Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is a teacher in the Karma Kagyü lineage. His main residence is his monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal. He is the founder of a monastic college at Namo Buddha near Kathmandu and of many Buddhist centers in the West and Asia.

Instruction on Mahamudra vipashyana meditation by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

The two meditation practices of shamatha and vipashyana each have their place within Mahamudra practice, but they do not have the same objective. Shamatha’s aim is temporary, immediate. When our minds are disturbed or restless, they are not at peace. Cultivating the settled state of shamatha, we find that we are able to be more steady, more tranquil. That is the purpose of shamatha. Shamatha is not sufficient unto itself to attain enlightenment, but it is a support for Mahamudra practice and is therefore imperative.

What then is vipashyana, which literally means “clear seeing,” in the context of Mahamudra? First of all, we have bewildered ourselves into samsara. During this confused state, we do not see clearly the true nature of things, what reality is. The practice of vipashyana develops the ability to see clearly the actual state of affairs, to see the basic condition of what is. Training in vipashyana eliminates negative emotions and clarifies our lack of knowing, our ignorance. It also deepens our insight and wisdom.
Right now, while adrift on samsara’s ocean, we are confused about what is real, about the nature of things. In this state, there are many worries and a lot of fear and uneasiness. To be free of these we need to be free of the bewilderment and confusion. When you are free of confusion, the uneasiness, worry and fear evaporate all by themselves. For example, if there is a rope lying on the ground and someone mistakes it for a poisonous snake, he will be frightened. He worries about the snake and it creates a lot of anxiety. This uneasiness continues until he discovers that it is actually not a snake, but simply a rope. It was merely a mistake. The moment we realize the rope is just a rope, not a snake, our uneasiness, fear and anxiety disappear. In the same way, upon seeing the natural state of what is, all the suffering, fear and confused worries that we are so engrossed in will disappear. The focal point of vipashyana training is seeing what is real.

The Paths of Reasoning and Direct Perception

The pivotal difference between the path of reasoning and the path of direct perception is whether our attention faces out, away from itself, or whether the mind faces itself, looking into itself. The path of reasoning is always concerned with looking at something “out there.” It examines using the power of reason until we are convinced that what we are looking at is by nature empty, devoid of an independent identity. Whether on a coarse or subtle level, it is definitely empty. However, no matter how long and how thoroughly we convince ourselves that things are by nature empty, every time we stub our toe on something it hurts. We are still obstructed; we cannot move our hands straight through things, even though we understand their emptiness. The path of reasoning alone does not dissolve the mental habitual tendency to experience a solid reality that we have developed over beginningless lifetimes.

It is not that a particular practice transforms the five aggregates—forms, sensations, perceptions, formations and consciousnesses—into emptiness. Instead it is a matter of acknowledging how all phenomena are empty by nature. This is how the Buddha taught in the sutras. A person presented with such a teaching may often understand the words and trust the teachings, but personally he does not experience that that is how it really is. Nagarjuna kindly devised the Middle Way techniques of intellectual reasoning in order to help us understand and gain conviction. By analyzing the five aggregates one after the other, one eventually is convinced, “Oh, it really is true! All phenomena actually are empty by nature!”

While we use many tools to reach such an understanding, the reasoning of dependent origination is very simple to understand. For example, when standing on one side of a valley you say that you stand on “this” side, and across the valley is the “other” side. However, if you walk across the valley you will again describe it as “this” side, though it was the “other” side before. In the same way, when comparing a short object to a longer one, we agree that one is shorter and the other longer. Nevertheless, that is not fixed because if you compare the longer one to something even longer, it is then the shorter one. In other words, it is impossible to pin down a reality for such values; they are merely labels or projections created by our own minds.

We superimpose labels onto temporary gatherings of parts, which in themselves are only other labels superimposed on a further gathering of smaller parts. Each thing only seems to be a singular entity. It appears as if we have a body and that there are material things. Yet, just because something appears to be, because something is experienced, does not mean that it truly exists. For example, if you gaze at the ocean when it is calm on a clear night you can see the moon and stars in it. But if you sent out a ship, cast nets and tried to gather up the moon and stars, would you be able to? No, you would find that there is nothing to catch. That is how it is: things are experienced and seem to be, while in reality they have no true existence. This quality of being devoid of true existence is, in a word, emptiness. This is the approach of using reasoning to understand emptiness.

Using reasoning is not the same as seeing the emptiness of things directly and is said to be a longer path. Within the framework of meditation, the intellectual certainty of thinking that all things really are emptiness is not a convenient method of training; it takes a long time. That is why the Prajnaparamita scriptures mention that a Buddha attains true and complete enlightenment after accumulating merit over three incalculable eons. Yet, the Vajrayana teachings declare that in one body and one lifetime you can reach the unified level of a vajra-holder; in other words, you can attain complete enlightenment in this very life. Though they would appear to contradict each other, both statements are true. If one uses reasoning and accumulates merit alone, it does take three incalculable eons to reach true and complete enlightenment. Nevertheless, by having the nature of mind pointed out to you directly and taking the path of direct perception, you can reach the unified level of a vajra-holder within this same body and lifetime.

Taking direct perception as the path, using actual insight, is the way of the mind looking into itself. Instead of looking outward, one turns the attention back upon itself. Often we assume that mind is a powerful and concrete “thing” we walk around with inside. But in reality it is just an empty form. When looking into it directly to see what it is, we do not need to think of it as being empty and infer emptiness through reasoning. It is possible to see the emptiness of this mind directly. Instead of merely thinking of it, we can have a special experience—an extraordinary experience—and discover, “Oh, yes, it really is empty!” It is no longer just a conclusion we postulate. We see it clearly and directly. This is how the great masters of India and Tibet reached accomplishment.

Instead of inferring the emptiness of external phenomena through reasoning, the Mahamudra tradition taught by Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Milarepa shows us how to directly experience emptiness as an actuality. Since we habitually perceive external objects as always having concrete existence, we do not directly experience them as being empty of true existence. It is not very practical to become convinced of the emptiness of external objects such as mountains, houses, walls, trees, and so forth. Instead, we should look into our own mind. When we truly see our mind’s nature, we find it has no concrete identity whatsoever. This is the main point of using direct perception: look directly into your own mind, see in actuality that it is empty, and then continue training in that.

This mind, the perceiver, does experience a variety of moods. There are feelings of being happy, sad, exhilarated, depressed, angry, attached, jealous, proud or close-minded; sometimes one feels blissful, sometimes clear or without thoughts. A large variety of different feelings can occupy this mind. However, when we use the instructions and look into what the mind itself really is, it is not very difficult to directly perceive the true nature of mind. Not only is it quite simple to do, but it is extremely beneficial as well.

We usually believe that all of these different moods are provoked by a material cause in the external environment, but this is not so. All of these states are based on the perceiver, the mind itself. Therefore, look into this mind and discover that it is totally devoid of any concrete identity. You will see that the mental states of anger or attachment, all the mental poisons, immediately subside and dissolve—and this is extremely beneficial.

To conclude this section, I will restate my previous point. On the one hand, we hear that to awaken to true and complete enlightenment, it is necessary to perfect the accumulations of merit through three incalculable eons. Then on the other hand, we hear that it is possible to attain the unified level of a vajra-holder within this same body and lifetime. These two statements appear to contradict one another. Truthfully, there is no way one could be enlightened in one lifetime if one had to gather accumulations of merit throughout three incalculable eons. However, if one could be enlightened in a single lifetime then there seems to be no need to perfect the accumulation of merit throughout three incalculable eons. Actually, both are right in that it does take a very long time if one takes the path of reasoning. Whereas it is possible to attain enlightenment within a single lifetime if one follows the tradition of the pith instructions, using direct perception as the path.

Establishing the Identity of Mind and the Various Perceptions

It should be clear now that our use of the term vipashyana refers to direct perception. To attain this direct perception, we must undertake two tasks: first, gain certainty about the identity of mind; second, gain certainty about the identity of mind’s expression, which includes thought and perceptions. Put another way, we need to investigate three aspects: mind, thought and perception.

The first of these—mind—is when one is not involved in any thoughts, neither blatant thought states nor subtle ones. Its ongoing sense of being present is not interrupted in any way. This quality is called cognizance, or salcha in Tibetan. Salcha means there is a readiness to perceive, a readiness to think, to experience, that does not simply disappear. Since we do not turn to stone or into a corpse when we are not occupied by thinking, there must be an ongoing continuity of mind, an ongoing cognizance.
Next are thoughts, or namtok. There are many different types of thoughts, some subtle, like ideas or assumptions, and others quite strong, like anger or joy. We may think that mind and thoughts are the same, but they are not.

The third one, perceptions, or nangwa, actually has two aspects. One is the perception of so-called external objects through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch. Let us set those aside for the time being, though, as they are not the basis for the training at this point. The other aspect of perception deals with what occurs to the sixth consciousness: mental images. These mental impressions are not perceived through the senses but somehow occur to the mind in the form of memories, something imagined or thought of. Nevertheless, each of these mental impressions feels as if it is sight, sound, smell, taste or texture. Usually, we do not pay attention to any of this—it just happens and we are caught up in it; for example, when we are daydreaming or fantasizing.

It is important to become clear about what mind, thoughts and perceptions actually are—not in a theoretical way but in actuality. In the past, we may not have paid much attention to mind’s way of being when not occupied with thoughts or perceptions. We may not have looked into what the mind itself—that which experiences or perceives—actually consists of and, therefore, we may not be certain of it. When there are thoughts, mental images or perceptions, the usual habit is simply to lose control and be caught up in the show. We continually get absorbed in what is going on, instead of taking a good, clear look at the perceiving mind. We tend not to be aware that we are thinking or daydreaming; we tend to be in a rather vague, hazy state. Meditation training lets these thoughts and mental images become quite vivid. They can become as clear as day. At this point, we should take a good look and in an experiential way personally establish what their actual nature or identity is.

We use the word examine repeatedly. When you establish the nature of things by means of reason, examining refers to intellectual analysis; but that is not what we are talking about now. Unlike an intellectual investigation, examining should be understood as simply looking at how things actually are.

Establishing the Identity of Mind—the Basis

The Mahamudra sense of vipashyana does not mean to examine concepts, but to look into what the mind actually is, namely a sense of being awake and conscious, continuously present and very clear. Whenever we do look, no matter when, we cannot help but discover that mind has no form, color or shape—none at all. Then we may wonder, “Does that mean that there is no mind? Does the mind not exist?” If there were no consciousness in the body, the body would be a corpse. Yet we can see and hear, and we can understand what we are reading—so we are not dead, that’s for sure. The truth is that while mind is empty—it has no shape, color or form—it also has the ability to cognize; it has a knowing quality. The fact is that these two aspects, being empty and able to know, are an indivisible unity.

Mind does exist as a continuing presence of cognizance. We are not suddenly extinct because there are no thoughts; there is something ongoing, a quality of being able to perceive. What exactly is this mind? What does it look like? If mind exists, then in what mode does it exist? Does the mind have a particular form, shape, color and so forth? We should simply take a close look at what it is that perceives and what it looks like, then try to find out exactly what it is.

The second question is, where is this mind, this perceiver, located? Is it inside or outside of the body? If outside, then exactly where? Is it in any particular object? If it is in the body, then exactly where? Does it pervade throughout the body—head, arms, legs, etc.? Or is it in a particular part—the head or torso, the upper part or the lower part? In this way, we investigate until we become clear about the exact shape, location and nature of this perceiving mind. Then if we do not actually find any entity or location, we may conclude that mind is empty. There are different ways in which something can be empty. It could simply be absent, in the sense that there is no mind. However, we have not totally disappeared; we still perceive and there is still some experience taking place, so you cannot say that mind is simply empty. Though this mind is empty it is still able to experience. So what is this emptiness of mind?

By investigating in this way, we do not have to find something that is empty or cognizant or that has a shape, color or location. That is not the point. The point is simply to investigate and see it for what it is—however that might be. Whether we discover that the perceiver is empty, cognizant or devoid of any concreteness, it is fine. We should simply become clear about how it is and be certain—not as a theory, but as an actual experience.

If we look for a perceiver, we won’t find one. We do think, but if we look into the thinker, trying to find that which thinks, we do not find it. Yet, at the same time, we do see and we do think. The reality is that seeing occurs without a seer and thinking without a thinker. This is just how it is; this is the nature of the mind. The Heart Sutra sums this up by saying that “form is emptiness,” because whatever we look at is, by nature, devoid of true existence. At the same time, emptiness is also form, because the form only occurs as emptiness. Emptiness is no other than form and form is no other than emptiness. This may appear to apply only to other things, but when applied to the mind, the perceiver, one can also see that the perceiver is emptiness and emptiness is also the perceiver. Mind is no other than emptiness; emptiness is no other than mind. This is not just a concept; it is our basic state.
The reality of our mind may seem very deep and difficult to understand, but it may also be something very simple and easy because this mind is not somewhere else. It is not somebody else’s mind. It is your own mind. It is right here; therefore, it is something that you can know. When you look into it, you can see that not only is mind empty, it also knows; it is cognizant. All the Buddhist scriptures, their commentaries and the songs of realization by the great siddhas express this as the “indivisible unity of emptiness and cognizance,” or “undivided empty perceiving,” or “unity of empty cognizance.” No matter how it is described, this is how our basic nature really is. It is not our making. It is not the result of practice. It is simply the way it has always been.

The trouble is that for beginningless lifetimes we have been so occupied with other things that we have never really paid any attention to it—otherwise we would have already seen that this is how it is. Now, due to favorable circumstances, you are able to hear the Buddha’s words, read the statements made by sublime beings, and receive a spiritual teacher’s guidance. As you start to investigate how the mind is, when you follow their advice, you can discover how mind really is.

Establishing the Identity of Thoughts and Perceptions—the Expression

Having briefly covered establishing the identity of mind, we will now discuss establishing the identity of thoughts and perceptions, which are the expressions of mind. Though empty of any concrete identity, mind’s unobstructed clarity does manifest as thoughts and perceptions.

Thoughts can be of many types and, in this context, include emotions. The Abhidharma teachings give a list known as the fifty-one mental events. You may have noticed thangka paintings depicting Vajrayogini wearing a garland of fifty-one freshly cut-off heads to illustrate the need to immediately sever any obvious thoughts that arise. Blatant thoughts include hate, obsessive attachment, compassion and moods such as feeling hazy or very clear. When these arise, either on their own or by us provoking them in order to have something to investigate, we do not need to analyze why we are angry. Instead, immediately upon the arising of a strong thought or emotion, look into where it is, what its identity is and what it is made of. Also, when it arises you should try to find the direction it came from, and when it subsides, where it goes. Whether it is a thought, emotion, feeling or mood, the principle is the same: look into where it comes from, where it abides and where it goes. By investigating in this way, you will find that no real “thing” came from anywhere. Right now the feeling, thought or emotion does not remain anywhere, nor does it actually exist in any concrete way, and, finally, no “thing” actually disappears.

No matter what the thought or emotion may be, we should look into it. But we will fail to find any “thing”—we can’t find where it is, what it looks like or what it is made of.

This failure is neither because we are incapable of looking nor because we have been unsuccessful in finding it, but simply because any movement of the mind is empty of a concrete identity. There is no substance to it, whether it is anger, fear, joy or sorrow—all are merely empty movements of the mind. We discover that looking into thoughts is no different from looking into the quiet mind. The identity of calm mind is empty cognizance and when we look into a thought movement, we also see an empty cognizance. The great masters of the past phrased it like this: “Look into the quiet mind when quiet and look into the moving mind when moving.” We discover that mind and thoughts—the basis and the expression—have the same identity: empty cognizance.

The same holds true for sensory perceptions and memories. The Buddhist teachings define two aspects of reality: relative truth and ultimate truth. From the relative point of view, we cannot deny that there are mental images and memories, but from the point of view of the ultimate truth, we are forced to admit that they do not exist. This appears to be a contradiction. However, while experientially such images do occur to us, when we investigate what they really are, there is no thing to find, no location for them, and no identity or substance from which they are made.

You might wonder what is the use of understanding that our thoughts and perceptions are all by nature empty of any concrete identity. Sometimes we get so happy. It feels so wonderful and we love it; we cling wholeheartedly to whatever we experience or whatever we think of. At other times it is very painful and we feel like we can’t take it. This is simply due to attaching some solid identity to our thoughts and perceptions. These experiences are not so overwhelming once we clearly see the reality of these thoughts and perceptions—that their identity is not real or concrete. They become much lighter and do not weigh us down so much anymore. That is the immediate benefit. The lasting benefit is that our experience and understanding of the natural state of mind becomes clearer and clearer, more and more stable.

In this method, we do not become clear about what mind, thoughts and mental impressions are by intellectually building a theory of what they must be like and then forcing our experience to agree with our preconceived ideas. Instead, we go about it in an experiential way. We simply allow mind, thoughts or mental perceptions to be whatever they are and then look at them, investigate them. With no need to maintain any set notions about how they must be and forcing them to fit such a description, simply take a close look at the situation as it is. This is neither very complicated nor strenuous, because you are not looking into something other, but rather into this very mind that you already have right here. All you need to do is look at what it actually is. You do not have to imagine any inaccessible thoughts; simply look at your available thoughts and emotions, investigate where they are and what they are made of. The same goes for any mental impressions—simply investigate what they are as they occur. That is the training. Please spend some time giving mind, thoughts and mental impressions a close look and establish some certainty about what they actually are.

Here we have dealt with establishing the identity of mind, thoughts and mental impressions. We could have decided that mind, thoughts and mental impressions are empty, or perhaps not empty. Either way, in the context of Mahamudra training, one should not create any ideas about them. Instead, one should get to know them as they are, without any concepts as handles, by simply looking closely into them. One should not try to infer their nature, but rather see what the nature of mind, thoughts and perceptions actually is through direct experience. When we speak of “establishing their nature” or “cutting through misconceptions about mind, thoughts and perceptions,” therefore, we are referring to attaining clarity or certainty through personal experience. It means to see for ourselves, without any preconceived ideas.

This teaching was adapted from Crystal Clear: Practical Advice for Meditators, by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Compiled and edited by Michael Tweed. Published by Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2003.

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Tashi Chöling, Oregon, U.S.A.
November 18, 2002

Listen to Guru Rinpoche's "Supplication That All Thoughts Be Self-Liberated" Download

Tashi Delek! I hope that for you everything is filled with auspiciousness, happiness, and excellence. To meet you all here makes me very happy. Gyatrul Rinpoche is a great friend of mine and I have heard a lot about his monastery here. Today, to actually come and be able to see it, to see what a secluded and beautiful place it is, makes me very happy.

I would like to explain to you a supplication that was composed by Guru Rinpoche, a supplication that all thoughts be self-liberated. Guru Rinpoche composed seven chapters of supplications for students to recite to him, and this one comes from a chapter that he taught to the monk whose name was Namkha'i Nyingpo.

Before listening to this teaching, please give rise to the supreme motivation of bodhichitta. When we give rise to bodhichitta, it means that for the benefit of all sentient beings, limitless in number as the sky is vast in its extent, we aim to bring our love and compassion to their ultimate perfection, and to bring our wisdom realizing emptiness to its ultimate perfection. We know that in order to do this we must listen to, reflect upon and meditate on the teachings of the genuine Dharma with all the enthusiasm we can muster in our hearts.

The first verse of the supplication1 is:

All these forms that appear to eyes that see,
All things on the outside and the inside,
The environment and its inhabitants
Appear, but let them rest where no self's found;
Perceiver and perceived when purified
Are the body of the deity, clear emptiness—
To the guru for whom desire frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.

What appears to the eyes are forms, which are made up of shapes and colors. Everything that is a shape and color is included in the source of consciousness (Sanskrit: ayatana) that is called form. The shapes and colors that appear to the eyes are found in all of the aspects of the environment in which we live, as well as in all of the sentient beings who inhabit this environment. What is the true nature of the appearances of shapes and colors of the environment and sentient beings? It is that they are dependently arisen mere appearances, which do not exist in essence. The forms that appear do not truly exist. In the abiding nature of reality, their nature is emptiness. They appear while being empty; while empty, they appear. They are appearance-emptiness like rainbows, water-moons, and reflections. All of the objects that appear to the eyes are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.

As the protector Nagarjuna writes in his Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way2:

Like a dream, like an illusion
Like a city of gandharvas,
That's how birth, and that's how living,
That's how dying are taught to be.

The meaning of this verse and the one from Guru Rinpoche's supplication are exactly the same.

This is the actual way forms are. They are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable, but sentient beings do not see this because they think things truly exist, and their thoughts that cling to the true existence of appearances obscure the appearance-emptiness that is their true nature. That is why we practice the Dharma—to cleanse ourselves of this clinging to appearances as truly existent so that we can realize appearances' true nature is appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.

It is like when you dream and you do not know that you are dreaming. The appearances in the dream are appearance-emptiness, but your thought that they truly exist prevents you from seeing that. Even though the dream appearances are appearance-emptiness and have no inherent nature, they seem to be real when you do not know that you are dreaming. You think that they are real and you have experiences that seem to confirm your belief that they are real.

