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Emptiness Made Simple

JaySonJaySon VeteranFlorida Veteran
edited March 16 in Philosophy

One reason why I think Emptiness is so hard to understand, other than because of obscurations from past lives, is because it's always explained with a scholarly vocabulary. Although what I know about Dharma is like a drop of water in an ocean, I will try here to explain Emptiness for the benefit of all mother beings without jargon.

Nothing Has Self-Nature

Nothing exists independently. Nothing is permanent. Everything exists interdependently. Everything is impermanent.

Existing independently and permanently would mean the existence of a permanent self that exists by itself and does not change. This doesn't only include what you call your "I" as in "this is myself" or "I am Fred." This includes every speck of matter down to the atomic level, to the smallest particles. Nothing exists independently nor permanently. Therefore, nothing at all, down to the atoms, has self-nature.

I believe this is where folks get tripped up. Your mind wants to believe SOMETHING has to exist with self-nature. The fact is that, through analyzing yourself, others, and objects, you will not find anything at all, down to the atomic level, that exists with self-nature.

You have to understand that nothing has ever existed with self-nature. It is only a concept, a false one.

This is why you see so many debates among Buddhist schools. Only the highest school, the Madhyamaka Prisangikas, understand that nothing at all has self-nature. Other schools can't seem to wrap their heads around this. They try to shoot down the Madhyamaka Prisangika view, saying that if nothing has self-nature, then the very words they use to describe their system couldn't be possible.

So what about "I", "Fred", or "Self?" These are merely labels projected by the mind onto the mind and body combination that make up "I" or "Fred" or "Self." This is how your "I" truly exists, as a mere label projected by your mind onto your mind and body combination.

The way you normally think "I", "Fred," or "Self" exists is by believing your "I" is somehow ON your mind and body combination.

For example, when you were born, your parents named you "Fred." They slapped the label "Fred" onto your mind and body combination. This is correct.

However, when you believe "Fred" exists as somehow part of your mind and body combination, this is incorrect.

If you analyze your mind and body you will see that it is not made up of anything that has self-nature. Your body is something like 70% water, sunlight, the food you eat, the air you breathe, etc. This is the interdependent nature of your body.

Furthermore, water, sunlight, food, and air also exist without self-nature. Water, for example, is made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.

And so on. Hydrogen doesn't have self-nature either. Neither does oxygen.

The atoms that form these molecules and stuff don't have any self nature.

That's because nothing at all has self-nature. Nothing exists independently and nothing is permanent. Instead, everything is interdependent and everything is impermanent. And the labels project onto these various combinations of Self, Other, and Objects are merely labels. That's because all of these interdependent things require labels to designate them by name.

Okay, so, Emptiness means empty of Self-Nature.

This can all be understood in a more organized way called Dependent Arising. There are 3 Levels of Dependent Arising.

Level 1 - Everything exists because of interdependent causes and conditions. For example, a tree is made up of sunlight, soil, oxygen. Then we slap the label "tree" onto it to designate it as a tree.

Level 2 - Everything exists because of its interdependent parts. A tree has branches, a trunk, leaves. None of these parts are a tree. But they all make up a merely labeled "tree." Your mind projects the label "tree" onto a tree, which is made up of a bunch of non-tree parts. And, all the parts of the tree can be examined likewise, down to the atoms. The whole "tree" exists through a combination of interdependent parts that have no Self-Nature.

Level 3 - A "tree" can also only come into existence with the label "tree". If you're not standing there, looking at the "tree," then the "tree" doesn't exist because it requires your mind to project the label "tree" onto it. This is because, remember, a "tree" is only the name given to label this combination of interdependent parts.

So, how do we actually use this understanding of Emptiness of Self-Nature to lessen and eventually destroy all ignorance and afflictions within our mental continuum?

You must examine your self, others, and objects (like a tree) and analyze them based on these 3 Levels of Dependent Arising. If you do this just with mindfulness in everyday life and meditation, you will begin to cut at the root of ignorance. You will begin to see reality as it truly is.

Also, you must identify the UNTRUE Self-Nature of self, others, and objects and cast it aside. For example, you must analyze self, others, and objects to see where there SEEMS to be Self-Nature and cast this aside. This is called the object to be refuted--"refuted" means: prove (a statement or theory) to be wrong or false; disprove. Once you have refuted the existence of Self-Nature, you can begin to see the Emptiness of Self-Nature of self, others, and objects.

