'self' ascribes to them.
There is 'emptiness' of phenomena as they are viewd as being dependent on the causes and coditions which give rise to them.
There is the 'emptiness' of a permanent self, due to impermanence.

here is a Tibetan view from Wiki:

''The Buddhist term emptiness (Skt. shunyata) refers specifically to emptiness of inherent existence and not to nihilism (because it maintains the Buddhas purpose),[19] nor to meditating on nothingness.

In Buddhism, the realization of emptiness of inherent existence is a "state of pure consciousness” in which the practitioner realizes all particular objects and images to be appearances of the subjective mind. Buddhism, which posits that the ultimate state is a Nirvāṇa of peaceful emptiness has one of the most developed philosophical descriptions of emptiness. In an interview, the Dalai Lama stated that Tantric meditiation can be used for "heightening your own realization of emptiness or mind of enlightenment".[20] In Buddhist philosophy, attaining a realization of emptiness of inherent existence is seen as the permanent cessation of suffering, i.e. liberation.
“    Even while an ordinary being, if upon hearing of emptiness great joy arises within again and again, the eyes moisten with tears of great joy, and the hairs of the body stand on end, such a person has the seed of the mind of a complete Buddha; He is a vessel for teachings on thatness, and ultimate truth should be taught to him. After that, good qualities will grow in him.    â€

—Chandrakirti, Guide to the Middle Way, vv. 6:4-5, translation in Ocean of Nectar, pp. 151, 153

The Dalai Lama argues that a Tantric yoga trainee needs to realize emptiness of inherent existence before they can go on to the "highest Yoga Tantra initiation"; when realizing the innate emptiness of inherent existence of the mind, this is the "fundamental innate mind of clear light, which is the subtlest level of the mind", where all the "energy and mental processes are withdrawn or dissolved", so that all that appears to the mind is "pure emptiness". As well, emptiness is "linked to the creative Void, meaning that it is a state of complete receptivity and perfect enlightenment", the merging of the "ego with its own essence", which Buddhists call the "Clear Light".[21]

In Ven. Thubten Chodron’s 2005 interview with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Lama noted that we "...ordinary beings who haven’t realized emptiness don’t see things as similar to illusions", and we do not "realize that things are merely labeled by mind and exist by mere name".[19] He argues that "when we meditate on emptiness, we drop an atom bomb on this [sense of a] truly existent I" and we realize that "what appears true... isn’t true". By this, the Lama is claiming that what we think is real-our thoughts and feelings about people and things-"exists by being merely labeled". He argues that a meditator who attains a state of emptiness is able to realize that their thoughts are merely illusions that are labelled by the mind.[19]''

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2010, 11:17:37 am »
Yeah, I think the word "emptiness" is problematic. In English it connotes something different than is intended in Buddhist teachings, but we use this word because better translations are not readily available. I suggest training yourself to use the Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Chinese word used in the teachings of your tradition, so as to avoid this confusion.

Offline Darroth

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2010, 02:50:17 pm »
Since "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form" is from a Mahayana Sutra my answer will be from there

Emptiness means emptiness of inherent existence.

5. "“Whatever depends on conditions
Is devoid of a self-establishing nature.”
What could be a more amazing, excellent
Manner of instructing than this statement?"
In Praise of Dependent Arising
by Lord Tsongkhapa
Drikung Kagyupa

Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2010, 03:43:42 pm »
katersy,

I agree with Mondy Mind in that the word "emptiness" itself is the problem.  Like "suffering" for dukkha.  Neither convey the true meanings of the concepts.  However, if you're talking to fellow Buddhists, the word will do.  If you're talking to non-Buddhists, using the pali or sanskrit version won't help because you'll just have to explain that one, too.

What the concept means is that nothing exists on its own ("inherent existence").  Take a table - the table exists, but not without the wood it's made from, which could not exist without the tree, which could not exist without the rain and the sun, etc.  Thus it is said that the table is "empty of inherent existence".

For ourselves, it means that we cannot exist without our parents, without our experiences, without the things that make us "us."  It also means that who we are depends on the perception of others - we are parents, partners, employees, children, friends - different things to different people.  And we behave differently with each of them, so which is our true self?

In the conventional sense, people appear to have issues with "empty", hence their tendency to try to fill it up.  I think the notion is to equate "empty" with "not having".  Buddha teaches us that we already have everything we need.

Does this help?

Donna
« Last Edit: February 13, 2010, 04:36:43 pm by pickledpitbull »
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Offline Caz

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2010, 04:00:43 pm »
I'm a bit confused about the word "emptiness." In conventional terms and in general usage, this word has a slightly negative connotation. When a non-Buddhist says that a concept, or a thing is "empty", they usually mean that it is devoid of meaning, pointless, not worth bothering with.

In Buddhism, though, I guess the word "emptiness" doesn't have these negative connotations. Am I right?

What does emptiness mean? What is it?

(I realise the irony in my attempt to find a concrete definition of something called emptiness  :teehee: )

Best wishes

Katy

All things are appearences to mind possessing no self existance, like the objects in dreams they exist in a conventional way such as being perceived and so forth but the ultimate nature of all phenomena is emptiness, possessing no self existance but rather being dependant upon causes and conditions to arise.