But however much you cling to the appearances in a dream, that does not change what the appearances are from their own side. The essential nature of these appearances is unchanging appearance-emptiness. It never moves from being just that. When you dream and you know you are dreaming, you are free of the thoughts that fixate on the appearances as being truly existent. You are free from that obscuration so you can experience the appearances just as they are: as appearance-emptiness. That enables you to do wonderful things like fly in the sky, move unobstructedly through rock mountains, and travel to pure realms. All that is possible when you recognize a dream for what it is, and in that way, not be blocked by thinking that the appearances truly exist.

In our waking life, even though the environment and sentient beings appear to us, the supplication says "let them rest where no self's found." The environment and sentient beings appear, but let them rest without clinging to them as truly existent. Let them rest in their natural state of appearance-emptiness without fixating on them as being real. When we let the appearances rest without fixating on them as being real, all of the thoughts of there being an actual object out there to perceive and an actual distinct subject perceiving it just dissolve. The thoughts that take the duality of perceived object and perceiving subject to be real dissolve. They are purified.

When that happens, everything shines as luminous emptiness, clarity-emptiness. At this point, you are ready to meditate on the deity, because the deity's enlightened body is also appearance-emptiness. It appears while it is empty; it is empty while it appears—it is like a rainbow. When you meditate on the deity, everything appears as the body of the deity—appearance-emptiness.

When all of the appearances of the physical environment shine as the appearance-emptiness immeasurable palace of the deity, and all the sentient beings in the environment shine as the appearance-emptiness enlightened bodies of the deities themselves, then all desire is free in its own place. It is self-liberated. Thoughts of desire do not come from anywhere and they do not go anywhere. They do not arise, so they do not cease. Since they are free from coming and going, and free from arising and ceasing, thoughts of desire are self-liberated. For this reason the verse says, "To the guru for whom desire frees itself, To Orgyen Pema Jungnay, I supplicate."

The second verse of the supplication is:

All these sounds that appear for ears that hear,
Taken as agreeable or not,
Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness
Past all thought, beyond imagination;
Sounds are empty, unarisen and unceasing,
These are what make up the Victor's teaching—
To the teachings of the Victor, sound and emptiness,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.

What appear to the ears are sounds. What is the nature of this source of consciousness that is sound? In fact, the sounds we hear are like sounds in a dream. Their basic nature is that they are always appearance-emptiness—they appear while being empty, and while being empty they appear.

The two main kinds of sounds we hear are those that we find pleasing and those we do not. Both kinds of sounds, however, are equally appearance-emptiness, sound-emptiness, just as the sounds in a dream are sound-emptiness. If we know this and meditate on the mandala of the deities, then all sounds manifest as the natural sounds of the deity's mantra: sound and emptiness.

From among the eight worldly dharmas,3 four of them are related to sound—sounds that are pleasing, sounds that are displeasing, sounds of praise, and sounds of criticism. We need to give up attachment to the eight worldly dharmas—the four that we like and the four that we do not. To do that, we can see that we need to realize that sounds are sound-emptiness. Then we will not be attached to sounds that are pleasant and sounds of praise, and we will not be averse to sounds of criticism and unpleasant sounds.

In a dream, all sounds of praise and all sounds of criticism, all sounds we like and all sounds we do not, are equally sound-emptiness. They have no inherent nature at all. But when we do not know that we are dreaming, we think these sounds truly exist, and we have experiences of happiness and suffering based on sounds of praise and blame, sounds that we like, and sounds that we do not; all because we do not recognize sounds' basic nature is sound-emptiness. Guru Rinpoche instructs: "Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness/Past all thought, beyond imagination." This is an instruction to rest free of clinging to sounds as being truly existent, free of clinging to them as being real. In their basic nature that is sound and emptiness, just let go and relax. Settle into your own basic nature within the nature of sound that is sound and emptiness.

Since the enlightened body of the Buddha is appearance-emptiness, then the sound of the Buddha's speech is also emptiness. It is sound-emptiness undifferentiable. When you know that all sound lacks inherent nature in the same way, then all sound is like the sound of the Buddha's teachings and all sound manifests as the resonance-emptiness sound of the Buddha's speech. The last line of the supplication reads, "To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate." Here Orgyen Pema Jungnay represents the Buddha's speech that is the sound-emptiness abiding reality of all the sound there is. To this Orgyen Pema Jungnay, we supplicate.

At the beginning of this twenty-first century, everywhere we go there are radios playing, tape recorders playing, the sound of movies and televisions—the world is filled with sound. At this time, then, it is quite important to know that all sounds have no inherent nature. They are sound-emptiness. These days, moment by moment, sounds can be carried across the globe and change so many people's feelings all at once—from happiness to suffering, from suffering to happiness. Just on the basis of hearing a few sounds, millions of people's feelings can change. Also these days it is easy to realize that sounds are sound-emptiness, because if you pick up the phone in America at noon and you call somebody in another country, then for some people it will be midnight, and for some people in other countries it will be morning. So at what time is this sound really being made? In this way, we can easily recognize sound-emptiness. If somebody in America calls someone in India and talks to them on the phone, in America it is noon, in India it is midnight. A daytime mouth is talking to a nighttime ear—at the same time! If sounds were truly existent, that would be impossible. It would be a contradiction for sound made during the day to be heard simultaneously at night. But it is not a contradiction when we know that it is just sound-emptiness. Thinking about things in this way, during these times it is much easier to understand how sound is sound-emptiness.

Also, these days a famous person can give a speech that is broadcast all over the world. The people who like that person will hear that speech as something very pleasant and beautiful. The people who do not like that person will find it repulsive to listen to. The people who have no opinion do not have any reaction to that sound one way or the other. If we ask, "What is that sound, really? Is it good or bad?" again we see that the true nature of sound is inexpressible. These days, sounds beam down from empty space. They come from empty buildings and even empty cars. It is important for us to be able to examine these sounds and their sources to see that they are sound-emptiness, because most of the suffering we experience comes from hearing sounds. We need to train in the understanding of sound as it is taught in the Middle Way, which is that in genuine reality, sounds are empty of any essence. In apparent reality, they are dependently arisen mere appearances.

As the glorious Chandrakirti wrote,

Things do not arise causelessly, nor from Ishvara,
Nor from self, nor other, nor both;
Therefore, it is clear that things arise
Perfectly in dependence upon their causes and conditions.

Things do not arise from any of the four possible extremes: from self, other, both or without cause, and there's no fifth possibility. Therefore, things do not truly arise—they do not come into existence; they do not actually happen. Then what is the appearance of them happening? It is just like the appearance of things happening in a dream; like the appearance of a moon shining on a pool of water; and like the appearance of an illusion. It is dependently arisen mere appearance. In this way, since sounds do not exist in genuine reality, and since in relative reality they are just dependently arisen mere appearances, all sounds are simply sound-emptiness. When you recite mantras, then mantras are also sound-emptiness.

We supplicate Guru Rinpoche at the end of the verse, because even though we know that sounds are sound and emptiness, we are obscured from realizing that directly by our thoughts that cling to sounds as being truly existent. We supplicate for Guru Rinpoche's blessing so that these thoughts that sounds truly exist may dissolve, and when they dissolve, that we will recognize the true nature of sound is sound-emptiness.

The third verse of the supplication is:

All these movements of mind towards its objects,
These thoughts that make five poisons and afflictions,
Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances,
Do not review the past nor guess the future;
If you let such movement rest in its own place,
It liberates into the dharmakaya—
To the guru for whom awareness frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.

For ordinary beings, mind is discursive. It moves. It moves towards objects. It moves towards the three times. It is constantly thinking about one thing or another. Mind is moved by thoughts of the five poisons. When mind encounters an object it likes, it moves towards that object with thoughts of attachment. When mind encounters an object it does not like, it moves towards that object with thoughts of aversion, thoughts of anger. When mind judges something incorrectly, it moves towards that object with bewilderment. When one's mind believes that one has qualities that one does not have, it moves towards oneself with thoughts of arrogance. When mind looks at somebody else and sees things that it does not have, it moves towards that person with thoughts of jealously. In this way, thoughts of the five poisons constantly move the mind. "Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances." When thoughts of the five poisons are moving the mind, just let mind rest without trying to fix anything, without trying to change anything, without reviewing the past kleshas (disturbing mental states) or wondering what happened to them; and without anticipating what types of disturbing states of mind one might experience in the future. Do not review the past, do not guess the future. Just let mind relax as it is right now.

We do not need to try to prevent thoughts of desire from arising. We do not need to try to stop thoughts of anger or jealously once they have arisen. Do not try to prevent anything; do not try to stop or change anything; just simply do not take any of those movements of mind to be truly existent. That is the instruction because we could not stop the thoughts of the five poisons from arising, even if we wanted to! We could not do that, but we do not have to. All we have to do is recognize that these thoughts lack any essence.

How do we do this? Whatever thought arises, look straight at it with your eye of wisdom and settle into its basic nature. When you do that, all thoughts and all disturbing states of mind are liberated within the dharmakaya. They are self-liberated. The whole collection of thoughts is free just as it is. This is awareness, and this awareness is awareness-emptiness. Since this awareness-emptiness is pure in nature, whatever obscurations there may be have no essence. Awareness itself is self-liberated. It is free just as it is.

Then we supplicate the guru whose awareness is self-liberated. This is Guru Rinpoche. For Guru Rinpoche, awareness frees itself. We supplicate you Orgyen Pema Jungnay for your blessings so that we may realize, as you do, the self-liberation of awareness.

The Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang in his vajra song of realization called "The Three Nails"4:

To describe the nails of meditation, the three
All thoughts in being dharmakaya are free
Awareness is luminous, in its depths is bliss
And resting without contrivance is equipoise

All thoughts are dharmakaya in their nature. Thoughts are free all by themselves, without having to do anything to them, stop them, or change them in any way. They are naturally dharmakaya. What is dharmakaya like? It is luminous. It is awareness. It is bliss. How do we experience this dharmakaya in meditation? Rest without contrivance. Rest without artifice. This is equipoise. This is the experience of dharmakaya. The verses of Milarepa and Guru Rinpoche have the same meaning.

What is awareness-emptiness like? Milarepa described it in the following way in the song "The Ten Things it is Like"5:

When you know the true nature of everything to be known
The wisdom that's aware of the true nature's like a cloud-free sky

With these two lines, Milarepa tells us the emptiness aspect of awareness is like the sky completely free of clouds. Then he sings:

When the mud settles down and mind's river is crystal clear
Self-arisen awareness is like a polished mirror's shine

Milarepa illustrates the luminous, bright, vivid aspect of awareness with the example of a perfectly polished mirror's sparkling shine. In this way, we see what emptiness is like, we see what awareness is like, and then we can understand that the two are undifferentiable.

The great pandit Shakya Chokden described the noble Asanga's explanation of genuine reality as follows:

Clarity-emptiness, mere awareness, empty of the duality of perceived and
     perceiver is all phenomena's abiding reality.
Knowing this and combining it with a limitless accumulation of merit, the
     spontaneously present three kayas will manifest.
This is Asanga's tradition.

In this way, Asanga presents the true nature of reality of all phenomena as nondual luminous emptiness, nondual awareness-emptiness. The explanation that the true nature of reality is emptiness beyond all concept of what it might be is the presentation of the Middle Way Consequence School (Prasangika Madhyamaka). The presentation of the true nature of reality as awareness-emptiness, luminous clarity, is the presentation of the Shentong Madhyamaka, the Empty of Other Middle Way School, and also the presentation of the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions. What does the term "empty of other" or shentong mean? This is described in the text called the Gyu Lama, the Treatise on Buddha Nature:

The element is empty of that which is separable from it, all fleeting stains.
But it is not empty of that which is inseparable from it, its own unsurpassable qualities.

"Empty of other" means that the buddha nature, the true nature of mind, luminous clarity, awareness, is empty of that which is different from it: stains and flaws. It is empty of those. But it is not empty of the spontaneously present qualities, the naturally present qualities of enlightenment. These unsurpassable qualities are totally inseparable from the true nature of mind.

In short, this supplication is a supplication that we will manifest our own basic nature. We supplicate the guru to bless us so that we can manifest the awareness-emptiness that is the true nature of mind. It is a supplication that all appearances will be self-liberated as the enlightened body of the deity, all sounds will be self-liberated as the enlightened speech of the deity, and all thoughts will be self-liberated as essential reality itself.

The last verse of the supplication sums it all up:

Grant your blessing that purifies appearance
Of objects perceived as being outside;
Grant your blessing that liberates perceiving mind,
The mental operation seeming inside;
Grant your blessing that between the two of these
Clear light will come to recognize its own face;
In your compassion, sugatas of all three times,
Please bless me that a mind like mine be freed.

Grant your blessings that all clinging to objects on the outside as truly existent will be self-liberated. Grant your blessings that all thoughts on the inside will be self-liberated. Grant your blessings that in between, luminous clarity, Dzogchen, will recognize its own face. In your compassion, realized buddhas of all three times, grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from clinging to characteristics. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from the bondage of samsara. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from the bondage of believing that duality truly exists. Grant your blessing that all of our concepts of duality will be self-liberated.

My departing prayer is that Gyatrul Rinpoche be healthy, that he live a long life, and that his activity for the benefit of all sentient beings flourish. And I pray that all of you, his students, bring your activities of listening to, reflecting on and meditating on the teachings of the genuine Dharma to their perfection and that, through this, you are of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings. And especially here at Tashi Chöling may the teachings of the practice and explanation lineages flourish and bring great benefit to all of the beings of this land.

Translated by Ari Goldfield.

1 The Guru Rinpoche Prayer is translated by Jim Scott.
2 Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.
3 The eight worldly dharmas are what worldly beings strive to attain or avoid. The four not explicitly mentioned in this paragraph are happiness, pain, gain, and loss.
4 Translated by Jim Scott.
5 Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.



I. The Survey of Mahāyāna Sūtras

As we have known the Buddha did not express his religious doctrine in terms of Śūnyatā (空 性), but rather by Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda, 緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起) and Middle Path (Madhya-mārga / Madhyamā-pratipad, 中 論). Several centuries later, a group of Mahāyāna texts such as the Vajrachedikā-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra (金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經) and the Hṛdaya Sūtra (心 經) or Prajñā Hṛdaya Sūtra (心 經 般 若) belonging to the Prajñā-pāramitā literature (般 若 波 羅 密 經), introduced strongly the doctrine of Śūnyatā. That is the reason, we may select them to analyze for the purpose of this chapter.

Let us first of all run to the information of the sources of these sūtras.

The Prajñā-pāramitā Literature (般 若 波 羅 密 經)

Issues of the origins of the Prajñāpāramitā and those of the Mahāyāna are closely connected, since at the present stage of our knowledge the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras are probably Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtras (般 若 波 羅 密 經). The Prajñā-pāramitā or ‘Perfection of Wisdom’, which represents the Dharma-Jewel, is not so much a sūtra as a family of sūtras or even a dynasty. Dr. Edward Conze, who devoted the greater part of his life to studying, translating and explaining these documents, collates from Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan and Khotanese sources, a list of forty Prajñā-pāramitā texts, not all of them sūtras or canonical, the composition of which began about 100 B.C.E., and continued steadily until the time of the virtual disappearance of Buddhism from India in the thirteenth century C.E. Edward Conze315 has said that the time of the composition of the Prajñā-pāramitā texts can be roughly stretching over more than a thousand years from 100 B.C.-1200 A.D and he distinguished four phases in the development of the Prajñā-pāramitā literature as under:

1. The elaboration of a basic text (100 B.C.-100 A.D.) which constitutes the original impulse,

2. The expansion of that text (100-300 A.D.),

3. The re-statement of the doctrine in the short sūtras and in versified summaries (300-500 A.D.),

4. The period of Tantric influence and of absorption into magic (600-1200 A.D.).

The traditional classification is simply in terms of length. Taking the sloka or verse of thirty-two syllables as the unit of measurement, there are ‘Large’sūtras consisting of 18,000, 25,000 and 100,000 ‘lines’, all of which made their appearance during the second of Conze’s four phases of development, and ‘Small’ ones consisting of anything from a few hundred lines, or less, up to 8,000 lines, that appeared during the first and during the third phase.

The principal or the oldest text is the Aṣṭsāsarikā Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra (八 天 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經), ‘The Sūtra on the Perfection of Wisdom’ in 8,000 lines and its shorter verse summary or possible original, as the case may be, the Ratra-guna-samuccaya-gāthā, ‘Verses on the Accamulation of Precious Qualities’ (寶 積 經). It may be (at least it is the prevailing theory) that the Aṣṭasāhasrikā was expanded in the Satasahasrikā (100,000 lines) and the Sārdhadvisāhasrikā (2,500 lines). A Dasasahasrikā or Perfection of Wisdom ‘in 10,000 lines’ is also sometimes classed with the larger sūtras. The Saptasatikā (700 lines) and the Adhyardhasatiku (150 lines) expanded in the Satasahasrikā (100,000 lines) (一 百 千 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經) and the Pañcavimsatisāhasrikā (25,000 lines) (二 萬 五 千 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經), and then condensed in the Sārdhadvisāhasrikā (2,500 lines) (二 千 五 百 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經). The Astadasa or Perfection of Wisdom ‘in 18,000 lines’ (十 八 千 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經). (十 千 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經) (七 百 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經) (一 百 五 十 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經).316

Among the shorter sūtras or around 300-500 the texts were shortened, the finest of this process are the two earliest, both appearing before 400 C.E., the Vajracchedikā (金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經) in 300 lines and the Hṛdaya (Heart sūtra, 心 經 hoaëc 心 經 般 若) in 25 or 14 lines317 and the latter comprises only 262 words in the Chinese translation.318

The Vajrachedikā-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra (金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經)

The Vajrachedikā (金 剛 or 金 剛 般 若) or ‘Diamond-Cutter’ sūtra (vajra, 金 剛 is really the mythical ‘thunderbolt’, and denotes something of irresistible strength) is also known as ‘the Perfection of Wisdom’. A short text in two parts and thirty-two chapters, it is in the form of a dialogue between the Buddha (佛 陀) and Subhūti (須 菩 提). The Sanskrit original does not, however, give any chapter division, and the one adopted by Max Muller and other scholars date back to ca. 530 C.E. when in China it was introduced into Kumarajiva of translation (摎 摩 羅 什). It is not really of much help. Unlike the summaries, the Vajracchedikā Sūtra (as it is popularly known) does not attempt to give a systematic survey of the Prajñā-pāramitā teachings. Instead, it confines itself to a few central topics, which it inculcates by addressing the intuition rather than the logical intelligence. The result is not one that is calculated to endear the work to scholars.

The full title the Vajracchedikā Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra (as it reads in Kumarajiva’s version) indicates that the teaching of the sūtra aims at revealing the Buddha’s Diamond Mind, so as to cut off people’s doubts and awaken their faith. This Diamond Mind is the Absolute Mind of Supreme Enlightenment. What the Buddha does, in the course of his dialogue with Subhūti, is simply to remove the latter’s doubts as they arise one by one in his mind as he listened to the Buddha’s discourse. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the name of this sūtra is Vajracchedikā Prajñā-pāramitā. Vajracchedikā means ‘The Diamond that cut through afflictions, agnorance, delusion or illusion’. In China and Vietnam, people generally call it the Diamond Sūtra, emphasizing the word ‘diamond’, but, in fact, the phrase ‘cutting through’ is the most important. Therefore, the Sūtra’s full name is ‘the Diamond that Cuts through Illution’.319

Prajñā-pāramitā means ‘Perfection of Wisdom’, ‘Transcendent Understanding’, or ‘the understanding that brings us across the ocean of suffering to the other shore’. Studying and practicing this Sūtra can help us cut through ignorance and transporting ourselves to the shore of liberation.

Six Chinese translations are extant, beginning with Kumarajiva’s (摎 摩 羅 什 , 402 C.E.), and proceeding through those of Bodhiruci (菩 提 留 志 , 509 C.E.), Paramartha (真 諦 , 562 C.E.), Dharmagupta (達 摩 鋦 多 , 605 C.E.), and Hsuan-tsang (玄 莊 , 648 C.E.), to that of I-tsing (義 淨 , 703 C.E.). They were not all made from the same recension; Kumarajiva’s, indeed, was not made direct from the Sanskrit text. In addition there are various Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchu translations, as well as one in Sogdian which has not survived completely. The hundred or so commentaries in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, though of no concern to us here are nevertheless further evidence of the overwhelming popularity of the sūtra. In the West, it has begun to attract a corresponding degree of attention. Editions of the Sanskrit text, and renderings into English, French and German have already appeared. In English alone there are at least eight complete translations, besides incomplete ones. Versions have also appeared in modern Japanese and in Thai. It would seem that the Vajracchedikā Sūtra is destined to exert no less influence in the future than it did in the past, and over an even vaster field.320

The Hṛdaya Sūtra (心 經)

The Hṛdaya or Heart Sūtra, often bound up in one volume with the Vajracchedikā Sūtra, is the only Prajñā-pāramitā text that rivals it in popularity. Indeed so closely are the two allied, both intrinsically and extrinsically, that it is really quite improper to speak in terms of rivalry at all. Though an extremely concentrated work, consisting of only a single leaf in most editions, it exists in two recensions, a long and a short one.

These agree in the body of the Sūtra, but the longer recension has, both at the beginning and the end, an account of the circumstances of its preaching. The Sūtra is really a dialogue in which, although only one of them actually speaks, the two participants constitute, as it were, two poles between which is generated the energy that determines the dialectical movement of the exposition.