The first way to do this in meditation is by identifying the object to be refuted within your body and mind combination. This might arise as a feeling in your chest or in your head when you're angry or jealous or feeling any affliction. This is the very root of ignorance that needs to be sliced.

Once you've identified the object to be refuted, cast it aside, and try to focus only on its non-existence, because Self-Nature doesn't exist at all. Rest in this Emptiness with single-pointed concentration and alternate between analyzing the Emptiness of Self-Nature using such reasoning as above and switching back and forth between the two. When understanding of Emptiness arises, focus on it single-pointedly. When that understanding weakens, switch back to analyzing Emptiness.

Emptiness only means Empty of Self-Nature. Therefore, you begin to touch reality when you identify the object to be refuted and rest in Emptiness of Self-Nature.

Emptiness simply refutes Self-Nature. So, while your experience of reality is a non-conceptual one, it does not mean just resting your mind in no concepts. It must be specifically resting your mind in the absence of the concept of Self-Nature.

Because this is how the ignorance of Self-Nature works. It was never there in the first place. It is merely projected by your mind onto reality. It's like your mind is adding something to reality that was never there in the first place.

So, in order to touch reality, you must refute your mind's projections of Self-Nature onto reality. Then you will experience reality.

With this first meditation you will begin letting go of the wrong idea of Self.

If you can imagine, it's almost like there are two selves, the wrong self and the right self. The wrong self is the self you project onto your body and mind combination that seems have Self-Nature, independent and permanent. The right self is the mere label of "I" used to designate your interdependent and impermanent collection of body and mind.

How do you examine the body and mind, though, to find the object to be refuted?

First take a look at your body. Scan it. See that every inch of your body is made up of interdependent, impermanent stuff. You will not find any independent, permanent stuff anywhere on your body or in your body. Plus, think about how you say "my body" as if you are the owner of your body. This means "you" can't be on your body.

Now think about your mind. If you're saying "my mind" then that assumes "you" own your mind. Therefore, "you" can't be anywhere on your mind.

Now examine your body and mind together. An independent, permanent self can't exist between these two things. That would be absurd.

Now examine now how your "self" can't exist somewhere outside your body and mind combination. That would be absurd.

What does examining your body, your mind, and your body and mind combination reveal? That there's no Self-Nature to be found anywhere.

This lack of Self-Nature is Emptiness of Self-Nature.

Now rest in this knowing of Emptiness. Use this reasoning in analytical meditation, then once this understanding has risen, focus single-pointedly on this knowing. Interchange between analytical and single-pointed meditation like this.

The next meditation is to take this same reasoning and use it toward others and objects.

At first you will see only a generic image of Emptiness, then you will begin to cut through that and touch actual reality. Over time, your obscurations and afflictions will lessen. Your ignorance will lessen. Your self-grasping will lessen.

You can begin doing this now, but to truly touch reality you must train your mind in single-pointed meditation known as Calm Abiding. There are nine levels of Calm Abiding to achieve. However, I believe that if you can achieve Jhana through the Theravada tradition, then use that powerful, laser-like focus to analyze Emptiness of Self-Nature the way described above, then this is comparable.

Anyway, I'm just trying to help and I hope this does help you deepen your understanding of Emptiness. I'm certainly not trying to be a know-it-all. Writing this out helps me too. Please forgive any errors. I'll try to correct it all.

May the merit of this post be dedicated to the enlightenment of all mother beings.

ShoshinBunksDavidlobsterAlex

Comments

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran
    edited March 16

    Some Meditation Shortcuts

    Once you're certain about the fact of Emptiness of Self-Nature through analysis and meditation, you can use these meditation shortcuts to rest in Emptiness of Self Nature.

    Meditation Shortcut #1 - "Not one atom has Self-Nature."

    Meditation Shortcut #2 - "Not one atom is permanent."

    Meditation Shortcut #3 - "Everything and everyone seems to be independent and permanent, but they are all really interdependent and impermanent."

    Ponder these points with analytical meditation and, when knowing arises, focus single-pointedly on that knowing. Alternate between analytical and single-pointed meditation.

