What is Emptiness?

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The concept of śunyata or “emptiness” can be found in nascent form in Early Buddhism with the doctrine of Non-Self, i.e. anātman, which holds that each individual is empty of any permanent, fixed identity. It is further argued that the analytical thinking in which we habitually engage will produce ideas, interpretations, opinions, and so on, that we will cling to because of their plausibility. From the point of view of emptiness, these “realities” are not entirely false, but they are not entirely true either.


When the truth of the empty nature of all identities or categories of identity is realized, then ordinary distinctions such as pure/impure, good/bad, attractive/unattractive, even me/you become meaningless. The emptiness doctrine liberates us from the distorting impact of the prejudices which accompany opinions. Liberation is found at the point at which identities disappear, where there are no interpretations or judgments, where the self and the world are seen for what they are, not for how they relate to our preconceived categories of how we think things are or should be.

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