View Full Version : Empty

22 Mar 10, 13:59
Can someone explain to me <u>WHY</u> things are empty

22 Mar 10, 14:20
They're not really. It's just a figure of speech. "Empty of self, or anything pertaining to a self" is about it.

Otherwise, what are they empty of?

22 Mar 10, 14:25
from post #1

Hello Alaya dear,

Divide a thing in an endless manner, as in quantum physisics examples, and you will find no solid substance, no solid entity...

I have understand that "empty" referes about not having a solid substance that can endure endlessly... thorugh emptiness we can understand why everyting is impermantent.

Just quik ideas...,

If I am not being correct... help is needed.


22 Mar 10, 15:21
Hi Alaya7,

When we say things are 'empty' we mean that they are empty of any permanently existing 'self' which is unchanging. (This is true also of ourselves).
If you look at a cake for example, it is not something which is a solid permanently existing entity , nor is there permanent 'cakeness'. A cake is made up of ingredients which can themselves be broken down .When the ingredients are mixed and come into contact with the heat of the oven, they become 'cake'. When the cake is eaten it becomes something else digested within the human.
If its left uneaten it becomes stale and mouldy and then eventually breaks down into other substances.

So 'cake' is empty of any permanent existence....and it required the interaction of various things in order to become what we call 'cake.'

22 Mar 10, 16:09
This is a concept that can take a LONG time to understand. I apply the phrase "empty of inherent existence" when I contemplate it. It doesn't mean things don't exist, but that they exist in a way that is different from our normal perception of them.


22 Mar 10, 16:46

To try to explain it in a slightly different way to #4.

when we examine outer phenomena and see that nothing has any independent existence and that there is always potential for things to appear, change or disappear, they can be said to be empty.

We can examine the mind in a similar way and say that it is empty.

Also, the openness, peacefulness, and non-thought we have when we just relax and rest our minds could also be said to be emptiness.


22 Mar 10, 18:31
Thank you that helps a little i guess i just need more contemplation on it B/c i have a hard time explaining it and i am talking about not just no self but empty as in all inherit things and not nihilism either but good thing you said that b/c many people think that it is nothing when it is not does any one no any sight that really elaborate on this topic i want to be able to explain it fully if someone were to ask me why things are empty of any inherit existence http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

22 Mar 10, 18:33
Can someone also help me with why they say that all Buddhas are emanations of one Buddha i am confused about that as well

22 Mar 10, 19:06
Hi Alaya, sometimes it's best to do a lot of reading on Buddhism. You can learn a lot that way.

22 Mar 10, 19:39
from post #8

Hi Alaya,

In Tibetan Buddhism there are many Buddhas mentioned.

Some are said to be in Buddha realms, others( not necessarily existing independently outside of the practitioner) are visualised and identified with for deity practice in order to develop positive qualities within oneself.

All of these Buddhas could also be said to represent different qualities of Shakyamuni Buddha and so they are sometimes thought of as his emanations.

Regarding #7 if you put "emptiness'' into the search facility at the top of the page, you will be able to read the previous discussions we've had here on that subject.

Otherwise there's lots of information about Tibetan Buddhism on the site below. Just type different words into the search facility on the bottom left.

URL (http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/buddhism/index.php)

Kind wishes,


22 Mar 10, 20:17
Hi, Alaya 7.

I was actually just reading this teaching given by HH karmapa, and it may give a little more understanding on the topic...


Q. How can we understand the ultimate nature if we only have the tool of relative reality?

A: You do have to understand ultimate truth through relative truth—otherwise there is no basis for understanding ultimate truth. When we talk about the ultimate nature of things, it has to be understood through the nature of interdependence. Everything is interdependent. For instance, when you think of something short, it is relative to something long. One object is shorter than the other object. If you say something is long, then there must be something shorter.

In the same way, we say East because there is a West and North because there is a South. There is nothing that can be established that is not relative to or based on something else. Therefore, everything is interdependent. For instance, we might say, "This is a cup" or "This is a vase". We imagine that cup or vase is there on its own. But unless we make the designation that there is a vase, the vase does not exist. We must first say, "This is a vase because a vase has these certain characteristics". The many attributes that designate the object is a vase are contributed by our mind. When we put water in the vase, then it becomes a water container. When we put tea in the cup, it becomes a tea cup. It was not a tea cup or water vase beforehand; these are dependently arising, dependently designated.

When we talk about emptiness, we are talking about interdependence, dependently arising, dependently designated. There is nothing that exists on its own, nothing that exists independently without many contributions and designations coming together. Without dependent origination, therefore, the nature of all things is emptiness.