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran
    edited March 16

    Videos On Emptiness

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    Meditate On Emptiness With Wisdom From The Diamond Cutter Sutra

    A star, a defective view, a flame,
    An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble,
    A dream, a flash of lightning, a cloud:
    See causative phenomena as such

    A star

    In the daytime you can't see stars, though they are there. Likewise, the truth of emptiness is hidden from you, but the truth of emptiness is there.

    a defective view

    All beings and objects appear to have Self-Nature, but they do not.

    a flame

    A flame is created by many causes and conditions such as oxygen, the person who lit the flame, the flame used to light this flame, and more. When any one of these conditions is no longer there, the flame burns out. The flame is made of non-flame elements. Like a flame, all beings and objects are interdependent and impermanent, lacking even one atom of Self-Nature.

    an illusion

    All beings and objects appear to have Self-Nature, but they are entirely empty of Self-Nature.

    a drop of dew

    (Insert wisdom here)

    a bubble

    Like all compounded things interdependently formed by causes and conditions, beings and objects are like bubbles. They're fragile and will easily pop.

    a dream

    Everything you see in ignorance is like a dream because of the way the mind projects a false reality of Self-Nature onto beings and objects.

    a flash of lightning

    Your life, like all interdependent things, flashes and fades away like a flash of lightning. Therefore, spend life practicing dharma because the only thing you will take with you when you die is your karma.

    a cloud

    A cloud is made up of water. What part of the cloud, then, is the cloud? "Cloud" is merely projected by your mind onto a collection of interdependent things. Even water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. And even these things are made up of interdependent molecules without even a speck of Self-Nature.

    see causative phenomena as such

    All beings and objects are empty of Self-Nature.

    This verse can be interpreted many different ways. The key is to meditate on these analogies to deepen your understanding of the Emptiness of Self-Nature. Analyze them thoroughly with analytical meditation and focus your mind single-pointedly on the knowing that arises. Interchange analytical and single-pointed meditation.

    Also, throughout your day, be mindful of how all beings and objects are like the analogies in this verse from the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

    All of the analogies from this verse can be examined with the 3 Levels of Dependent Arising, as all beings and objects in your every day life can too.

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    A Related Video

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    (Space reserved for just one more post that's going to take a bit of time to write)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Really?? Why not give people time to read and respond? It's getting a little 'preachy' here, and it's not always something that's appreciated....

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    @federica said:
    Really?? Why not give people time to read and respond? It's getting a little 'preachy' here, and it's not always something that's appreciated....

    Hehe. I wanted to write a mega post. This will be the only one, I promise.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I repeat...

    @federica said:
    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Emptiness Made Simple

    S i m p l e r

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    This is very much as Thich Nhat Hanh explains things as well. Personally I understand it, but I’ve always wondered if what we can see is all there is. The explanation for that which I’ve liked ever since coming across it a few years ago is that “in order to call something truly part of you, you have to be able to exert some measure of direct control over it.”

    You can move your body, hence it is part of the collection of things that make up “you”. Similarly with your thoughts, emotions, attention and so on. But nowhere can you exert control over a soul or permanent immaterial self, such a thing cannot be found within the reach of body or mind. Hence an-atman, no self.

  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    @federica said:
    I repeat...

    @federica said:
    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

    I love you.

    @lobster

    Emptiness Made Simple

    S i m p l e r

    I wonder if it could be made even simpler. Any ideas?

    @Kerome

    TNH has a great quote that I can't find right now because I gave away his book called No Death, No Fear. But the quote is something like...

    "Impermanence and no self are two sides of the same coin. Through meditating on impermanence and no self we can see the metal."

    You can move your body, hence it is part of the collection of things that make up “you”. Similarly with your thoughts, emotions, attention and so on.

    This is where a lot of people hold onto self-nature, I think. They think that there MUST be an inherently existent, independent, permanent self somewhere. It feels that way. But through analysis you find that not even the smallest particle is independent and permanent. This sense of self is absolutely false in reality. There is no independent self behind the wheel whatsoever. There never was. Tough to wrap your head around, but when you really analyze with the logic of Dependent Arising, you find only interdependence and impermanence.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @JaySon said:

    @federica said:
    I repeat...

    @federica said:
    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

    I love you.

    Please.

    I'm married.

    I'm also probably old enough to be your mother.

