"Sunyata" redirects here. For other uses, see Sunyata (disambiguation).
Translations of
English emptiness, voidness, openness, thusness, etc.
Pali suññatā
(Dev: सुञ्ञता)
Sanskrit śūnyatā
(Dev: शून्यता)
Bengali শূন্যতা
Burmese thone nya ta, သုညတ
(Pinyin: Kōng)
(rōmaji: )
Korean 공성(空性)
(RR: gong-seong)
Mongolian qoγusun
Tibetan སྟོང་པོ་ཉིད་
(Wylie: stong-pa nyid
THL: tongpa nyi
Glossary of Buddhism

Śūnyatā (Sanskrit; Pali: suññatā), translated into English as emptiness[1] and voidness,[2] is a Buddhist concept which has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. In Theravada Buddhism, suññatā often refers to the not-self (Pāli: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman)[note 1] nature of the five aggregates of experience and the six sense spheres. Suññatā is also often used to refer to a meditative state or experience. In Mahayana, Sunyata refers to the precept that "all things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature".[4][5] In Tibetan Buddhism, Sunyata refers to "openness and understanding nonexistence".[6]

Śūnyatā is a key term in Mahāyāna Buddhism, and also influenced some schools of Hindu philosophy.


"Śūnyatā" (Sanskrit) is usually translated as "emptiness," "hollow, hollowness," "voidness." It is the noun form of the adjective śūnya or śhūnya, plus -tā:

Development of the concept

Over time, many different philosophical schools or tenet-systems (Sanskrit: siddhānta)[8] have developed within Buddhism in an effort to explain the exact philosophical meaning of emptiness.

After the Buddha, emptiness was further developed by Nāgārjuna and the Mādhyamaka school, an early Mahāyāna school. Emptiness ("positively" interpreted) is also an important element of the Buddha nature literature, which played a formative role in the evolution of subsequent Mahāyāna doctrine and practice.

Pali Canon

A simile from the Pali scriptures (SN 22.95) compares form and feelings with foam and bubbles.

According to Bhikkhu Analayo: "in the Pāli discourses the adjective suñña occurs with a much higher frequency than the corresponding noun suññatā. This is not a matter of mere philological interest, but points to an emphasis in early Buddhism on qualifying phenomena as `being empty' rather than on an abstract state of empty-`ness'."[9] One example of this usage is in the phena sutta, which states that on close inspection, each of the five aggregates are seen as being vain, void and unsubstantial, like a lump of foam [SN 22.95].

The Pali canon uses the term emptiness in three ways: "(1) as a meditative dwelling, (2) as an attribute of objects, and (3) as a type of awareness-release."[10] The Suñña Sutta,[11] part of the Pāli canon, relates that the monk Ānanda, Buddha's attendant asked,

It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?" The Buddha replied, "Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.

According to Thanissaro Bhikku:

Emptiness as a quality of dharmas, in the early canons, means simply that one cannot identify them as one's own self or having anything pertaining to one's own self...Emptiness as a mental state, in the early canons, means a mode of perception in which one neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from what is present, noting simply, "There is this." This mode is achieved through a process of intense concentration, coupled with the insight that notes more and more subtle levels of the presence and absence of disturbance (see MN 121).[12]

Emptiness as a meditative state is said to be reached when "not attending to any themes, he [the bhikku] enters & remains in internal emptiness" (MN 122). This meditative dwelling is developed through the "four formless states" of meditation or Arūpajhānas and then through "themeless concentration of awareness."[10]

The Cūlasuññata-sutta (MN III 104) and the Mahāsuññata-sutta (MN III 109) outline how a monk can "dwell in emptiness" through a gradual step by step mental cultivation process, they both stress the importance of the impermanence of mental states and the absence of a self.

In the Kāmabhu Sutta S IV.293, it is explained that a bhikkhu can experience a trancelike contemplation in which perception and feeling cease. When he emerges from this state, he recounts three types of "contact" (phasso):

  1. "emptiness" (suññato),
  2. "signless" (animitto),
  3. "undirected" (appaihito).[13]

The meaning of emptiness as contemplated here is explained at M I.297 and S IV.296-97 as the "emancipation of the mind by emptiness" (suññatā cetovimutti) being consequent upon the realization that "this world is empty of self or anything pertaining to self" (suññam ida attena vā attaniyena vā).[14]

The term "emptiness" (suññatā) is also used in two suttas in the Majjhima Nikāya, in the context of a progression of mental states. The texts refer to each state's emptiness of the one below.[15]

Prajna-paramita Sutras

Main article: Perfection of Wisdom
The emptiness of phenomena is often compared to drops of dew

The Prajna-paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) Sutras taught that all entities, including dharmas, are only conceptual existents or constructs.[16][17]

Though we perceive a world of concrete and discrete objects, these objects are "empty" of the identity imputed by their designated labels.[18] The Heart sutra, a text from the prajnaparamita-sutras, articulates this in the following saying in which the five skandhas are said to be "empty":

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form
Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness
Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.[19][note 2][note 3]

The Diamond sutra uses various similes to illustrate the nature of Shunyata:

"Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream."
"So is all conditioned existence to be seen."[20]


Main article: Madhyamaka

Mādhyamaka is a Mahāyāna Buddhist school of philosophy.[21] In Madhyamaka, to say that an object is "empty" is synonymous with saying that it is dependently originated.

