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Emptiness / sunnatha

yes

we have heard and read that 'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form'

but

do you know 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form'?

if so

please explain in plain english

(english is my second language, so be kind enough to use simple english, thanks in advaance)

«134

Comments

  • THANKS

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Thanks from me, too -- I needed that. <3

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Form is Emptiness = all form is empty of inherent existence.

    Emptiness is Form = emptiness can not be without form.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    To explain a little further I've stolen some text from an answer on the internet:

    _In short, "form" is the conventional truth, "emptiness" the ultimate truth. Now, why does he say "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"? The point is, all forms (i.e. all things) are empty, and all emptinesses are the emptiness of something (of a form). There are no forms (things) that are not empty; and there are no emptinesses that exists in and of themselves, without being the emptiness of something (the emptiness of a table, the emptiness of a self, the emptiness of a vase, and so forth). _

    Cinorjer
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @upekka First, understand that this wonderful poetry is talking about the skandhas, and so is talking about the mind, not the abstract universe.

    Now, for "form is emptiness and emptiness is form". Please go to the kitchen and get a bowl. Then come back and read the rest of this.

    Do you have the bowl? Now, when I sent to get a bowl, you had no problem picking out what I named, did you? You know what a bowl is. This is the form of the bowl. See the clay or ceramic or wood shape? It has a color and texture and is so tall and so much around. It's a bowl because this object has the form of a bowl. Self evident and obvious.

    But what attribute or feature makes this form a bowl, and not a plate or some other object? It's the emptiness it contains. The space inside the walls. The potential for this space to hold something. Seen this way, it's not the object, but the emptiness it encloses that makes this a bowl.

    So what is it that makes this a bowl? Is it the form, or the emptiness? Or, perhaps, is the form and emptiness the same thing, and it's only our minds creating a false distinction between the two? So it is with our minds. Is our mind the physical brain and body and all the processes going on inside us, the person looking back from a mirror, or is the shape of our mind instead the emptiness it encloses, the capacity to contain our thoughts and memories and desires? Or is that a false distinction?

    Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.

    ShoshinWalkerlobsterStingRay
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @upekka said: do you know 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form'?

    Conceptually sunyata is quite straightforward and is nothing to do with empty spaces in bowls. It's saying that the aggregates are empty of independent existence, in other words they arise in dependence on conditions.

    So sunyata, like dependent origination, is a teaching on conditionality. Conditional means transient and insubstantial.

    Cinorjerlobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @FoibleFull said: The words are here primarily to confirm what you have already seen/experienced within yourself. Not to substitute for your insight.

    I look on such teachings as a pointer, like a hypothesis to be investigated in our own experience. So can you find anything in your own experience which exists independently, anything which is permanent? It's about looking closely. Insight is a practical rather than an intellectual activity.

  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @upekka said: do you know 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form'?

    Conceptually sunyata is quite straightforward and is nothing to do with empty spaces in bowls. It's saying that the aggregates are empty of independent existence, in other words they arise in dependence on conditions.

    So sunyata, like dependent origination, is a teaching on conditionality. Conditional means transient and insubstantial.

    @SpinyNorman you've missed the important part of the challenge. He said that English was his second language so asked you to explain emptiness is form using simple English. Whatever I think personally about the usefulness of a collection of buzzwords like conditional and origination, it's obviously ignoring the plea for keeping it simple.

    I did it using a bowl as a metaphor. The mind isn't a bowl, of course, no more than it's a heap of something we call skandhas.

    So if you had to use words of less than 5 or 6 syllables, how do you explain the concept of emptiness? Don't just parrot what you read in the sutra translations. Either you can explain it using simple words and in simple terms or you don't comprehend it.

    NirvanaStingRay
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    I would say it just means the 5 aggregates lack anything substantial. Therefore, not worth holding onto.

    CinorjernamarupaStingRay
  • The wonderful point of the sutra is that it's not saying the aggregates have the property of emptiness. It's saying they are emptiness and that there is no way to distinguish between emptiness and a skandha. Form is emptiness, but emptiness is also form. It's a remarkable claim and a remarkable sutra.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @seeker242 said: I would say it just means the 5 aggregates lack anything substantial. Therefore, not worth holding onto.

    Yes, well put. Generally people who understand things clearly can explain them simply and clearly. Those who don't tend to ramble on at length.

    lobstersilver
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Cinorjer said: The wonderful point of the sutra is that it's not saying the aggregates have the property of emptiness.

    That's exactly what it is saying, and I fear you have missed the point. As the Heart Sutra says: “Listen Sariputra, all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness."
    I suspect you have taken "Emptiness is only form" too literally. What it actually means is that emptiness is always expressed as form ( or one of the other aggregates ).

    lobsterStingRay
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Cinorjer said: I did it using a bowl as a metaphor.