The participants are the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, who does not figure prominently elsewhere in the Prajñā-pāramitā literature, and Śāriputra. It is the former who speaks. Addressing the great disciple by name, he reveals to him the content of his transcendental spiritual experience as he courses in the profound Perfection of Wisdom.

Specifically the Sūtra is a restatement of the Four Noble Truths in the light of the dominant idea of Śūnyatā. As in the case of several other very short Sūtras, by far the greater portion of the material has been taken from the Large Prajñā-pāramitā. Nevertheless, the parts have been welded together into a convincing artistic unity, and the dialectical stages through which Avalokiteśvara conducts Śāriputra follow one upon another as inevitably, as the movements of a Beethoven quartet. As if the message of the Prajñā-pāramitā were not already sufficiently condensed, the body of the sūtra proper concludes with a short mantra constituting as it were its veritable quintessence: ‘Gate, Gate, Pāragate, Pārasamgate, Bodhi Svāhā’ (堨 諦 , 堨 諦 , 波 羅 堨 諦 , 波 羅 增 堨 諦 , 菩 提 薩 婆 訶).321 By the proper intonation of these words one’s heart is opened to the influence of Perfect Wisdom.

The Hṛdaya sūtra being as popular as the Vajracchedikā Sūtra, its literary backwash is no less impressive. The Sanskrit text of both recensions has been found in palm-leaf form in Japan, the shorter one having been brought there in 609 C.E. and the longer in 850 C.E. In the course of six centuries seven Chinese translations of the sūtra produced, by Kumārajīva (摎 摩 羅 什) or one of his disciples - (ca. 400 C.E.), Hsuan-tsang (玄 莊 , 649 C.E.), Dharmacandra (法 月 , 741 C.E.), Prajñā (大 慧 , 790 C.E.), Prajñācakra (慧 眼 , 861 C.E), Fa-cheng (施 護 , 856 C.E), and Dānapala (陀 那 杷 羅 , ca. 1000 C.E). It was translated into Tibetan by Vimalamitra (無 垢 有). There are also Mongolian and Manchu versions. Commentaries and expositions abound. Its popularity in the West is attested by a dozen English translations, besides six in French and one in German.322

A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms (中 英 佛 學 辭 典) gives a difinition as below:

‘The Sūtra of the heart of Prajñā; there have been several translations, under various titles, the generally accepted version being by Kumarajiva, which gives the essence of the Wisdom Sūtras. There are many treatises on the Sūtra.’323

On average, two new versions of the Hṛdaya Sūtra became available to the public every one hundred years, each with some incremental improvements. Because of its brevity and preciseness, the text was popular and most widely circulated in China.

The Hṛdaya Sūtra was the pan-sectarian text accepted by all Buddhist schools as the essential core doctrine of Mahāyāna Buddhism, not only by the above scholastic traditions but also by the practical traditions of Ch’an and Pureland. As it is concise and short, the text was fit for memorization and chanting by an individual or community of people. Monks and nuns as well as lay people in China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea... frequently chant this Sūtra at the pray performance. The widespread use of the Hṛdaya Sūtra was one of the distinctive features of Mahāyāna Buddhist culture in the later half of the first millennium. In other words, the essence of the entire Mahāyāna teaching is contained in this sūtra of only 262 words in the Chinses translation. How important the Hṛdaya Sūtra is! We may recognize it.

II. The Concept of Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna Sūtras

After the Buddha’s parinirvāṅa, Buddhism became popular and developed from early Buddhism into Hīnayāna (小 乘) (we also call Early Buddhist Tradition) and Mahāyāna (大 乘) (the Developed Buddhist Tradition).324 The division between Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna Buddhism was established sometime between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Hīnayāna is the conservative Buddhist school which tries to preserve the orthodox teachings and practices of Buddhism. It accepts the Pāli canon as the main scriptures. For Hīnayānists, there is only one Buddha, who is the founder of Buddhism, and the highest goal or level one can achieve in life is to become an Arahata, a good disciple of the Buddha who attains salvation for himself by his own effort. scriptures.325

Māhayāna Buddhism is the later liberal Buddhist school which has a new interpretation of Buddhism. It does not accept the Pāli canon as the sole scriptural source, but has many new scriptures written in Sanskrit, then Chinese, Tibetan...326 According to Māhayānists there is not just one Buddha, but many. In principle, everyone has Buddha-nature and can become a Buddha. The ideal one seeks to achieve is to become not merely an Arahata, but a Bodhisattva, a Buddha-to-be, who has a great compassion for the world of mortals, and, after attaining salvation for himself, helps others to attain salvation. The chief philosophical difference between Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna is that while the former assert the reality of dharmas (elements or entities), the latter declare that all things are empty.

In other words, it is said that pudgalanairātmya (我 空) and dharma- nairātmya (法 空) (non-substantiality of the self and the dharmas) are the two important concepts associated with Hinayāna and Mahāyāna respectively.327

In the later development of Mahāyāna Buddhism, the philosophy of concept of non-substantiality of the dharmas (dharma nairātmya, 法 空) was widely accepted. It basically denied the separate reality of the elements (of existence). According to this, substance is unreal, a thought-construction (vikalpa, 想) and the modes and attributes (associated with the thought-construction) are also unreal. It is well known that with the emergence of a vast literature such as Prajñā-pāramitā (般 若 波 羅 密 經), Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka (妙 法 蓮 花 經), Laṇkāvatāra (楞 伽 經), Lalitavistara (神 通 遊 戲 經), Samādhirāja (三 妹 王 經), Suvarnaprabhāsa (金 光 明 經), Dasabhūmi (十 地 經), Sukhāvati (無 量 壽 經), Vimalakīrti (維 摩 詰 經), Āvataṁsaka Sūtras (華 嚴 經) and other Māhayāna scriptures are too numerous to mention and among them specially the title of Prajñā-pāramitā. T.R.V. Murti says in this connection, "The prajñāpāramitā revolutionised Buddhism in all aspects of its philosophy and religion by the basic concept of Śūnyatā."328

The philosophical systems of Prajñā-pāramitā literature including Vajrachedikā-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra and the Hṛdaya Sūtra in Buddhism made radical changes in the earlier concepts. The twin concepts of pudgalnairātamya and the dharmanaitātmya as found in the early Buddhism were made broad based in the Prajñā-pāramitā literature. The basic concept of nairātmya was further transformed into Śūnyatā. This concept of Śūnyatā subsequently absorbed in itself some of the concepts which were primarily conceived either ontological, epistemological or metaphysical. Some of the concepts like ādhyātma, rūpa (色), saṁskṛta (有 為), asamkṛta (無 為), prakṛti (自 性), bhāva (有), abhāva (非 有), svabhāva (實 體), parabhāva (真 體), vijñāna (識) , saṁskara (行), vastu (事 健) and sattva (有 情) were associated with the concept of Śūnyatā.

It may be stated that the Mādhyamika (中 論) system is a school of thought relying the concept of Śūnyatā, but Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna (龍 樹) cannot be called its founder because Śūnyatā was present before him in the Mahāyāna Sūtras (大 乘 經), some of which are prior even to Ashvaghoṣa (馬 鳴). Nāgārjuna is only the first systematic expounder of Śūnyatā. However, it is to the glory of Nāgārjuna that he seized these threads and wove them into unity; it is to the greatness of Nāgārjuna that he developed these more or less scattered ideas almost to perfection in a thoroughly consistent manner. Nāgārjuna who wrote number of works of which the Mādhyamika-karikā is regarded as his masterpiece presents in a systematic manner the philosophy of Mādhyamika school in particular, Mahāyāna Buddhism in general.

Śūnyatāvādins (空 論 者) call themselves Mādhyamikas or the followers of the Middle Path realized by Buddha during his Enlightenment, which Path, avoiding the errors of existence and non-existence, affirmation and negation, eternalism and nihilism, also at once transcends both the extremes.

The study of the Prajñā-pāramitā literature also shows that some of the Yogācārins (瑜 伽 者) also produced the versified summaries of the Prajñā-pāramitā. It is said that Dignāga (陳 那) in his Piṇdārtha dwells on sixteen modes of Śūnyatā.329 It may be mentioned here that out of these sixteen modes of śūnyatā prakṛtiśūnyatā (非 自 性 ,) saṁskṛtaśūnyatā (非 有 為) and asaṁskṛtaśunyatā (非 無 為) are referred in the commentary of Haribhadra (師 子 賢) known as Āloka (無 色 界). The Prajñā-pāramitā-piṇḍārtha330 of Dignāga even negated the Bodhisattva itself. Thus, it can be said that the basic concepts of pudgala-nairātmya and the dharma-nairātmya of the early Buddhism were made more elaborate in the twenty modes of Śūnyatā, as found in the Aṣṭsāsarikā Prajñā-pāramitā (八 天 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經) whereas the Prajñā-pāramitā-piṇḍārtha of Dignāga refers only to sixteen modes of Śūnyatā.

It may be pointed out here that the various modern commentators such as Prof. Stcherbatsky,331 Aiyaswami Sastri, Bhāvaviveka,332 Obermiller,333 Murti334... who have contributed to the successive development of the concept of Śūnyatā. According to Dr. Harsh Narayan, Śūnyavāda is complete and pure Nihilism. Śūnyavāda is a negativism which radically empties existence up to the last consequences of Negation. He has taken great pains to prove that Śūnyavāda is Nihilism pure and simple and to establish his preconceived view he has not only given some evidence from Mahāyāna Texts but has relied upon the verdict of tradition too as illustrated below:

"In the face of such an almost unanimous verdict of tradition, it is difficult to see how the nihilistic interpretation of śūnyavāda can be rejected as totally false."

The thinkers of Yogācāra school describe Śūnyavāda as total Nihilism. Dr Radhakrishnan says that absolute (i.e. Śūnyatā) seems to be immobile in its absoluteness. Dr. T.R.V. Murti views Prajñā-pāramitā as absolute itself and said:

"The absolute is very often termed śūnya, as it is devoid of all predicates".

As we see, with the emergence of the Mahāyāna Sūtras and Mahāyāna philosophers, a new dimension of Śūnyatā was added to the concept of Suññatā in Pāli Nikāyas or pudgalanairātmya and dharmanairātmya in Hīnayāna. This and the ultimate Truth concept of Śūnyatā literally revolutionised the earlier concept in Pāli Nikāyas with regard to some shades of different entities and different meanings in Mahāyāna Sūtras such as Śūnyatā as the true nature of empirical Reality, Pratītyasamutpāda (緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起), Middle Way (中 道), Nirvāṇa (涅 槃), and Śūnyatā (空 性) is considered as beyond the Negation or Indescribable (Chatuṣkoṭi-vinirmukta) and Śūnyatā is the means of the relative Truth (Sammuti, Skt. Saṁvṛti-satya, 俗 諦) (Paramārthasatya, Skt. Paramārtha-satya, 真 諦).

Now let us come to study them respectively, but first of all, we must grasp their concise definition in Mahāyāna field.

The Definition of Śūnyatā

The term Śūnyatā,335 terminologically compounded of ‘śūnya’ (empty, void, hollow) and an abstract suffix ‘tā’ (equivalent to ‘ness’), was almost invariably translated into Chinese as (空 性) (emptiness, voidness, or vacuity). The concept of this term was essentially both logical and dialectical. The difficulty to understand this concept is due to its transcendental meaning (paramārtha, 真 諦) in relation to the logico-linguistic meaning (vyavahāra), especially because the etymological tracing of its meaning (i.e. śūnya meaning ‘vacuous or hollow within a shape of things’, 真 空) provides no theoretical or practical addition to one’s understanding of the concept.

According to A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms (中 英 佛 學 辭 典),336 ‘The nature void, i.e. the immateriality of the nature of all things’ is the basic meaning of Śūnyatā. It is very interesting if we will step to examine the field of this definition through the poetic and figural similes of Śūnyatā, before entering to discover the major meanings of the concept of Śūnyatā.

Similes of Śūnyatā

The phenomenal nature of the Dhammas is well illustrated by Buddhaghosa who employs a number of similes to illustrate their unreality. Nāgārjuna also takes these similes to point out the efficacy of the logic contained in them, to comprehend the unreality of the Dhammas. These Dhammas are ever new (nicanava), like dew at sunrise (suriyaggamane ussavabindu), like a bubble of water (udake dndaraji), like a mustard seed at the end of an awl (aragge sasapo), like a flash of lightening of instantaneous duration (vijjuppado viya ca paritthayino), like an illusion (māyā, 幻 覺), like a mirage (marici, 焰 喻), like a dream (supinanta, 夢), like a wheel of fire (alatacakka, 熱 輪 車), like the city of the Gandharvas (gandhabba-nagara, 乾 撻 婆), like froth (phena, 浮 水) and like the banana tree (kadali, 香 蕉).

It is very interesting and significant too that Nāgārjuna himself has used most of these similes in his Karikas: alatacakranirmana (熱 輪 車), svapna (夢), maya (幻 覺), marici (幻 想), ambu-candra (球 周), gandharvanagara (乾 撻 婆)...337

The Buddha used a number of similes in the Nikāyas to point out the unreality of dhammas of every kind and it is these similes that have been later used with great effectiveness in Mahāyāna philosophical schools, specially of Chinese Buddhist thinkers:338

1. Emptiness implies non-obstruction... like space or the Void, it exists within many things but never hinders or obstructs anything.

2. Emptiness implies omnipresence... like the Void, it is ubiquitous; it embraces everything everywhere.

3. Emptiness implies equality... like the Void, it is equal to all; it makes no discrimination anywhere.

4. Emptiness implies vastness... like the Void, it is vast, broad and infinite.

5. Emptiness implies formlessness or shapelessness... like the Void, it is without form or mark.

6. Emptiness implies purity... like the Void, it is always pure without defilement.

7. Emptiness implies motionlessness... like the Void, it is always at rest, rising above the processes of construction and destruction.

8. Emptiness implies the positive negation... it negates all that which has limits or ends.

9. Emptiness implies the negation of negation... it negates all Selfhood and destroys the clinging of Emptiness (pointing to the thorough transcendency that is free from all abiding).

10. Emptiness implies unobtainability or ungraspability... space or the Void, it is not obtainable or graspable.

First appearing in the Nikāyas the ten similes, expressed in every Mahāyāna philosophical school, illustrate in a poetic way the unreality of the phenomena.

The Meanings of the Concept of Śūnyatā

Śūnyatā as the True Nature of Empirical Reality

In early Buddhism, Suññatā (空) defined as anattā (無 我). The Theravādists and Hīnayānists understood Suññam or anātmam i.e. the non-existence of any real substance as ātman or individuality, e.g., pudgala-suññatā, as N. Dutt writes:

"The Sarvāstivādins are also responsible for the addition of a fourth term, ‘śūnya’, to the usual three, namely dukkha, anitya and anātma, though the word conveyed no Mahayanic meaning as it connoted no other sense than anātma". 339

While the Mahāyānists took it to be the nonexistence of individuality (pudgala suññatā) as also of the objective world (dharma suññatā).

The word Śūnyatā (空 性) served to designate the true nature of empirical Reality or what is the same, the form of true nature of all phenomena. This subject matter of Śūnyatā will cover all the questions concerning the Buddhist outlooks on life and world.

The true Reality which usually has two widely philosophical concepts: the norm of existence and the essence of existence or it is referred to as the abstract idea of universal principle, law, causality or the such-as-it-is-ness of existence. In this aspect the true reality is not the Universe but the sufficient reason of the Universe. It is stated in the second chapter of the Sadharma-puṇḍarika Sūtra as follows:

"The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, inherent cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end."340

(唯 佛 與 佛 乃 能 究 盡 諸 法 實 相 。 所 謂 諸 法 : 如 是 相 , 如 是 性 , 如 是 體 , 如 是 力 , 如 是 作 , 如 是 因 , 如 是 緣 , 如 是 果 , 如 是 報 , 如 是 体 末 究 竟 等).341

As we see, such a reality which has meanings that all things are always as they truly are. All the marks, nature, subtance, powers, functions, causes, conditions, effects, retributions and the equal identity of these nine factors of all dharmas are always like such. Put it in further explanations as below:

As saying that we recognize a thing, it means that we by our senses perceive the marks manifesting the distinctive characters or nature of that thing. Since there exist the external marks manifesting the internal attributes or nature, so the thing is assumed a certain substance. The assumed substance is definitely to possess an inherent power as the nature of Śūnyatā, whose directional vector turns outwards to accomplish its function of manifestation. This is the aspect of existence of the thing itself. The world or universe is ‘a great set’ of myriad of things. All things co-exist, co-operate and interact upon one another to create innumerable phenomena. This is called the cause. The cause under different conditions produces the different effects, which lead to either good or bad or neutral retributions. It is the very universal principle, the reason of existence or the norm of existence as such. In other words, because of Śūnyatā, all things can exist; without Śūnyatā, nothing could possibly exist. Śūnyatā is therefore extremely dynamic and positive, in the Hṛdaya Sūtra’s words, this is also called ‘Form (rūpa) is no different from the void (sūnya), nor the void from form’ (色 不 是 空 , 空 不 是 色) And Nāgārjuna claimed Śūnyatā as the true nature of empirical Reality by the following famous sentence:).342

"With Śūnyatā, all is possible; without it, all is impossible."343

And of course, this corresponds to the Reality as Vajrachedikā-Prajñā-pāramitā text writes,

"Subhūti, the Tathagātas’ words are true and correspond to reality. They are ultimate words, neither deceitful nor heterodox". (須 菩 提 ! 如 來 是 真 語 者 , 實 語 者 , 如 語 者 , 不 獨 語 者 , 不 異 語 者). 344

Śūnyatā is not a dogma. It is simply what can be grasped in its total and absolute integrity, only in an act of intuitive Yogic knowledge, which is reserved to the great Buddha. Śūnyatā stands for the avoidance of all dogmas. The persons who take Śūnyatā as a dogma are patients of an incurable malady. The Mūlamādhyamika-kārikā presents that:

(Śūnyatā sarvadrsṭīnām proktā nihśaraṅam jinaih yeśam tu Śūnyatā drsṭistānasādhyān pabhāśire).345

In the Prajñā-pāramitā scriptures, Śūnyatā refers to the world of enlightenment, but it is also stated that this world of enlightenment is not separate from the world of delusion:

‘Form (the world of delusion) is identical with void (the world of enlightenment)’, and ‘void is identical with form’.346 Here, ‘form is identical with void’ may be considered to point to the path leading from delusion to enlightenment, while ‘void is identical with form’ points to the path descending from enlightenment to delusion.

The purpose of Śūnyatā refers to the objective of extinguishing linguistic proliferation and the efforts leading towards this objective: ‘Śūnyatā’ corresponds to ultimate truth, namely, the state in which linguistic proliferation has been extinguished; and the ‘meaning of Śūnyatā’ signifies all existents relating to our everyday life in which Śūnyatā is an actually established fact.

The Śūnyavadin is neither a thorough-going sceptic nor a cheap nihilist who doubts and denies the existence of everything for its own sake or who relishes in shouting that he does not exist. His object is simply to show that all world-objects when taken to be ultimately real, will be found self-contradictory and relative and hence mere appearances.

True, he indulges in condemning all phenomena to be like illusion, dream, mirage, sky-flower, son of a barren woman, magic etc which suggest that they are something absolutely unreal. But this is not his real object. He indulges in such descriptions simply to emphasize the ultimate unreality of all phenomena. He emphatically asserts again and again that he is not a nihilist who advocates absolute negation, that he, on the other hand, maintains the empirical Reality of all phenomena.

He knows that absolute negation is impossible because it necessarily presupposes affirmation. He only denies the ultimate reality of both affirmation and negation. He condemns intellect from the ultimate standpoint only for he knows that its authority is unquestionable in the empirical world. He wants that we should rise above the categories and the contradictions of the intellect and embrace Reality. He asserts that it is the Real itself which appears. He maintains that Reality is immanent in appearances and yet it transcends them all, that Reality is the Non-dual Absolute, Blissful and beyond intellect, where all plurality is merged. This is the constructive side of the dialectic in Śūnyatā which we propose to consider now. Here intellect is transformed into Pure Experience.

The Saddharma-puṇḍarīka sūtra tells us that as long as we are entangled in the categories of the intellect we are like blind-born men completely in the dark; when we reach the limit where finite thought confesses its weakness and points towards Reality our blindness is cured but our, vision is still blurred; it is only when we embrace Pure Knowledge of the Buddha that we gain true vision. This is Reality which is Calm and Deep and Pure Knowledge of the Buddha, which transcends intellect and which is to be directly realized through pure knowledge. It is the Most Excellent and the Final Enlightenment (uttama agra bodhi) by which we become one with the Buddha.347

Thus, we can say that Śūnyatā is the key concept of Mahāyāna, especially in the Mādhyamika Philosophy and it can be understood by Purnatā tathatā (真 如), Nirvāṇa (涅 槃), Pratīitya-samutpāda (緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起), Paramārthatā (真 諦), Nairātmya (遠 離), Satya (真 理), Sarvadharmaśūnyatā (一 切 法 空), Sarva-padārthaśūnyatā (一 切 六 句 義 空), Sarvabhavaśūnyatā (一 切 有 空) etc., which generally mean the true nature of imperical Reality.