Madhyamaka states that impermanent collections of causes and conditions are designated by mere conceptual labels. This also applies to the principle of causality itself, since everything is dependently originated.[22] If unaware of this, things may seem to arise as existents, remain for a time and then subsequently perish. In reality, dependently originated phenomena do not arise as having inherent existence in the first place.[23][note 4] Thus both existence and nihilism are ruled out.[24]


Madhyamaka is retroactively seen as being founded by the monk Nāgārjuna. Nāgārjuna's goal was to refute the essentialism of Abhidharma.[25] His best-known work is the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, in which he used the reductio ad absurdum to show the non-substantiality of the perceived world.

Nāgārjuna equates emptiness with dependent origination:[26][note 5]

On the basis of the Buddha's view that all experienced phenomena (dharma) are "dependently arisen" (pratitya-samutpanna), Nagarjuna insisted that such phenomena are empty (sunya). This did not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent; only that they are devoid of a permanent and eternal substance (svabhava). Since they are experienced elements of existence, they are not mere names (prjnapti).[27]

In his analysis, any enduring essential nature would prevent the process of dependent origination, or any kind of origination at all. For things would simply always have been, and will always continue to be, without any change.[28][note 6]

In doing so, he restores the Middle way of the Buddha, which had become influenced by absolute tendencies:[29]

Utilizing the Buddha's theory of "dependent arising" (pratitya-samutpanna) Nagarjuna demonstrated the futility of these metaphysical speculations. His method of dealing with such metaphysics is referred to as a "middle way" (madhyama pratipad). It is the middle way that avoided the substantialism of the Sarvastivadins as well as the nominalism of the Sautrantikas.[27]


Main article: Prasaṅgika

The Prasangika is a sub-school of the Madhyamaka. The name is derived from prasanga, or reductio ad absurdum arguments, rather than svatantra-anumana, or independent syllogisms.

Buddhapalita (470–550), a commentator on the works of Nāgārjuna and Aryadeva, was a great master and exponent of the Prasangika system. Buddhapālita notes:

It is not that we claim non-existence, we merely remove claims for existing existents.

Candrakīrti states:

Since relativity is not objectively created, those who, through this reasoning, accept dependent things as resembling the moon in water and reflections in a mirror, understand them as neither objectively true nor false. Therefore, those who think thus regarding dependent things realize that what is dependently arisen cannot be substantially existent, since what is like a reflection is not real. If it were real, that would entail the absurdity that its transformation would be impossible. Yet neither is it unreal, since it manifests as real within the world.[30]


Main article: Svatantrika

Svātantrika is a category of Madhyamaka viewpoints attributed primarily to the 6th century Indian scholar Bhavaviveka. It is used in contrast with Prāsangika Madhyamaka.

For the Svatantrika, conventional phenomena are understood to have a conventional essential existence, but without an ultimately existing essence.

Nihilism and eternalism

See also: Middle way

Some non-Buddhist and Buddhist writers state that the Sunyata concept in Madhyamaka philosophy is nihilistic.[31][32] For example, Jackson writes:

A nihilistic interpretation of the concept of voidness (or of mind-only) is not, by any means, a merely hypothetical possibility; it consistently was adopted by Buddhism's opponents, wherever the religion spread, nor have Buddhists themselves been immune to it...[33]

This view has been challenged by other writers, who state that Madhyamaka is not nihilistic but it is a middle way between nihilism and eternalism.[34] Some scholars interpret emptiness as described by Nāgārjuna as a Buddhist transcendental absolute, while other scholars consider it a mistake.[35] The consensus is that Nāgārjuna defended the middle way, one between nihilism and absolute eternalism, and sunyata as emptiness is the soteriological middle way.[35]

Randall Collins states that for Nagarjuna, ultimate reality was "shunyata, emptiness".[36] In Nagarjuna's thesis, adds Collins, this emptiness is not a negation, but the premise that "no concepts are intelligible".[36] David Kalupahana states that this topic has been debated by ancient and medieval Buddhist metaphysicians, with a divergence of views; emptiness is a view, adds Kalupahana, but "holding up emptiness as an absolute or ultimate truth without reference to that which is empty is the last thing either the Buddha or Nāgārjuna would advocate".[37]

According to Ferrer, Nāgārjuna criticized those whose mind held any "positions and beliefs", suggesting liberation is "avoidance of all views", and explaining emptiness as follows:[38]

The Victorious Ones have announced that emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. Those who are possessed of the view of emptiness are said to be incorrigible.

Understanding in various Buddhist traditions

The term Sunyata has received a different emphasis in various Buddhist traditions, as either an ontological feature of reality, a meditation state or a phenomenological analysis of experience.


