Buddhism - conceptual doubts

J.S.Pitanga jspitanga at OPENLINK.COM.BR
Thu Nov 11 12:10:10 UTC 1999

>[Nanda Chandran:]
>3. The emptiness of samsAra (which is its true mode of being) is nirvAna
>Here we've to tread carefully, for NAgArjuna himself warns that those
>who try to make an end of emptiness itself, are beyond hope!

Naagaarjuna said to be incurable those who made of emptiness a view,
view being understood as view of a self. Now, sa.msaara's emptiness
being sa.msaara's true mode of being does not mean that it is viewed
as a self, for emptiness is empty itself, but rather that it exists as it
appears to, or is non-deceptive, or is a truth.

Being a truth not the same as being a self.

>Let's first try to understand the concept "empty". When we say the box
>is empty - we imply that 1. the box alone is and nothing else is inside
>and 2. it's empty of something (whatever the box might contain). So for
>the concept "empty" to work, we need both the box and that of which it
>is empty.


>One can only say, the box or the pot or my stomach is empty, but cannot
>use empty for itself. So Emptiness has no meaning by itself and can only
>exist in relation to that to which it is referenced.

Perfect. Emptiness is a quality of the empty object. That's by the way why
emptiness is dependent on the empty object, and thus is not a self.

>To say samsAra empty of inherent existence is nirvAna quite different
>from "the emptiness of samsAra is nirvAna".

Definitely. Even renowned Buddhologists fail to understand what you
have so clearly stated.

Also, sa.msaara empty of inherent existence is not nirvaa.na, but simply
sam.saara, just because sa.msaara has always been empty of inherent

Besides, the emptiness of sa.msaara is nirvaa.na in its acceptation of
natural nirvaa.na (the natural mode of being of phenomena), not in
the acceptation of liberation from suffering.

Nirvaa.na, in the sense of liberation from suffering, is explained as
the complete destruction of the conception of inherent existence (or
the conception of a self), the source of every suffering.

>For in the latter, emptiness by itself is quantified and equated with

Correct, a natural nirvaa.na, which is not nirvaa.na in its acceptation
of liberation from suffering.

>And even in this line, there can be two interpretations :
>a. When the Buddha views an object, he but sees only the emptiness -

A Buddha is defined as a person who is capable of directly and
simultaneously seeing a conventional object and its emptiness of
inherent existence, because he has overcome not only the conceptions,
but also the appearances of inherent existence.

An Arhant, who is liberated from suffering but is not a Buddha,
is defined as a person who directly sees either a conventional object
without conceiving it as inherently existent, or its emptiness of inherent
existence, but not both simultaneously, because he has eradicated
the conceptions, but not the appearances of inherent existence.

An Aarya being who is neither a Buddha nor an Arhant is defined
as a person who directly sees either a conventional object while
conceiving it to inherently exist, or its emptiness of inherent existence,
because he has not completely eradicated the conception of inherent

>which according to NAgArjuna is not really empty in the way it's normally
>understood : "it cannot be called void or not void or both nor neither, but
>to indicate it it is called void".

This is because an emptiness is neither inherently void, nor inherently
non-void, nor both, nor neither, because an emptiness does not
inherently exist.

>This would but indicate that it's some kind of essence - an "other" to
>the object, but that NAgArjuna doesn't want to call it as essence.

Rather the opposite, it simply indicates that emptiness does not
inherently exist, or is not an essence, or a self.

Besides, if emptiness were held to be a self, as you hold, Naagaarjuna
would have said that it can be called void, or non-void, or both, or neither
- but then he would be making a view of emptiness, and thus would have
to consider himself incurable.

>b. When the Buddha views an object, what he sees is emptiness -
>that is the object itself appears *as* empty!

As above explained, a Buddha simultaneously sees a conventional
object, which appears as empty, and thus sees also its emptiness,
because he is not under the power of appearances of inherent existence.

>That would mean that the object doesn't appear at all!

Wrong. The mere fact that a quality of the conventional object, its
emptiness, appears, does not prevent the very conventional object
to appear. Rather the opposite, it is just then that the conventional
object appears in its full richness, because just then all its qualities
are perceived.

That's, by the way, why it is said that knowledge of emptiness
enhances knowledge of conventional objects.

>And if so what appears? Emptiness?

As above, both the conventional object and its quality, emptiness.

>That which cannot be related to form at all?

Of course emptiness is be related to form, because it is form's
(and other conventional phenomena's) mode of being found upon

If emptiness were not related to conventional objects, such as
form, it would inherently exist, and would be a self, and those
who propounded such an emptiness would be indeed incurable.

>But then how would you know that it is the object which appears
>as emptiness?

Since for a Buddha a conventional object appears together with its
quality, emptiness, this problem could not arise.

Besides, since emptiness is an object's lack of inherent existence,
it is necessarily the emptiness of an object what appears as

Also, during a non-Buddha's direct cognition of emptiness, just
emptiness is known, not the conventional objects qualified by
emptiness, and thus the question does not arise of whose
emptiness is the cognized emptiness.

Furthermore, when one object's emptiness is cognized every other
objects' emptinesses are simultaneously cognized too, because all
them are just the same in that they are the lack of a self, and thus
it is all objects that are appearing as emptiness.

>Or is it as explained in the first alternative
>(a), that emptiness doesn't mean emptiness in the way it's commonly
>understood, but something beyond conception - supersensible and

A generic image of emptiness is ascertained through a conceptual
analytic consciousness; emptiness itself is directly cognized through
a non-conceptual consciousness in a non-dualistic manner, because
conception of emptiness repeatedly meditated upon eventually
removes even appearances of inherent existence, and the consequent
appearance of emptiness simultaneously dispels the appearance of
subject and object.


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list