Śūnyatā as the Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda, 緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起)

The Hṛdaya Sūtra of Prajñā-pāramitā literature narrated that, at one of the Dharma sessions held on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa (靈 鷲 , Vulture Peak) in Rājṛgha (王 舍), Śākyamuni (釋 迦 牟 尼) suggested that Śāriputra (舍 利 弗), who held the first seat, request Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva (觀 世 音 菩 薩) to give a lecture on the insight of Śūnyatā. In reply to Śāriputra, the Bodhisattva, who was engaged in deep contemplation of Prajñā-pāramitā surveying the distress calls of sentient beings, expounded the meaning of the Truth from the point of view of Śūnyatā as under:

"Śāriputra! Form (rūpa) does not differ from the void (Śūnya), nor the void from form. Form is identical with void (and) void is identical with form. So also are reception (vedanā), conception (sanjñā), mind impression (saṁskāra) and consciousness (vijñāna) in relation to the void. Śāriputra, the void (Śūnya) of all things is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing and not decreasing."

(舍 利 子 ! 色 不 異 空 , 空 不 異 色 ; 色 即 是 空 , 空 即 是 色 。 受 , 想 , 行 , 識 亦 復 如 是 。 舍 利 子 ! 是 諸 法 空 相 , 不 生 , 不 滅 , 不 垢 , 不 淨 , 不 增 , 不 減).348

The Pāli scripture declares six sense-organs, six sense-objects and six conciousness as well as five aggregates are Suññatā as "Eye is void of self and anything belonging to self, form is void..., visual consciousness is void...",349 then Hṛdaya Sūtra expands this concept by emphasis that ‘rūpa does not differ from Śūnya’ (色 不 異 空), or ‘Śūnya does not differ from rupa’ (空 不 異 色), and ‘Śūnya of all things is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing and not decreasing’ (是 諸 法 空 相 , 不 生 , 不 滅 , 不 垢 , 不 淨 , 不 增 , 不 減). It means that because rupa must have no a nature of its own (svabhava), it is produced by causes or depend on anything else, so rupa is Śūnyatā or ‘identical with void’ (色 即 是 空)... That which is real, would contradict the fact that phenomena are bound by the relations of cause and effect, subject and object, actor and action, whole and part, unity and diversity, duration and destruction, and the relations of time and space. Anything known through experience is dependent on conditions, so it cannot be real. According to the Prajñā-pāramitā, the perceived object, the perceiving subject and knowledge are mutually interdependent. The reality of one is dependent upon others; if one is false, the others must be false. The perceiving subject and knowledge of the external object must also be false. So what one perceives within or without is illusory. Therefore there is nothing, creation and annihilation, pure and impure, increase and decrease and so on... Thus, ‘Śūnya of all things is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing and not decreasing’.

On the other hand, what one perceives cannot be conceived as unreal since that which is unreal can never come to exist. Thus a thing cannot be said to be either real or unreal, and accordingly any such claim would be unintelligible. In Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara’s thought, the Middle Way as Śūnyatā is often presented as a provisionary name for the fact that all things are causally dependent upon each other, the classic Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination or causality (Pratītyasamutpāda). Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (觀 世 音 菩 薩) used Pratītyasamutpāda (緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起) to refute extreme views and to prove Śūnyatā of all things. In the teaching of the Hṛdaya Sūtra, we can understand Śūnyatā (空 性), Middle Way (中 道), and Dependent Origination (緣 起 , 因 緣 生 起) are interchangeable, and lead to the conclusion that metaphysical theories are untenable.

We may illustrate it by a following formulation:

Table IV

X = - X, because X is composed by V, Y, Z, W...

We are able to see here the reason why Śūnyatā is defined as Pratītyasamutpāda. There is the intimate connection that exists between causality and Śūnyatā. The one presupposes the other; the two are inseparably connected. Śūnyatā is the logical consequence of the Buddha’s view of causality and effection. Śūnyatā is the central theme of the Mahāyāna philosophical system. This term has been used in the Prajñā-pāramitā system to denote a stage where all viewpoints with regard to the real nature of mundane world are totally rejected. In other words, we may say that to have a viewpoint is to cling to a position and there can be various types of positions with regard to the real nature of things as Saddharma Puṇḍarīka expressed under:

"... know that phenomena have no constantly fixed nature,
that the seeds of Buddhahood sprout through causation..."350

(知 法 常 空 性 , 佛 種 從 緣 生).351

In the invocation in verse at the beginning of the work, Nāgārjuna gives the fundamentals of his philosophy in a nutshell. He describes Pratītyasamutpāda by means of eight negatives. In Mādhyamika śāstra, he says:

"Anirodhamanutpādamanucchedamśāśvatam anekārthamanānārthamanāgamamanirgamam."352

(不 生 亦 不 滅 , 不 一 亦 不 異 , 不 常 亦 不 斷 , 不 去 亦 不 來) .

There is neither origination, nor cessation, neither permanence nor impermanence, neither unity nor diversity, neither coming-in nor going-out, in the law of Pratityasamutpāda. Essentially, there is only non-origination which is equated with Śūnyatā. Elsewhere he also states that Pratityasamutpāda (Dependent Origination) is called Śūnyatā. Here Śūnyatā referring as it does to non-origination, is in reality the Middle path which avoids the two basic views of existence and non-existence. Śūnyatā is the relative existence of things, or a kind of relativity. Dr. Radhakrishnan writes in his book Indian Philosophy that "by śūnyatā therefore, the Mādhyamika does not mean absolute non-being, but relative being".

What then are the positive teachings of the writings on Prajñā-pāramitā literature? The teaching concerns the relation between conditioned and unconditioned things. Something is called ‘conditioned’ if it is what it is only in relation to something else. All the familiar things of our everyday world are conditioned in two ways: Each one is dependent on a multiplicity of other events which surround it, and all of them are linked to suffering and ignorance through the twelve links of the chain of causation (or, more literally, of "conditioned coproduction"). The Vajrachedikā-Prajñā-pāramitā sūtra concludes with the famous verse:

"All phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow, like dew and lightning. Thus should you meditate upon them."

(一 切 有 為 法 , 如 夢 幻 泡 影 , 如 露 亦 如 電 , 應 作 如 是 觀).353

Like dew drops and a lightening flash the things of this world are evanescent and short-lived. Each experience bursts soon, like a bubble, and it can be enjoyed only for a moment. The transformation of the earthly scene concern us, and our true welfare, no more do the changing shapes of the clouds we may watch on a hot summer day. The appearance of this world is like a hallucination which springs from a disease in the organ of vision about as real as the spots which livery people see before their eyes. Like a magical shows it deceives, deludes and defrauds us, and it is false, when measured by what we slowly learn about ultimate reality. As a lamp goes on burning only as long as fuel is fed into it, so also this world of ours continues only while craving supplies the drive. The enlightened awake to reality as it is; compared with their vision of true reality our normal experience is that of a dream, unreal and not to be taken seriously.

Finally, what we see around us can be likened to the stars. As the stars are no longer seen when the sun has risen, so also the things of this world are visible only in the darkness of ignorance, and, in the absence of reactions to them, they are no longer noticed when the true non-dual gnosis of the Absolute has taken place.354

That is the sole purpose of Buddha’s teaching.

"The entire Buddhist thought revolves on the pivot of Pratītyasamutpāda, the Mādhyamika system is interpretation of Pratītyasamutpāda as śūnyatā." 355

Śūnyatā as the Middle Way

The term ‘middle way’ refers to something intermediary but it has transcended any dichotomy into ‘being’ and ‘non-being,’ ‘attribute’ and ‘substance’ or ‘cause’ and ‘effect’...

In a kārikā (24.18), Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna observes that Middle way is Dependent Origination and also means Śūnyatā by saying:

"What is originating co-dependently, we call emptiness. It is designation based upon (some material). Only this is the Middle Path."

(yaḥ pratīyasamutpādaḥ śūnyatāṁ tāṁ pracakṣmahe). 356

It is clear that Dependent Origination and Śūnyatā are one and the same thing. The other verse continues to state the same idea that:

"It is provisional designation and it is the Middle way."

(sā prajñāptir upādāya pratipat saiva madhyamā).

"Provisional designation" refers to the verbalized form assumed by ultimate truth, and it may be said to correspond to language in which the vector leading from the sacred to the profane is grounded.

Nagārjuna’s interpretation claims that the true nature of an object cannot be ascertained by intellect and described as real or unreal.357

In the Vimalakīrti Sūtra (維 摩 詰 經), the Middle way which is called the not-two Dharma-gate, or the Dharma-gate of non-duality. A few passages discussed this topic in a great assembly of Bodhisattvas.

"At this time Vimalakīrti said to all the Bodhisattvas, "Good sirs, how can a Bodhisattva enter the Dharma-gate of non-duality? Each of you with your eloquence please tell it as you like. . . "

Virtue-Top Bodhisattva said, "Defilement and purity make two. If you see the real nature of defilement, you [will realize that] purity has no form, then you conform to the character of cessation. This is entering the, Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Good-Eye Bodhisattva said, "One mark and no mark are two. If one knows that one mark is no mark, and yet does not cling to no mark, he penetrates into the state of equality, and is said to have entered the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . . Pusya Bodhisattva said, "Good and evil make two. If you do not arouse good or evil, but penetrate to the limit of no-form, thus attaining the full realization, you enter the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Pure-Conviction Bodhisattva said, "The conditioned and the unconditioned dharmas make two. If one can depart from all numbers, his mind will be like empty space; with pure Wisdom he encounters no obstruction whatsoever. This is entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality..."

Narayana Bodhisattva said, "Mundane and supra-mundane are two. The very nature of mundane is empty, which is the same as the supramundane. In them there is no entering, no coming out, no overflowing and no dispersing. This is entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Good-Wit Bodhisattva said, "Saṁsāra and Nirvāṇa make two. When one sees the nature of saṁsāra, then there is no saṁsāra, no bondage, no liberation, no burning and no relieving. He who understands this enters the Dharma-gate of non-duality..."

Lightening-God Bodhisattva said, "Insight and ignorance make two. The true nature of ignorance is insight itself. Insight cannot be grasped; it is beyond all numbers. To be equal in them without duality is to enter the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Delight-Vision Bodhisattva said, "Form and Emptiness of form are two. However, form itself is empty, not when it ceases to be, but by its very nature. In the same way, feeling, conception, impulses and consciousness are empty. . . He who realizes this is entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Jewel-Seal-in-Hand Bodhisattva said, "To like Nirvāṇa and to dislike the world make two. If one does not like Nirvāṇa nor loath the world, then there is no duality. Why is this so? Because if there is bondage, then there is liberation. If from the beginning there is no such thing as bondage, who would ever seek for liberation? He who realizes that there is no bondage and no liberation will have no likes or dislikes. This is entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality. . ."

Truth-Lover Bodhisattva said, "Real and unreal make two. He who truly sees, does not even see the real, how much less the unreal? Why? Because this is not something that can be seen by the eye of the flesh. Only the Wisdom-eye can see it, and yet for this wisdom-eye there is nothing seen or unseen. This is entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality..."

Thus, each and every Bodhisattva spoke in turn; then they all asked Mañjuśrī, "Please tell us, what is the Bodhisattva’s entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality?"

Mañjuśrī replied, "According to my understanding, to have no word, no speech, no indication and no cognition, departing away from all questions and answers is to enter the Dharma-gate of non-duality." Thereupon Mañjuśrī asked Vimalakīrti, "We have spoken, each for himself. Now, good sir, you must tell us what is the Bodhisattva’s entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality."

Then Vimalakīrti kept silent, without a word. Whereupon Mañjuśrī praised him in earnestness, "Oh great, oh marvelousl Not to have even words or letters, this is truly entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality!"

While this chapter on entering the Dharma-gate of non-duality was preached, five thousand Bodhisattvas in the assembly all entered the Dharma-gate of non-duality and reached the state of no-arising-Dharma- maturity.358

The same ideas in the Vajrachedikā-Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra are expressed by the words as under:

"Subhūti, the Tathāgata knows and sees all: these living beings will thus acquire immeasurable merits. Why? (Because) they will have wiped out notions of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, of Dharma and Not-Dharma. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp form (lakṣaṇa), they will (still.) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp the Not-Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Therefore, one should not grasp and hold on to the notion of Dharma as well as that of Not-Dharma".

(須 菩 提 ! 如 來 悉 知 悉 見 ; 是 諸 眾 生 , 得 如 是 無 量 福 德 。 所 以 故 ? 是 諸 眾 生 , 無 復 亦 相 , 人 相 , 眾 生 相 , 壽 者 相 , 無 法 相 , 亦 無 非 法 相 。 何 以 故 ? 是 諸 眾 生 , 若 心 取 相 , 則 為 著 我 , 人 , 眾 生 , 壽 者 。 若 取 法 相 , 即 著 我 , 人 , 眾 生 , 壽 者 。 是 故 不 應 取 法 , 不 應 取 非 法)359

The notion of Dharma as well as that of Not-Dharma here means the negation of the dual, because it is produced by causes or depends on anything else, so it is falsely produced or appears as the Buddha said to Subhūti that "Subhūti, (when) the Tathāgata speaks of an ego, there is in reality no ego, although common men think so. Subbuti, the Tathāgata says common men are not, but are (by expediency) called, common men" (須 菩 提 ! 如 來 說 有 我 者 , 即 非 有 我 , 而 凡 夫 之 人 以 為 有 我 。 須 菩 提 ! 凡 夫 者 , 如 來 說 即 非 凡 夫 , 是 名 凡 夫).360

It is itself a means (Madhyama) between all extremes, a Middle Path (Madhyamamārga), or a moderate course of action (Madhyama pratipāda).

The Middle Way represents a characteristic attitude, rooted in a certain set of individual and social concerns, which shapes the motivation for one’s actions in the world. It is indicative of a particular sort of deconstructive philosophy which endows the Mādhyamika with its paradoxical ‘non-position’. This notion of a Middle Way is fundamental to all Buddhist teachings—it is in no sense the exclusive property of the Mādhyamika —yet it was given priority by Nāgārjuna and his followers, who applied it in a singularly relentless fashion to all problems of ontology, epistemology, and soteriology.

As we mentioned in the previous chapter,361 the concept of a Middle Way obviously proved to be a very fruitful heuristic in early Buddhist literature, a device that could seemingly be exploited as an aid toward the explanation of virtually any important point of doctrine. One of the most crucial doctrinal issues for all Buddhists is, of course, the concept of selflessness (nairātmya), and here as elsewhere we encounter the all-pervasive influence of the Middle Way, this time interpreted by Nāgārjuna as the absence of any philosophical view—the ‘view’ which is really no view at all:

"The Buddhas have indicated that there is a self, they taught that there is no self, and they also taught that there is neither any self nor any no-self."

(ātmety api prajñapitam anātmetly api deśitaṁ/ buddhair nātmā na cānātmā kaścid ity api deśitaṁ).362

The Middle Way and Pratītyasamutpāda are two ways of designating the same notion, namely, Śūnyatā. Both aim at showing that the true state of things is incomprehensible and indescribable, beyond the reach of thought and language.363

Thus, in the Mahāyāna Buddhism, Pratītyasamutpāda and Śūnyatā, are equal and synonymous but it points out to another main important factor, i.e., the Dependent Origination, if understood in the empirical sense, simply refers to a mere nomenclature. This fact is further explained by Candrakīrti (月 稱) saying that wheels (of a chariot) being the components of a chariot, thus this whole structure is designated as a chariot in the worldly sense. The chariot has no independent status and since it originates dependently, it lacks its own nature. Now, these very components are by their nature unproduced. According to him this very non-production of the components of the wheel etc., is Śūnyatā. Such a Śūnyatā, whose characteristic is non-production, is also designated as the Middle Path.364 Moreover, according to Candrakīrti’s explanation Śūnyatā (空 觀), nomenclature (upādāya prajñapti, 假 觀) (中 觀) are considered to be ‘different names’ (viśeṣa sañjñā) of the Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda, 緣 觀).365 As far as the meaning of the two terms is concerned, Candrakīrti says at another place that whatever is the meaning of Dependent Origination it is emptiness.366 The term nomenclature based on some material is also interpreted by various scholars in different ways. This Śūnyatā always assumes some nomenclature, which in Buddhist philosophy is called prajñapti. Thus, it finally leads to the Middle path which is free from the two extremes of existence and non-existence.

The Madhyama pratipada is also free from the two extremes of eternalism and annihilationism. The Middle way is to see the things as they are. In the whole of the kārikā there are four padas viz., Pratītyasamutpāda (緣 觀), Śūnyatā (空 觀), Upadaya-pratipadā (假 觀) and Madhyama pratipada (中 觀). As a matter of fact, all the four have some logical sequence in them. According to Gadjin M. Nagao all these four padas associated with each other in some way, are considered equal.367 Thus the whole sequence can be formulated as follows:

Table V

Pratītyasamutpāda (緣 觀) = Śūnyatā (空 觀)

= Upādāya prajñapti (假 觀)

= Madhyama pratipada (中 觀)

With regard to the relation between Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and emptiness (Śūnyatā), Nāgārjuna has already stated that Dependent Origination is Śūnyatā; it is a designation based on some material (Vijñapti), it is Middle Path (Madhyamāpratipada).368

To conclude, we can say that the reason why Śūnyatā is considered as Pratītyasamutpāda, is of priority and posteriority in relation to each other working at different places and times having no connection with each other in a single frame work. Cause may be a priority and the effect may be posteriority as far as time frame work is concerned, but they stand wide apart from each other. This type of analysis at the empirical level leaves nothing but a phenomenal vacuum and this vacuum leads to Śūnyatā at the transcendental level in conceptual way. In other words, we may say that we have always a desire to go beyond the conceptual analysis of the things which bring us to the level of Śūnyatā, beyond which our intellect fails. Venkatramanan says,

"To these three may be added another import of śūnyatā, viz., the sense of beyond, the thrust for the real, the thrust for fulfilment, which is the seat and spring of all the activities of man."369

The significance of the identity relation between Pratītyasamutpāda and Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna Buddhism lies in the recognition of a philosophical fact, i.e., the law of Dependent Origination at mundane level giving rise to Śūnyatā at the transcendental level. To put it other way, the law of Dependent origination is a metaphysical ladder to reach the high pedestal of Śūnyatā at the transcendental level. And in the strict sense, Śūnyatā, the Middle way and Dependent Origination, according to the Mahāyāna, are themselves empty. Still, they are good devices for helping rid people of attachment. They perform the same function of avoiding the extremes of absolutism and nihilism. The claim that all things are empty means that all things neither absolutely exist nor absolutely do not exist. If things in the universe existed absolutely, they would have their own nature and would not be dependent upon causal conditions, but nothing in the world is seen to be independent of causal conditions. Thus, the existence of things cannot be absolutely real. And if the existence of things were absolutely unreal or nothing, there would be no change or motion in the universe, yet myriad things are perceived to arise from causal conditions.

Śūnyatā as Nirvāṇa (涅 槃)

And the next meaning, Śūnyatā is considered as Nirvāṇa. As we know in Pāli Nikāyas, Suññatā (空) means Nibbāna i.e. the attitude of emptiness, a reality beyond suffering or the state of final release. Later, the Mahāyānists or Mahāyāna teachers identified Śūnyatā (空 性) with Nirvāṇa (涅 槃) and added it some more colours.

As we have seen in Chapter Five,370 the ethical conception of Nibbāna has received the largest amount of attention in the Pāli texts as well as in the writings of modern scholars. Throughout the Nikāyas, Nibbāna is described as the destruction (khaya, 斷 滅) of attachment (rāga, 貪 迷), hatred (dosa, 疾 妒) and delusion (moha, 幻 想), of desire (taṇhā, 愛 欲), impressions (saṇkhārā, 幻 覺), and firm grasp of wrong views (upādāna, 邪 見), of impurities (āsava, 漏) and afflictions (kilesa, 煩 惱), of desire for existence (bhava, 有), birth (jāti, 生), old age, death (jarāmaraṇa, 老 死), and thus of misery (dukkha, 苦). In describing the positive aspect of Nibbāna, the Nikāyas state that it is a condition which is very happy (accantasukha, 安 樂), imperishable (accuta, 不 死), steady (acala, dhīra, 安 靜), tranquil (santa, 輕 安) and free from fear (akutobhaya, 無 畏). It is the state of the highest bliss (amata) and the object of Jhānas is to bring the mind into such a state that it will be above worldly pleasure and pain. It can be effected by dissociating the mind completely from all worldly matters. This is achieved by means of the trances, the highest of which is the Saññāvedayitanirodha (滅 受 想 定). From the foregoing discussion about the highest trance, it is evident that Nibbāna is psychically Saññāvedayitanirodha provided that the adept complies with the other necessary conditions of Arhathood.

The notable passage of the Itivuttaka (如 是 語 經):371 ‘Atthi, bhikkhave, abhūtam akatam asaṇkhataṁ‘ shows that the early Buddhists conceived of Nibbāna not as annihilation but as something positive,372 which is, a metaphysical interpretation of Nibbāna, however it is infinite and indescribable like Ākāsa (無 為). It is called a dhātu (realm) beyond the three dhatus,— the Apariyāpanna-dhātu or Lokuttara-dhātu (超 界). It is a state to be realised (sacchikātabba) within one’s own self (paccattaṁ veditabbo viññūhi). It is homogeneous (ekarasa, 同 一) and in it there is no individuality. It is like the disappearance of flame in the fathomless state of existence in the infinite.