Theravada Buddhists generally take the view espoused in the Pali canon, that emptiness is merely the not-self nature of the five aggregates as well as a mode of perception which is "empty of the presuppositions we usually add to experience to make sense of it"[39] - especially that of unchanging selfhood. Therefore, some Theravadan teachers like Thanissaro Bhikku hold that emptiness is not so much a metaphysical view, as it is a strategic mode of acting and of seeing the world which leads to liberation:

The idea of emptiness as lack of inherent existence has very little to do with what the Buddha himself said about emptiness. His teachings on emptiness — as reported in the earliest Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon — deal directly with actions and their results, with issues of pleasure and pain. To understand and experience emptiness in line with these teachings requires not philosophical sophistication, but a personal integrity willing to admit the actual motivations behind your actions and the actual benefits and harm they cause.[40]

Some Theravadins such as David Kalupahana, see Nagarjuna's view of emptiness as compatible with the Pali Canon. In his analysis of the Mulamadhyamikakarika, Kalupahana sees Nagarjuna's argument as rooted in the Kaccānagotta Sutta (which Nagarjuna cites by name). Kalupahana states that Nagarjuna's major goal was to discredit heterodox views of Svabhava (own-nature) held by the Sarvastivadins and establish the non-substantiality of all dharmas.[41] According to Peter Harvey, the Abhidhamma theory of the Theravadins is not based on the kind of Svabhava that Nagarjuna was critiquing: "They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma. This is of significance as it makes the Mahayana critique of the Sarvastivadin's notion of own-nature largely irrelevant to the Theravada."[42]

Emptiness as an approach to meditation is seen as a state in which one is "empty of disturbance." This form of meditation is one in which the meditator becomes concentrated and focuses on the absence or presence of disturbances in their mind, if they find a disturbance they notice it and allow it drop away, this leads to deeper states of calmness.[40] Emptiness is also seen as a way to look at sense experience that does not identify with the "I-making" and "my-making" process of the mind. As a form of meditation, this is developed by perceiving the six sense spheres and their objects as empty of any self, this leads to a formless jhana of nothingness and a state of equanimity.[40]

According to Gil Fronsdal: "Emptiness is as important in the Theravada tradition as it is in the Mahayana. From the earliest times, Theravada Buddhism has viewed emptiness as one of the important doors to liberation."[43] Mathew Kosuta sees the Abhidhamma teachings of the modern Thai teacher Ajaan Sujin Boriharnwanaket as being very similar to the Mahayana emptiness view.[44]


Some 1st-millennium CE Buddhist texts suggest Buddha-nature type concepts that have been controversial because they imply a "self-like" concept.[45][46] In particular are the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras, where the title itself means a garbha (womb, matrix, seed) containing Tathagata (Buddha). These Sutras suggest, states Paul Williams, that 'all sentient beings contain a Tathagata' as their 'essence, core or essential inner nature'.[47] The Tathagatagarbha doctrine, at its earliest probably appeared about the later part of the 3rd century CE, and is verifiable in Chinese translations of 1st millennium CE.[47] Most scholars consider the Tathagatagarbha doctrine of an 'essential nature' in every living being is equivalent to 'Self',[note 7] and it contradicts the doctrines in a vast majority of Buddhist texts, leading scholars to posit that the Tathagatagarbha Sutras were written to promote Buddhism to non-Buddhists.[49][50]

These Tathāgatagarbha sutras presents a seemingly variant understanding of emptiness, wherein the Buddha Nature, the Buddha and Liberation are seen as transcending the realm of the empty (i.e. of the conditioned and dependently originated). Some scholars, however, view such teachings as metaphorical, not to be taken literally. Other Buddhist monks/scholars disagree with this claim.[51]

In these sutras the perfection of the wisdom of not-self is stated to be the true self. The ultimate goal of the path is characterized using a range of positive language that had been used in Indian philosophy previously by essentialist philosophers, but which was now transmuted into a new Buddhist vocabulary to describe a being who has successfully completed the Buddhist path.[52]

Srimala Sutra

The Śrīmālā Sūtra is one of the earliest texts on tathagata-garbha thought, composed in 3rd century in south India, according to Brian Brown. It asserted that everyone can potentially attain Buddhahood, and warns against the doctrine of Sunyata.[53]

The Śrīmālā Sūtra enunciates the Buddha-nature is ultimately identifiable as the supramundane nature of the Buddha, the garbha is the ground for Buddha-nature, this nature is unborn and undying, has ultimate existence, has no beginning nor end, is nondual, and permanent.[54] The text also adds that the garbha has "no self, soul or personality" and "incomprehensible to anyone distracted by sunyata (voidness)"; rather it is the support for phenomenal existence.[55]

Scholarly opinions

According to some scholars, the Buddha nature which these sutras discuss, does not represent a substantial self (ātman). Rather, it is a positive expression of emptiness, and represents the potentiality to realize Buddhahood through Buddhist practices. In this view, the intention of the teaching of Buddha nature is soteriological rather than theoretical.[56][57] According to others, the potential of salvation depends on the ontological reality of a salvific, abiding core reality — the Buddha-nature, empty of all mutability and error, fully present within all beings.[58]

According to Matsumoto Shiro and Hakamaya Noriaki, the idea of an ontological reality of the Buddha-nature is an un-Buddhist idea:[57] Their "Critical Buddhism" approach rejects what it calls "dhatu-vada" (substantialist Buddha nature doctrines)

