Empti­ness is a Para­dox

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Shun­y­ata is a key con­cept in Bud­dhist phi­los­o­phy, more specif­i­cally in the on­tol­ogy of Ma­hayana Bud­dhism, “Form is empti­ness, and empti­ness is form.” This is the para­dox of the con­cept. Empti­ness is nonex­is­tence but not noth­ing­ness.

Also, it is not non-re­al­ity. Empti­ness means that an ob­ject, an­i­mate or inan­i­mate, does not have its own ex­is­tence in­de­pen­dently. It has its mean­ing and ex­is­tence only when all the el­e­ments or com­po­nents it is made of come into play and we can un­der­stand and im­pute its ex­is­tence clearly. The Bud­dhist con­cept of empti­ness is of­ten taken as ni­hilism. Ni­hilism as a con­cept means that re­al­ity is un­known and un­know­able, and that noth­ing ex­ists.

Plato held the view that there is an ideal essence in every­thing that we have around us, whether an­i­mate or inan­i­mate. The Dalai Lama says that shun­y­ata is the ab­sence of an ab­so­lute essence or in­de­pen­dent ex­is­tence. If a thing ex­ists, it is be­cause of sev­eral other fac­tors. One might as well ask: is it pos­si­ble to have a part­less phe­nom­e­non? Ac­cord­ing to the Mad­hyamika school of thought, there can be no phe­nom­e­non with­out con­stituents. Ev­ery phe­nom­e­non in the uni­verse has to have parts or con­stituents to come into be­ing. The Dalai Lama says, “As your in­sight into the ul­ti­mate na­ture is deep­ened and en­hanced, you will de­velop a per­cep­tion of re­al­ity from which you will per­ceive phe­nom­ena and events as sort of il­lu­sory. And that mode of per­ceiv­ing re­al­ity will per­me­ate all your in­ter­ac­tions with re­al­ity.”

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