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446 LESSON 24 11 2011 Harita
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446 LESSON 24 11 2011 Harita

ONLINE eNālandā Research and Practice UNIVERSITY &




Narratives for the Levels of Departmental Curricula- Course Descriptions-




Practice a Sutta a Day
Keeps Dukkha Away

(Thag 1.29) {

Harita, raise yourself
up- right and, straightening your mind — like a fletcher, an arrow — shatter
ignorance to bits.

Metaphysics- (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of
philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the
relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and

Sunyatâ, the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness

The metaphysics of Buddhism center around the conception of emptiness. Much
quoted is: “emptiness is form and form is emptiness”. This even comes
back into popsongs. Let us see what H.P. Blavatsky says about this. First, in
the Theosophical Glossary she says under “Sunyatâ”: “Void,
space, nothingness. The name of our objective universe in the sense of its
unreality and illusiveness.”

This sums it all up. She links Sunyatâ to Space, her first principle in the
Secret Doctrine, to emptiness or nothingness, which is the excepted translation
of the term and to unreality and illusiveness, which are the same as the Hindu
term maya.

Before turning to the way a few Buddhists explain the term, let us look at
H.P. Blavatsky’s position in a bit more detail. Starting with what she says in
the Proem to the Secret Doctrine (p. 7):

“In the sense and perceptions of finite
“Beings,” THAT is Non-”being,” in the same sense that it is
the one BE-NESS; for, in this ALL lies concealed its coeternal and coeval
emanation or inherent radiation, which, upon becoming periodically Brahmâ (the
male-female potency), becomes or expands itself into the manifested Universe.
Nârâyana moving on the (abstract) waters of Space, is transformed into the
Waters of concrete substance moved by him, who now becomes the manifested WORD
or Logos.”

also on p. 8:

“the One All is, like Space - which is its only mental
and physical representation on this Earth, or our plane of existence - neither
an object of, nor a subject to, perception.”

Going backward in time, we find that in 1882, in the Theosophist H.P.
Blavatsky says the following on the Buddhist secret doctrine:

“The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either
subjective or objective reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha
declares that there is neither Creator nor an ABSOLUTE Being. Buddhist
rationalism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one
absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint - “Wherever there is
consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is
dualism.” The ONE LIFE is either “MUKTA” (absolute and
unconditioned) and can have no relation to anything nor any one; or it is
“BADDHA” (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the
ABSOLUTE; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as
the first to account for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret
doctrine on cosmogony admits but one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and
uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being used
for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the
universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was,
is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a
universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas,
during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this
is SPACE, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law,
the basisSakti - the breath or power of a
conscious deity, the theists would say - the eternal energy of an eternal,
unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space then, or Fan, Bar-nang (Mahâ-Sûnyatâ)
or, as it is called by Lao-Tze, the “Emptiness” is the nature of the
Buddhist Absolute. (See Confucius’ “Praise of the Abyss.“)(1)
(as our correspondent [Subba Row] rightly calls it) upon which
take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akâsa-Prakriti, guided by the
unconscious regular pulsations of

The emptiness is getting closer. In a footnote she says in the same article
in the Theosophist:

Or, in other words, “Prakritie, Svabhavat or Akasa
is - SPACE as the Tibetans have it; Space filled with whatsoever substance
or no substance at all; i.e., with substance so imponderable as to be
only metaphysically conceivable. Brahman, then, would be the germ thrown
into the soil of that field, and Sakti, that mysterious energy or force
which develops it, and which is called by the Buddhist Arahats of Tibet -
FO-HAT. “That which we call form (rupa) is not different from that
which we call space (Sûnyatâ) . . . . Space is not different from Form.
Form is the same as Space; Space is the same as Form. And so on with the other
skandhas, whether vedana, or sanjna, or samskara or vijnana,
they are each the same as their opposite.” (Book of the Sin-king or
the Heart Sutra. Chinese translation of the Maha-Prajna-Paramita-Hridaya-Sutra.
Chapter on the Avalokiteshwara, or the manifested Buddha.) (2)

Searching the internet on explanations of emptiness, I find that the focus
of Buddhism in this respect is more on the practical everyday use, than on the
metaphysical. This does not make comparison easier, but I find it is still
possible. Here goes:

Buddhism and Thai culture

from http://www.landfield.com/faqs/thai/culture/section-3.html

Central to buddhism is the concept of Three Characteristics (Trilaxana)
which proposes that all composite things (matter or mind, i.e. everything
excluding Nirvana) are:

1. Impermanent (anicca)
2. Of suffering/unsatisfactory nature (Dukkha)
3. Without Self entity/Empty (Anatta/Sunyata)

(1) is by now almost universal in the scientific world. But sciences only
address the materialistic part of things whereas Buddhism claims anicca in the
mental world as well. Implicit in this is also that there is no (permanent)
soul in Buddhism.