Buddhism is based on the principles of no-self and causation, which deny any substance underlying the phenomenal world. The idea of tathagata-garbha, on the contrary, posits a substance (namely, tathagata-garbha) as the basis of the phenomenal world. [Matsumoto Shiro] asserts that dhatu-vada is the object that the Buddha criticized in founding Buddhism, and that Buddhism is nothing but unceasing critical activity against any form of dhatu-vada.[59]

The critical Buddhism approach has, in turn, recently been characterised as operating with a restricted definition of Buddhism. Paul Williams comments:

At least some ways of understanding the tathagatagarbha contravene the teachings of not-Self, or the Madhyamika idea of emptiness. And these ways of understanding the tathagatagarbha were and are widespread in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Yet by their own self-definition they are Buddhist.[60]


Main article: Yogacara

Yogacara explains "emptiness" in an analysis of the way we perceive "things". Everything we conceive of is the result of the working of the five skandhas: form, perception, feeling, volition and discrimination.[note 8] The five skandhas together create consciousness. The "things" we are conscious of are "mere concepts", not 'das Ding an sich' or 'the thing in itself'.[61]

Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism, emptiness is often symbolized by and compared to the open sky[62] which is associated with openness and freedom.[63]

Tibetan Buddhism developed five main schools. The Madhyamika philosophy obtained a central position in the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelugpa schools. The Jonang school, which until recently was thought to be extinct, developed a different interpretation of ultimate truth.


The Sakya school originated in the 11th century. It rose to power in the 13th century.[64]

Emptiness in Mādhyamaka has a second aspect. Through logical analyses it is shown that conceptual thought is dichotomizing yet "reality" (or lack of it) is free from all extremes. Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429-1489), an important philosopher in the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism who established one of the definitive Tibetan understandings of Prasangika, therefore makes his ultimate truth a liberating insight that is free from grasping the mind.[65]


Main article: Jonang

The Jonang school originated in the 12th century. Tsongkhapa strongly opposed the Jonang school, whose views he "deemed to be [...] dharmically incorrect".[66]

In the Tibetan Jonang school, only the Buddha and the Buddha Nature are viewed as not intrinsically empty, but as truly real, unconditioned, and replete with eternal, changeless virtues.[67] The Buddha Nature (tathagatagarbha) is only empty of what is impermanent and conditioned, not of its own self. The Buddha Nature is truly real, and primordially present in all beings.

An important Tibetan treatise on Emptiness and the Buddha Nature is found in the scholar-monk Dolpopa's voluminous study, Mountain Doctrine.[51] It...

... follows the format, inherited from India, of a presentation by way of both reasoning and scripture - the sciptural citations being so rich that the book can also be considered an inspiring anthology, a veritable treasure-trove of literature about the matrix-of-one-gone-thus.[68]

In this vast Mountain Doctrine, Dolpopa describes the Buddha Nature as ...

[N]on-material emptiness, emptiness that is far from an annihilatory emptiness, great emptiness that is the ultimate pristine wisdom of superiors ...buddha earlier than all buddhas, ... causeless original buddha.[69]

The Buddha-nature is filled with eternal powers and virtues:

[P]ermanent, stable, eternal, everlasting. Not compounded by causes and conditions, the matrix-of-one-gone-thus is intrinsically endowed with ultimate buddha qualities of body, speech, and mind such as the ten powers; it is not something that did not exist before and is newly produced; it is self-arisen.'[70]

Dolpopa also cites the Angulimaliya Sutra's contrast between empty phenomena such as the moral and emotional afflictions (kleshas), which are like ephemeral hailstones, and the enduring, eternal Buddha, which is like a precious gem:

Empty phenomena are other [different]; non-empty phenomena are other [different]. The tens of millions of afflictive emotions like hail-stones are empty. The phenomena in the class of non-virtues, like hail-stones, quickly disintegrate. Buddha, like a vaidurya jewel, is permanent [...] The liberation of a buddha also is form [...] do not make a discrimination of non-division, saying, "The character of liberation is empty".'[71]


The Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism is the most influential of the four Tibetan Buddhist schools. It was founded in the beginning of the 15th century by Tsongkhapa (1357- 1419), who was "strongly scholastic in orientation and encouraged the study of the great Indian masters of philosophy".[66]

The 14th Dalai Lama, who generally speaks from the Gelugpa version of the Mādhyamaka-Prasaṅgika, states:

According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded in the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is simply untenable.
All things and events, whether ‘material’, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence [...] [T]hings and events are 'empty' in that they can never possess any immutable essence, intrinsic reality or absolute ‘being’ that affords independence.[72]


The Tibetan Yungdrung Bon-tradition regards the Ma Gyu, or Mother Tantra, as the highest tantra. Its views are close to Dzogchen.[73][74] It sees waking life as an illusion, from which we have to wake up, just as we recognize dreams to be illusions.[75] Sunyata is the lack of inherent existence.[76] The Mother Tantra uses ...

...examples, similes and metaphors that we can ponder in order to better understand this illusory nature of both dream and waking life".[77]

These "examples, similes and metaphors" ...