    It's a very muddled metaphor and completely misses the point. You are taking "emptiness" too literally, which is a common mistake. Emptiness means empty of inherent existence, it is nothing to do with empty space.
    It's a teaching on conditionality.

    lobsterStingRay
  • LOL! Sometimes I feel like Seung Sahn holding the orange out to the Lama. I like you, Spiny. You keep me on my toes.

    StingRay
  • @upekka said:

    do you know 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form'?

    if so

    please explain in plain english

    (english is my second language, so be kind enough to use simple english, thanks in advaance)

    Challange accepted! :)

    Asking a question provides a form for the answer.
    The question has form but is empty until answered.
    When answered it gives form to the empty question.

    In a similar way ...

    Our mind is empty but cluttered. Both mindlessly empty headed and full of aware knowing if so formed.

    I am off to meet a Buddha that does not exist! ;)

    Cinorjer
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I suspect our friend @upekka may be more confused now than before he asked the question! =)

    upekka
  • Form is emptiness, everyone can agree with that. Why is understanding "emptiness is form" more difficult? It's the same statement.

    Cinorjer
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Emptiness and form are different sides of the same coin because the coin is in constant change...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    do you know 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form'?
    (english is my second language, so be kind enough to use simple english, thanks in advaance)

    Yes "I" know.....For an explanation look within/ask the cushion....

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @ourself said: Emptiness and form are different sides of the same coin because the coin is in constant change...

    But if that's so, what is the coin?

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @ourself said: Emptiness and form are different sides of the same coin because the coin is in constant change...

    But if that's so, what is the coin?

    For the sake of labels, I'd say energy as I think the potential for energy is itself a type of energy.

    Emptiness is an odd word to use really but it works. We are empty of an unabiding self but we are not empty of potential and really, the emptiness Buddha spoke of seems to me to signify the potential for change.

  • @Bunks said:
    I suspect our friend @upekka may be more confused now than before he asked the question! =)

    what facts you (your i) have to think that ' i is he'?

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @upekka said:

    @Bunks said:
    I suspect our friend @upekka may be more confused now than before he asked the question! =)

    what facts you (your i) have to think that ' i is he'?

    Huh?

  • WalkerWalker Veteran Veteran

    @upekka said:

    @Bunks said:
    I suspect our friend @upekka may be more confused now than before he asked the question! =)

    what facts you (your i) have to think that ' i is he'?

    I'm not sure he (and I do know that Bunks is male ;) )was actually assuming you were male. Before political correctness, it was common to use he or him if gender was unknown. Sometimes people will use devices such as s/he or he/she, but they tend to look clumsy.

    I'm pretty sure no offense was intended. =)

  • @Walker said:

    I'm pretty sure no offense was intended. =)

    o dear, i did not take it as offence, anyway thanks for your kind response

    i wanted you (whoever) read it to have humor or food for thought depending on the state of mind the reader has at the time of reading the post

    thanks for everyone who responded to the thread

    happy travelling fellow travelers!

    WalkerBunks
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Bunks said:
    To explain a little further I've stolen some text from an answer on the internet:

    _In short, "form" is the conventional truth, "emptiness" the ultimate truth. Now, why does he say "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"? The point is, all forms (i.e. all things) are empty, and all emptinesses are the emptiness of something (of a form). There are no forms (things) that are not empty; and there are no emptinesses that exist in and of themselves, without being the emptiness of something (the emptiness of a table, the emptiness of a self, the emptiness of a vase, and so forth). _

    Sounds not too unlike Advaita Vedanta.

    I guess from the "ultimate viewpoint" there is no real difference between fullness and emptiness --IF you see Reality as a flowing back and forth, as the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh does:

    "You are like a cloud. Your nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Being afraid of dying is not right thinking, because nothing can pass from being into non-being. Nothing can pass from non-being into being...
    "What we call 'me,' 'myself,' is like [that too]. We are also a flower. Each of us is a flower in the garden of humanity, and each flower is beautiful. BUT we have to look into ourselves and recognize the fact that we are made only of non-us elements. If we remove all the non-us elements, we cannot continue. We are made of parents, teachers, food, culture, everything. If we remove all of that, there is no us left."

    Hindu thought seems to be synthetic, whereas the Buddhist tends towards the analytic.

    But metaphysics will neither feed a starving belly nor lead one to an actual higher reality. Best to keep it simple, I think, such as TNH manages to do.


    Quotation from The Mindfulness Bell, pg 5f, Dharma Talks Winter/Spring 2012

    ShoshinBunks
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @FoibleFull said:
    So when you take a teaching, and you don't understand it, don't be frustrated. You will get out of the teaching whatever you are ready to understand (which is based on your own practices). And if you take the same set of teachings over and over and over .. every time you repeat that teaching you will understand it better than the time before.

