2 questions about Suññatā please

Hello to you

May I please ask for replies to the following questions, with reference to Gotama Buddha’s words, and if possible Nagarjuna’s as well ?*
Your reply will be Very much appreciated.

  1. All things are Empty (of svabhāva), and depend on other things – Is Suññatā depend on anything? If it is, What is it depend on?

  2. When a Buddhist (person) experiences Suññatā – exactly what is the nature of the entity that experiences Suññatā?



Welcome, @Portman! Great questions.

According to the Early Buddhist Texts, the nature of the entity is likewise suñña, empty. The use in the suttas is basically synonymous with anattā. Notice that the suttas such as MN121 don’t use the noun form suññatā, that is a product of later tradition. As the topic relates to Nāgārjuna, that is getting into deep philosophy (not just the deep experience/wisdom described in the suttas), so I’ll leave it to others to expound.


Thank you SCMatt :pray:t4:

…So what do we say about this?

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Hi. Just to let you know the later Nagarjuna’s Text on emptiness has been shown by scholar to start with the early teaching but then later in the text it’s a sudden verse from a later Mahayana text. So what he did is trick in starting with early teaching to make to look like early teaching. But the early teaching difference than the later is the acceptance that samsara and nirvana is like duality. Like the tried to think further. But in opinion It’s not necessary to think like that. It creates a view. Both being actually emptiness for them. Which partly truth. But nirvana is indescribable actually. The thing is later view is focused on as if heaven and earth mentality. So samsara and nirvana. Same. So they see this as a reason to stay on earth to save others since they see acceptance of that as seeing the truth already. But early on Buddhism already Elders poems in Theravada say about how lives of rebirth it took them to reach Enlightenment. So I don’t see why they believed Arahant didn’t maybe “save” other before they reached Arahantship. So that later mentality is really unnecessary. Again the Elders poem maybe also later works but they talk about giving to former Buddha. So the point was that you probably did good before you reached Enlightenment. Early Buddhism that actually meant going beyond. So actually there is no reason to see as emptiness. But the later Buddhism is seeing this whole duality of heaven and earth as nirvana. Which warning. Buddha did say don’t see Nirvana in earth. So don’t create this wrong view. :v:

Thanks Upasaka_Dhammasara. But sorry, I’m not sure I quite understood.

The experience of emptiness is conditioned by the path taken, that Noble Eightfold Path.

MN121:3.3: ‘Ānanda, these days I usually practice the meditation on emptiness.’

MN121:12.4: They understand: ‘This field of perception is empty of the perception of the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. There is only this that is not emptiness, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’ And so they regard it as empty of what is not there, but as to what remains they understand that it is present. That’s how emptiness is born in them—genuine, undistorted, and pure.

The experience is unbounded and empty of the conceit, “I am”:

Whatever ascetics and brahmins enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness—whether in the past, future, or present—all of them enter and remain in this same pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness.
So, Ānanda, you should train like this: ‘We will enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness.’ That’s how you should train.”


Thanks karl_lew. I hope to respond tomorrow

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Sorry, I might have misled, yes the state is called by a noun (and the title of the sutta). Just not in the description of the process. In other words it’s not a meditation on emptiness (as if that’s a “thing”), but a meditation on the quality “empty of”, this is clear from the context at each step of MN121.

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I’m sorry I tend to forget that I’m left handed. Tend to kind of explain really strange. Just kidding. What meant was early Buddhist doesn’t see ultimate emptiness as part or in Earth. Later Buddhism see everything connected in emptiness. Is more a Hindu Buddhist version of Emptiness. Is like they say we are all connected. Meaning oneness. Meaning Brahma or God is in all.

Early Buddhism tend not go to such way of seeing things. Not create wrong way of seeing things. That can create more attachment and the path to enlightment even it’s Buddhahood becomes hard to get to.

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Regarding your first point, emptiness, at least as Nāgārjuna explains it, is itself empty. We can see this in verse 22:11 of the MMK, among others.

"Empty" should not be asserted."Nonempty" should not be asserted.
Neither both nor neither should be asserted. They are only used nominally.

Thus emptiness is used as a tool for liberation. It has no inherent existence and asserts no ultimate truths.


Yes, “emptiness of emptiness” means that emptiness isn’t a thing, or an absolute, or a ground of being, or whatever. For this reason shunyata can’t be compared to Brahman, for example.


As MN 121 states, emptiness is attained by a progression of meditation subjects of expanding spatial dimension. For most practitioners, the first stage of rejecting the perception of human society in favour of the perception of wilderness is applicable to their practice, and can bear much fruit and benefit, however there are preliminary considerations.