...stress the lack of inherent existence and the unity of experience and experiencer. In the sutra teachings we call this "emptiness," in tantra "illusion," and in Dzogchen "the single sphere."[76]

Chinese Buddhism

When Buddhism was introduced in China it was understood in terms of its own culture. Various sects struggled to attain an understanding of the Indian texts. The Tathāgatagarbha Sutras and the idea of the Buddha-nature were endorsed, because of the perceived similarities with the Tao, which was understood as a transcendental reality underlying the world of appearances. Sunyata at first was also understood as pointing to transcendental reality.[78] It took Chinese Buddhism several centuries to realize that sunyata does not refer to an essential transcendental reality underneath or behind the world of appearances.[78]


Main articles: Zen and Chinese Chán

The influence of those various doctrinal and textual backgrounds is still discernable in Zen. Zen teachers still mention the Buddha-nature, but the Zen tradition also emphasizes that Buddha-nature is Sunyata, the absence of an independent and substantial "self".[78]

In Hinduism

Influence on Advaita Vedanta

Gaudapada is considered by some scholars to have been strongly influenced by Buddhism, as he developed his concept of "ajāta" from Nagajurna's Madhyamaka philosophy,[79][80] which uses the term "anutpāda":[81]

Taken together "anutpāda" means "having no origin", "not coming into existence", "not taking effect", "non-production".[83]

According to Gaudapada, the Absolute is not subject to birth, change and death. The Absolute is aja, the unborn eternal.[84] The empirical world of appearances is considered Maya (unreal as it is transitory), and not absolutely existent.[84] Thus, Gaudapada's concept of ajativada is similar to Buddhist term "anutpāda" for the absence of an origin[79][81] or śūnyatā.[85][note 9]

But Gaudapada's perspective is quite different from Nagarjuna.[89] Gaudapada's perspective is based on the Mandukya Upanishad.[89] In the Mandukya Karika, Gaudapada's commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, Gaudapada sets forth his perspective. According to Gaudapada, the metaphysical absolute called Brahman cannot undergo alteration, so the phenomenal world cannot arise independently from Brahman. If the world cannot arise, yet is an empirical fact, than the world has to be an unreal (transitory) appearance of Brahman. And if the phenomenal world is a transitory appearance, then there is no real origination or destruction, only apparent origination or destruction. From the level of ultimate truth (paramārthatā) the phenomenal world is māyā, "illusion",[89] apparently existing but ultimately not real.[90]

In Gaudapada-Karika, chapter III, verses 46-48, he states that Brahman never arises, is never born, is never unborn, it rests in itself:

When the mind does not lie low, and is not again tossed about, then that being without movement, and not presenting any appearance, culminates into Brahman. Resting in itself, calm, with Nirvana, indescribable, highest happiness, unborn and one with the unborn knowable, omniscient they say. No creature whatever is born, no origination of it exists or takes place. This is that highest truth where nothing whatever is born.

Gaudapada Karika, 3.46-48, Translated by RD Karmarkar[91]

In contrast to Renard's view,[79] Karmarkar states the Ajativada of Gaudapada has nothing in common with the Śūnyatā concept in Buddhism.[92] While the language of Gaudapada is undeniably similar to those found in Mahayana Buddhism, states Comans, their perspective is different because unlike Buddhism, Gaudapada is relying on the premise of "Brahman, Atman or Turiya" exist and are the nature of absolute reality.[89]

In Shaivism

In Veerashaivism, Shunya or Shoonya (empty, zero, void) is seen as the nature of the Supreme Consciousness or Shiva. Shunya is represented as a point, or Bindu, which is beyond one and many, and beyond human intellect.[93] Another similar term which is used in Veerashaivism to describe Shiva is balayu – void or nothingness. One of the most important texts in South Indian Veerashaivism is called the Shunyasampadane, which means the "earning of voidness", signifying the spiritual path of merging with Shiva. H.H. Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji explains Shiva thus:

It [Shiva] is the transcendent Reality, the pure Absolute, the supracosmic Infinity. It is itself its own world, its own universe, of any other than itself it can form no concept. It knows not length nor breadth nor height, for it has no experience of them; it has no cognisance even of the number one, for it is itself one and all being is really nothing. How to represent it? Words come out baffled, it defies all definition and description. Yet the humble attempt of human mind to represent it ends in a zero. So it is represented by a zero or Shunya.[94]

The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism also incorporated and modified the concept of Shunya from Buddhism into their theory of nondual monism. The Shaivites of Kashmir defined Shunya as 'shunyam ashunaym iti ukhtam' ('shunya is said to be ashunya'). This view does not see Shunya as a total void or completely empty. The Shaivites see Shunya as 'abhava', meaning that beings (bhavas) lie in a condition of absolute mergence (in Shiva's supreme consciousness).[95] It sees zero or voidness as always having the potential for multiplicity already present.