    But that's very kind.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    An analogy a modern western philosopher used when looking into the idea of self was that of a water molecule. We understand that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, we don't think there is some independently existing thing called "water" that acquires or possesses the 3 atoms. From this TED talk

    The self is the same way. The functional self is made up of the aggregates and influences from the external world, there isn't an independent "true" self that acquires or possesses the aggregates. Our error is when the mind makes a concrete label and places it onto this collection turning them into something concrete and independent.

    JaySon
  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    @federica said:

    @JaySon said:

    @federica said:
    I repeat...

    @federica said:
    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

    I love you.

    Please.

    I'm married.

    I'm also probably old enough to be your mother.

    But that's very kind.

    Well, you were my mother limitless times. That's why I love you ;)

    Kundo
  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    @person said:
    An analogy a modern western philosopher used when looking into the idea of self was that of a water molecule. We understand that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, we don't think there is some independently existing thing called "water" that acquires or possesses the 3 atoms. From this TED talk

    The self is the same way. The functional self is made up of the aggregates and influences from the external world, there isn't an independent "true" self that acquires or possesses the aggregates. Our error is when the mind makes a concrete label and places it onto this collection turning them into something concrete and independent.

    Labels are funny.

    The mind projects the concept of permanence and Self-Nature onto everything. This is an incorrect label. It is untrue. And it's the root of all ignorance and suffering. This is the object to be refuted in meditation and with mindfulness throughout the day.

    However, the mind also projects labels onto collections of impermanent and interdependent beings and objects. This type of label is correct. It is used to designate collections of phenomena by name only.

    So, when you say "functional self," you are talking about this second type of label, which is true and is called Subtle Dependent Arising.

    Subtle Dependent Arising is the 3rd level of Dependent Arising, the hardest to understand.

    person
  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran
    edited March 17

    This brings up a good point. At a subtle level, we might be grasping at the idea that functionality requires SOME Self-Nature, but the fact is that everything that exists has no Self-Nature.

    You might think... How can a person function without at least some Self-Nature? The idea that anything functions with even a speck of Self-Nature is proven false upon analysis using the logic of Dependent Arising.

    So, many schools argued with Chandrakirti about the Madhyamaka Prisangika view of Emptiness. They got tripped up on the idea that SOMETHING had to have Self-Nature for anything or anyone to be functional, but Chandrakirti argued that if something were to have Self-Nature then it couldn't be functional because if it has Self-Nature, then it is permanent and independent.

    In order for something to exist at all, it must be impermanent and interdependent. Therefore, functionality of a human being does not require even a speck of Self-Nature.

    And finally, that's why Subtle Dependent Arising is so difficult to grasp. It borders on the very edge of nihilism.

    person
  • JaySonJaySon Veteran Florida Veteran

    I will add just one more thing because I think I've taken up too much space on this forum :)

    From a personal experience, this special Madhyamaka Prisangika view has led to unconditional love because, through this view and meditating on this view, you realize the interdependence of all beings and objects. It's nothing to fear.

    It's nothing like saying "nothing exists." All the view is saying is that Self-Nature doesn't exist. Then rest in the Emptiness of that Self-Nature and great happiness and blissful love will arise.

    My teacher, an old nun named Tenzin Ani Desal, helped me a great deal to understand this view. She has unlimited patience and kindness for ignorant, reckless students like me. In my mind, she is like Tara, the kindness of the kind, the gentlest of the gentlest, the wisest of the wise.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @JaySon said:
    I will add just one more thing because I think I've taken up too much space on this forum :)

    That's not true, and there is no insinuation or implication that you ever have.
    Nice post.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited March 18

    @JaySon I relate to the way you spell out your logic and I enjoyed the flow.

    However, I do think it would help even more to define what exactly is meant by "self nature".

    Hypothetically speaking, if what we truely are in the absolute sense is a process which is gradually becoming ever more aware, it would be ever changing. That would mean our true self is no-self.

    You are coming at this strictly from the subjective or conditioned aspect and I respect that however I don't think we can ignore the process itself as having the possibility for some kind of awareness.

    I think we make it more confusing than we have to when we say things like "empty of self" when we mean no fixed identity.

    To be nothing and everything at the same time is to be no thing in particular.

    Shoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Emptiness Made Simple

    paulysoDavidlobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited March 20

    I think 'self nature' means that like all of our senses and our minds come together for an experience. So I look at a painting there is no painting there that comes into my mind. Rather there are physical phenomenon and sense organs and then there is mental processing.