“In the same way, there are these gross impurities in a monk intent on heightened mind: misconduct in body, speech, & mind. These the monk — aware & able by nature — abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them, there remain in him the moderate impurities: thoughts of sensuality, ill will, & harmfulness. These he abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them there remain in him the fine impurities: thoughts of his caste, thoughts of his home district, thoughts related to not wanting to be despised. These he abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence.”—AN 3.100 i-x

Before the practitioner can focus on dealing with overcoming the perception of human society, they must abandon the gross and moderate impurities.


In truth emptiness was just a mental training before and after as if it meant things nature is empty. Is was Buddha strategy to remove attachments so disciples can attain Nirvana. The training was to see all as if empty. So in a ex-wife for monk he must train to see non-wife. In village a non-village. For laypersons a son a non-son, in a house a non-house. What that does? Train the mind to remove attachments. And removing attachments gradually will lead to Right Samadhi and Insights leading to Nirvana. Total letting go. No more attachment. When that happens it then when you even see emptiness as non-emptiness. As the state your in mentally. But it’s not full nirvana Yet. After the body last breath. Your blown out like candle. Never coming back to this earth. So as the candle blown out direction and emptiness can’t be described. So Buddha tried just out of Compassion. Because he is Buddha. They have compassion to teach. :blush:


Thank you Upasaka_Dhammasara.
in my humble understanding this is a major issue. if by ‘early Buddhism’ it is referred to Gotama Buddha’s teaching then this Is Buddhism. and indeed, at list according to Rhys Davids translation, original Buddhism aims at Brahman

( [DN13] Ayampi kho, vāseṭṭha, brahmānaṃ sahabyatāya maggo.
‘Verily this, Vāseṭṭha, is the way to a state of union with Brahmā.’ )

And there is the citation brought earlier from ‘Emptiness Immersion’ which ties The unconditioned with Emptiness

Thank you Upasaka_Dhammasara.
in my humble understanding this is a major issue. if by ‘early Buddhism’ it is being referred to Gotama Buddha’s teaching then this Is Buddhism. and indeed, at list according to Rhys Davids translation, original Buddhism aims at Brahman
( [DN13] Ayampi kho, vāseṭṭha, brahmānaṃ sahabyatāya maggo.
‘Verily this, Vāseṭṭha, is the way to a state of union with Brahmā.’ ), and there is the citation brought earlier from ‘Emptiness Immersion’ which ties The unconditioned with Emptiness

You might be interested in the two earliest teachings. Because later Buddhism has also been manipulated by hindus etc. The way Buddha taught in the earliest phase is totally different in the books that is probably the first teachings compilations of saying of Buddha. And is the AṬṬHAKAVAGGA and Parayanavagga since these have the earliest commentaries. Reading them you tend to see Buddha way simpler than later works such in nikayas. But I suggest keeping it simple as early Buddhism. Hindu king forced Buddhism to change sometimes. So it’s complicated. Buddhism had such a diffrent way of seeing things. Such that after they popular in India society brahmins wore monks clothes and came in the Buddhist community just for fame etc. Buddha teaching is having no view in two extremes. If things exist or doesn’t exist. So the names for the Buddhist goal by Buddha was kept the minimum for the spiritual life. And that he called the handful of leaves. Because it’s enough. Just what you need. But in teaching the older Brahmin word had to be used to teach his path to Brahmins. So they can understand a little. So by tradition. Those words had to be used. Other brahmin with maybe a different culture Buddha compared Nirvana how the person infront him name the highest in his religion. So some he asked. They say Absolute. So he will tell them Nirvana is like Absolute. So meaning highest. In easy language Highest Happiness. Because that’s what it is experienced as on earth. But later where is experience? Make big klap with hands. Hear the sound gone

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Could you please provide some references or sources of information when making such broad claims. Otherwise it is hard to know if it is just a ‘view’ or based on considered research :pray:

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But it’s in a book I can’t quote. Emm but it’s in the book How Brahmins won. It happened still in Buddha time also. Can someone help if on suttacentral that dhammapada verse of monks wearing the robe etc. It’s not exactly same but you will get the point better.

But more on void from athhakavaka from suttanipata.

Buddha said

In one how attained does form become void? And how also do ease and unease become void? Tell me in what way they become void;
My intention has been that we should know this.

  1. He has no perception of perception; he has no perception of non- perception;
    He is not without perception; he has no perception of “void.” For one who has attained thus form becomes void;
    For founded in perception is diversifying designation.

Notice no perception of non-perception.

And he has no perception of void. Meaning after then form becomes void. So that’s the real void of Buddhism. When there is no perception of void.

This is probably the book How the Brahmins Won: from Alexander to the Guptas, 2016, by Johannes Bronkhorst. I’d never heard of the book, but a moment’s googling found the information needed.

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