    <3
    The Mahayana dictum
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Śūnyatā
    is the space between the spokes of the wheel
    between the turning of Hina and Maha yanas

    In other words it is the unspoke difference between the formed
    and the emptied.

    To put it another way it is no-mind v no thing

    or mindfulness practiced mindlessly or vice versa.

    or knot untied.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Nirvana said:

    @Bunks said:
    To explain a little further I've stolen some text from an answer on the internet:

    _In short, "form" is the conventional truth, "emptiness" the ultimate truth. Now, why does he say "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"? The point is, all forms (i.e. all things) are empty, and all emptinesses are the emptiness of something (of a form). There are no forms (things) that are not empty; and there are no emptinesses that exist in and of themselves, without being the emptiness of something (the emptiness of a table, the emptiness of a self, the emptiness of a vase, and so forth). _

    Sounds not too unlike Advaita Vedanta.

    No, sunyata is not related to Advaita. Sunyata is conditionality, which isn't compatible with absolutes.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @upekka said: thanks for everyone who responded to the thread

    You might be interested in the Phena Sutta, which looks like a precursor to the Heart Sutra. The Mahayana didn't invent sunyata, they just pinched it from the suttas, reinventing the wheel as usual. ;)

    "Form is like a glob of foam;
    feeling, a bubble;
    perception, a mirage;
    fabrications, a banana tree;
    consciousness, a magic trick —
    this has been taught
    by the Kinsman of the Sun.
    However you observe them,
    appropriately examine them,
    they're empty, void
    to whoever sees them
    appropriately."
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.095.than.html

    lobsterupekka
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Nirvana said: I guess from the "ultimate viewpoint" there is no real difference between fullness and emptiness --IF you see Reality as a flowing back and forth, as the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh does:

    Thay came up with "Interbeing", which is interconnectedness. It looks like a positive expression of conditionality, as compared to emptiness which is a negative expression of conditionality.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @ourself said: Emptiness is an odd word to use really but it works. We are empty of an unabiding self but we are not empty of potential and really, the emptiness Buddha spoke of seems to me to signify the potential for change.

    I suspect that conditionality and transience are 2 sides of the same coin, though I'm not sure what the coin is here.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Nirvana said: I guess from the "ultimate viewpoint" there is no real difference between fullness and emptiness --IF you see Reality as a flowing back and forth, as the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh does:

    Thay came up with "Interbeing", which is interconnectedness. It looks like a positive expression of conditionality, as compared to emptiness which is a negative expression of conditionality.

    What is negative about emptiness?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @ourself said: What is negative about emptiness?

    I mean negative in a mathematical sense.

  • Aren't emptiness and form dependent on each other like the front and back of your hand? Without emptiness can form be discerned and vice versa? Emptiness in this sense of being nothing, zero or zilch. To be empty of something ie. form. That is dependent coarising.

    Like consciousness and experience. Can one exist without the other? So consciousness is experience, experience is consciousness. So one talks of conscious experience, not unconscious experience.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @pegembara said:
    Aren't emptiness and form dependent on each other like the front and back of your hand? Without emptiness can form be discerned and vice versa? Emptiness in this sense of being nothing, zero or zilch. To be empty of something ie. form. That is dependent coarising.

    Like consciousness and experience. Can one exist without the other? So consciousness is experience, experience is consciousness. So one talks of conscious experience, not unconscious experience.

    That's just it. Any opposites that depend on each other are not really opposite but complimentary aspects of the same thing and/or process.

    Whatever that thing and/or process may be.

    Yin may be the conceptual opposite of yang but there is no opposite of yin yang except no yin yang.

    Cinorjerpegembara
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @pegembara said: Emptiness in this sense of being nothing, zero or zilch. To be empty of something ie. form. That is dependent coarising.

    No, sunyata is not non-existence. It's lack of independent existence.

    lobsterMigyur
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @ourself said: > Yin may be the conceptual opposite of yang but there is no opposite of yin yang except no yin yang.

    You're talking about duality, not sunyata.

    lobster
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman you need to understand that the concept of Sunyata is seen and described different ways by different schools of Buddhism. Your definition and understanding seems to be mainstream Theravadan but other schools don't necessarily agree. For my own school, emptiness is more than just saying everything is dependent and transient. For us, that is a surface treatment. Emptiness is the core of Buddha Nature, which means seeing past the illusion of duality.

    The sutra doesn't just say form is emptiness. That's where you've stopped, according to our own teaching. It goes on to say emptiness is form. This sutra is all about duality.

