Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Bowser, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    Watching the clouds pass overhead while on break the other day, I thought about the ever-changing nature of life. Nothing last for ever, not even the earth and sky.

    What's your take on the idea of emptiness in Buddhism?
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That it's a good idea that later Buddhist philosophy took to extremes.

    I think that it's valuable when thinking about the human self, and about ideas of a substantial soul, a me-essence that persists through time and transmigrates either to heaven or to another earthly rebirth. And I think that the Buddha was right that we often live our lives so as to protect this imaginary "me" thing and to feed and aggrandize it with status, power and whatever else we desire or want to escape.

    The idea of emptiness was understood metaphysically in the Buddhist philosophical tradition (not identical with Buddhism as a whole) in a mereological sense. (Mereology is the study of part-whole relationships.) The Ship of Theseus was an ancient Greek thought experiment that raised a the same issues


    If a whole is composed of the parts that make it up without any remainder, then what kind of being does the whole have in distinction to the parts? If a chariot is composed of all of its parts like wheels and axle, and nothing else, then what should we think of the idea that some separate chariot-substance exists? The idea here was that there was no chariot-substance, just the collection of chariot-parts arranged in a certain way. (The chariot example was actually used by the early Buddhists.)

    A modern example might be a TV. A TV is a big collection of TV parts. We don't really want to say that the TV is some different substance than the parts, even if complete TVs have very different properties than the parts that make them up, like receiving TV shows. Or think of atoms and the solids the atoms make up (including living organisms), which display new and different properties. Modern science is still vitally interested in these kind of issues when it addresses reducibility, emergence and explanation.

    The earliest Buddhists applied this kind of thinking to human psychology. What we think of as our selves is phenomenally speaking a succession of perceptions, feelings, associations and volitions, succeeding each other in rapid succession, all tied to each other causally. (In modern-speak, a 'system'.)

    They questioned whether there was any soul to be found in there, a divine spark, the essence-of-self that a certain kind of Hindu yogin was always trying to realize through meditation.

    Later Buddhist philosophers all seem to have agreed that all temporally and spatially extended objects couldn't be substantial, since they could be divided into parts. The ancient Greeks once again thought the same way, hence their search for 'atoms', indivisibles.

    But the Buddhist philosophers kind of went off the rails in my estimation at this point, deciding that if something isn't substantial in this strong sense of 'possessing its own unique substance', it had to be illusory, a mental construct. So Buddhist philosophy started arguing that all of perceived reality is just an illusion, created by our unenlightened minds. Hence everything around us is empty (of substance and as they saw it, of reality).

    That's where the Tibetan idea of tulpas comes from. If everything we experience is a mental construction, then they decided that if we can imaginatively visualize something in enough vivid detail, it would become real (or as real as the rest of the illusion is).

    Or sort of. Many of the Indian Buddhist philosophers leaned more towards realism and weren't comfortable with that kind of idealism. They didn't want to dismiss experience as totally bogus, even if it was something to be transcended. So they created a two-truths idea, what we might call conventional and ultimate. Conventional truth was the reality in which we live our karmic lives, the reality in which Buddhist lay-people live, the reality to which Buddhist ethics applies. The reality of wholes composed of parts. And ultimate truth is what is to be realized in salvation, the karmic/causal flow of instantaneous indivisibles.

    (It's not as if they are two different places or worlds, but one reality perceived and conceived in two different ways. One way more accurate than the other way, which is isn't false exactly, just misconstrued.)

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    I had always taken that to mean empty awareness.
    (also getting rid of the mind clutter, stilling the internal dialogue, etc... to become aware of and in the moment.
    Quantum Quack likes this.
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  7. birch Valued Senior Member

    sometimes it's refreshing and healthy to think of all life on the planet dying, then it's empty and peaceful. all problems are solved because they are gone.
  8. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    I think emptiness in Buddhism refers to the idea that everything is empty of differentiation and objective quality. Naming is the origin of all disparate things.
  9. sculptor Valued Senior Member

  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    What I have come to understand...
    I think you are quite correct. Emptiness is the cessation of ego. Ego is the sum of our attachments. Attachments are addictions.
    Through the practice of meditation, ( stilling the mind) and resolution of attachment ( addiction ) a state of emptiness can be entered at will.
    Essentially it is a state of no inner conflict. No emotional fighting. Intuitively focusing on the void that is left. Serenity.
  11. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    I appreciate everyone's thoughts on the issue. My view is that the impermanence of everything negates the value of clinging. It's more like a trip to the amusement park--it is an interesting time, but eventually you go home.
  12. river

    More than this , you see , understand the Universe as it is . Being Objective .

    Some understand this without the meditation upon , emptiness .
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  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Yes, the ever-changing nature of life or experience, and contents of it like earth and sky. The changes are just a person's lifetime of consciousness discriminated into its distinct millisecond-long "nows" that are relationally connected yet cognitively isolated from the rest with respect to each only being able to exhibit itself in correspondence with the applicable co-existing sequence of brain-states treated as the cause of it.

    With the consequent typical hilariousness of our species' anthropocentrism in spuriously treating one of our "lengthy" divisions of awareness as if it is a global interval of time for the whole universe. Even if the mind-independent version of the latter WAS magically blinking in and out of existence with continual replacements of itself, the durations would be in the "tiniest" range of subatomic changes or events (a yoctosecond or less) rather than our milliseconds-long elephants.

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    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  14. TheFrogger Valued Senior Member

    How do you know nothing lasts forever?

    Emptiness implies there is a vessel. The vessel remains while what is was holding has vanished. The vessel may once again hold something. A vessel will be moved. That is it's purpose, else why fill it? Carrier bags are hands.

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