References to experiences of Shunya can be seen in the poems of the Shaivaite poet Lalleshwari.[95]

In other Hindu sects

The influence of the Shunya theory on Orissan Vaishnavism may be derived from the missionary work of Nagarjuna, who visited the kingdom and converted King Muñja to Buddhism and set up various monasteries in the region.[96] The philosophy of Shunya was also preached by various tantric teachers in the seventh century CE and was called the "Nagantaka" philosophy.[97] In the Vaishnavism of Orissa, the idea of Shunya Brahman or Shunya Purusha was widespread in the poetry of the Orissan Panchasakhas (Five Friends) like the 16th-century Acyutananda. Acyutananda's magnum opus, the Shunya Samhita, extols the nature of Shunya Brahman:

nāhi tāhāra rūpa varṇa, adṛsha avarṇa tā cinha.
tāhāku brahmā boli kahi, śūnya brahmhati se bolāi.

It has no shape, no colour,
It is invisible and without a name
This Brahman is called Shunya Brahman.[98]

The Panchasakhas practiced a form of Bhakti called Jnana-mishrita Bhakti-marga, which saw the necessity of knowledge (Jnana) and devotion - Bhakti.

The poetry of Bhima Bhoi, founder of the Satya Mahima Dharma tradition, also promotes God as Shunya.[99] Mahima Swami of the Mahima Dharma is another example of a Hindu thinker who saw the nature of God as being formless (Alekh).

In medieval Bengal, the concept of God as being Shunya, void or formless, was also popular. The eleventh century medieval Bengali poet Ramai Pandit wrote a text called the Shunya Purana which describes God as "Dharma" and "Shunya".[99]

Alternate translations

See also


  1. A common translation is "no-self", without a self, but the Pali canon uses anattā as a singular substantive, meaning "not-self".[3]
  2. Original: "Rupan śūnyatā śūnyatāiva rupan. Rupan na prithak śūnyatā śūnyatā na prithag rupan. Yad rupan sa śūnyatā ya śūnyatā tad rupan."
  3. The Five Skandhas are: Form, Feeling, Perceptions, Mental Formations and Consciousness.
  4. Chapter 21 of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā goes into the reasoning behind this.[23]
  5. Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 24:18
  6. Nāgārjuna equates svabhāva (essence) with bhāva (existence) in Chapter 15 of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
  7. Wayman and Wayman have disagreed with this view, and they state that the Tathagatagarbha is neither self nor sentient being, nor soul, nor personality.[48]
  8. Translations do differ, which makes a difference. Vijñāna can be translated as "consciousness", but also as "discernement".[61]
  9. The term is also used in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.[86] According to D.T Suzuki, "anutpada" is not the opposite of "utpada", but transcends opposites. It is kenshō, seeing into the true nature of existence,[87] the seeing that "all objects are without self-substance [Sunyata]".[88]