The more accurate conception of Nibbāna would certainly be that it is a state beyond the domain of word and thought and possible of realisation only within one’s own self, while according to Nāgārjuna, the Śūnyatāvādins do not seek a Nirvāṇa where there is an end of kleśas (煩 惱) and skandhas (蘊). Their Nirvāṇa is:

"Nirvāṇa is that which is neither discarded nor attained; it is neither a thing destroyed nor a thing eternal; it is neither suppressed nor does it arise".

(Aprahīṇam asamprāptam anucchinnam aśāvataṁ, Aniruddham anutpannam etan nirvāṇam ucyate). 373

It is also said that in Pāli literature, Nirupādhiśeṣa (解 脫 最 後) is the state of final release where all the skandhas, and defilements have total cease. Then the Mahāyānists gave one more variety—the Apratiṣṭhita Nirvāṇa, the state of the Bodhisattva who shuns retiring into Final Release, although fully entitled to it, and who by his free choice devotes himself to the service of all beings. Candrakīrti in Mādhyamika-Kārikāvṛtti (中 觀 論 頌), defined that Nirvāṇa is:

"What is not abandoned nor acquired; what is not annihilation nor eternality; what is not destroyed nor created."

(svabhāvena hi vyavasthitānāṁ kleśānāṁ skandhānāṁ ca svabhāvasyānapāyitvāt kuto nivṛttir, yatas tannivṛttyā nirvāṇam . . . yadi khalu śūnyavaditaḥ kleśānāṁ skandhānāṁ vā nivṛttilakṣaṇam nirvāṇam necchanti, kiṁ lakṣaṇarh tarhīcchanti. ucyate;

"aprahīṇam asamprāptam anucchinnam aśāśvatam; aniruddham anutpannam etan nirvāṇam ucyate").374

‘The function of prajñā is not to transform the real, but only to create a change in our attitude towards it.’

(na prajñā aśūnyān bhāvān śūnyān karoti; bhāvā eva śūnyāḥ).375

The change is epistemic (subjective), not ontological (objective). The real is as it has ever been. Nirvāṇa is not an ens (bhāva, 有) or non-ens (abhāva, 非 有) etc., it is the abandonment of such considerations of the real (bhāvābhāva-parāmarśakṣayo nirvāṇam, 勝 義 諦 的 涅 槃).376 This is in full accord with the teaching of Buddha asking us to abandon the existential (bhava-dṛṣṭi, 現 有) and non-regarding the nature of the Tathāgata —whether he exists after death or does not or both or neither.Nirvāṇa as one with the Absolute is free from thought-determinations. And only by leaving these do we attain Nirvāṇa. existential (vibhava-dṛṣṭi, 非 現 有) views.377This is the true significance of the avyākrta (無 記 , Inexpressibles) (如 來)378

It is the contention of the Mahāyāna that the final release is possible only through Śūnyatā by the giving up of all views, stand-points and predicaments.379

Nāgārjuna, the leading exponent of Śūnyatā, has made this point very clear. He says, "Because I have no acceptance whatsoever, I am free from all faults."

Candrakīrti, in commenting upon this verse, says that it is not to be eradicated like rāga (passion, 貪 欲) etc. nor to be attained like the fruits of a saintly life (e.g., Srotāpatti (修 陀 還), Sakṛdāgāmi (修 陀 含) etc.). It is not eternal like aśūnya (real elements).380 It is by its nature without origin and decay, and its lakṣaṇa (characteristic, 相) is that it does not admit of any description.381 In such an indescribable thing, how can an imagination (kalpanā, 想 像) of the existence of kleśas and skandhas, and their eradication through Nirvāṇa find a place? So long as those activities of our imagination continue to exist, there can be no Nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa is realised only when all prapañcas, i.e., attempts at particularization or definition cease. To the argument of the Sarvāstivadins (上 座 部) that even admitting the non-existence of kleśas and skandhas at the stage where Nirvāṇa (涅 槃) is reached, it may be that they exist in saṁsāra, i.e., before the attainment of Nirvāṇa, — the Mahāyānists give the forcible reply that there is not the slightest difference between Nirvāṇa and Saṁsāra (輪 迴). So, in fact, Nirvāṇa requires no process of eradication. Nirvāṇa is really the complete disappearance (kṣaya, 遍 滅) of all figments of the imagination. The kleśas, skandhas, etc., the disappearance of which is generally supposed to be necessary in Nirvāṇa,382 have, according to the Mādhyamikas, no real existence whatsoever. Those who cannot get rid of the conception of ‘I-ness’ or ‘Mine-ness’ usually assume the existence of non-existent things.

Put it in the broad view, he told that the paths advocated by other systems can at best lead to partial release, or be a preliminary to this.383 Consideration of the real in any particular mode, e.g. as Substance, Being, Becoming etc necessarily creates an other, the opposite, from which it is distinguished. We cannot help being attached to what we take to be real—our view—and reject others. A view, because of its restriction, determination, carries with it duality, the root of saṁsāra. Nāgarjuna states this dialectical predicament thus: when the self is posited, an other (para) confronts it; with the division of the self and the non-self, attachment and aversion result. Depending on these all vices spring up. Attachment begets the thirst for pleasure, and thirst hides all flaws (of the objects). Blinded by this, the thirsty man imagines qualities in things, and seizes upon the means to achieve pleasure. Saṁsāra is thus present as long as there is the attachment to the ‘I’.384

The root-cause of duhkka, in the Mādhyamika system, is the indulging in views (dṛsṭi, 觀 念) or imagination (kalpanā, 妄 想). Kalpanā (vikalpa, 妄 想 分 別) is avidyā (無 明) par excellence. The real is the indeterminate (śūnya); investing it with a character, determining it as ‘this’ or ‘not this’, is making the Real one-sided, partial and unreal. This is unconsciously to negate the real; for all determination is negation. The dialectic then, as the Śūnyatā of dṛsṭis, is the negation of stand-points, which are the initial negation of the real that is essentially indeterminate (nirvikalpa, niṣprapañca, 無 分 別). Correctly understood, Śūnyatā is not annihilation, but the negation of negation; it is the conscious correction of an initial unconscious falsification of the real.

The word emptiness or empty gains its true connotations in the process of salvation or nirvāṇa and has different meanings during the process. All things may be empty in the sense that they are devoid of definite nature, characteristic or function.

Emptiness may be used to discredit theories and dismiss view-points. To claim that all things are empty may show that discursive reasonings and conceptual statements about the true nature of things are unacceptable. The term is also used to devalue and to designate things worthless, useless, to be discarded. To empty one’s mind may mean that one sees the world as suffering and transcends it.

The Mahāyānist conception of Nirvāṇa as Śūnyatā is that the Mahāyānists deny the existence of elements altogether. Many of the aspects of their conception are brought out by the various terms used in Mahāyānic works. For instance, when Nirvāṇa is equated with Śūnyatā, the implication is that all things which are ordinarily supposed to exist are really nonexistent just as the mirage has no substantiality whatsoever, e.g., the pṛthivī-dhātu (地 大) is Śūnya of real origination, destruction, or existence in reality.385 When it is equated with Tathatā (真 如) or Dharmatā (法 性), the implication is that all things of this world are essentially of the same nature, void of any name or substratum.386 It is that which is neither existence nor non-existence.387 Śunyatā represents the negative and Tathatā the positive aspects of the Truth. When it is called bhūtakoṭī (實 濟 , true limit), it is implied that on analysis of dharmas, which are false designations, one arrives finally at the Reality, beyond which it is impossible to pass and which alone is truth. Some of the other expressions which are often used as synonyms of Nirvāṇa are avitathatā (不 非 真 理 , not untruth); ananyatathatā (獨 一 , unique); aviparyāsatathatā (不 遍 , irreversible); paramārtha (真 諦 , the highest truth), tattva (本 質 , the essence); acintyadhātu (難 誦 的 本 體 , incomprehensible substance), dharmadhātu (法 界 , totality of things), dharmasthiti (本 體 諸 法 , substratum of things); supraśānta (淳 淨 , perfectly calm, unruffled by origination or destruction); advaya and advayādhīkāra (不 分 , non-separable and non-divisible).388

In the third paragraph of the Hṛdaya text, we read:

"Therefore, with the void (sūnya), there is no form (rūpa) and no perception (vedāna), conception (sanjñā), mind impression (saṁskara) and no consciousness (vijñāna); there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; there is no form, sound, smell, taste, touch and idea; there are [no such things as the eighteen realms of sense (dhātu) from the realm of sight up to that of the faculty of mind (vijñāna); there are no such things as the twelve links in the chain of existence (nidānas) from ignorance (avidya) with also the end of ignorance up to old age and death (jaramarana) with also the end of old age and death; there are no (such things as) the four noble truths and there is no wisdom and also no gain."

(是 故 空 中 無 色 , 無 受 , 想 , 行 , 識 , 無 眼 , 耳 , 劓 , 舌 , 身 , 意 , 無 色 , 聲 , 香 , 味 , 觸 , 法 , 無 眼 界 , 乃 至 無 意 識 界 , 無 無 明 , 亦 無 無 明 盡 , 乃 至 無 老 死 , 亦 無 老 死 盡 。 無 苦 , 集 , 亦 , 道 , 無 智 , 亦 無 得). 389

In this paragraph we see that all the important and fundamental teachings of Buddhism are rejected: the five skandhas, the eighteen dhātus, the Four Noble Truths, including Nirvāṇa and the holy Path... are all abolished. This great view is succinct in one very famous sentence of Vajrachedikā-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra: "They should develop a mind which does not abide in anything" (應 無 所 住 而 生 其 心).390

Also the same text, but in other passage, the Buddha taught Subhūti that:

"They will have wiped out notions of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, of Dharma and Not-Dharma. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp form (lakṣaṇa), they will (still.) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp the Not-Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Therefore, one should not grasp and hold on to the notion of Dharma as well as that of Not-Dharma. This is why, the Tathāgata always said: "Ye Bhiksus, should know that the Dharma expound is likened to a raft. Even the Dharma should be cast aside; how much more so the Not-Dharma".

(是 諸 眾 生 , 無 復 我 相 , 人 相 , 眾 生 相 壽 者 相 , 無 法 相 , 亦 無 非 法 相 。 何 以 故 ? 是 諸 眾 生 , 若 心 取 相 , 則 為 著 我 , 人 , 眾 生 , 壽 者 。 若 取 法 相 , 即 著 我 , 人 , 眾 生 , 壽 者 。 是 故 不 應 取 法 , 不 應 取 非 法 。 以 是 義 故 , 如 來 常 說 : 汝 等 毘 丘 ! 知 我 說 法 , 如 箋 喻 者 , 法 尚 應 捨 , 何 況 非 法 ?) 391

Because the Dharma was expressed by Buddha is not a doctrine of philosophy, if it is anything at all, it is therapeutic device cleansing of men’s innate coarse or subtle clingings. If Early Buddhism, the good deeds, the Holy Truth, Nibbāna - a state of perfect rest and hapiness, and beyond the three worlds is the aims for practitioner. Then, the contention of the Mahāyānists is that the only Reality is Nirvāṇa or Dharmadhātu, or Noble Eightfold Paths everything else being a total delusion of the mind, or therapeutic method. When a patient is cured i.e. freed from clings, then the Four holy Truths... which becomes useless and abandoned behind as ‘a raft’.

At the moment, one realises this essence of Dharma, then he does not distinguish or grasp one thing from another. That is to say Saṁsāra is identical with Nirvāṇa, he becomes perfect, i.e., a Buddha, because the Mahāyānists hold that all beings other than Buddhas are under delusions, the nature of which varies according to their spiritual advancement. So, one must eradicate from his mind the conception not only of his own individuality but also of the substantiality of anything whatsoever perceived or cognized by him. When a being attains a state of mind, in which he cannot distinguish himself from any other thing it corresponds to an ontology of the world (relative reality) or from the (absolute reality) transcendentalism. He is said to attain Nirvāṇa which means the nature of absolute Śūnyatā, absolute transcendentalism in the Mahāyānic sense as the Hṛdaya Sūtra conclude that:

"Because of gainlessness, Bodhisattvas who rely on Prajñā-pāramitā, have no hindrance in their hearts, and since they have no hindrance, they have no fear, are free from contrary and delusive ideas and attain the Final Nirvāṇa".

(以 無 所 得 故 , 菩 提 薩 埵 , 依 般 若 波 羅 密 多 故 , 心 無 罣 礙 , 無 罣 礙 故 , 無 有 恐 布 , 遠 離 齻 倒 夢 想 , 究 竟 涅 槃). 392

This is why Bodhisattva Vimalakirti kept silent when he was asked to describe the absolute (the Dharma-gate of non-duality).393 This is the reason for the Buddha’s silence, and for his answer to Upaśiva‘s inquiry about Nirvāṇa:

"He who has gone to rest, cannot be measured;
For there (in Nirvāṇa) nothing can be named.
When all dharmas are abolished,
So are all passages of speech".394

It is also very worthwhile, if we come to give more explanation about the relation between Nirvāṇa and Saṁsāra.

As a matter of fact, noumenon and Phenomena are not two separate sets of entities, nor are they two states of the same thing. The absolute is the only real; it is the reality of saṁsāra which is sustained by false construction (kalpanā, 妄 想). The absolute looked at through the thought-forms of constructive imagination is the empirical world; and conversely, the absolute is the world viewed sub specie aeternitatis, without distorting media of thought.395

Śūnyatā means transcendentality (Paramārthatā) or non-substantiality (Nairātmya), both of the bodies (pudgala) and the elements (Dharma) composing them which stand over against and yet inform the phenomenal existence (Saṁvrtisatya).

Śūnyatā also stands for that ‘naturelessness’ (nihsvabhāvatā) through which one realises the ‘Unity of the apparently opposites’. It is in the light of the doctrines such as this that Nāgārjuna sees no difference between ‘Saṁsāra’ and ‘Nirvāṇa’.

The conditioned is here equated with the unconditioned. And that unconditioned identity of the conditioned and of the unconditioned is the principal message of the Prajñā-pāramitā literature. This quite incomprehensible Absolute is perpetually held before us as a standard. With it we should identify, into it we should sink ourselves. We are, indeed, taught to view the world as it appears when the individual self is extinct. All hidden concern for self advancement is counteracted. One should not aim at a private and personal Nirvāṇa, which would exclude others and the world, but at the full omniscience of a Buddha which somehow includes both.

Personal merit must be surrendered to all beings. No personal attainment is, in any case, possible, no entity can provide lasting rest and security, no freedom is complete while constrained by the need to keep anything out.

In every way the Prajñā-pāramitā scriptures attempt to correct misconceptions which the practices of the Abhidharma may have fostered.396 The Abhidharma had convinced us that there are no ‘beings’ or ‘persons’, but only bundles of dharmas. Yet, although beings are not there, they must nevertheless, from compassion, not be abandoned, and their welfare, though strictly non-existent, must be furthered by ‘skill in means’. The Abhidharma had rejected all conditioned things as perilous. Now one realises the peril of keeping, them apart from the unconditioned. The Abhidharma had cultivated wisdom as the virtue which permits one to see the ‘own being’ of dharmas.

Now the Prajñā-pāramitā literature in its turn regards the separateness of these dharmas as merely a provisional construction, and it is cultivated as the virtue which permits us to see everywhere just one emptiness. All forms of multiplicity are condemned as the archenemies of the higher spiritual vision and insight. When duality is hunted out of all its hiding places, the results are bound to be surprising. Not only are the multiple objects of thought identified with one mysterious emptiness, but the very instruments of thought take on a radically new character when affirmation and negation are treated as non-different, as one and the same.

Once we jump out of our intellectual habits, emptiness is revealed as the concrete fullness; no longer remote, but quite near; no longer a dead nothingness beyond, but the life-giving womb of the Buddha within us.

This doctrine of emptiness has baffled more than one inquirer, and one must indeed despair of explaining it if it is treated as a mere theoretical proposition, on a level with other theoretical statements. And yet, everything is really quite simple, as soon as one pays attention to the spiritual intention behind this doctrine. In teaching ‘emptiness’ the Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtras do not propound the view that only the Void exists. The bare statement that ‘everything is really emptiness’ is quite meaningless. It is even false, because the rules of this particular logic demand that the emptiness must be as well denied as affirmed.397

The Hṛdaya Sūtra has these five stages in view when it ends with the formula: ‘Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!’ (堨 諦 , 堨 諦 , 波 羅 堨 諦 , 波 羅 增 堨 諦 , 菩 提 薩 婆 訶).398

1. Gate: gone from the data of common sense to the dharmas, and their emptiness.

2. Gate: gone from infatuation with conditioned dharmas to their renunication, because of their emptiness.

3. Paragate: gone beyond from Nirvāṇa, the real nature of conditioned dharmas.

4. Parasamgate: gone altogether beyond even beyond the difference between the world and Nirvāṇa, to a transcendent non-duality, in which affirmation and negation are identified in one emptiness.

5. Bodhi Svaha: means O what an awakening! The final stage of transcendental emptiness, in which the long sleep is at last over.

It will be seen that the word Śūnyatā in each case derives its meaning from the context created by a spiritual attitude. Outside that context it has no meaning at all.

Thus, it becomes clear that the change from Hīnayāna to Mahāyāna was a revolution from a radical pluralism (dharmavāda, 法) to a radical Absolutism (advayavāda, 不 二), from dogmatism (dṛṣṭivāda, 念) to criticism (śūnyavāda, 非 念), from the plurality of the momentary elements (dharmavāda, 相) to the essential unity underlying them (dharmatāvāda, 性), from the unreality of an eternal substance (pudgala-nairātmya, 我 不 實) to the unreality of all elements (dharmanairātmya, 法 不 實).

Buddha has taught his doctrine to enable us to overcome all suffering and thus to become real Bhiksṣus (bhinnakleśho bhikṣuḥ) and obtain Nirvāṇa. But as long as the duality of the subject and the object is not transcended, neither Bhikṣutā nor Nirvāṇa can be realized.399 Ignorance is of two kinds: Ignorance due to suffering (kleśāvaraṇa, 煩 惱 障), and Ignorance in the form of objects covering the Real (jñeyāvaraṇa, 所 知 障). Śūnyatā is the antithesis of Ignorance of both kinds. It is Pure Knowledge.

There are some quotations as quoted below:

"Nirvāṇa is an illusion. Even if there is anything greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illusion."400 A Bodhisattva is a mere dream. Even the Buddha is only a name. Even the Perfect Wisdom itself is a mere name. Dreams, echoes, reflections, images, mirage, illusion, magic, void—such are all objects of intellect.401 The Śatasāhasrikā Prajñā-pāramitā (八 千 頌 般 惹 經) also condemns all dharmas as illusory. They have neither origination nor decay, they neither increase nor decrease, they are neither suffering nor its cessation, they are neither affirmation nor negation, neither eternal nor momentary, neither Śūnyatā nor aśūnyatā.402 They are mere names and forms. They are Māyā (夢 幻). And Māyā is declared to be an inconsistent category which cannot resist dialectical scrutiny and which is ultimately found to neither existent nor non-existent.403 All phenomena arc mere names; they are only a convention, a usage, a practical compromise.404 The Laṇkāvatāra (楞 伽 經) condemns them to be like an illusion, a dream, a mirage, a hare’s horn, a barren woman’s son, a magic city, the double moon, a moving fire-brand presenting an appearance of a circle, a hair seen floating in the atmosphere by defective vision, an empty space, a sky-flower, a mere echo, a reflection, a painting, a puppet like mechanism, which can be called neither existent nor non-existent.405

Many Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Lalitavistara (神 通 遊 戲 經),406 the Samādhirāja (三 妹 王 經)407 and the Suvarṇaprabhāsa (金 光 明 經) 408... also join in such descriptions.

In the Complete Enlightenment Sūtra is displayed the same ideas by the following passage:

"Complete Enlightenment is universally illuminating in quiescent-extinction without duality. Hundreds of thousands of millions of asamyas of Buddha worlds, as innumerable as the grains of sand of the Ganges, are like flowers in the sky, randomly arising and perishing. They are neither identical to nor separate [from the nature of Complete Enlightenment]. Since there is no bondage or liberation, one begins to realize that sentient beings have intrinsically accomplished Buddhahood, and that birth and death and Nirvāṇa are like yesterday’s dream".409

Or in ‘the Large sutra on Perfect Wisdom’ is also expressed the same idea:

"What is the emptiness of ultimate reality? "Ultimate reality" means Nirvāṇa. And that Nirvāṇa is empty of Nirvāṇa, on account of its being neither unmoved nor destroyed. For such is its essential nature".410

Now, let us read a passage from the Concise Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra, in explanation of the nature of Emptiness.

"Subhūti said, "0 Kausika, a Bodhisattva who aspires to the glorious vehicle should abide in the Prajñā-pāramitā with the teaching of Emptiness. He should not abide in form, in feeling, conception, impulses or consciousness; he should not abide in form that is transient or eternal . . . He should not abide in the fruit of Arhatship . . . not even in Buddha’s Dharmas. In this manner he should benefit and deliver infinite sentient beings."

Whereupon Śāriputra thought, "Where then should a Bodhisattva abide?"

Subhūti, knowing his thought said to him, "What do you think, Śāriputra? Where does Tathāgata abide?"

