Author Topic: What’s in a Word? Emptiness  (Read 3568 times)

Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #45 on: January 16, 2019, 02:23:37 am »
I don't believe it is correct to imply with the use of the word emptiness that all (Samsara) is without substance, i.e. without materiality, or that materiality is dependent upon the existence or observation of humans or other sentient beings.

I don't think sunyata denies materiality ( form ), rather it is saying that form arises in dependence upon conditions.  As the Heart Sutra says "Form is only emptiness..."

In some interpretations of sunyata one of the conditions is human perception/observation, but I don't think that's universal.
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Offline Anemephistus

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #46 on: January 16, 2019, 08:04:25 am »
Emptiness is a form of nihilism...which means that we disregard all images..and thoughts as relating to anything and put them into one kind of stew..called nothingness..

Which is all around everything..between the fabric of time and material..the eternal thought itself..is full..until it passes into nothingness..which is emptiness..

The notion of emptiness is within all the bounds and limits of existence...with physics we might conclude that string theory..as a posit..is a thing..but emptiness itself..cannot be scientifically discovered..because it doesn't exist..and does exist at the same time..we could never test nothingness...except with our virtue...with math..and intuition..

Considering Emptiness on the samsaric level (where I am) and its usefulness:
I think the term "emptiness" doesn’t refer to the physical aspect of an object but to our perception of it.
I’d suggest that "emptiness" is not emptiness in the sense of vacuity or being void of substance or lacking all characteristics, eg: the idea that a substantial object is not in fact of substance.
I don't believe it is correct to imply with the use of the word emptiness that all (Samsara) is without substance, i.e. without materiality, or that materiality is dependent upon the existence or observation of humans or other sentient beings.

 I suggest that the term "emptiness" is mostly relevant to our sentience and its interaction with its environment (inner and outer, self and other). Apart from recognising that all existence is movement and change without pause, and that all arising is dependent on cause and condition, to describe that as “emptiness” seems to confuse the matter and distract from the usefulness of the term. "Devoid of..." (some specific attribute) could be an alternative. As in:
- devoid of difference between perceiver and perceived,
- devoid of self-arising, (i.e. coming into existence independent of the realm into which an object becomes or forms),
- devoid of existence apart from causes and conditions,
- devoid of permanence,
- a state of quietude devoid of conceptual formation,
- etc...

Emptiness is therefore not nihilism but simply the term for the delusional aspects of our existence, i.e. the bits we take to be real but which are not.

Theo Stcherbatski wrote in his "Buddhist Logic. Vol 1":
"The aim of Buddhist logic is an investigation into the sources of our knowledge with a view to finding out, in the cognised world, its elements of ultimate reality and of separating them out from the elements of imagination, which in the process of cognition, have been added to them."

I have a feeling that the word has become over mystified and tries to establish emptiness as a metaphysical state or intrinsic property of existence but I would suggest that it is a word used in the attempt to point out our delusions and help encourage us to banish our clinging to ideas of permanence and stability.

To quote Seigen Ishin:
“Before studying Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters but after some practice it is realised that mountains are not mountains and waters are not waters. But now after achieving the abode of rest, the mountains are once again as mountains and the waters are again waters.”

The usefulness of the term lies in its implication that we are not as we think we are (independent selves), but are as we think (made up of our thoughts), and that our thoughts and perceptions are merely ephemeral approximations, produced through the interaction of the skandhas.

Possibly.

Well said.

Offline paracelsus

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #47 on: January 16, 2019, 09:11:14 pm »
I don't believe it is correct to imply with the use of the word emptiness that all (Samsara) is without substance, i.e. without materiality, or that materiality is dependent upon the existence or observation of humans or other sentient beings.

I don't think sunyata denies materiality ( form ), rather it is saying that form arises in dependence upon conditions.  As the Heart Sutra says "Form is only emptiness..."

In some interpretations of sunyata one of the conditions is human perception/observation, but I don't think that's universal.

Yes, I agree, but I think some people take emptiness to mean no materiality.

"Form is only emptiness" if "form" is taken to be a perception (of the shape of) a substantial object. Observation would then be required, but if form is thought of as an observable quality of an object eg: an apple being capable of reflecting light into the eye regardless of there being an observer present, then it wouldn't require an observer, and form would not be empty, so "form is only emptiness" must relate to the perception not to the object, if that makes sense.