  1. Dale Mathers; Melvin E. Miller; Osamu Ando (2013). Self and No-Self: Continuing the Dialogue Between Buddhism and Psychotherapy. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-317-72386-8.
  2. Suñña - Palikanon.com,
  3. Bronkhorst 2009, p. 124.
  4. Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-1-134-25056-1.
  5. Christopher W. Gowans (2014). Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction. Routledge. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1-317-65934-1.
  6. "The Tibetan Buddhism Reader", edited by Reginald A. Ray, page 96
  7. Monier-Williams, Sir Monier (2nd edn, 1899) A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Reprinted Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1986: p.1085.
  8. Klein, Anne C. (1991). Knowing Naming & Negation a sourcebook on Tibetan, Sautrantika. Snowlion publications, ISBN 0-937938-21-1
  9. Analayo, From grasping to emptiness, page 151.
  10. 1 2 MN 122. See, e.g., Maha-suññata Sutta: The Greater Discourse on Emptiness translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu," Retrieved on 30 July 2013 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.122.than.html
  11. Bhikkhu 1997d.
  12. Thanissaro Bhikku, The Buddhist Religions: An Historical Introduction, P 96.
  13. SN 41.6. See, e.g., Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2004), "SN 41.6 Kamabhu Sutta: With Kamabhu (On the Cessation of Perception & Feeling)," retrieved Feb 4 2009 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn41/sn41.006.than.html.
  14. MN 43 and SN 41.7. See, e.g., respectively, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006), "MN 43 Mahavedalla Sutta: The Greater Set of Questions-and-Answers," retrieved Feb 4 2009 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html; and, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2004), "SN 41.7 Godatta Sutta: To Godatta (On Awareness-release)," retrieved Feb 4 2009 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn41/sn41.007.than.html.
  15. MN 121 and MN 122. See, e.g., respectively, Thanissaro (1997a) and Thanissaro (1997b).
  16. Williams, Paul. Buddhist Thought. Routledge, 2000, pages 68, 134-5.
  17. Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations 2nd edition. Routledge, 2009, pages 52-3.
  18. Kalupahan 1994, p. 160-169.
  19. "The Heart Sutra Prajna Paramita Hrydaya Sutra". Buddhanet.net. Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  20. Johnson, Alex; Diamond sutra - A New Translation, chapter 32; http://www.diamond-sutra.com/diamond_sutra_text/page32.html
  21. Williams, Paul (2000). Buddhist Thought Routledge, p140.
  22. Williams, Paul. Buddhist Thought. Routledge 2000, page 142.
  23. 1 2 Tsondru, Mabja. Ornament of Reason. Snow Lion Publications. 2011, pages 56-58, 405-417.
  24. Tsondru, Mabja. Ornament of Reason. Snow Lion Publications. 2011, pages 56-58, 405-417
  25. Wasler, Joseph. Nagarjuna in Context. New York: Columibia University Press. 2005, pgs. 225-263.
  26. Tsondru, Mabja. Ornament of Reason. Snow Lion Publications. 2011, pages 66-71, 447-477.
  27. 1 2 Kalupahana 1992, p. 120.
  28. Tsondru, Mabja. Ornament of Reason. Snow Lion Publications. 2011, pages 40-41, 322-333.
  29. Kalupahana 1994.
  30. Loizzo, Joseph. Nāgārjuna's Reason Sixty with Chandrakīrti's Commentary. Columbia University Press. 2007, pg. 196.
  31. Junjirō Takakusu (1998). The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 4, 105–107. ISBN 978-81-208-1592-6.
  32. Hajime Nakamura (1991). Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet, Japan. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 590–591 footnote 20. ISBN 978-81-208-0764-8., Quote: "Already in India, 'sunyata' was liable to be misunderstood as nothingness or nihil'. (...) The Sarvastivadins of Hinayana Buddhism viewed the Madhyamika school as 'one that argues that everything is nothing. (...) It is only natural that most of the Western scholars call the prajnaparamita sutra or the doctrine of the Madhyamika school nihilism since criticisms were already expressed in India. Against such criticisms, however, Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamika school says, 'you are ignorant of the function of sunyata, the meaning of the sunyata and sunyata itself'."
  33. Jackson 1993, p. 57.
  34. G. C. Nayak (2001). Mādhyamika Śūnyatā, a Reappraisal: A Reappraisal of Mādhyamika Philosophical Enterprise with Special Reference to Nāgārjuna and Chandrakīrti. Indian Council of Philosophical Research. pp. 9–12. ISBN 978-81-85636-47-4.
  35. 1 2 Jorge Noguera Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality. SUNY Press, 2002, page 102-103.
  36. 1 2 Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Harvard University Press, 2000, pages 221-222.
  37. David J. Kalupahana, Mulamadhyamakakarika of Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, pages 48-50.
  38. Jorge Noguera Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality. SUNY Press, 2002, pages 102. The quote is from the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.
  39. Thanissaro Bhikku, "Emptiness", Access to Insight, 8 March 2011, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/emptiness.html . Retrieved on 30 July 2013.
  40. 1 2 3 Thanissaro Bhikkhu. "The Integrity of Emptiness" Access to Insight, 5 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/integrityofemptiness.html . Retrieved on 30 July 2013.
  41. Kalupahana, D. Mulamadhyamakakarika of nagarjuna, page 26.
  42. Harvey, Peter. INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, page 87.
  43. Emptiness in Theravada Buddhism, http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/articles/emptiness-in-theravada-buddhism/
  44. Kosuta, Theravada emptiness, The abhidhammic theory of Ajaan Sujin Boriharnwanaket http://www.ahandfulofleaves.org/documents/Articles/Theravada%20Emptiness_The%20Abhidhammic%20theory%20of%20Ajaan%20Sujin%20Boriharnwanaket_Kosuta_2007.pdf
  45. Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. pp. 103–109. ISBN 978-1-134-25056-1.
  46. S. K. Hookham (1991). The Buddha Within: Tathagatagarbha Doctrine According to the Shentong Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhaga. State University of New York Press. pp. 100–104. ISBN 978-0-7914-0357-0.
  47. 1 2 Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-134-25056-1.
  48. Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-134-25056-1.
  49. Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. pp. 104–105, 108. ISBN 978-1-134-25056-1.
  50. Merv Fowler (1999). Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-1-898723-66-0., Quote: "Some texts of the tathagatagarbha literature, such as the Mahaparinirvana Sutra actually refer to an atman, though other texts are careful to avoid the term. This would be in direct opposition to the general teachings of Buddhism on anatta. Indeed, the distinctions between the general Indian concept of atman and the popular Buddhist concept of Buddha-nature are often blurred to the point that writers consider them to be synonymous."
  51. 1 2 Hopkins 2006.
  52. Sallie B. King (1997),The Doctrine of Buddha Nature is Impeccably Buddhist. In: Jamie Hubbard (ed.), Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm Over Critical Buddhism, Univ of Hawaii Press 1997, pp. 174-192. ISBN 0824819497
  53. Brian Edward Brown (1991). The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathāgatagarbha and Ālayavijñāna. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-81-208-0631-3.
  54. Brian Edward Brown (1991). The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathāgatagarbha and Ālayavijñāna. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-81-208-0631-3.
  55. Brian Edward Brown (1991). The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathāgatagarbha and Ālayavijñāna. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 5–7, 32. ISBN 978-81-208-0631-3.
  56. Heng-Ching Shih. "The Significance Of 'Tathagatagarbha' —- A Positive Expression Of Sunyata". Archived from the original on 2013-08-07.
  57. 1 2 King, Sallie B. "The Doctrine of Buddha Nature is Impeccably Buddhist. In: Jamie Hubbard (ed.), Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm Over Critical Buddhism, Univ of Hawaii Press 1997, pp. 174-192. ISBN 0824819497" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27.
  58. Yamamoto, Kosho (1975). Mahayanism, Tokyo: Karin Bunko, p.56
  59. Pruning the Bodhi Tree: the Storm over Critical Buddhism by Jamie Hubbard and Paul Loren Swanson, University of Hawai'i Press, 1997, p. 326
  60. Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, Second Edition, Routledge, London, 2009, pp. 124, 125
  61. 1 2 Kalupahana 1992.
  62. Vessantara; Meeting the Buddhas: A Guide to Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Tantric Deities. "They [conditioned things] are sky-like, and un-graspable, like clouds."
  63. The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa: Volume Four, Dawn of tantra, page 366
  64. Snelling 1987, p. 202.
  65. Cabezón, José Ignacio. Freedom from extremes: Gorampa's "Distinguishing the views" and the Polemics of Emptiness. Wisdom Publications, 2007, pages 50-52.
  66. 1 2 Snelling 1987, p. 207.
  67. Hopkins 2006, p. 8-16.
  68. Hopkins 2006, p. 5.
  69. Hopkins 2006, p. 14.
  70. Hopkins 2006, p. 8.
  71. Hopkins 2006, p. 210.
  72. Dalai Lama (2005). The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (Hardcover). Broadway. ISBN 0-7679-2066-X & ISBN 978-0-7679-2066-7
  73. Ligmincha Institute: Sadhanas of the Ma Gyu (Mother Tantra)
  74. "Ma Gyud - The Mother Tantras". Bon-encyclopedia.wikispaces.com. Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  75. Wangyal Rinpoche 2004, p. 53.
  76. 1 2 Wangyal Rinpoche 2004, p. 55.
  77. Wangyal Rinpoche 2004, p. 54.
  78. 1 2 3 Lai & Year unknown.
  79. 1 2 3 Renard 2010, p. 157.
  80. Comans 2000, p. 35-36.
  81. 1 2 Bhattacharya 1943, p. 49.
  82. Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Utpāda
  83. Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Anutpāda
  84. 1 2 Sarma 1996, p. 127.
  85. Renard 2010, p. 160.
  86. Suzuki 1999.
  87. Suzuki 1999, p. 123-124.
  88. Suzuki 1999, p. 168.
  89. 1 2 3 4 Comans 2000, p. 36.
  90. Hiriyanna 2000, p. 25, 160-161.
  91. RD Karmarkar, Gaudapada's Karika, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
  92. RD Karmarkar, Gaudapada's Karika, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, pages xxxix-xl
  93. H.H. Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji, ‘Prophets of Veerashaivism’, Shunya http://www.virashaiva.com/sampadane/
  94. H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji, ‘Technique of Opening the Third Eye’. http://www.shivayoga.net/shiva-yoga/idea-of-god-in-veerashaivism/
  95. 1 2 Koul, M.L. The Concept of Sunya From Buddhism to Kashmir Shaivism to Lalla Ded. http://ikashmir.net/mlkoul/sunya.html
  96. Mukherjee, Prabhat; The History of Medieval Vaishnavism in Orissa, page 14.
  97. Suryanarayan Das, Lord Jagannath, page 17.
  98. Acyutānanda, Brahma Saṃhitā, translated by Patnaik, p.117
  99. 1 2 Dalal, Roshen; Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide
  100. Ringu Tulku 2005, p. 39.
  101. Inada, Kenneth (Sri Satguru Publications, 1993) Nāgārjuna, a translation of his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā with an introductory essay: pg. 182. https://books.google.com/books?id=UsIKAAAAYAAJ&q=thusness#search_anchor




  • Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara (1943), Gauḍapādakārikā, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
  • Boruah, Bijoy H. (2000), Atman in Śūnyatā and the Śūnyatā of Atman, South Asia Seminar, University of Texas at Austin .
  • Bronkhorst, Johannes (2009), Buddhist Teaching in India, Wisdom Publications 
  • Comans, Michael (2000), The Method of Early Advaita Vedānta: A Study of Gauḍapāda, Śaṅkara, Sureśvara, and Padmapāda, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
  • Jackson, Roger R. (1993), Is Enlightenment Possible?, Snow Lion Publications, ISBN 1-55939-010-7 
  • Hopkins, Jeffrey (2006), Mountain Doctrine: Tibet's Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix, London: Snow Lion 
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1992), The Principles of Buddhist Psychology, Delhi: ri Satguru Publications 
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Lai, Whalen (2003), Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. In Antonio S. Cua (ed.): Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy (PDF), New York: Routledge, archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2014 
  • Rawson, Philip (1991), Sacred Tibet, London, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-81032-X 
  • Renard, Philip (2010), Non-Dualisme. De directe bevrijdingsweg, Cothen: Uitgeverij Juwelenschip 
  • Sarma, Chandradhar (1996), The Advaita Tradition in Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
  • Snelling, John (1987), The Buddhist handbook. A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice, London: Century Paperbacks 
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitarō (1999), Studies in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
  • Wangyal Rinpoche, Tenzin (2004), The Tibetan Yogas Of Dream And Sleep, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.