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(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
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, 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.
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 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, 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).

References in periodicals archive ?
While he notes that theistic religions can employ their notions of god and the creation of human beings in the image and likeness of god, Buddhism would be hard-pressed to do the same despite the presence of concepts similar to the notion of god (namely nirvana, sunyata, and Dharmakaya) due to sectarian differences concerning the understanding of these concepts and the fact that no Buddhist school believes humans are created by gods or any analogous entities (66-67).
Tillemans on "the 'neither one nor many' argument for sunyata," incorporating verses of the Madhyamaka-alamkara by Santaraksita; and P.
Ultimate reality is no longer the personal God of the Bible but the Buddhist concept of sunyata.
67) Rather than accepting that sunyata describes how things really are (empty of inherent existence), Samkara implies that the Buddhist position is vacuous because it does not use the accepted means of knowledge properly.
4) The Zen Buddhist philosopher David Loy similarly focuses on a total social- historical contextualization of sunyata, in which all human projects of self-reification, of beliefs and ideas as much as persons and things, more or less unsuccessfully evade the primordial truth of the self empty of inherent existence.
From a Buddhist perspective of sunyata, the human conceptual image of God is a kind of golden calf, not that there could not be many visions of God that poets or religious visionaries could have: a burning bush, wheels turning in space, even a human figure could be a vision of the ultimate for someone.
Harris says that "Nagarjuna then, while he places emphasis on the doctrine of sunyata, is not introducing anything new into Buddhist thought.
This essay is an attempt to understand better the meaning of these ideas of nothingness, absolute nothingness, and sunyata as used by key Kyoto-school philosophers (specifically Nishida Kitaro, Nishitani Keiji, and Abe Masao) by focusing upon the work of Abe, a leading contemporary member of the school, and by tracing the history of the idea of sunyata from its earliest uses in Buddhism through the present-day Kyoto-school philosophers.
In considering a philosophical basis for an ecological principle that fits the actual flux of nature, Callicott concludes, "Many forms of Buddhism also reject any doctrine of essences and affirm the emptiness, sunyata, at the core of all phenomena.
It could also mean, for Parekh, the rejection of an icon-based and decorative tradition and a move towards philosophical negation, towards a Buddhist concept like sunyata, or a reading of the concept of the void and its demarcations as interpreted through abstraction, as seen in Whispers, or in her rich black ink saturated series Gratitude (2013) (figure 11).
Interestingly, his particular understanding of the Law of the Cross as empirical as distinct from mathematical invites analogies with similar notions of redemption in other religions, such as sunyata in Buddhism.
Realizing sunyata leads one away from attachment and clinging.