Offline BlackLooter

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #48 on: January 18, 2019, 04:55:38 am »
So emptiness is formulaic because it wants a formulaic response..the Akashic..wants everything to be sacred...but things are precisely as they are..and that is the meaning of the teaching of emptiness..
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Offline paracelsus

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #49 on: January 18, 2019, 06:49:52 pm »
So emptiness is formulaic because it wants a formulaic response..the Akashic..wants everything to be sacred...but things are precisely as they are..and that is the meaning of the teaching of emptiness..

I'm not sure about the first part of your post but yes, "things are precisely as they are", being empty of all the conceptual overlays we apply to them. I think part of mindfulness is to constantly discern the difference, as in the Stcherbatsky quote in my earlier post.


Offline Chaz

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #50 on: January 19, 2019, 02:26:00 pm »
I don't believe it is correct to imply with the use of the word emptiness that all (Samsara) is without substance, i.e. without materiality, or that materiality is dependent upon the existence or observation of humans or other sentient beings.

I don't think sunyata denies materiality ( form ), rather it is saying that form arises in dependence upon conditions.  As the Heart Sutra says "Form is only emptiness..."

In some interpretations of sunyata one of the conditions is human perception/observation, but I don't think that's universal.

Yes, I agree, but I think some people take emptiness to mean no materiality.

"Form is only emptiness" if "form" is taken to be a perception (of the shape of) a substantial object. Observation would then be required, but if form is thought of as an observable quality of an object eg: an apple being capable of reflecting light into the eye regardless of there being an observer present, then it wouldn't require an observer, and form would not be empty, so "form is only emptiness" must relate to the perception not to the object, if that makes sense.

That's a tempting position to take, because it does make sense if one belies that even with emptiness there still must be something - to see an apple there must be something that reflects light into out eyes.

But under scrutiny, it doesn't hold up.  No analisys we can do will directly reveal a material object.  Everything we can know about the phenomena is based upon our sense faculties.  We cannot know, or find it directly.  Not being found, we can only infer it's existense - something is there because it must be. 

Additionally we have condisitions where something appears without the use of our sense faculties such as smell, touch, sight.  There are dreams.  They occur in an unconscious state, yet can be real enough to cause death.

As the Buddha taught, phenomena are preceeded, made and ruled by mind.

Offline BlackLooter

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #51 on: January 19, 2019, 09:37:27 pm »
So what is the connection between emptiness and lack?

Because if something is empty it lacks filling..or fulfillment...
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Offline paracelsus

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #52 on: January 20, 2019, 08:43:26 pm »
I don't believe it is correct to imply with the use of the word emptiness that all (Samsara) is without substance, i.e. without materiality, or that materiality is dependent upon the existence or observation of humans or other sentient beings.

I don't think sunyata denies materiality ( form ), rather it is saying that form arises in dependence upon conditions.  As the Heart Sutra says "Form is only emptiness..."

In some interpretations of sunyata one of the conditions is human perception/observation, but I don't think that's universal.

Yes, I agree, but I think some people take emptiness to mean no materiality.

"Form is only emptiness" if "form" is taken to be a perception (of the shape of) a substantial object. Observation would then be required, but if form is thought of as an observable quality of an object eg: an apple being capable of reflecting light into the eye regardless of there being an observer present, then it wouldn't require an observer, and form would not be empty, so "form is only emptiness" must relate to the perception not to the object, if that makes sense.

That's a tempting position to take, because it does make sense if one belies that even with emptiness there still must be something - to see an apple there must be something that reflects light into out eyes.

But under scrutiny, it doesn't hold up.  No analisys we can do will directly reveal a material object.  Everything we can know about the phenomena is based upon our sense faculties.  We cannot know, or find it directly.  Not being found, we can only infer it's existense - something is there because it must be. 

Additionally we have condisitions where something appears without the use of our sense faculties such as smell, touch, sight.  There are dreams.  They occur in an unconscious state, yet can be real enough to cause death.

As the Buddha taught, phenomena are preceeded, made and ruled by mind.

