I was looking at a Chinese text in the Taishō Canon (I won’t say which for certain reasons) and I encountered a phrase that I read as “the void of self-nature” because an uncommon rendering for “emptiness” was used.
If you were told, “Self-nature is a great void,” would that be the same to you as the phrase “The nature of the self is empty (of natures)?”
Are “The nature of the self is empty (of all)” and “(All) natures are without selfhood” equivalent or divergent phrases for you?
“This is not me, thus is not mine…” is applied to the aggregates.
But in the suttas there is nothing “outside” or “beneath” the aggregates, so isn’t this still a view or position about self? The view that there isn’t one?
Likely empty or void of the same thing that all phenomena are empty/void of, which is to say: a poorly established “something.” The Buddhist MacGuffin to Bodhi.
For some answers, SuttaCentral (this one describes a few ways in which “the world is empty”). This one, SuttaCentral, claims to expound a definitive meaning for the notion of “emptiness” in general. A heavy feat.
I think we need to remember that in the suttas this formula is always applied to the aggregates. So the aggregates are not self, ie the aggregates are not me or mine.
But in the suttas there is nothing but the aggregates, nothing to which not-self isn’t applied. For that reason I don’t agree this formula is sidestepping a view of self. On the contrary, I think its taking a position.
The opposite position here would be to say that the aggregates are me and mine, to say they are self.
Alternatively to add a caveat, to say the aggregates are not self, but there is something “outside” the aggregates which could be self. But the suttas don’t include that caveat.
I actually couldn’t find that particular assertion verbatim when I looked (can you help me?). I understand that our experiences are all through the sense fields, but that is different than asserting that there is nothing else.
However, I did find something related in DN1, which discusses views of the self and not-self (I.e. cosmos). So the cosmos in DN1 is basically “all that out there”. In DN1, the Buddha doesn’t actually affirm or deny views about the cosmos, he just calls them traps. So, yes, it’s definitely taking a position. That position taken neither asserts nor denies self or cosmos. Those views are detailed in DN1 as traps. Avoiding the traps we have:
DN1:3.73.1: The Realized One’s body remains, but his attachment to rebirth has been cut off.
For me this entire thread has been an eerie echo of DN1.
Both SN35.85 and DN1 use loka for “world/cosmos”. Studying SN35.85 and DN1 together seems quite interesting. I’ll go ponder some more. Thanks for the link. I have to chase a neutral feeling!
DN1:3.36.1: Tatra, bhikkhave, ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇā adhiccasamuppannikā adhiccasamuppannaṃ attānañca lokañca paññapenti dvīhi vatthūhi, tadapi tesaṃ bhavataṃ samaṇabrāhmaṇānaṃ ajānataṃ apassataṃ vedayitaṃ taṇhāgatānaṃ paritassitavipphanditameva. DN1:3.36.1: or they assert that the self and the cosmos arose by chance on two grounds …
The self-view contains the two extremes: “everything exists” (sabbam atthiiti) and “everything does not exist” (sabbam natthiiti), according to SN 22.90 and SN 12.15. So, each of the sense spheres (i.e. the world) is empty of self (SN 35. 85) also means it is empty of the two extremes: “existence” and “non-existence”, “eternalism” and “nihilism”.
But the texts, SN 22.90 and SN 12.15, centre mainly on practice and experience for individuals in a practical sense rather than on idealistic and systematic theory.