Upon reading Andrei Volkov's answer on this post, I am stricken by a deep questioning. My two questions are: (1) can emptiness be unsuitable for some dispositions? and (2) can emptiness be partially achieved?

Forgive my probable vast elaboration on this question, I just feel I should explain.


Within Tibetan Buddhism, there are different schools teaching emptiness: Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Svantantrika. The Dalai Lama, in his books [a],[b] often suggests this corresponds to different mental dispositions. Similarly, he suggests in some books that religions are different because of different mental dispositions [c]. So, I'm wondering if emptiness could be detrimental when taught to certain types of mental dispositions, i.e. different individuals?


For the second part, I feel on the basis of strong faith in Buddhism, and overconfidence on my own cognitive abilities, and a degree of pride, I studied emptiness and -- through that strong motivation -- understood a large degree of it. But, because of pride's delusional quality, I learned things in a flawed way. By faith and pride, I thought I understood, but I concluded I understood on partial grounds, which is "inadequate [according to Buddhist logic and epistemology]" [a]. So, I wonder here if it's possible to learn certain aspects of emptiness, but either apply or conceive it in a very partial, dissatisfactory way?

Lastly, would humility help in this case? Here, I specifically mean recognizing one's limitations, not overestimating understanding, or insight.

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


There is a difference between conceptual understanding of Emptiness, and experiential realization of Emptiness. The first is at best a simile, a model, leading to the second. In worst case the first can even be an obstacle to the second.

Because of its nature, experiential realization of Emptiness may have demotivating effect. It certainly also has liberating effect, but there is demotivating effect as well. Which is pretty expected, considering that it cuts off the root of desire.

So, if the person has not developed strong Sila (ethics, altruism, compassion) and strong Samadhi (here, mental discipline, control over one's mental/emotional state) premature realization of Emptiness may make person either somewhat unhinged or else rather meek, depending on disposition.

  • The effects you describe characterize me completely. What would you advise for premature realization of emptiness (assuming this could be the case)? How would such a person motivate themselves / resume desire?
    – user7302
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 23:17
  • 1
    That's it, you're screwed. I'm kidding. I'd say the last resort in this case is to find an actual (Varjrayana) master and ask him to fix you. But you'd have to go all the way, even if they do what you do not like.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 0:34

(1) can emptiness be unsuitable for some dispositions?

Yes. Genuine emptiness is the death of the self-instinct, which most minds cannot do. This is why some people have psychosis at meditation retreats or when taking hallucinogens, such as LSD. The self-instinct accords with ordinary nature. Where as emptiness is contrary to 'the world'.

(2) can emptiness be partially achieved?

For an unsuitable disposition, I doubt it. This is probably why many Buddhists give lip-service to emptiness but cling for their lives to reincarnation. But for those with disposition, yes, probably there can be partial emptiness achieved.

In short, the Buddha did not generally teach the Four Noble Truths, let alone Emptiness, to most lay people. DN 31 states a monk should teach a layperson morality & the path to heaven.

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