Fallacy of Nothingness, Emptiness Teaching – Part 39

Emptiness-Nothingness-Void-Spiritual-Teaching-Buddhism

Previous discussion reconciled God's Will and individual's free will. The next question was inevitable considering it's wide-spread status. It's to do with notion that existence is a void, empty-ness, nothing-ness.

Disclaimer: We understand these terms are mainly rooted in Buddhism, thus article isn't necessarily directed towards such schools. Because the student didn't mention their source. Either way, teacher will challenge them from standpoint of Advaita Vedanta…

Student posits, “You says reality is One, devoid of attributes, Brahman. Meaning it's nothingness, a void, emptiness!

” If the final Reality is a void, a nothing… how will you explain the fact of existence of yourself and the world?

If you and the world do not exist, then neither can emptiness… since there would be no one to declare, “Truth is emptiness, nothingness“.

The logic of cause and effect demands an effect must reflect it's cause.

Something cannot emanate from a void.

Emptiness cannot create a universe.

If a mango tree cannot sprout from the seed of a tamarind… how can a world of things, world of known and unknown… be created from nothing?

It will negate all existence.

If Truth is a void (meaning we too are just emptiness) — then how will we ever known we are nothing, since we do not exist?

We enter the path of knowledge in search of ending our grief… leading us to inquire into reality of our being of who and what we are.

As we look into ourselves, we find we are complete, content… with no further want or need… no desire to change or transform when we are happy.

Further delving into this state of mind, we find there is no division, no split between the wanting me and the wanted object.

Subject and object are one.

It is the same oneness when we hear an amusing anecdote… we laugh unreservedly, letting ourselves go.

In this case, there is no thought of the self-judging individual.

For the moment, he or she is forgotten.

Joy that is our intrinsic nature bursts forth as uninhibited laughter.

A feeling of joy, of fullness so wonderful and pleasing that we long to extend the emotion.

The start of an endless search… a life of constant becoming… seeking an eternal bliss, a never-ending feeling of happiness.

Finally care worn and exhausted from our hopeless quest, we are forced to seek solace and rest.

Now begins a new search for spiritual paths and teachers.

When the same teachers tells us things like:

“You are emptiness.

There is no existent self.

Emptiness is the truth.

As is the path, so is the goal (the means, the end).

Practice is the key to the perfection you seek.

You have nothing to hold onto except the regimen of discipline.”

Can a rational person truly accept these types of notions… without dissatisfaction in their counsel?

Such advice's would negate your entire search… because prior to your seeking, you have already experienced a sense of being whole.

But the teaching now negates your very experience… the basis of your turning into a genuine seeking.

You cannot accept the words. It goes against all reasoning since you will definitely question the reason for the teaching.

You will ask naturally, “How did creation emanate from nothing? What is the basis for such a conclusion?

If nothingness is the truth, then the dependent-reality (mithya) would become absolutely real.

Mithya is a relative term requiring an Absolute to give the word a meaning.

Without an Absolute, where is the question of dependent-real?

If Absolute reality is a void, then mithya creation would become real.

In which case, you'd be bound to this world since reality cannot change. In which case, there's no liberation.

With further contemplation you will have to ask, “Who is aware of the nothing? Who or what makes the emptiness known? What is its basis?“.

Because every postulate and idea derives existence form a conscious source, a conscious being.

Eventually in despair, you will have to turn to Without a Second (non-duality)… where the sacred books declare with reasoning, “The Truth is One, non-dual Limitless Existence Consciousness“.

This and this alone will end your search. “

 

The student insists on the notion that Emptiness teaching is CORRECT, “In creation, everything is empty of its self. Be it an object, emotion or person. Without innate existence, they are empty of a self.

For instance, what is a chair? Is it the seat, backrest, legs or the wood from which it's made? If we remove the parts, there would be no chair. If we remove the wood, obviously there can be no chair. A chair then has no real existence.

Contradictory as it may sound — chair is made of non-chair parts, as are all things and beings. Because they are made of non-that-particular-object.