To reply to Chaz:
“Everything we know …. is based upon our sense faculties …”  but what do our sense faculties discern if there is no apple? E.g: Do we create the apple before or after or during the act of eating it?

Direct sensual experience as well as inference are both held as valid sources of knowledge in Buddhist logic, as in: “There is a fire on the hill." "Why do you assert that?." "Because there is smoke on the hill. There is no smoke without fire, therefore there is fire on the hill”. The conceptual fire I discern won’t burn me, but will scorch anyone too close to the actual fire on the hill.

“Phenomena are preceded, made and ruled by mind”. Yes, phenomena are, they require mind (perception) to complete the definition but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the object which is perceived is created by personal mind during an act of perception, which would have to be the case if there were no object to perceive. 

Phenomena are by definition objects which we discern, and we create our whole conceptual world from information directly received, but mixed together with (or perverted by) our mental content; memory, thought, opinion, emotion, lizard brain, etc..

The formula might be: Mind + object + perception of object = Phenomenon (the individual’s impression of the object, i.e. we perceive an image but the image is not the object). There is no proof here of the non-existence of an object, and slightly more reason to assume the existence of one.

The mental image is individually created, but based on an object which others with normal faculties can also discern, unlike thoughts and dreams during mental processes.

The eight consciousnesses/senses include mind. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, klesha(self), Alaya vijnana, so technically dreams are in the sense sphere, being the awareness of mental phenomena created during sleep, but like thoughts, feelings, etc, these are specific to the dreamer’s mental continuum and are not generally directly accessible to others. (even people with the faculty of knowing another’s mind are said to be only able to discern their own perception of the mental activity, again not the thing in itself. This is the same as the way as we “see” normal concrete reality, always a step removed).

I’m quite happy with the concept that we all live in our own worlds (within our own mind stream), that our personal views of “the world out there” are much of our own making but it is not logical to me to assume non-existence of an object, just because the limited scope of my sense faculties or inferential logic are unable to actually locate it. Although I can easily disprove the inherent existence of my own inner mental “self”, and see it as a phantasm, I don’t see that requires the non-existence of a cognizable material universe within which such a phantasm occurs, in fact its existence is half the problem.

I think the issue for us is the belief in the separateness of self and other, as in the belief in the validity of one’s own mental construction (self)  over seeing directly (pure clear perception) which requires the absence of the interference of self. Rather than a direct and un-restructured perception of reality, we overlay it with layers and layers of mental preconception which impels us to misinterpret what is actually before our senses.

So I’d say (for now) that the “apple” we experience through our senses is not the apple itself, just as the “fire” we logically and correctly infer from direct observation of smoke in the distance isn’t the fire itself, but without the actual fire and apple we won’t have the apparitional approximation of the reality of either, unless we’re dreaming..





Offline stevie

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Re: What’s in a Word? Emptiness
« Reply #53 on: April 21, 2019, 10:28:52 pm »
while browsing the winter issue of Tricycle magazine I found this short article by Andrew Olendzki:

What’s in a Word? Emptiness: https://tricycle.org/magazine/emptiness-buddhism/

...

Quote
... Properly understood, things neither exist (since they vanish) nor don’t exist (since they occur); rather, they are simply empty— ...
That might already be a step too much into the wrong direction due to the basic premise of 'things' in expressions like these. But not knowing the mind of the author I can only say that for me it's a step too much.


Quote
... which calls for a nonconceptual intuition of wisdom.
That might be based on inappropriately dicerning conceptuality due to dicerning intuition as different from it. But not knowing the mind of the author I can only say that for me conceptuality and intuition are not categorically different and that therefore the wisdom in question can't be based on intuition.



Anyway, one may wonder how pondering about 'emptiness' as illustrated by the author does not lead to a view of emptiness
Quote from: Nagarjuna MMK XIII.8
The Conquerors taught emptiness as the relinquishment of all views.
For whomever emptiness is a view, that one is incurable
... and considering this how 'The Conquerors taught emptiness'  could be an appropriate expression at all?
How could it be possible for 'the Conquerors' to teach something without harboring a view of it?
Being at a loss for a verifiable answer my only recourse is that the answer may be found in Buddha compassion.  <3
།བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ།

 


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