Śāriputra said, "Tathāgata abides nowhere. This no-abiding mind itself is the Tathāgata. Tathāgata does not abide in conditioned things, nor in the unconditioned. The Tathāgata who abides in all dharmas is neither abiding nor non-abiding. Just so, a Bodhisattva should also rest [his mind] in this manner."

At that time in the assembly many gods thought, "Even the languages and letters of the Yaksha demons are intelligible, but what Subhūti has just said is unintelligible."

Knowing their thoughts, Subhūti addressed the gods, "In that, there is no speech no demonstration and no hearing."

The gods thought, "What Subhūti intended to do was to make the doctrine easier for us to understand, but what he has done is to make the doctrine more subtle, profound, and obscure."

Reading their thoughts, Subhūti said to the gods, "If a devotee wants to attain the state of Stream-Winner, Once-Returner, No-Returner or Arhat... he should not depart from this deep insight. . ."

The gods thought, "Who can understand and agree with what Subhūti has just said?"

Subhūti knew their thought and said, "I say sentient beings are like dreams and magical delusion. Stream-Winners ... Arhats are also like dreams and magical delusions."

The gods said, "Subhūti, are you saying that the Buddha’s Dharmas are also like dreams and magical delusions?"

Subhūti said, "Yes, I say Buddha’s Dharmas are like dreams and magical delusions. I say Nirvāṇa is also like a dream and a magical delusion."

The gods said, "0 Subhūti, are you really saying that even Nirvāṇa is like a dream and a magical delusion?"

Subhūti said, "0 dear gods, if there were something that was more superior even than Nirvāṇa, I would still say that it is like a dream and a magical delusion. 0 dear gods, there is not the slightest difference between Nirvāṇa and dreams and magical delusions."411

The doctrine of Śūnyatā is clearly expressed here. It is difficult to find parallel statements of this kind in the Vedic literature or in other sources of religious scriptures. Because it contrasts to the Upanishad doctrines of eternal Being or the theistic religions as Catholicism, Hinduism and so on...

Therefore, we can see that if Nibbāna is the highest aim in Pāli Nikāyas, then in the process of evolution, we do come across a new departure when we find in Mahāyāna sūtras usually said that a fully enlightened Buddha is like illusion, is like a dream, and so is Nirvāṇa, and even if perchance there could be anything more distinguished than Nirvāṇa, even that is like a magical illusion, like a dream i.e. the Nirvāṇa, or Buddhhood is the aim for enlightenment, but when attained and we awaken it, then we come beyond them.

Śūnyatā as beyond the Negation or Indescribable (avāchya / anabhilāpya)

In the Mahāyāna sūtras, especially the Mādhyamika, language is like a game, and our debate whether A is B or A is not B is like a magical creation.

In this case the action and the prevention are equally illusory, yet it makes sense to say that one prevents the other. Similarly, according to Nāgārjuna, his own words are empty, like things created by magic or illusion, and yet he can refute the essence of all dharmas. His negation is not a negation of something real.

Nāgārjuna argued:

"Just as a magically formed phantom could deny a phantom created by its own magic, so could negation and refutation."412

Nāgārjuna’s negation is only a tool for eliminating extreme views. If there is no extreme to be removed, there need be no such things as affirmation and negation. Words such as right and wrong or erroneous are really empty terms without reference to entities or things. The right view is actually as empty as the wrong view.

The Mādhyamika refutation of erroneous views and illumination of right views is a therapeutic device for abolishing intellectual and emotional attachment. To obtain enlightenment, one has to go beyond right and wrong, true and false, and see the empty nature. We do not negate anything. There is nothing which can be negated. Hence, we will go beyond affirmation and negation.

In the Large sūtra on Perfect Wisdom, the Buddha confirmed it that

"Furthermore, a Bodhisattva stands firm in the perfection of wisdom. When he courses in the perfection of wisdom, a Bodhisattva does not get at the Not-Beyond or at the Beyond of any dharma whatsoever. It is then that he is one who stands firm in perfect wisdom, and he likewise instigates, exhorts, and introduces all beings thereto. But all this is as though done by a magician with regard to illusory beings..."413

Śūnyatā essentially means Indescribable (avāchya or anabhilāpya) as it is beyond the Four categories of Intellect (chatuṣkoṭi-vinirmukta). It is Reality which ultimately transcends existence, non-existence, both and neither. It is neither affirmation nor negation nor both nor neither. Empirically it means Relativity (pratītya-samutpāda) which is phenomena (saṁsāra); absolutely it means Reality (tattva) which is release from plurality (nirvāṇa). The world is Indescribable because it is neither existent nor non-existent; the Absolute is Indescribable because it transcends and no category of intellect can adequately describe it. Everything is Śūnya: appearances are Svabhāva-Śūnya or devoid of ultimate reality and Reality is Pratītyasamutpāda or devoid of plurality.

To easily grasp the above meanings, we may illustrate the formulation of Four Categories of Intellect (chatuṣkoṭi-vinirmukta) by a table as under:

Existence = X, non-Existence = -X

Either Existence or non-Existence = X / -X

Neither Existence nor non-Existence = -(X / -X)

Table VI

-[(X) / (-X) / (X / -X) / -(X / -X)]

Ashvaghoṣa (馬 鳴) said that Tathatā (真 如) is neither Śūnya (空) nor Aśūnya (非 空) nor both nor neither because it transcends all categories of the intellect. ‘All things in the world from beginning are neither matter nor mind (empirical ego), nor consciousness (momentary and individual), nor non-being, nor being; they are after all, inexplicable.’414 But this does not mean that there is no reality because it is the Real itself which appears ‘The divine nature of the Absolute Reality is not unreal.’

The Śūnyavadins take ‘existence’, ‘is’, ‘affirmation’, ‘being’ in the sense of absolute existence or ultimate reality; it means Eternalism. Those who maintain that the world exists are committing a great error because when we penetrate deep we find that this entire world with all its manifold phenomena is essentially relative and therefore ultimately unreal. And those who advocate non-existence or non-being are also committing a great error because they are denying even the phenomenal reality of the world. They are condemned by the Śūnyavadins as nihilists (nāstikas, 虛 無 主 義 者). Eternalism and Nihilism are both false. Intellect which is essentially discursive, analytic and relational involves itself in contradictions. All that can be grasped by it is essentially relative. It gives us four categories—existence, non-existence, both and neither — and involves itself in sixty-two antinomies.415 It cannot give us Reality. Reality transcends all the categories and reconciles all the antinomies of intellect. It is to be directly realized through spiritual experience. It is the Non-dual Absolute in which all plurality is merged. We must rise above the subject-object duality of the intellect and the plurality of the phenomena.

The Buddha was not a speculative metaphysician but a practical soteriologist at heart. His chief concern was the salvation or Nirvāṇa of sentient beings from the sorrowful world. In teaching men to achieve Nirvāṇa, the Buddha was believed to be a skillful teacher. On the one hand, he knew that all words and concepts are empty, and that discursive reasoning should be avoided. But on the other hand, he understood that sentient beings are attached to mundane things and could know only discursive knowledge. In order to help them various of attachments, he employed words such as the middle way and extreme views, worldly and ultimate truths, illumination and negation, and emptiness and non-emptiness, to expound his Dharma. Actually ‘the true nature of all dharmas is entirely inexplicable and unrealizable.’416 Thus all doctrines or verbal messages the Buddha gave are nothing but skillful means (upāya, 方 便) used to achieve the goal of non-attachment.

Still men tend to be attached. This clinging or longing is likened by the Mahāyānists to a disease or fire, a source of suffering, delusion and ignorance in life. Śūnyatā is a soteriological device to expunge the disease or fire so that human beings are released from misery and so it is likened to medicine or water. The Mahāyāna have argued that one should properly understand the nature, purpose and function of the device, and not be bound to it. Otherwise, one cannot be transformed.

Śūnyatā as the Means of the Relative Truth (Saṁvrtisatya, 俗 諦) and the Ultimate truth (Paramārthasatya, 真 諦)

One should also understand the doctrine of Śūnyatā by means of the two fold truth, namely the conventional or relative truth (Saṁvrtisatya/Vyavahāra, 俗 諦) and the ultimate or absolute truth (Paramārthasatya, 真 諦). Nāgārjuna said:

"All Buddhas taught Dharma by means of the two-fold truth for the sake of sentient beings. They taught by means of, first, the conventional truth, and second, the ultimate truth."417

Nāgārjuna’s idea of the twofold truth reflects a difference in the manner in which one may perceive things and the point of view from which one looks at them. Worldly or conventional truth involves emotional and intellectual attachment to what one perceives, and hence objects of knowledge are considered fixed, determinate and self-existing. When one sees things from this standpoint, he is committed to linguistic conventions as well as ontological entities. The meaning of a word is believed to be the object for which the word stands. The true nature of things can be described and explained by language.

This standpoint is Saṁvrtisatya, often presented as discursive knowledge.418 However, one may see what he perceives from a different point of view, namely, the standpoint of transcendental or ultimate truth whereby he reevaluates the phenomenal world without attachment. One can know that things perceived are empty of a fixed, determinate or self-existing nature. From this standpoint, one is committed neither to ontological entities nor linguistic ideas. The meanings of words are seen as human projections. Language cannot give true nature and conceptualization is abandoned. This unattached standpoint is Paramārthasatya.419

The twofold truth is essentially a tactical device. This device has been established to defend Buddhism against possible charges of nihilism and absolutism, to help sentient beings know Buddha’s Dharma and to explain certain obscurities and inconsistencies in the teachings of the Buddha.420

With this Two Truths system, the problems of being and non-being, men versus Buddha, finite and infinite, and so forth can all be solved with consistency and ease. When Buddha says that human beings and devas exist, that karma and saṁsara exist, that the Eight Fold Path and Three Bodies (Trikaya, 三 身) of Buddha exist, that a cake is a cake and a pen a pen, he is talking from the standpoint of saṁvrti-satya. When he says that heaven and earth do not exist, that saṁsāra and Nirvāṇa do not exist, that Buddhahood and Enlightenment do not exist, he is talking from the viewpoint of Paramārthasatya. The paradoxical statement of Vajrachedikā-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra:

"The minds the Tathāgata speaks of are not minds, but are (expediency) called minds". (如 來 說 諸 心 , 皆 為 非 心 , 是 名 為 心).421

or also the same text, but in other passages are expressed that

"Subhūti, the Prajñā-pāramitā as expounded by the Buddha, is not Prajñā-pāramitā but is (merely) so called."

(須 菩 提 ! 佛 說 般 若 波 羅 密 , 即 非 般 若 波 羅 密 , 是 名 般 若 波 羅 密).422

"Subhūti, the Tathāgata says these living beings are not (really), but they are (expediency), called living beings."

(眾 生 眾 生 者 , 如 來 說 非 眾 生 , 是 名 眾 生).423

To easily bear in mind, we may sum it up in the following formulation:

Beings = B ; not Beings = -B .

Table VII

B = -B => B

The first B is the assertion of living beings in the mundane truth; its negation -B is the denial of living beings in the Ultimate Truth. The third B represents illusion, the nature of man’s mind, in which the merging or identification of mundane and transcendental is expressed.

Here we see the vital point that the Two Truths should never be treated as two separate entities in two distinct and divided categories. Worldly truth, though not unconditional, is essential for the attainment of the ultimate truth and nirvāṇa; according to Nāgārjuna’s Middle Treatise, "without worldly truth, ultimate truth cannot be obtained."424 Relative truth is not useless in achieving enlightenment, nor can it be said that there is no relation between worldly and ultimate truths. Transcendental truth is explained by speech, and speech is conventional and conditional. The Bodhisattva knows and practices this teaching of the twofold truth. He uses words and concepts, but realizes that they neither stand for, nor point to, anything substantial. He employs Pratītyasamutpāda to refute extreme views, and recognizes that they are all empty. It is this skill-in-means (upāya, 方 便) which enables him to live in conditional and transcendental worlds simultaneously, and hence to save and benefit himself and others equally. The Twelve Gate Treatise states:

"If one does not know two truths, he cannot know self-interest, other-interest and common-interest. But, if one knows conventional truth, he then knows ultimate truth; and if he knows ultimate truth, he knows conventional truth."425

The concept of the Two Truths itself is only valid when we, standing firmly on this side, try to describe the other side and its paradoxical relationship with this side. It is only an expedient device to explain away the delusory tension between the mundane and the transcendental for people who are deeply rooted in this side. The purpose of preaching the Two Truths system is to go beyond the system itself and see the non-distinctive nature of the two. When all relativities are transcended, all pairs and duals are demolished, a wondrous state of great freedom in which all polarities merge into one vast totality will be revealed. In this state of non-dual totality, one then fully realizes the meaning of ‘Form is identical with void’, and ‘void is identical with form’ (色 即 是 空 , 空 即 是 色)426 of the Hṛdaya Sūtra, the central to the Prajñā-pāramitā scriptures, and on the basis of this Nāgārjuna formulated an integrated dynamic theory of praxis. His weapons in doing were a series of arguments based on formulae of negation, a broader interpretation of dependent co-arising, and also his needfulness of that aspect of the meaning of Śūnyatā inherent in Śūnyatā.

The law of dependent origination helps us in knowing the causes and conditions of this phenomenal world in a very subtle way. After analysing these causes and conditions of the phenomenal world, what is achieved in the transcendental sense, is nothing but Śūnyatā. After this we reach a stage, which may be called a phenomenal vacuum, which is Śūnyatā. On the one end is the dependent origination and on the other end is the Śūnyatā; and in between there is the existence of the whole of the phenomenal world. The discovery of the law of dependent origination was an attempt to analyse the mundane world and what is ultimately achieved by this process is known as the saṁvrtisatya. At the other end process led to the concept of Śūnyatā, which at level of the paramārthasatya may be designed as the phenomenal vacuum. This stage may be interpreted as silence, i.e., beyond which our intellect can no longer work.

For the sake of clarity, a diagram about the Two Truth on Three Levels is offered under. On the ground of ‘A simplification of Chi Tsang’s Two Truths on Three Levels’,427 we change some of his signs with reasons such as:

Δ = B (because B i.e. Beings), v = / (because / i.e. either), ∼ = - (Because – i.e. minus, deny).

Table VIII


1. Affirmation of being: B 1. Denial of being: -B
2. Affirmation of either being or non-being:
B / -B 2. Denial of either being or non-being:
-(B / -B)
3. Either affirmation of either being or non-being or denial of either being or non-being:
(B / -B) / -(B / -B) 3. Neither affirmation nor denial of either being or non-being:
-[(B / -B) / -(B / -B)]

The path leading from the delusion to enlighten the true nature of Śūnyatā on the basis of the Two Truths may be considered by a process of below arrows of table IX:

Table IX

To conclude this part, we may quote Nāgārjuna’s words which emphasize the Two Truths system as below:

"Those who are unaware of the distinction between these two truths are incapable of grasping the profound meaning of the Buddha’s teaching."428


"Those who do not know these two standpoints cannot understand the teaching of the Buddha."

(dve satye tamupāshritya Buddhānām dharmadhāraṇa. lokasamvṛtisayañcha satyañcha paramārthataḥ. yenayor na vijānanti vibhāgam satyayor dvayoḥ. te tattvam na vijānanti gambhīram Buddhaśāsane).429

Thus, the doctrine of emptiness is given to save, or to account for, empirical phenomena and practical affairs. Nāgārjuna’s twofold truth has also been considered as two fixed sets of truth. His distinction between saṁvrtisatya and paramārthasatya has been taken to imply or correspond to an ontological distinction between ‘relative reality’ and ‘absolute reality’.

III. The Relation between the Concepts of Suññatā and Śūnyatā

Here we start to come to an important point about the approach of Suññatā (空) and Śūnyatā (空 性) i.e., the relation between the concept of Suññatā in Pāli Nikāya and Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna sūtras.

The teaching on Suññatā is almost the same in the two systems but they appear to be different due to the difference in standpoint that is adopted by each school. The Mādhyamika primarily shows the inadequacy and incompetence of logic and reason to grasp Reality or to describe it accurately. On the other hand the primary interest of Suññatā in the Theravāda is in ethics and ethical culture. Its approach is not so much philosophical, or even dialectical, as preeminently ethical and religious. Hence the Theravāda, following the example of the Buddha, is not disposed to go thoroughly into, all the philosophical implications of the theory of causality. It is possible to deny the reality of dukkha on the basis of the same arguments on which it denies the reality of the dukkhatā, that is, the experience of dukkha. But to do so is to do harm to its ethical ideology and emphasis on ethical striving. If there is no dukkha there is no point in undertaking ethical culture and religious endeavour. The same consideration applies to other categories such as vedanā (受), magga (道) and nibbuti (解 脫).

The Theravāda denies the reality of the feeler (vedaka, 受 者), the doer (kāraka, 造 作 者), and the released (nibbuta, 解 脫 者). It could have gone further and denied release (nibbuti, 解 脫), feeling (vedāna, 受) and the path (magga, 道). But this is not done for obvious ethical reasons. To deny the reality of the path is to rule out altogether the possibility of a religious life. To deny feeling is to deny the very possibility of experience. To deny release is to render all life aimless and philosophical consistency and thoroughness are, in the Theravāda, subordinated to ethics and the dictates of ethics. This standpoint of the Theravādins is entirely opposed to that adopted by Nāgājuna, at least in his capacity as the author of the Kārikas. In this work, he denies not only kāraka but kriyā as well (ch. XVIII), not only nibbuta but nibbuti (Nirvāṇa) as well (ch. XXV), not only pudgala (我) but skandha (蘊), dhātu (界) and āyatana (處) as well (ch. III), and so on. His logic does not deter Nāgājuna from denying even the reality of the Buddha and his Jhāna. But the Theravādin has elected to follow the middle path in a way that is more faithful than that of Nāgārjuna himself.

The difference between the Śūnyatā (空 性) of Mahāyāna and the Suññatā (空) of Theravāda is not fundamental as may appear at first sight. All the differences are due only to a difference in approach to the facts of nature. This fact emerges all the more clearly as we go further in considering the Suññatā of the Theravāda. The Suññatā of things has been considered in the Theravāda books from a variety of standpoints, with the ethical interest foremost in every case.

1. Suññatā without divisions comprehends the whole universe.

2. Suññatā is twofold when it refers to substance and substantial.

3. Suññatā is fourfold when it refers to the following modes: not seeing substance in oneself, not attributing substance to another (person or thing), not transferring one’s self to another, not bringing in another’s self into oneself:

(neva katthaci attānam passati, (na ca kvacani parassa ca attānaṁ kvaci passati), na tam parassa parassa kiñcanabhave upanetabbam passati, na parassa attanam attano kincanabhave upanetabbam passati).430

4. Suññatā is sixfold when it is applied to each of the sense organs, the six kinds of objects corresponding to them and the six kinds of consciousness arising from them, from the point of view of the following six characteristics: substance (atta), substantial (attaniya), permanent (nicca), stable (dhuva), eternal (sassata) and non-evolutionary (avipariṇāmadhamma).431

5. Suññatā is eightfold when it is considered from the point of view of the following: non-essential (asāra, nissāra sarāpagata, nīccasārāsāra), essentially unstable (dhuvasārāsāra), essentially unhappy or disharmonious (sukhasārāsāra), essentially non-substantial (attasārāsāra), non-permanent (suññaṁ niccena), non-stable (suññaṁ dhuvena), non-eternal (suññaṁ sussatena), evolutionary or fluxional (vipariṇāmadhamma). 432

6. Suññatā is tenfold from the point of view of the following modes: devoid (ritta), empty (tuccha), void (suñña), non-substantial (anatta), godless (anissariya), unfree (akamakāri), disappointing (alabbhaniya), powerless (avasavattaka), non-self (para), separated (vivitta).433

7. Suññatā is twelvefold from the point of view of these other modes thus taking rūpa as an instance one can regard it as being: (satto), no animal (jīvo), no human (naro), no youth (mānavo), no woman (itthi), no man (puriso), no substance (attā), nothing substantial (attaniya), not myself (ahaṁ), not mine (mama), not another’s (aññassa), not anybody’s (kassaci).434

8. Suññatā is forty-twofold when considered from the point of view of these modes: impermanent (anicca), inconsistent (dukkha), diseased (roga), abscessed (gaṇḍa), evil (sallu), painful (agha), ailing (ābādhu), alien (para), decaying (paloka), distressing (iti), oppressing (upuddava), fearful (bhayu), harassing (upasagga), unsteady (cala), breaking (pabhaṅga), unstable (addhuvu), unprotected (atāna), unsheltered (alena), helpless (asaraṇa), refugeless (asaraṇībhūta), empty (ritta), devoid (tuccha), void (suñña), substanceless (anatta), unpleasant (anassāda), disadvantageous (ādīnava), changing (vipariṇāmadhamma), essenceless (asāraka), originating pain (aghamāla), torturing (vadhaka), annihilating (vibhava), depraved (sāsava), compounded (saṅkhatu), frustrating (maramisa), tending to birth (jātidhamma), tending to decay (jarādhamma), tending to disease (vyādhidhummu), tending to death (maraṅadhamma), tending to grief, sorrow and lamentation (sokuparidevu dukkhu domanassa upāyāsa dhamma), originating (samudaya), cesant (atthaṇgama), dissolving (nissaranṇa).435

When the Buddha says that one should look upon the world as being suñña he means that one should regard the world of objects and subjects in all the above ways. 436

These are not the only ways in which Suññatā is considered in the books of the Theravāda. The other analyses of this concept show a more detailed and deeper insight into the understanding of Suññatā. Before we can proceed to their examination it is necessary to refer at this stage to some of the divisions of śūnyatā that occur in the books of the Mahāyāna.