There is nothing called a chair. Just name, form and function put together for the moment… acquiring quality of chair-ness. It has no intrinsic being.

THIS EXPLANATION is what we mean by 'emptiness'.

Emptiness has neither dualities nor cause-and-effect. Neither opposites, nor subject-object-divisions.

Emptinesss is the essence of the creation, of our being.”

“Does emptiness exist OR is it empty of existence?

Since you say that everything is emptiness, “Emptiness IS“.

Emptiness obviously has an existence.

Being existent, what does it rest on? What supports the emptiness? What makes it known?

As explained before, we know that existence implies an already existent conscious being.

There can be no other answer.

Emptiness must rest on Consciousness.

You declare everything is empty of its self because it is made up of non-that-object. Further, you said “Emptiness is absence of forms-and-names. It's without subject-or-object, without pairs-of-opposites“.

But at the same time, what keeps remaining no matter what you declare empty? Although you don't use the exact word, what else can be left but the Absolute?

Once you have the Absolute, every aspect of creation would be mithya (dependent-real)… depending on Limitless Consciousness to give it an existence.

When you say the world is nothingness, a void… it cannot be different from mithya. Because it too depends on presence of a conscious being.

If you persist in your thesis that world is an illusion, empty of existence, truth of creation is emptiness… we must ask you, What is the nature of emptiness? What is aware of the emptiness?“.

What will be your response? ”

 

The student continues, “How is your dependent reality different from declaring the world an illusion? You negate earthly existence, stating there is only one real Limitless Consciousness.”

” The term dependent-real or mithyā has been explained before. It does not negate existence of the world at all.

It is an empirical reality, subject to change, within time and space.

It has form-name and purpose.

We can use it for transaction to serve our various ends.

Body, mind, objects, people… in short, the entire creation… come under this category of dependent-reality… depending on Limitless Consciousness.

There is no question of negation or illusion.

We understand the reality of the world as mithya (dependent-real)… in relation to the Absolute Limitless Existence Consciousness. “

 

Further Read:

 

In next conversation, student wants to compare mystical experiences with self-knowledge. Validity of knowledge is doubted.”

9 Comments

  1. Hi Andre.
    There is so much in this article that I would love to study it in class!
    I believe you have proved the case conclusively from the standpoint of irrefutable logic.
    As you point out, if emptiness is the final reality then there could be no one to point out the existence of this emptiness.
    With reference to the Buddhist article on emptiness, they give a more nuanced view for sure.
    This Nat Han even seems to allude to an implied reality beyond emptiness.
    But if you analyse what is said, it still has no ontological status.
    They cannot establish the existence of something out of nothing.
    What they are achieving is a very valuable insight into how to live according to dharma.
    What they don’t achieve is an explanation of the cause of that dharma.
    The Buddhist is caught by the same dilemma that afflicts nihilism.
    You either accept an unreal universe, which flies in the face of both experience and common sense, or you are caught in the obviously flawed logic of infinite regression, a chain of interdependent causal events that have no cause.
    So much more could be said here.
    Great article!
    🙏

    1. Definitions and spiritual concepts (which instigate such questions as of student) become further evident upon study of Indian Philosophy (in my opinion an education every knowledge admirer should go through in a lifetime): https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07DCWQDH3

      It basically lists and compares:

      Cārvāka, Jainism, Buddhism, Sankhya, Vishisthadvaita, Yoga (Patanjali), Purva-Mimamsa, Advaita Vedanta

  2. Point 2.
    The students arguments and objections are intelligent and lucid explanations of many of the viewpoints adopted in the yogic world.
    I think that we all need to be careful we don’t unconsciously adopt a ‘wilful unseeing’ due to past teachings, practices and experiences.
    The urge to ‘defend the faith’ is natural and in many respects laudable, but the arguments of Advaita Vedanta need to be met on their own terms.
    When they are, I think an intelligent seeker must eventually conclude that they are non negatable.
    There is so much to learn from the exchange between you and your commendable student and I am thankful to the same for putting these positions so clearly and fearlessly.

