Also found in: Wikipedia.
sunyata(sho͞on`yətə) [Skt.,=emptiness], one of the main tenets of Mahayana BuddhismBuddhism
, religion and philosophy founded in India c.525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. There are over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. One of the great world religions, it is divided into two main schools: the Theravada or Hinayana in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, and
..... Click the link for more information. , first presented by the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) scriptures (1st cent. B.C. on) and later systematized by the MadhyamikaMadhyamika
[Skt.,=of the middle], philosophical school of Mahayana Buddhism, based on the teaching of "emptiness" (see sunyata) and named for its adherence to the "middle path" between the views of existence or eternalism and nonexistence or nihilism.
..... Click the link for more information. school. Early Buddhist schools of AbhidharmaAbhidharma
[Skt.,=higher dharma, or doctrine], schools of Buddhist philosophy. Early Buddhism analyzed experience into 5 skandhas or aggregates, and alternatively into 18 dhatus or elements.
..... Click the link for more information. , or scholastic metaphysics, analyzed reality into ultimate entities, or dharmasdharma
. In Hinduism, dharma is the doctrine of the religious and moral rights and duties of each individual; it generally refers to religious duty, but may also mean social order, right conduct, or simply virtue.
..... Click the link for more information. , arising and ceasing in irreducible moments in time. The Mahayanists reacted against this realistic pluralism by stating that all dharmas are "empty," without self-nature (svabhava) or essence. This was a radical restatement of the central Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatman). It was declared that not only ordinary objects, but the Buddha, nirvananirvana
, in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth.
..... Click the link for more information. , and also emptiness itself are all "empty." The teaching attempts to eradicate mental attachment and the perception of duality, which, since it is a basis for aversion to bondage in birth-and-death (samsara) and desire for nirvana, may obstruct the bodhisattva's compassionate vow to save all beings before entering nirvana himself. Wisdom (prajna), or direct insight into emptiness, is the sixth perfection (paramita) of a bodhisattva. It is stressed by both Buddhist writers and Western scholars that emptiness is not an entity nor a metaphysical or cosmological absolute, nor is it nothingness or annihilation. "Empty" things are neither existent nor nonexistent, and their true nature is thus called not only emptiness but also suchness (tathata).
See E. Conze, Buddhist Wisdom Books (1958). F. J. Streng, Emptiness (1967).