First of all, it may be very useful for our analysis, if we can give a look at the number of Śūnyatās which is often listed in Mahāyāna texts. The commentary Abhisamayālaṁkārāloka (莊 嚴 證 道 歌) of Haribhadra (師 子 賢) on Aṣṭsāhaśrikā Prajñā-pāramitā (八 天 頌 般 若 波 羅 密 經) speaks of twenty modes of Śūnyatā. The Madhyānata-vibhaṅgaṭīkā (中 邊 分 別 論 疏) mentions sixteen modes of Śūnyatās. Dignāga (陳 那) in Prajñāpāramitāpiṇdārtha speaks of sixteen modes of Śūnyatā.437 Obermiller438 analyses the twenty modes of Śūnyatās on the basis of Abhisamayālaṁkarāloka of Haribhadra. The Aṣṭsāhaśrikā Prajñā-pāramitā adds a new dimension to the domain of Śūnyatā when it says the Śūnyatā of all the dharmas cannot even be described. On the Aṣṭsāhaśrikā Prajñā-pāramitā there is a commentary known as āloka written by Haribhadra. In this commentary twenty modes of Śūnyatā have been mentioned and he also assigns each mode of Śūnyatā to one of the ten planes of meditation (dasa-bhūmi) or to the preparatory or posterior stages. Prof. T.R.V. Murti439 who has given a list of twenty modes of Śūnyatā as an appendix to the Central Philosophy of Buddhism surmises that it is a later innovation as Nāgājuna himself does not deal with them. The list as given by him is found at several places in Mahāyāna literature, such as the Pañcavimśati-sāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā, the Madhyānta-vibhaṇgaṭīkā and the Abhisamayālaṇkārāloka. It is clear that Professor Murti is not aware of the list that appears in the Pāli books, for otherwise he would not have said that the list found in the Mahāyāna literature was late in point of elaboration. The list that he has given may be quoted from the Abhisamayālaṇkārāloka: 440

1. The Unreality of Internal Elements of Existence (adhyātmaśūnyatā, 內 空 的 不 實 本 質). The first mode applies to physical facts, states such as feeling, volition etc. Their nature is not described either as changing (akūṭastha) or as totally undestroyable (avināśī); that is neither real (sat) nor unreal (asat). This constitutes their Śūnyatā relatively or unrelatively.

2. The Unreality of External Objects (bahirdhāśūnyatā, 外 空 的 不 實 本 質). This relates to external forms because all forms can be external only. The external form is taken in shape of sense organs such as eye, nose etc. This is known as the Unreality of External Objects.

3. The Unreality of both together as in the sense organs or the body (adhyātmabahirdhāśūnyatā, 內 外 空 的 不 實 本 質). Since all the dharmas are unreal and the basis of all the dharmas is also unreal, their (of dharmas and bases) knowledge is also unreal.

4. The Unreality of (the knowledge of) Unreality (Śūnyatāśūnyatā, 非 空 的 不 實 本 質). This is an important mode of Śūnyatā. The criticism that everything is relative, unreal (Śūnya) may be thought to stand out as a view; when all things are rejected, the rejection itself could not be rejected. This rejection itself is as relative, unreal as the rejected.

5. The Unreality of the Great Space (mahāśūnyatā, 大 空 的 不 實 本 質). Hence we can say that space is notional, our conception of it is relative to this distinction of directions east, west etc., and also to the things resident in them. The Śūnyatā of space is termed as Great Space because it has infinite expanse.

6. The Unreality of the Ultimate Reality (parmārthaśūnyatā, 真 空 的 不 實 本 質). By the Unreality of the Ultimate Reality is meant the unreality of Nirvāṇa as a separate reality.

7. The Unreality of the Conditioned (saṁskṛtaśūnyatā, 俗 空 / 有 為 的 不 實 本 質).

8. The Unreality of the Unconditioned (asaṁskṛtaśūnyatā, 無 為 的 不 實 本 質). These two unrealities make a natural pair. The conditioned is unreal and it is nothing in itself, it is neither permanent nor nonemergent. The unconditioned (asaṁskṛta) can only be conceived in contradiction to the conditioned; it is neither brought out into being nor destroyed by any activity of ours.

9. The Unreality of the Limitless (atyantaśūnyatā, 無 限 的 不 實 本 質). This mode of Śūnyatā is with reference to our consciousness of the Limit and the Limitless. With regard to this unreality T.R.V. Murti says441 that it might be thought that steering clear of the two extremes or ends of Existentialism and Nihilism, we are relying on a middle line of demarcation and that thereby the Middle or the Limitless might become invested with a nature of its own. The Limitless is nothing in itself; the Middle position is no position at all, but a review of positions.

10. The Unreality of that which is Beginningless and Endless (anavarāgraśūnyatā, 無 始 , 無 終 的 不 實 本 質). This mode of Śūnyatā is similar in character. It applies to distinctions in time such as beginning, the middle and the end. These distinctions are subjective. We can say that nothing stands out rigidly on the beginning, the middle and the end, the times flow into each other. Consequent on the rejection of the beginning etc. the beginningless too turns out to be notional; and it should be recognised as relative or unreal on the account.

11. The Unreality of Undeniable (anavakāraśūnyatā, 非 夫 定 的 不 實 本 質). When we reject anything as untenable, something else is kept aside as unrejectable, the undeniable, it might be thought. This eleventh mode of Śūnyatā brings out this aspect.

12. The Unreality of the Ultimate Essences (prakṛtiśūnyatā, 自 性 的 不 實 本 質). All the things exist in themselves. Nobody causes them either to happen or to mar them. The things are in themselves void, lack essential character of their own. There is no change in our notions not in real.

13. The Unreality of All Elements (sarvadharmaśūnyatā, 諸 法 相 的 不 實 本 質). This mode of Śūnyatā only reiterates that all modes of being, phenomenal and noumenal lack essential reality and so are unreal.

14. The Unreality of all Definitions (lakṣaṇaśūnyatā, 相 的 不 實 本 質). In the early Buddhism an attempt had been made to give a precise definition of entities e.g., the impenetrability of matter, and apprehension of object of consciousness (vijñāna). This brings home to us that matter and other entities lack the essence attributed to them. All definiton is of the nature of a distinction within general class and is therefore nominal in character.

15. The Unreality of the Past, the Present and the Future (anauplambhaśūnyatā, 過 去 , 現 在 , 未 來 的 不 實 本 質). The unreality or the purely nominal character of the past, the present and the future is demonstrable by the consideration that in the past itself there is no present and the future and the vice versa; and yet without such relating the consciousness of the past etc. does not arise.

16. The Unreality of Relation or Combination conceived as non-ens (abhāvasvabhāvaśūnyatā, 無 法 有 法 空 的 不 實 本 質). All the elements of the phenomenal existence are dependent on each other and they are dependent (pratītyasamutpannatvāt), and they have no nature of their own.

17. The Unreality of the Positive Constituents of Empirical Existence (bhāvaśūnyatā, 有 空 的 不 實 本 質). The five upādāna skandhas i.e. duhkha, samudaya, loka, dṛṣṭi and bhāva do not stand for any objective reality, their collection is a non-entity, as it is a grouping subjectively imposed upon them. This shows that corresponding to words and concepts there is no entity.

18. The Unreality of the non-ens (of the Non-empirical) (abhāvaśūyatā, 非 無 有 的 不 實 本 質). The unconditioned conceived as the absence of the five groups is also unreal. Space, one of the unconditioned is defined as non-obstruction (anāvṛtti). This is determined solely by the absence of the positive characters. The same is the case with Nirvāṇa, another unconditioned.

19. The Unreality of the Self-being (svabhāvaśūnyatā, 有 法 空 的 不 實 本 質). This mode of Śūnyatā emphasises the nature of reality as something existing in itself (svabhāva). It may be stated that svabhāva is here dialectically juxtaposed to Śūnyatā (svabhāvasya śūnyatā).

20. The Unreality of Dependent Being (parabhāvasūnyatā, 第 一 有 空 的 不 實 本 質). In this case also no external factor like the agent or his instruments play any part in making up its reality.

A careful examination of the evidence in the Pāli canon shows that this list cannot be so late as professor T.R.V. Murti thinks it is. As a matter of fact the Pāli records preserve for us a longer list than that of the twenty modes.

"Suññasuññaṁ (空), saṁkhārasuññaṁ (有 為 空), vipariṇāmasuññaṁ (壞 空), aggasuññaṁ (上 空), lakkhhṇasuññaṁ (相 空), vikkhambhanasuññaṁ (撤 空), tadangasuññaṁ (類 空), samucchedasuññaṁ (滅 空), patippassadhisuññaṁ (輕 安 空), nissaraṇasuññaṁ (捨 空), ajjhattasuññaṁ (內 空), bahiddhāsuññaṁ (外 空), dubhatosuññaṁ (假 空), sabhāgasuññaṁ (同 分 空), visabhāgasuññaṁ (同 分 分 別 空), esanāsuññaṁ (欲 空), pariggahasuññaṁ (持 空), paṭilābhasuññaṁ (樂 空), paṭivedhasuññaṁ (俉 空), ekattasuññaṁ (惟 空), nānattasuññaṁ (慧 空), khantisuññaṁ (忍 空), adhiṭṭhānasuññaṁ (願 空), pariyogāhanasuññaṁ (入 空), paramatthasuññaṁ (勝 義 諦 空)."

If this list of 25 Suññatā of Patisambhidāmagga belonging to Khuddhaka - Nikāya is compared with what is given in the Mahāyāna texts it will be found that most of the items in the latter are already to be found in Theravāda text. We have here not only a correspondence in ideas but also a correspondence in terminology. This suggests powerfully that at some period in early Buddhist history there had been either close association between the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna or that both schools had derived some of the terminology from a common fund of tradition which may be described as a still earlier form of what may be called, for want of a better term, original Buddhism. This list also tells us something more to confirm our view that the Theravāda teaching on Suññatā is considerably well developed and that the Śūnyatā of the Mādhyamika does not therefore represent a development that is altogether new in the history of Buddhist thought as has been suggested by scholars like Aiyaswami Sastri and Stcherbatsky.442

We have already had occasion to remark that the lists given above do not by any means exhaust the Theravāda analysis of Suññatā. The consideration of the many-sided nature of Śūnyatā has been incorporated as an aid to meditation. We are told that Nibbāna itself can be regarded as consisting of Suññatā and that final release could be obtained by developing insight into this fact of the universe.443

There are various Interpretative Approaches to understand Śūnyatā as we discussed above. Considering the vast philosophical literature on the concept of Śūnyatā. According to T.R. Sharma in An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy,444 we can divide the various approaches into the following:

1. Early Pāli traditions of Theravāda concerning Suññatā

2. Later Hīnayāna traditions of interpreting Suññatā

3. Vijñānavāda, Mādhyamika and Prajñāpāramitā sūtra approaches towards Śūnyatā.

4. The tradition of interpreting Śūnyatā among the Vaipulyasūtra.

5. Commentarial approaches adopted in the different commentaries such as Prassanapadā of Candrakīrti and Āloka of Haribhadra.

The concept of Śūnyatā does not seem fully developed in the first two traditions mentioned above except some stray reference to Puññatā in the early Pāli philosophical works of Theravāda tradition. The concept of Śūnyatā was fully developed by the Prajñā-pāramitā and the Mādhyamika system of philosophy. Nāgājuna seems to be its chief exponent in the sense that he laid major emphasis on his philosophy of nothingness or emptiness (niḥsvabhāva, 虛 無 主 義) to the concept of Śūnyatā.

These meanings of emptiness are exemplified in the successive stages of the Suññatā in Pāli Nikāyas and Mahāyāna sūtras or the evolution of the concept of Śūnyatā associated with a number of levels of understanding.

In Pāli Nikāyas, on the first level, the Suññatā in non-philosophic meaning is as non-substantiality and the ideal of Suññatā that we should contemplate exactly what is negative or affirmative followings its reality. The second level is Suññatā defined as anattā because of void of a self and nothing belonging to a self (anattā), and it comes to exist by the cause of 12 nidānas (Paṭiccasamuppāda). The last meaning is Suññatā considered as Nibbāna because Nibbāna is the state of final release, or trancendental emtiness, while in Mahāyāna sūtras, it is said that, the world or universe is ‘a great set’ of myriad of things. All things co-exist, co-operate and interact upon one another to create innumerable phenomena. This is called the cause. The cause under different conditions produces the different effects, which lead to either good or bad or neutral retributions. It is the very universal principle, the reason of existence or the norm of existence as such. In other words, because of Śūnyatā, all things can exist; without Śūnyatā, nothing could possibly exist, in the Hṛdaya Sūtra says, ‘The Śūnya does not differ from rūpa’.445 Śūnyatā is, therefore, as the true Nature of Empirical Reality. However, at this stage one may still be attached to conceptualization and to a monistic view of the universe. Because any conceptualization is an extreme. This is the first level of Śūnyatā.

On the second level, Śūnyatā as the Principle of Pratītyasamutyāda, because a thing must have no a nature of its own (svabhāva), it is produced by causes or depends on anything else, so it is Śūnyatā as the Hṛdaya text expresses "Eye is void of self and anything belonging to self, form is void..., visual consciousness is void..."446

On the third level, Śūnyatā means Middle way. As we know, common things, which appear to be real, are not really real. But Śūnyatā in this sense may be misinterpreted as non-being or nothing. People distinguish between being and non-being, existence and non-existence, permanence and impermanence, Saṁsāra (the cycle of life and death) and Nirvāṇa. All these should be regarded as extremes. Hence, the term ‘middle way’ (madhyama) is employed to revoke dualistic thinking and refers to something intermediary but it has transcended any dichotomy into ‘being’ and ‘non-being,’ ‘attribute’ and ‘substance’ or ‘cause’ and ‘effect’...The term Śūnyatā means that both naive realism and nihilism are unintelligible and their descriptions of the world should be discarded.

On the fourth level, Śūnyatā as Nirvāṇa and come beyond Nirvāṇa which is truly equated with Tathāgata (如 來) or Dharmatā (法 性) implicating that all things of this world are essentially of the same nature, void of any name or substratum. Mahāyānists declared the forcible statement that there is not the slightest difference between Nirvāṇa (涅 槃) and Saṁsāra (娑 婆) because when the complete disappearance of all things is really, there is Nirvāṇa.

The next point, Śūnyatā means beyond all Negation Indescribable which implies that monistic as well as dualistic and pluralistic views of the world are untenable. It is the negation of conceptualization, stated as a denial of both duality and non-duality. It is Reality which ultimately transcends existence, non-existence, both and neither. It is beyond the Four categories of Intellect (chatuṣkoṭi-vinirmukta) viz. ‘neither affirmation nor negation nor both nor neither’. At this stage, one is supposed to be free from all attachments from the rude to the subtle in mind. If there were something more superior even than Nirnāṇa, it is like a dream and a magical delusion. If this occurs, Śūnyatā means total non-attachment.

However, if Śūnyatā is the total Śūnyatā, then it is meaningless. Hence on the last level, Śūnyatā is the Means of the Relative Truth (Saṁvrtisatya) and the Ultimate truth (Paramārthasatya). That is to say, worldly truth, though not unconditional, is essential for the attainment of the ultimate Truth and Nirvaṇā. The Hṛdaya Sūtra, the central of the Prajñā-pāramitā scriptures, has expanded this significance by the emphasis words that ‘rūpa does not differ from Śūnya’ or ‘rūpa is identical with Śūnya’.447 Relative truth is not useless in achieving enlightenment, nor can it be said that there is no relation between worldly and ultimate truths. Thus, Prajñā-pāramitā is of the nature of knowledge; it is a seeing of things, it arises from the combination of causal factors... From that, "Bodhisattvas have no hindrance in their hearts, and since they have no hindrance, they have no fear, are free from contrary and delusive ideas".448 in order that he can content himself (自 在) with entering the world to spread the Truth of Śūnyatā to all walks of life without any obstacle.

Hence, the concept of Śūnyatā in Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra opens our knowledge that in Pāli Nikāyas, the concept of Suññatā is displayed very simple with the idea of the reality and that suññatā in Pañca Nikāya is also the form of real nature i.e. Śūnyatā in Prajñā-pāramitā texts. In other words, Suññatā in Pāli scriptures attached special importance to shere non-self and until the appearance and development of Mahāyāna, specially Prajñā-pāramitā literature, then the field of non-self is represented in two parts: the non-substantiality of the self (pudgala nairātmya) and the non-substantiality of the dharmas (dharma nairātmya) i.e. from subjective to objective, from six internal sense-bases to six external sense-bases, from affirmation of either being or non-being to denial of either being or non-being... are empty. The negation of all things give us to insight into the reality (Śūnyatā of Śūnyatā). That is also to say, Suññatā in Pāli Nikāyas is the foundation for the development of Prajñā-pāramitā literature.

As far as the role of Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna texts is concerned, Edward Conze revealed that the Mahāyāna theorists regarded the Hṛdaya Sūtra (the Heart Sūtra) which represents all of the family of Prajñā-pāramitā literature, as ‘The Second Turning of the Wheel of the Law’.449 Because the Hṛdaya Sūtra is the shortest scripture on the doctrine of Śūnyatā, it is the only sūtra in which Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara actively participates as the chief exponent of the insight of Śūnyatā.

Put it in more clear words, it is said that seven weeks after the Buddha’s Enlightenment, he gave the first discourse to group of five ascetics at the Deer forest (鹿 苑), in Isipatana (諸 天 墮 處) entitled ‘Dhamma-cakka-pavattana-vaggo’ (經 轉 法 論) means ‘The Foundation of Kingdom of Norm’ or ‘The rolling of the Wheel of Truth’ or ‘The First Turning of the Wheel of the Law’ to void sense pleasures and self-mortification and follow the Middle Way which leads to calm, wisdom, enlightenment, Nibbāna and to present the reality of sufferings (dukkha), its arising, its cessation and the path to its cessation. Suffering is an eternal problem of human beings. In one form or the other, all progressive thoughts of mankind concentrate on the problem of suffering in the sense of finding out their answer. And the Buddha’s discourse was applied it for whoever can experience the Truth by himself. That is the reason this lecture is called ‘The First Turning of the Wheel of the Law’ and in which the knowledge of Four Holy Truths (四 諦)450 is equated to vidyā (明 , vijjā or knowledge in Pāli).

We can read a passage in the Hṛdaya Sūtra:

"All Buddhas of the past, present and future obtained complete vision and perfect enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) by relying on Prajñā-pāramitā. So we know that Prajñā-pāramitā is the great supernatural Mantra, the great bright, unsurpassed and unequalled Mantra which can truly and without fail wipe out all sufferings."

(三 世 諸 佛 , 依 般 若 波 羅 密 多 故 , 得 阿 耨 多 羅 三 貓 三 菩 提 。 故 知 般 若 波 羅 密 多 , 是 大 神 咒 , 是 大 明 咒 , 是 無 上 咒 , 是 無 等 等 咒 , 能 除 一 切 苦 , 真 實 不 虛). 451

Accordingly, this Hṛdaya Sūtra is meant to be, as Edward Conze says, ‘A restatement of the Four holy Truths for beginners on the method of bearing this teaching in mind as well as on the spiritual advantages of following it’.452 Conze dismisses Tantric influence on this text, despite the fact that the closing section comprises a few Tantric terms ‘mantra’.

Edward Conze’s words, the term mantra (mantā in Pāli, 神 咒) or vidyā (vijjā in Pāli, 明) is not intended to mean, ‘a secret, mysterious lore of magical potency which can be compressed into a magical formula, a spell’. Rather, the term is intended to mean, ‘the knowledge of the four holy Truths which is the fundamental insight (vijjā, 明) of the Buddha’. In parallel to ‘The First Turning of the Wheel’ (dharma-cakra-pravartana-sūtra) (第 一 轉 法 論), the main subject of which is the Four holy Truths, while the Mahāyāna theorists regarded the Heart Sūtra as ‘The Second Turning of the Wheel of the Law’ (第 二 轉 法 論) because Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, who was engaged in deep contemplation surveying the distress calls of sentient beings, expounded the meaning of the Four holy Truths from the point of view of Śūnyatā. That is to say if in Early Buddhism considered ‘Four holy Truths’ is the real truth and Nibbāna is the aim for a practitioner, then in Developed Buddhism some things such as Four holy Truths, Nirvāṇa, or ‘even if any thing greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illution’ (nirvāṇamapi māyopamam svapnopamam).453 The negation of all, neither reality in ‘attainment’ nor in ‘non-attainment’(得 不 得) is the most true and proper signification of the concept of Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna texts.

From these marks, we can find out that Śūnyatā in Mahāyāna sūtras has its seeds in Nikāyas and its evolution only means Mahāyānists added more colours of variety into Suññatā. Thus, the teaching on Suññatā is almost the same in the two systems but they appear to be different due to the difference in standpoint that is adopted by each school.