  3. Andre and Robert:

    Very grateful for your exchange and this website. Will go to the Amazon link for the book on Indian philosophy. Am presently studying with three wonderful teachers of Advaita. One of them is a student of Raphael, a founder of the Asram Vidya Order. He was an Italian who died last year. His student has a sangha in New York City that I recently joined. He has written several books on the pathway of non-duality.

  4. A nicely written article indeed. But Emptiness is not nothingness, it is not nihilism, and it is not Void. Early Christianism missionaries who translated some of these texts were purposely trying to nullify or degrade these non-dual teachings. Emptiness is simply the recognition that everything is dependant on something else. No thing, not nothing, exists independently in and of itself.

    1. Per my research (source: “Introduction to Indian Philosophy” by Satischandra Chatterjee), another factor that contributed to confusion is within Buddhism (as “Emptiness” is a central teaching there). Buddhism itself didn’t necessarily create the error, but non-discerning followers.

      And this happens in any school even today.

      How so? Many follower of Buddhism assume there’s only 1 version of Buddhism. Where in fact it’s split into different schools (which don’t agree with each other on certain views).

      Mādhaymika, Yogācāra, Sutrāntika and Viabhāṣika > further divided into 2 major branches: Hānayāna & Mahāyāna.

      Thus a simple seeker, not knowing any better, will mix in notions from different schools.

      So I’m less inclined to think that teachings were “purposefully” nullified. Because just to be involved in philosophy, already assumes a mature/moral/caring enough mind to NOT intentionally discredit anyone’s hard-work.

      But rather innocently mixed up due to such large volume of information to keep in mind.

      Even you/I can relate to this. We innocently make mistakes as it’s impossible to keep track of everything. Thus we see constant error-correction in field of religion/philosophy.

  5. I like your comment on the different schools Mādhaymika, Yogācāra, Sutrāntika and Viabhāṣika. One can see the different schools not as competitive ideas but rather steps on the way to higher and more profound understanding. As is “one mind” to “Mind only” progression of thought.

    Constant error correction is a great idea, but how does this work when one’s religion comes into conflict with one’s philosophy. Quite a few religions vehemently oppose competitive ideas and resist change or even translation of texts. Christianism is no stranger to this phenomenon.

    Have you noticed that I use Christianism rather often? Just ask if Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism are the best names for these religions. Perhaps the science of mind would be much more accurate, Adhyatma Vidya?

    1. ==========
      Constant error correction is a great idea, but how does this work when one’s religion comes into conflict with one’s philosophy.
      ==========

      A mind goes through stages as it matures through the years.

      Per Vedas, the order or maturity goes like this…

      STAGE 1: God is worshipped (unknowingly) in form of selfish desires. Early teen years. However continues for most till death. Only my family matters. No sense of “other-ness”.

      STAGE 2: God is worshiped as personal deity. This is stage of Religions. My God VS. Your God. Jesus VS. Allah. My god is superior, yours is inferior. Etc.

      STAGE 3: Person starts to be suspicious towards their “personal God”. They start asking questions, like: How can God be isolated to a single man/woman? Is it a He or a She? How can omnipresent (everywhere) be contained into a single God?

      STAGE 4: God is worshipped as entire universe. As any object. Cockroach, tree, nature. This is why in Hinduism, there’s so many Gods, as the culture understands, “One God is appearing as all countless deities (with whom different personalities can relate).

      It’s a shame Western World mainly has Jesus (a single personality) to relate to. Hinduism sorted this issue out (as it understands different personalities prefer to relate to different types of deities. Hence large assortment like: shiva, vishnu, krishna, parvati, sarasvati, durga, brahma, sita, rama, …)

      STAGE 5: Essence of God and “I” are not different. This is highest stage of understanding.

      SUMMARY: Religion is (mostly; although not entirely as can’t classify anything as an absolute) Stage 2. One needs to ideally move on to later stages to continue growth.

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