When we talk about emptiness, is has to be based on an understanding of the relativity of all things. Looking at 'the reflection of the moon on water', we can see that there is nothing there. Even that is dependently arisen, dependent on the existence of the moon and the water, on the ability of water to reflect. All of these things must come together to enable us to see the reflection of the moon on the water. That is emptiness. Emptiness and interdependence are inseparable. Everything is dependently arising; nothing exists on its own. Therefore, the nature of everything is emptiness. And because everything is emptiness and everything is interdependent, then everything is possible.

We believe that everything is as it appears, as we see it, but it is not like that. When we think about poisonous plants, they are viewed as very negative because they can kill us if we eat them. However, if another animal eats these same plants, it will not die. It is not poisonous to the animal. So is that poison, that "poison-ness", really existent on its own? If it did exist on its own, then it would kill everything.

As it is, nothing exists on its own. It is all interdependent. It is all dependently arising. Ultimately, it is all emptiness. To understand ultimate truth, we must understand the nature of relative truth. They are inseparable. If we think of ultimate and relative truth as two separate things, then that gives rise to nihilism. We tend to think of ultimate truth as 'something out there'. However, that is not the case. This togetherness and inseparability, this notion that things are, by nature, empty, is actually quite wonderful. Because everything arises interdependently, anything is possible. This is the most essential and profound view of Buddhadharma or emptiness.

Source (http://kagyumonlam.net/English/Lectures/20090113_HHK_Teachings_Living_The_Dharma.html)

22 Mar 10, 20:30
http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/good.gif Thank you Mani that was amazing and thank you to the rest to I read Buddhism Extensively with all of my spare time it is my past time i am very interested in it http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif And thank you for the Link to KarmaTryanaDharmaCHarkra I actually live very close to that center and am frequently on that sight
Thank you again http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif
Talking about The second question i had dietys can be confussing but i am priity sure i have a good idea about them but that can always change i was more talking about how i read frequently That
"All Buddhas are emanations of one Buddha."
Found on this sight under Nirmanakaya
http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/A%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism/Au thors/Kenpo%20Palden%20Sherab%20Rinpoche/The%20Three%20Kayas/The%20Thr ee%20Kayas.htm (http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/A%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism/Authors/Kenpo%20Palden%20Sherab%20Rinpoche/The%20Three%20Kayas/The%20Three%20Kayas.htm)

22 Mar 10, 20:31
Karmapa Chenno http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

23 Jun 11, 12:34
hi alaya, this is my take on emptiness.

"emptiness" in itself has no meaning. if we say something is empty, we are definitely implying that something is "empty of something".

so when we talk about emptiness in buddhism, we face the question "if phenomena are empty, what are they empty of?"......the answer is "inherent existence".

what is inherent existence? it is independent existence, ability to exist from ones own side without depending on other factors outside of itself. if something inherently exists, anything other than itself is completely powerless to change it in any degree in anyway.

why are we concerning ourselves with "inherent existence" and analysing it? because it is engrained in our nature to view phenomena as inherently existing and thus unable to see things as they are in reality i.e. dependently co-arising from many different factors with emptiness(of inherent existence) as their true nature. this deeply rooted ignorance is seen to be the culprit for our attachments, grasping and unwholesome states and thus realisation of emptiness is very important for moving towards liberation.

even in simple everyday phenomena, we can investigate emptiness. however, investigating emptiness and realising it experientially are different in that one is knowledge gaining process through analysis while the latter is the direct wisdom. however investigative analysis of emptiness is definitely a stepping stone for its direct realisation later as we progress on the path.

we can take the ringing of the bell for example. when a bell rings, sound manifests. is this sound existing from its own side? is it inherently existing sound?

suppose two person, one normal and one deaf, are infront of the ringing bell. the normal person hears the sound but the deaf person does not. is it the case that as the bell rings, the sound is there(existing.....inherently) in the air but only because the deaf person on account of his faulty hearing apparatus(ear, ossicles,vestibulocochlear nerve,auditory cortex of brain etc) was not able to hear it?.......the way i have understood emptiness is that "no it isnt". for the normal person, there is sound and for the deaf person, there is no sound (i mean no sound at all). thus, the single phenomenon here i.e. sound has two realities dependent on two different subjects(hearers).

now, if we increase the number of subjects(people) to many, each subject able to hear the same sound in different decibels(degree of loudness) owing to the degree of progressive ear disease and place them all in front of the ringing bell, sound created from the same source will be heard in many different intensities to these many different subjects. now our tendency to grasp at inherent existence tends to assume that the sound is there outside on the air at a particular single intensity but only the different subjects are not able to appreciate it. so we tend to take the sound heard by the normal hearing person as the sound in reality. but that is not the case and that is where our ignorance lies- our deep rooted conviction in the existence of a rigid world outside where all manifested things are existing by themselves with a particular characteristic of their own. this is incorrect view.