    Please consider that just because it's not your understanding or tradition, that doesn't mean you should tell other people your understanding is the only right one. Monks have spent centuries arguing with each other over the concept of emptiness with no winning side. We're no better or worse than they are.

    Davidrobotpegembara
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @ourself said: > Yin may be the conceptual opposite of yang but there is no opposite of yin yang except no yin yang.

    You're talking about duality, not sunyata.

    No, because to get in depth we cannot talk of one without the other.

    I completely agree that emptiness does not in any way signify nothingness.

    It signifies change or at least the potential for change.

    Cinorjer
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @ourself said: What is negative about emptiness?


    I mean negative in a mathematical sense.

    Ok, so then what is negative about emptiness in the mathematical sense?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Cinorjer said: The sutra doesn't just say form is emptiness. That's where you've stopped, according to our own teaching. It goes on to say emptiness is form. This sutra is all about duality.

    My comments in this thread are based on Mahayana experience. As I said earlier I think you have taken "emptiness is form" too literally. What it actually means is that emptiness is always expressed as form ( or one of the other aggregates ). Read some Heart Sutra commentaries if you're still not convinced.

    If you are claiming that the Heart Sutra is about duality rather than sunyata then you need to back that up with some reasoned argument.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @ourself said:

    @SpinyNorman said:
    You're talking about duality, not sunyata.

    No, because to get in depth we cannot talk of one without the other.

    Can you explain why? Duality in what sense exactly?

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @pegembara said: Emptiness in this sense of being nothing, zero or zilch. To be empty of something ie. form. That is dependent coarising.

    No, sunyata is not non-existence. It's lack of independent existence.

    Not in this case. The way I see it, form is emptiness, emptiness is form means things and nothing are codependent as @ourself @Cinorjer mentioned.

    It is the summation of this sutta which is Theravadin btw.

    "By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one."

    "'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html

    Existence/form and nonexistence/emptiness is not the middle way but seeing that form is emptiness is the teaching of dependent origination! That is what I think you refer to as lack of inherent existence aka anatta. And non duality is also the middle way.

    I agree confusion is highly possible because of the multiple meanings in the usage of the word emptiness.

    upekkalobster
  • And isn't it a wonderful metasutra? The more we want to pin down the exact message meant by the words of the sutra, the more we discover its form is empty, conditional on the direction you approach the sutra. I see it pointing out that a comprehension of non-duality as necessary to penetrate the concept of emptiness, which resides in the absence of dualism. It's not a unique understanding I alone have. Scholarly works explore the relationship between the two.

    But this is all secondary language. It's talking about something instead of experiencing it. Even knowing this, it's irresistible. That's the power of this sutra.

    lobsterpegembara
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @pegembara said: The way I see it, form is emptiness, emptiness is form means things and nothing are codependent as @ourself @Cinorjer mentioned.

    Sorry but that interpretation still doesn't make any sense to me, and sunyata is definitely not "nothing".

    The Heart Sutra describes the identity of the aggregates and sunyata, it's not saying that they are two different things which depend on each other.

    Have a read of these:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prajñā_(Buddhism)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Śūnyatā#Prajna-paramita_Sutras

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Cinorjer said:I see it pointing out that a comprehension of non-duality as necessary to penetrate the concept of emptiness....

    Non-duality of what though? The Heart Sutra describes the identity of the aggregates and sunyata, it isn't describing them as a duality. Or are you talking about subject-object duality perhaps? Non-duality has a number of different meanings and applications, could you say which one are you actually talking about?

  • @SpinyNorman said:

    @Cinorjer said:I see it pointing out that a comprehension of non-duality as necessary to penetrate the concept of emptiness....

    Non-duality of what though? The Heart Sutra describes the identity of the aggregates and sunyata, it isn't describing them as a duality. Or are you talking about subject-object duality perhaps? Non-duality has a number of different meanings and applications, could you say which one are you actually talking about?

    I suppose I can say I'm talking about the duality of opposites, and emptiness as the lack of inherent existence. Emptiness is not a thing, and it's not even nothing, because both statements assume an opposite. And at this point I'm starting to get much too abstract for my comfort. I can retreat to Zennisms like "Not one, but not two either" or "To say one has or does not have Buddha-Nature is to already go wrong."

    It's most difficult to shock the mind out of dualistic thinking.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @ourself said:

    @SpinyNorman said:
    You're talking about duality, not sunyata.

    No, because to get in depth we cannot talk of one without the other.

    Can you explain why? Duality in what sense exactly?

    Emptiness is the lack of an abiding self or independent existence. Without subjectivity (duality) there is no causation and no emptiness.

    No emptiness, no form.

    Emptiness and form, potential and fruition, cause and effect. These are not opposites but complimentary aspects of the process of being.

    Emptiness is form, potential is fruition and cause is effect.

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