The best way to envision it is to break all objects of phenomena down to strip them down of their parts past the atoms and so on untill they no longer appear when this is meditated upon the perceived objects are seen to possess no self, and are also known as empty of self.  :pray:
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Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2010, 04:18:00 pm »
Hi, Katy.  You picked a Buddhist term that causes reams of discussions on every Buddhist website I have ever visited.

Here are three simple approaches to understanding which hopefully will compliment what has already been offered:

Mathematical Approach from set theory:  

Common language:  In all the universe there is no self to be found.
Set Theory explanation:  Given The Universal Set, Set A, which is the set which contains the self, is the empty set.  (nothing there to be found).

For example, if you were looking for a woman with a yellow hat in the temple, and you went inside the temple and found no woman with a yellow hat, then the temple is empty of women wearing yellow hats.  No such woman with a yellow hat to be found.

Logical Approach:  Buddha used the logical approach in the sutta about a chariot in which he was riding with a king. The king asked Buddha where the self (or soul) was to be found.  The Buddha used the example of the chariot in which they were riding by naming all the parts of the chariot asking the king if the part named was the essence of the chariot.  The king answered no to each part named in this manner:  "Is the seat the chariot?", Buddah asked.  "No!" replied the king.  "Is the seat then also not the chariot?"  "Yes" said the king.  "Is the wheel the chariot?"  "No", answered the king....and so on.

We call this approach "not self".  For example:  Is your brain your self?  Is your spleen your self?  Is your heart your self?  Are your fingers your self?....etc.

So by inquiring using both methods we find that there is in fact no essence, which we can call self.  Are things are  "not self".  All places contain "no self".  These places are "empty" of self.

For example, Katy:  "Is your hair  self or not self?"  Your reply:  

When you look inside your body, or look into your mind do you see your soul, or the essence of your self?  Your reply:  


Hope this helps.

Here is what Buddha wrote regarding Self and Not Self and Annata:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/various/wheel202.html
« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 02:48:07 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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Offline swampflower

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2010, 04:23:39 pm »
I have heard the term "openness" used for Sunyata as an alternative to emptiness. 
Emptiness is a term used to describe the reality of dependent origination.
Nothing, no phenomena whether physical or energy, exist in and of itself.  So all things are "empty" of inherent existence.  This has to do with the impermanence of existence.  Everything is in a constant state of change.  Everything is dependent on other things.  Emptiness or Sunyata can be seen as the open nature of existence to change and transform.
It may be seen as an infinite web of crystals, each crystal reflecting every other crystal in existence.  A very beautiful thing to imagine.  This illustrates the interdependence of all things.
There is no nothingness in Sunyata, yet no thing has inherent and permanent existence.
Om Tare Tutare Svaha

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  The mind is everything.  What we think we become." Buddha Sakyamuni

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2010, 09:08:56 am »
From Bhikkhu Samahita in this regard:

Quote
Buddha-Direct 1911: The 3 Ultimate Facts!‏

Friends:

The Three Universal Characteristics Are Absolute:

All form is unstable, falling apart, transient and inevitably vanishing!
Therefore is all form fragile, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing!
Therefore is all form ownerless, neither what I am, nor mine or self!

All feeling is unsteady, disintegrating, temporary and just fading away!
Therefore is all feeling feeble, annoying, and really a painful suffering!
Therefore feeling cannot be kept.  Feeling is alien, not me, not mine, not self!

All perception is fickle, collapsing, transitory and quickly disappearing!
Therefore is all perception frail, bothersome, and never quite enough!
Therefore is all perception foreign, strange, not me, nor mine, nor self!

All construction is insecure, subsiding, ephemeral and always leaving!
Therefore is all construction brittle, irksome, and invariably inadequate!
Therefore is all construction impersonal and not me, nor mine, nor self!

All consciousness is momentary, fleeting, passing, evanescent, and lost!
Therefore is all consciousness insubstantial, tedious, and quite miserable!
Therefore is all consciousness egoless, alien and neither me, nor I, nor self!

Thus seeing, thus knowing, thus assured, and clearly comprehending, but
shattered, and disgusted, yet still calm, cool and collected, one gradually
stops taking up and accumulating these things, since only fools pick up pain!
One instead relinquishes! This, only and exactly this release by letting go,
is the liberating escape from all suffering, be it past, future or present!