    So the experience of a painting or even an experience of another person is a coming together of many factors throughout the universe. Together in combination. And then ripples or whatever on the pond of the universe perhaps.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    I wonder if it could be made even simpler. Any ideas?

    No

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited March 20

    I think the whole question of Emptiness is a little bizarre. On the one hand the physical world is manifestly not empty... I pick up a loaf of bread, the space is filled by bread, it is not empty. On the other hand you could say conceptually the bread is empty of independent existence, but then you are postulating an imaginary ‘conceptual world’ where things could be full of independent existence, which is silly because being imaginary of course it is totally illusory and unreal.

    The whole thing seems either obvious or like a play of words and shadows.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome, it might help to read up on the subject matter of Self/Not-Self, Dependent Origination and Composite Phenomena.

    Bread is bread, because we call it bread. (That's a whole 'nuther story!)

    But bread is in itself, composed of other elements - grain --->flour, Yeast, water, heat, time... The grain had to grow, from a plant, and be harvested when ripe, the water had to go through purification processes in order to be potable, the yeast... well, that's a cultural miracle in itself! - so bread is a composite phenomenon, which originates from other composite phenomena... and will grow, mature, become, begin to break down, and ultimately rot and disappear into a degradable matter/phenomenon.
    Humans are responsible for making bread, and here, the chain is endless... farmers, transporters, mills, merchants, Purification plant workers, Microbiologists.... Sheesh, you could break down every stage and step to finer individual points, and become exhausted by the process....
    So bread isn't 'real' because without all these components (all compounded phenomena in themselves) the different aspects of bread would never come together.
    You can say that about anything: A shirt, a window, a chair, a brick....

    In order to understand Emptiness, you first need to see the 'Full' picture. Only by appraising one, can you appreciate the other.

    person
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Access to Insight, one take on Emptiness.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I think the whole question of Emptiness is a little bizarre. On the one hand the physical world is manifestly not empty... I pick up a loaf of bread, the space is filled by bread, it is not empty.

    Sunyata doesn't mean empty like a bucket may be empty. But if one does take that meaning of the word empty, atoms are 99.99% empty space and the .001% is pretty quantum nebulous like.

    On the other hand you could say conceptually the bread is empty of independent existence, but then you are postulating an imaginary ‘conceptual world’ where things could be full of independent existence, which is silly because being imaginary of course it is totally illusory and unreal.

    I think you've hit the nail on the head but don't realize it. Conceptually it isn't that hard to recognize the way we label things to give them a distinct reality, the heart of the problem is that on an intuitive level we don't act as if that conceptual world is illusory, in our ignorance we take it to be real and act accordingly.

    The whole thing seems either obvious or like a play of words and shadows.

    Its about taking the intellectual notion and bringing it deeply into our being.

    paulysoKerome
  • paulysopaulyso Veteran usa Veteran

    person,that's right:its about taking the intellectual notion and briinging it deeply into our being.

    that's why we meditate to see it's workings. acess to insight is such an appt. description.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I don’t have difficulty with interdependence, impermanence or dependent origination, and I feel I have quite deeply realised the emptiness of things, but I still find it a very odd word to describing the concept.

    In a way, if you understand modern manufacturing processes, like casting metal, injection moulding plastics, the chemistry behind paints and glues, then the component nature of our modern world is very plain to see. From there it’s a short step to the full vision of interdependence.

    For me it was Thich Nhat Hanh’s description of interbeing which filled in a lot of the blanks. It is said that when you look deeply into any one of the buddha’s teachings you see the other aspects there as well.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I don’t have difficulty with interdependence, impermanence or dependent origination, and I feel I have quite deeply realised the emptiness of things, but I still find it a very odd word to describing the concept.

    In a way, if you understand modern manufacturing processes, like casting metal, injection moulding plastics, the chemistry behind paints and glues, then the component nature of our modern world is very plain to see. From there it’s a short step to the full vision of interdependence.

    For me it was Thich Nhat Hanh’s description of interbeing which filled in a lot of the blanks. It is said that when you look deeply into any one of the buddha’s teachings you see the other aspects there as well.

    Yes, but what is it that is interdependent? There aren't discrete things that interare. Its as if the world is fluid like a river but we take our conceptual models, that are like blocks of ice, and we place them on top of the fluid world as the reality. My understanding is that misconception is our fundamental ignorance that needs to be uprooted.