(2) is a corollary of (1). If things are changing every moment then they are
not as they appear to be (permanent) , thus they are unsatisfactory by nature.
Both material and mental entities change continually according to causes and
conditions. This is buddhist’s objective way of looking at things as they are;
it’s not pessimistic nor optimistic. If one doesn’t see ’sufferings’ in all
these changing conditions of things then one is not mentally suit to be a
buddhist. To see ’sufferings’, however, does not mean that one has to feel
suffered for that. A true buddhist will enjoy life in a much more objective way
than others because s-he realizes that happiness itself is the result of
interplays of causes and conditions which are bound to change over time.
Suffering will definitely ensue if one does not understand the ever changing
nature of causes and conditions of happiness.

(3) is unique to Buddhism and is very difficult to understand. There are two
types of Emptiness: Ontological and Psychological. Buddhism claims that a thing
cannot exist INHERENTLY by its own self. Its existence depends on the
existences of other things, ad infinitum. In other words, there is no
permanent, pure element as a basis for the existence of anything. Things exist
because of the inter-dependency on one another. This is the basic argument
behind ‘ontological Emptiness’. It should be clear now that Emptiness in
Buddhism is not ‘nothingness.’ In fact, Emptiness means All and Everything
being co-dependent, co-arising. On the coarsest level, one can argue that
material thing exists only if mind exists first. Material is thus dependent on
mind. Mind is also dependent on its own self. Some buddhists refer to the
primordial Truth as ‘the original mind.’ This is simply a mind devoid of all
attachments, which is often regarded as the ‘core’ of a living entity or
‘Buddha nature’; but this is just a way of language and should not be confused
with Self or Atman in Hinduism for even the Buddha nature is also Empty. …

Sunyata (Pali: Sunnata)

Sunyata (Pali Sunnata) = Emptiness; The belief that all phenomena are
dependent on and caused by other phenomena, thus without intrinsic essense.

(From http://www.edepot.com/budglossary.html
: a Buddhist Glossary)

The heart of Buddhadasa’s teaching is that the Dhamma (Sanskrit,Dharma) or
the truth of Buddhism is a universal truth. Dhamma is equated by Buddhadasa to
the true nature of things It is everything and everywhere. The most appropriate
term to denote the nature of Dhamma is sunnata (Sanskrit, sunyata)
or the void. The ordinary man considers the void to mean nothing when, in
reality, it means everything–everything, that is, without reference to the
self. (3)


(1)Collected Writings III, p. 422,423.

(2)Collected Writings III, p. 405,406. Henk Spierenburg, in his work
“The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky” found two other translations of this
same text (p. 160 footnote):

The translation of Leon Hurvitz, also from the
Chinese, we find in Lewis Lancaster (ed.), Prajnaparamita and Related
Systems: Studies in honor of Edward Conze,
Berkeley 1977, p. 107:
“Visible matter is not different from Emtiness nor is Emtiness different
from visible matter. Sensation, notion, action and cognition are also like

Edward Conze himself, translating from the Sanskrit:
The Short Prajnaparamita texts, London 1973, gives on p. 140:
“There are five skandhas, and those he sees in their own being as empty.
Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness
is no other than form, form is no other than emptiness; whatever is form that
is emptiness, whatever is emptiness that is form. The same is true of feelings,
perception, impulses and consciousness.”

(3)(from http://jbe.la.psu.edu/2/inada1.html, A Buddhist Response to
the Nature of Human Rights by Kenneth Inada [This article was first
published in Asian Perspectives on Human Rights, eds. Claude E.Welch,
Jr., and Virginia A. Leary (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1990), pp.91-103. The
editors are grateful to Claude E.Welch, Jr. and Kenneth Inada for permission to
republish it. The orthography of the original version has been retained.]

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