It should be noted that to obtain liberation one need not pass through these levels or even infinite stages of a gradual progression; one can achieve enlightenment instantly. Also, no matter how one gets enlightenment, when attachment is gone, emptiness should be discarded.454 To realize this ‘non-abiding’ nature of emptiness is true wisdom. This is the achievement of moksa (解 脫 , salvation).455

The term empty or Śūnyatā is mainly a soteriological device, a tool of Nirvāṇa or Salvation. Psychologically, Śūnyatā is detachment. The teaching of Śūnyatā is to empty the mind of cravings. Morally, this negation has a positive effect, namely, preventing one from doing evils and making one love oneself and others. It is to foster the virtue of compassion (karuṇā, 慈 悲). And epistemologically, Śūnyatā is an unattached insight that truth is not absolutely true. It teaches that discursive knowledge does not provide true wisdom and that enlightenment is the abandonment of conceptual thinking. Metaphysically, Śūnyatā means that all things are devoid of definite nature, characteristic and function, and that metaphysical views are unintelligible and should be discarded. This is not to advocate nihilism but rather to save or to account for the possibility of empirical phenomena and practical values. Spiritually, Śūnyatā is freedom, Nirvāṇa or liberation from the suffering of the world.456

To repeat once more: Emptiness is not a theory, but a ladder that reaches out into the infinite. A ladder is not there to be discussed, but to be climbed. If one does not even take the first steps on it, the farther rungs seem, I admit, rather remote. They come nearer only as one goes up there. Emptiness is used as a traditional term to express the complete negation of this world by the exercise of wisdom. The central idea is the total denial of, the complete emancipation from, the world around us in all its aspects and along its entire breadth. It is a practical concept, and it embodies an aspiration, not a view. Its only use is to help us get rid of this world and of the ignorance which binds us to it. It has not only one meaning, but several, which can unfold themselves on the successive stages of the actual process of transcending the world through wisdom. Not everyone, of course, is meant to understand what emptiness means. In that case it is better to pass on to something else.457



315 Edward Conze, The Prajnāpāramitā Literature, Tokyo, 1978, p.1; Conze 1960: 9 ff.; 1968; 11ff.; also see Mahāyāna Buddhism - The Doctrinal Foundation, Paul Williams, New York, 4th rpt. 1998, p. 41.

316 Prajña Pāramitā Text: 20-24, also see EL, ff. 132.

317 SSPW, 14.

318 Shohei Ichimura, Buddhist Critical Spirituality: Prajñā and Śūnyatā, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001, p. 258.

319 The Diamond that cut through Illusion, Thich Nhat Hanh, California: Parallel Press: 1991, p. 1.

320 EL, p. 151.

321 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , 佛 學 業 書 , 台 鸞 , 一 九 九 八 , p. 135.

322 EL, 152.

323 DCBT, pp. 337-8.

324 During the late fourth century B.C., the Buddhist organization was divided into two schools: the Mahāsaṇgika (the majority or great assembly) and the Sthaviras (the school of elders). Soon afterwards, during the third century B.C., some eight schools of dissenters arose from the Mahāsaṇgika. During the second and third centuries B.C., some ten schools of dissenters arose from the Sthaviras. These eighteen schools were later referred to as Hīnayāna. The traditions surrounding these schools are unreliable, contradictory and confused. See Edward Conze's Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967), pp. 119-120.

325 The Pali canon was compiled and edited by three monastic councils. The First Council assembled just a few months after the death of Buddha (483 B.C.) in Rājagaha, the Second about a hundred years later (around 383 B.C.) in Vesali, and the Third in 225 B.C. in Pataliputra. The canon is divided into three collections called "Baskets" (piṭaka). The first collection, the Vinayapiṭaka, contains the rules for monastic discipline (vinaya), the second, the Suttaptaka, the sermons (sutta) of the Buddha and his disciples, and the third, the Abhidhammapiṭaka, the codifications and analyses of the teachings. There are certain extra-canonical Pali works such as the Milindapañha, the Visuddhimagga and the scholastic manual Abhidhammatthasangaha. The Sarvastivada scriptures were written in Sanskrit.

326 There is no canon of the Māhayāna because the Māhayāna represents no unity of sects. There are only separate sūtras which are called Mahāyāna sūtras, originally written in Sanskrit. Many of these Sanskrit originals have been lost, and are preserved mainly in their Chinese and Tibetan... translations. The earlist Mahāyāna literature is the Prajñā or "wisdom" literature and other Māhayāna scriptures are too numerous to mention. And as illustrated above, we touch upon the Vajrachedika-prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra, the Hṛdaya Sūtra belonging to Prājñā-pāramitā scriptures. However, sometimes we also take some quotations from the Vimalakīrti and Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtras.

327 See T.R.Sharma, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Delhi: Eastern Book Linkers, 1994, p. 24.

328 Murti, T.R.V., ed. Srinpoche C. Mani, Mādhyamika Dialectic and the Philosophy of Nāgārjuna, (The Dalai Lama Tibetan Indology Studies vol. I), Sarnath, 1977, p. x.

329 Prajñāpāramitāpiṇḍārtha, I-II, ed. G. Tucci (Minor Saṇskrit Texts on the Prajñāpāramitā), JRAS, 1947, 6.18, pp. 263-4: 1. bodhisattvaŚūnyatā, 2. bhoktṛŚūnyatā, 3. adhyātmikaŚūnyatā, 4. vastuŚūnyatā’ 5. rūpaŚūnyatā, 6. prakṛtiŚūnyatā, 7. vijñāŚūnyatā, 8. sattvaŚūnyatā, 9. saṁskāraŚūnyatā, 10. dharmaŚūnyatā, 11. ātmaŚūnyatā, 12. pudgalanairaŚūnyatā, 13. saṁskṛtaŚūnyatā, 14. asaṁskṛtaŚūnyatā, 15. sāvadyaŚūnyatā, 16. nirvadyaŚūnyatā.

330 Ibid., p. 263: Bodhisattvaṁ na paśyāmīty uktavāṇs tattvato muniḥ / bhoktādhyātmikavastunāṁ kathitā tena Śūnyatā//

331 Prof. Stcherbatsky, Madhyānta-vibhāga, Discrimination between Middle and Extremes, Calcutta, 1971.

332 Bhāvaviveka, Prajñāpradīpa, on Madhyamakaśāstra.

333 Obermiller, E, A Study of the Twenty Aspects of Śūnyatā, Idian Historical Quarterly, Vol. IX, 1933.

334 Murti, T.R.V., The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: An Study of the Mādhyamika System, Delhi: Harper Collins, 1998.

335 Shohei Ichimura, Buddhist Critical Spirituality: Prajñā and Śūnyatā, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001, p. 218.

336 DCBT, p. 259.

337 Mādhyamikavṛtti, ed. L. de la Vallee Poussin, Bibliotheca Buddhica, Vol. IV, 1902-13, pp. 173, 177.

338 Garma C.C. Chang, Buddhist Teaching of Totality, Great Britain: The Pennsylvania State University, 1972, pp. 100-1.

339 Aspects of Mahāyāna Buddhism, p. 26: This view is endorsed by P.T. Raju Idealistic Thought of India, p. 207; also see Buddhism its religion and philosophy, prof. W.S.Karunaratne, Buddhist Research Society, Singapore, 1988, p. 44.

340 LS, Chapter II, p. 24.

341 妙 法 蓮 華 經 , 佛 教 經 典 會 , 佛 教 慈 慧 服 務 中 心 , 香 港 , 一 九 九 四 , p. 47.

342 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134. ‘Form (rūpa) is no different from the void (sūnya)’ translated into ‘Form (rūpa) does not different from the void (sūnya).

343 The Middle Treatise (T. 1564 in Vol. 30, tr. by Kumārajīva in 409 A.D.), xxiv: 14; Nāgārjuna’s Twelve Gate Treatise, viii, Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1982; also see Empty Logic, Hsueh Li Cheng, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991, p. 43.

344 金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經 , 佛 學 業 書 , 台 鸞 , 一 九 九 八 , p. 121. 345 Mūla-Mādhyamika-kārikā of Nagārjuna, David J. Kalupahana, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996, xxii, p. 16.

346 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134.

347 LS, pp. 29, 39, 116, 134.

348 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134.

349 BKS, IV, 29.

350 LS, 42.

351 妙 法 蓮 華 經 , p. 46.

352 Śūnyā Dharma, Sinhalese edition, p. 57.

353 金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經 , p. 132.

354 SSPW, 20.

355 CPB, 166.

356 Candrakīti on Mādhyamikaśāstra.

357 For the detailed discussions of this, see Bimal Krishna Matilal, Epistemology, Logic, and Grammar in Indian Philosiphical Literature, Paris: Mouton, 1971, pp. 148-151; ‘A Critique of the Mādhyamika Position’, The Problem of Two Truths, ed. by Mervyn Sprung, pp. 56-57.

358 Garma C.C. Chang, Buddhist Teaching of Totality, Great Britain: The Pennsylvania State University, 1972, pp. 95-6.

359 金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經 , pp. 113-4.

360 Ibid., p. 129.

361 Chapter V, pp. 136-143.

362 Madhyamakaśāstra.

363 Nagārjuna, The Middle Treatise, xviii: 7.

364 Cf. Candrakīti, Prasannapadā on Mādhyamikaśāstra (24.18) op.cit. p. 220: yā ceyaṁ svabhāvaśunyatā sā prajñaptir upādāya, saiya śunyatā upādāya prajñaptir iti vyavasthāpyate. cakrādiny upādāya rathāṇgāni rathaḥ prajñayate / tasya vā savāṇgāny upādāya prajñap, sā svabhāvenānutpattih, yā ca svabhāvānanutpattih sā śunyatā. saiva svabhāvānutpattilakṣaṇā śūnyatā madhyamā pratipat iti vyayateasthāpyate.

365 Cf. Ibid.: tad evaṁ pratītyasamutpādasyaivaitā viśesasaṁjñā śūnyatā upādāya prajñaptih, madhyamā pratipad iti.

366 Cf. Candrakīrti on Mādhyamikaśastra. pratītyasamutpādaśabdasya yo’ arthah sa eva’ śūnyatāśabdārthah.

367 Ibid., p.31. (It may also be pointed out here that in the Sino-Japanese tradition, according to the Tien-tai school, all the three except the pratītyasamutpāda constitute the so-called 'threefold Truth", the truth of the empty (k'ung), the provisional (chia) and the middle (chung). Cf. Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu Office Appliance Co., Third Ed. p. 129 (quoted by Gadjin M. Nagao, p. 42).

368 Mādhyamikaśāstra.

369 Venkatramanan K., Nāgārjuna’s philosophy, Delhi, 1978, p. 339 (a).

370 pp. 143-151. 216

371 Itivuttaka, ed. E. Windish, London: PTS, 1889, p. 37.

372 Kathāvatthu, I-II, ed. A.C. Taylor, London: PTS, 1894-95, p. 124; also see Milindapañha, ed. V. Trenckner, London: PTS, 1962, p. 316.

373 Quoted in Mahayana Buddhism, Nalinaksha Dutt, Calcutta, 1976, p. 237.

374 MādhyamikaKārikāvṛtti (Prasannapadā) by Canrakīrti, commentary on Mādhayamika kārikās, Bib. Budd. IV, p. 521.

375 Loc.cit.

376 Eta evaṁ na kasyacin nirvāṇe prahāṇaṁ nāpi kasyacin nirodha iti vijñeyam. tataś ca sarua.kalpanāksayarūpam eva nirvāṇam. tathoktam Ārya Ratnāvalyām: na cābhāvo'pi nirvāṇam kuta evāsya bhāvatā; bhavābhāva-parāmarśa-kṣayo nirvāṇam ucyate. MKV. p. 524.

377 MK, xxv, 10.

378 Cf. Vadānta Paribhāṣā, chapter I.

379 ‘muktis tu śūnyatādṛsṭes tadarthāśesabhāvanā’. A dictum of Nāgājuna quoted in BCAP. p. 438 and also in Subhāsita Samgrha. Also in Guṇaratna's commentary (p. 47) on Saḍḍarśana Samuccaya. buddhaih pratyeka-buddhaiś ca śravakaiś ca nisevitā; mārgas tvam ekā moksasya nāstyanya iti niścayah. ASP. IX, 41. na vinānena mārgeṇa bodhir ityāgamo yatah, GBWL, IX, 41.

380 Prof. Stcherbatsky suggests in the footnote that Aśūnya = Nirvāṇa of the Hīnayānists = Pradhāna of Sāṁkhya.

381 Prof. Stcherbatsky translates ‘prapañca’ by plurality and then sometimes even streches this sense of the word.

382 Madhyamakavṛtti, ed. L. de la Vallee Poussin, BB. iv, 1902-13, p. 445.

383 "Ekaṁ hi yānaṁ dvitīyaṁ na vidyate". See also ĀṣtaSāhasrikāPrajñāpāramitā, Śānti Deva, Bib. Ind., p. 319. ekaṁ eva hi yānaṁ bhavati yad uta buddha-yānaṁ. bodhisattvānaṁ yathā āyusmatah subhūter nirdeśah.

It is explicitly stated in the AbhisamayĀlaṁkārĀloka, Haribhadra, G.O.S. Baroda, p. 120 that it is the opinion of Nāgārjuna and his followers that the votaries of other paths do not gain final release, that they remain in a lower state, but are, at the end of the period, enlightened by the Buddha.

Ārya Nāgārjuna-pādāis tanmatanusāriṇaś caikayāna-nayavādina āhuh: labdhvā bodhi-dvayaṁ hy ete bhavād uttrastamānasāh; bhavanty āyuh-ksayāt tusṭāh prāpta-nirvaṇa-saṁjñiah. na tesaṁ asti nirvāṇaṁ kim tu janma-bhavatraye; dhātau na vidyate tesāṁ te'pi tisṭhanty anāsrave. aklisṭa-jñāna-hānāya paścād buddhaih prabodhitāh; sambhṛtya bodhi-sambhāraṁs te'pi syur lokanāyakāh. AbhisamayĀlaṁkārĀloka, Haribhadra, G.O.S. Baroda , p. 120.

The Catuh Stava (I, 21, quoted by Advayavajra, p. 22) has a verse of this import: "dharmadhātor asambhedād yānabhedo'sti na prabho; yānatritayam ākhyātaṁ tvayā sattvāvatāratah".

384 Ratnāvalī of Nāgārjuna as quoted in BodhiCaryĀvatāraPañjikā by Prajñākaramati, Bib. Ind., p. 492.

385 Ś, 246.

386 Laṇkāvatāra-sūtra, ed. B. Nanjio, Kyoto, 1923, p. 226.

387 Ś, 263.

388 Cf. S, II, pp.25 ff; "Iti kho, bhikkhave, yā tatra Tathatā avutatthatā anaññaTathāgata idapaccayatā, ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭicca-samuppādo".

389 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134-5.

390 金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經 , p. 116.

391 Ibid., p. 113-4.

392 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134-5.

393 Garma C.C. Chang, Buddhist Teaching of Totality, Great Britain: The Pennsylvania State University, 1972, p. 97.

394 Ibid., p. 98.

395 MK, xxv, 9.

396 For more detail, see Basic Buddhist Concepts, Kogen Mizuno, tr. Charles S.Terry and Richard L. Gage, Tokyo, 1994, pp.13-35; and 2500 Years of Buddhism, P.V. Bapat, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India, 1919, pp. 31- 42.

397 SSPW, 21.

398 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 135.

399 SSPW, 45.

400 nirvṇamapi māyopamam svapnopamam. Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñapāramitā, ed. R. Mitra, Calcutta, 1888, p. 40.

401 Ibid., p. 25, 39, 196, 198, 200, 205, 279, 483, 484.

402 Ibid., p. 119, 120, 185, 262.

403 nāmarūpameva māyā māyaiva nāmarūpam. Ibid., p 898; māyāyāḥ padam na vidyate. Ibid., p. 1209.

404 yachcha prajñaptidharmam tasya notpādo na nirodho nyatra saṁjñāsaṁketamātreṇa vyavahriyate. Ibid., p 325.

405 Lankāvatārasūtra, ed. B. Nanjio, Kyoto, 1923, p. 22, 51, 62, 84, 85, 90, 95, 105.

406 See Lalitavistara, ed. P.L. Vaidya, BST, I, 1958, p. 176, 177 & 181.

407 See Samādhi-rāja, Sanskrit Manuscript No. 4, Hodgson collection, Royal Asiatic Society, London, p. 27 & 29.

408 See Suvarṇa-prabhāsa, Manuscript No. 8, Hodgson collection, Royal Asiatic Society, London, p.31, 32 & 44.

409 The Complete Enlightenment, Trong. & Com. By Cha’n Master Sheng-yen, London, 1999, p. 26.

410 LSPW, 145.

411 Garma C.C. Chang, Buddhist Teaching of Totality, Great Britain: The Pennsylvania State University, 1972, pp. 94-5.

412 Nāgārjuna, Hui Cheng lun (The Refutation Treatise), T. 1631, p. 24.

413 LSPW, 140.

414 Suzuki, The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna, p. 111-12.

415 D, I; LS, 48.

416 LS, p. 7.

417 The Twelve Gate Treatise, viii. xxiv: 8, See Chi-tsang, the Meaning of the Twofold Truth, pp. 77-115, and The Profound Meaning of the Treatises, pp. 1-14.

418 For a detail discussion of this, see Mervyn sprung, ed. op. Cit., pp. 17, 38, 43 and 57, and N. Dutt, Aspects of Mahāyāna Buddhism and Its Relation to Hīnayāna, London, 1930, pp. 216-127.

419 For a detail discussion, see Chi-tsang, op.cit. See also Mervyn Sprung, Ibid., pp.17, 43 & 58.

420 Chi-tsang, op. cit.

421 金 剛 般 若 波 羅 密 經 , p.126.

422 Ibid. 118.

423 Ibid. 128.

424 Ibid, xxiv, 10; the Twelve Gate Treatise, viii.

425 The Twelve Gate Treatise, viii. Chi-tsang commented that ‘to know ultimate truth is to benefit oneself (self-interest); to know conventional truth is to be able to benefit others (other-interest); to know both truths simultaneously is to benefit all equally (common-interest). Therefore it established the twofold truth’. A Commentary on the Twelve Gate Treatise (T. 1825), p. 206. See also The Profound Meaning of Treatises, p.11 and The meaning of the Twofold Truths, pp. 81, 82c, 85c & 86.

426 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134.

427 Garma C.C. Chang, The Buddhist Teaching of Totality, Britain: The Pennsylvania University, 1972, p. 109.

428 The Middle Treatise, xxiv: 9; The Twelve Gate Treatise, viii.

429 Ibid, XXIV, 8-9.

430 Visuddhimagga II, ed. H.C. Warren and D. Kosambi, HOS, 41, 1950, p. 654.

431 Loc. cit.

432 Loc. cit.

433 Ibid., 655.

434 Loc. cit.

435 Loc. cit.

436 Ibid. 655-6.

437 Prajñāpāramitāpiṇḍārtha, I-II, ed. G. Tucci (Minor Sanskrit Texts on the Prajñāpāramitā), JRAS, 1947, 6.18, pp. 263-4: 1. bodhisattvaŚūnyatā, 2. bhoktṛŚūnyatā, 3. adhyātmikaŚūnyatā, 4. vastuŚūnyatā, 5. rūpaŚūnyatā, 6. praptiŚūnyatā, 7. vijñānaŚūnyatā, 8.sattvaŚūnyatā, 9. saṁskāraŚūnyatā, 10. dharmaŚūnyatā, 11. ātmaŚūnyatā, 12. pudgalanairatmyaŚūnyatā, 13. saṁskṛtaŚūnyatā, 14. asaṁskṛtaŚūnyatā, 15. sāvadyaŚūnyatā, 16. nirvadyaŚūnyatā.

438 Obermiller, E., A Study of the Twenty Aspects of Śūnyatā, Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. ix, 1933, pp. 170-187.

439 CPB, pp. 351-356.

440 Loc. cit.

441 CPB, 354.

442 Madhyānta-vibhanga, Trans. Th. Stcherbatsky, Leningral, 1937, p.v. also see Buddhism: its Religion and Philosophy, Prof. W.S. Karunaratne, Buddhist Research Society, Singapore, 1988, p. 44. To illustrate it, the words of Th. Stcherbatsky read as follow: "The term Śūnyatā is an innovation of the Mahāyāna, an innovation made necessary by the course of philosophic development. Its germs are found in the Hīnayāna, but the Mahāyāna has given it quite a new interpretation, an interpretation in which the two main schools of Buddhism radically diverged".

443 Visuddhimagga II, 658.

444 T.R. Sharma, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Delhi: Eastern Book Linkers, 1994, pp. 75-6.

445 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134.

446 BKS, IV, 29.

447 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 134.

448 Ibid., 135.

449 Shohei Ichimura, Buddhist Critical Spirituality: Prajñā and Śūnyatā, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001, pp. 108-9.

450 Loc. cit.

451 般 若 波 羅 密 多 心 經 , p. 135.

452 Edward Conze, Text, Sources, and Bibliography of the Prajñā-pāramitā-hṛdaya, JRAS, 1948, p. 47.

453 Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñapāramitā, ed. R. Mitra, Calcutta, 1888, p. 40.

454 Chi- tsang, Chung-kuan-lun-su (A Commentary on the Middle Treatise), T. 1842, p.11.

455 The Middle Treatise, xviii: 5.

456 Hsueh-li Cheng, Nāgārjuna’s Twelve Gate Treatise, Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1982, pp.13-14.

457 SSPW, 24.