  • techietechie Veteran India Veteran

    @JaySon said:

    @federica said:
    I repeat...

    @federica said:
    You may mean well, but this is a discussion forum, not an online seminar venue.... ;)

    I love you.

    @lobster

    Emptiness Made Simple

    S i m p l e r

    I wonder if it could be made even simpler. Any ideas?

    @Kerome

    TNH has a great quote that I can't find right now because I gave away his book called No Death, No Fear. But the quote is something like...

    "Impermanence and no self are two sides of the same coin. Through meditating on impermanence and no self we can see the metal."

    You can move your body, hence it is part of the collection of things that make up “you”. Similarly with your thoughts, emotions, attention and so on.

    This is where a lot of people hold onto self-nature, I think. They think that there MUST be an inherently existent, independent, permanent self somewhere. It feels that way. But through analysis you find that not even the smallest particle is independent and permanent. This sense of self is absolutely false in reality. There is no independent self behind the wheel whatsoever. There never was. Tough to wrap your head around, but when you really analyze with the logic of Dependent Arising, you find only interdependence and impermanence.

    I basically agree with this, but do see the bolded part. Let's say we get to the smallest particle that cannot be divided any further. It is indivisible. Shouldn't it, technically, be an independent reality, then? Just wondering out loud.

  • techietechie Veteran India Veteran
    edited March 21

    @Kerome said:
    I don’t have difficulty with interdependence, impermanence or dependent origination, and I feel I have quite deeply realised the emptiness of things, but I still find it a very odd word to describing the concept.

    In a way, if you understand modern manufacturing processes, like casting metal, injection moulding plastics, the chemistry behind paints and glues, then the component nature of our modern world is very plain to see. From there it’s a short step to the full vision of interdependence.

    For me it was Thich Nhat Hanh’s description of interbeing which filled in a lot of the blanks. It is said that when you look deeply into any one of the buddha’s teachings you see the other aspects there as well.

    In the Buddhist context, I think emptiness means lack of essence or self. Normally when we think of an apple, we think of 'appleness', if I may put it that way. that's essence. But there is no such thing as appleness, no self or essence. It's just put together by various other things with no self-nature. So we say it's empty.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited March 21

    @person said:
    Yes, but what is it that is interdependent? There aren't discrete things that interare. Its as if the world is fluid like a river but we take our conceptual models, that are like blocks of ice, and we place them on top of the fluid world as the reality. My understanding is that misconception is our fundamental ignorance that needs to be uprooted.

    Both large clumps of matter and tiny particles ultimately inter-are with everything else. There is no self nature... all we do with our mental models of the world is make it easier to handle thinking about the large clumps.

    I find it very interesting that you can approach this from a scientific perspective as well. Once you accept that everything is made up of atoms, and that the types of atoms are listed in the periodic table, then it’s perfectly clear there cannot be such a thing as an “essence” of anything.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    Yes, but what is it that is interdependent? There aren't discrete things that interare. Its as if the world is fluid like a river but we take our conceptual models, that are like blocks of ice, and we place them on top of the fluid world as the reality. My understanding is that misconception is our fundamental ignorance that needs to be uprooted.

    Both large clumps of matter and tiny particles ultimately inter-are with everything else. There is no self nature... all we do with our mental models of the world is make it easier to handle thinking about the large clumps.

    I find it very interesting that you can approach this from a scientific perspective as well. Once you accept that everything is made up of atoms, and that the types of atoms are listed in the periodic table, then it’s perfectly clear there cannot be such a thing as an “essence” of anything.

    Basically agree except for the highlighted portion. Language and concepts allow us to navigate the world, from a Madhyamika perspective though our fundamental ignorance is that we, on an instinctive, experiential level, mistake the concepts as the actual world.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @techie said:

    I basically agree with this, but do see the bolded part. Let's say we get to the smallest particle that cannot be divided any further. It is indivisible. Shouldn't it, technically, be an independent reality, then? Just wondering out loud.

    I don't know, once you get down to the subatomic world things get all quantum and particles are thought of as fields of energy rather than distinct bits.

    Prescientific Buddhist philosophers said something to the effect that once you got down to an indivisible particle, that bit would still have a top, bottom, front and back.

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