                 The Blessed Buddha said:
Whether Perfect Ones appear in the world, or whether Perfect Ones do not
appear in the world, this still remains the same condition, an immutable fact,
and a fixed regular natural law: That all constructions are impermanent, that
all constructions are subject to suffering, and that everything is without a self.
                                                                        Anguttara Nikāya III 134
          Constructions are all impermanent:
          When he sees thus with understanding,
          And turns away from what is ill,
          Then that is the path to mental purity.
          Constructions are all suffering:
          When he sees thusly with understanding,
          And turns away from what is sick,
          Then this is the path to mental purity.
          All states are all without a same self:
          When he sees thus with understanding
          And turns away from what is illusory,
         This is verily the path to mental purity.
          Dhammapada 277-79
 

Regarding these 3 general characteristics or signs (Ti-lakkhana) see also:
http://What-Buddha-Said.net/drops/The_3_Universal_Characteristics.htm
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/DPPN/wtb/s_t/ti_lakkhana.htm
http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/V/Anything_Whatsoever.htm
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Offline Arya-Shraman

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2010, 11:57:21 am »
Emptiness is not a philosophical term . Its a Fundamental nature of existence. We would have liked the things being not empty .But it cant be helped :)

And its not a 'Buddhist' thing. Its a thing some person saw through direct observation long ago and taught others a way to observe it for themselves and the things were passed on (However ,pure or impure).

Good luck with your ventures . :)


Offline santamonicacj

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2010, 12:43:13 pm »
I have heard the term "openness" used for Sunyata as an alternative to emptiness.  
Emptiness is a term used to describe the reality of dependent origination.
I've not heard that but I've thought it myself. After analyzing something and you find that it is not defined or limited by having a permanent identity or essence what is left is the freedom to change. I've also thought dependent origination is perhaps better translated as 'paradox'--at least in some applications.
(IMHO).
« Last Edit: February 15, 2010, 12:46:14 pm by santamonicacj »
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Offline humanitas

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2010, 04:24:36 pm »
I have heard the term "openness" used for Sunyata as an alternative to emptiness. 
Emptiness is a term used to describe the reality of dependent origination.
I've not heard that but I've thought it myself. After analyzing something and you find that it is not defined or limited by having a permanent identity or essence what is left is the freedom to change. I've also thought dependent origination is perhaps better translated as 'paradox'--at least in some applications.
(IMHO).

Pema Chodron refers to emptiness as this spaciousness and openness. 
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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2010, 11:59:22 pm »
There is 'emptiness' which defines a view of phenomena without the delusions our deluded  'self' ascribes to them.
There is 'emptiness' of phenomena as they are viewd as being dependent on the causes and coditions which give rise to them.
There is the 'emptiness' of a permanent self, due to impermanence.

here is a Tibetan view from Wiki:

''The Buddhist term emptiness (Skt. shunyata) refers specifically to emptiness of inherent existence and not to nihilism (because it maintains the Buddhas purpose),[19] nor to meditating on nothingness.

In Buddhism, the realization of emptiness of inherent existence is a "state of pure consciousness” in which the practitioner realizes all particular objects and images to be appearances of the subjective mind. Buddhism, which posits that the ultimate state is a Nirvāṇa of peaceful emptiness has one of the most developed philosophical descriptions of emptiness. In an interview, the Dalai Lama stated that Tantric meditiation can be used for "heightening your own realization of emptiness or mind of enlightenment".[20] In Buddhist philosophy, attaining a realization of emptiness of inherent existence is seen as the permanent cessation of suffering, i.e. liberation.
“    Even while an ordinary being, if upon hearing of emptiness great joy arises within again and again, the eyes moisten with tears of great joy, and the hairs of the body stand on end, such a person has the seed of the mind of a complete Buddha; He is a vessel for teachings on thatness, and ultimate truth should be taught to him. After that, good qualities will grow in him.    â€

—Chandrakirti, Guide to the Middle Way, vv. 6:4-5, translation in Ocean of Nectar, pp. 151, 153

The Dalai Lama argues that a Tantric yoga trainee needs to realize emptiness of inherent existence before they can go on to the "highest Yoga Tantra initiation"; when realizing the innate emptiness of inherent existence of the mind, this is the "fundamental innate mind of clear light, which is the subtlest level of the mind", where all the "energy and mental processes are withdrawn or dissolved", so that all that appears to the mind is "pure emptiness". As well, emptiness is "linked to the creative Void, meaning that it is a state of complete receptivity and perfect enlightenment", the merging of the "ego with its own essence", which Buddhists call the "Clear Light".[21]

In Ven. Thubten Chodron’s 2005 interview with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Lama noted that we "...ordinary beings who haven’t realized emptiness don’t see things as similar to illusions", and we do not "realize that things are merely labeled by mind and exist by mere name".[19] He argues that "when we meditate on emptiness, we drop an atom bomb on this [sense of a] truly existent I" and we realize that "what appears true... isn’t true". By this, the Lama is claiming that what we think is real-our thoughts and feelings about people and things-"exists by being merely labeled". He argues that a meditator who attains a state of emptiness is able to realize that their thoughts are merely illusions that are labelled by the mind.[19]''


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Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2010, 03:10:23 am »
It also means that who we are depends on the perception of others - we are parents, partners, employees, children, friends - different things to different people.  And we behave differently with each of them, so which is our true self?

That's right.  Emptiness also points to anatta, ie there isn't some underlying person or personality but rather just a messy process based on the 5 aggregates.

CP

Offline santamonicacj

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Re: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2010, 10:14:07 am »
Pema Chodron refers to emptiness as this spaciousness and openness.  


Think she'd like using the term 'paradox' instead of interdependent origination?

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« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 10:22:08 am by santamonicacj »
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

 


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