in the above example of the ringing bell, which intensity of sound can we designate as the sound that is existing outside on the air as there are so many different intensities "depending on the perceiving subjects". as is the case, there is no rigid single intensity sound on this rigidly perceived world. instead, for the same source(ringing bell) there are infinite possible realities depending on the perceiving subject, the medium(air) etc etc. if we gradually suck the medium(air) through a vacuum pump in a room, then the intensity of sound will also gradually taper even though the bell is struck with the same intensity until at no air, there is no sound. sound therefore doesnt inherently exist. however, it is not a case that it does not exist at all. it definitely exists but dependent on a wide number of factors. if we look for the single source for the origin of the sound, we will fail in our endeavour. the sound is not coming from the bell, the air, or the ear ossicles , or the auditory nerve or the auditory area of the brain etc in isolation. sound is a manifestation of interdependent co-origination of all these factors together. if we search for sound as such in the air, it is not to be found. it is only our mistaken world view that takes phenomena as really existing from their own side.

as is the case with sound, so with sight, taste, touch, smell or mental phenomena. cadbury is not inherently sweet (ask someone with defective taste buds of the tongue) , grass is not inherently green(ask a dog or go see your lawn at night), pinching might not necessarily feel painful( i have a friend who can testify to this). there is no single rigid world out there. experience is all there is. infinite subjects, infinite types of sense organs, mental disposition- infinite variation in experiences- infinite realities. but the underlying nature of all these phenomena- emptiness.

since the world is not rigid owing to the lack of inherent existence, there is infinite potential for creation, for change. had things been inherently existing, they could not change. an inherently existing world could not have possibly been. in reality, phenomena have always been, but the only way they have been from time immemorial is in an "interdependently co-arisen " way. this has great spiritual potential as well. since we are not inherently who we are, it is possible for us to select and adhere to the factors (as shown by the buddha) depending upon which we can progress on the path to move towards liberation.we can change.

from the mahayana perspective, realising emptiness is a huge leap for moving towards liberation as it cuts through the most fundamental ignorance deeply ingrained in sentient beings causing them to suffer viz. grasping to views of existence or non-existence. our inability to find a sound of particular intensity on the air outside doesnt mean that it doesnt exist, and the fact that we hear the sound once the bell is struck does not confirm its existence either(as the deaf guy is not hearing it even though the bell is struck). the way is the middle one: sound manifests dependent upon the presence of all the factors and doesnt manifest if any of the factor goes missing. dependently co-arisen. this is the way it has always been.

another way to understand emptiness is by realising that phenomena are mere name. we cannot find what the "name" denotes in the constituent parts. we cannot find the apple in the peel, in the flesh, in the seed. "apple" is a mere name given to a collection. if we are to identity its appleness, it will also disintegrate into many attributes. is "redness" appleness, or sweetness or roundness etc? thus the single object is broken into multiple objects depending upon the corresponding sense organ of the perceiver. apple's redness has nothing to do with its roundness, neither with its sweetness. thus from the same apple, we have the visual apple, the gustatory apple, the tactile apple, the olfactory apple etc. we cannot see an apple by turning our ear towards it. if apple were red from its own side, its redness would have been visible to our ear also. if we touch the apple , it wont feel sweet, because sweetness is not its inherent property. if someone were to lack all sense organs, the apple that we perceive will go out of existence (with respect to that person).the apple for hellen keller was not the same as the apple for us because we are choosing to call apple that, whose complete attributes we have confirmed by our complete set of sense organs. an insect with a different set of sense organs, with its panoramic vision, might perceive what we call an apple in a completely different way. but this does not mean that the way we perceive the world as homo shapiens or the most intelligent species is the standard way and how reality is supposed to be.

when i think of the world in this way, unrigid, flexible, without any fixed underlying substratum, it gives me goose bumps. i open my eyes and all this sight of computer together with the whole field of vision appears. i close my eyes, and snap!!! it disappears.( not that it is still there outside but only my eyelids came in between). the whole reality of vision together with the sight of computer goes out of existence once the lids come in between. once the lids open, the factors are complete once again and abrakadabra, there it appears right back again. amazing!!!

till now, this is the way i have understood emptiness. i would like to be corrected if my understanding is not based on a sound line of reasoning. i hope it was of some help to you.

peace. ;D

23 Jun 11, 14:12
hi alaya, this is my take on emptiness........i hope it was of some help to you.

Hi Phoenix,

Alaya7 hasn't posted since March 2010 - so you probably won't get a reply from him/her.