What is Emptiness in Buddhism?

- through Francois Leclercq

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Emptiness (or shunyata, in Sanskrit) is one of the most important and profound doctrines of Buddhism. This notion is fundamental to understanding the teaching of Gautama Buddha concerning the nature of the universe and the way in which one can achieve a state of inner peace. In this text we will try to understand what it is about by explaining the main characteristics of emptiness.

What is emptiness?

Emptiness is an idea that nothing really exists as an independent entity. Everything that exists on this earth and far beyond is interdependent and related to other phenomena; nothing manifests without the existence or influence of other things. Emptiness therefore describes a state of non-existence – or nothingness – which reflects the fact that no entity possesses absolute and independent existence.

According to the Buddha, emptiness exists because of the illusion of the ego. We follow the idea that we have a distinct identity and are different from other living beings. However, the Buddha suggests that when we examine our lives closely, we see that all that is consists of interdependent and complex relationships that are constantly changing. The fact that we identify ourselves with a 'person' and with our possessions creates suffering and conflict; this feeling of attachment and perpetual identity is in itself an illusion.

The ins and outs of emptiness

The concept of emptiness is not only related to the meaninglessness of existence. Indeed, the Buddha said: “Everything that exists is empty of itself. » He meant by this that even if the human mind is capable of discovering structures and meanings, the reality of life will always remain greater than what we can understand. What appears clearly is also illusory and constantly changing.

For example, take the thought that we have a physical body. Yet our physical bodies are made up of endless combinations of atoms and particles that are in themselves matter in constant motion. Thus, we don't really have a 'body' as we might conceive of it, but rather a fluctuating and ever-changing form.

How can emptiness help us?

When we are able to fully grasp the concept of emptiness, then we can find peace and fulfillment by freeing our minds from illusions and attachments. When we stop identifying with entities or things that are constantly moving and changing, then we can gain spiritual freedom.

It implies that we distance ourselves from such things as vanity and the desire to possess useless material possessions, which do not bring us peace. Instead, we must learn to look at the beauty and grandeur of life as it is, and to respect its constant fluidity and transformation. When we are not attached to objects or concepts, we can find inner calm and satisfaction.

Emptiness is a core doctrine of Buddhism that encourages humans to free themselves from ego-created illusions and let go of whatever they hold onto. Understanding emptiness helps us remember that we are not alone and are part of a much larger whole system. She also shows us how to accept the impermanent nature of existence and how to find peace and fulfillment by acknowledging its relative and fluid nature.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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