I believe Emptiness is a Dhamma. But here is an observation which arose: Emptiness is empty of meaning.

My question is: Is Emptiness empty of meaning?

2 Answers 2


No, it isn't empty of meaning because understanding emptiness is necessary for the understanding of reality which is crucial to achieving the soterilogical purpose of Buddhism. If we don't understand reality and continue taking actions in ignorance how can we ever put an end to ignorance? You have to be careful when studying sunyata that you don't fall to the extreme of nihilism and negate conventional reality.

Sunyata does not mean that nothing exists. Things exist. It is how they exist that is the question and our problem is that we are mistaken in our conception of how things exist. If you ever find yourself thinking that sunyata somehow negates existence altogether, then you've misunderstood.

In order to really understand the object of negation - inherent existence - you need to be crystal clear about how it is possible things exist without inherently existing.

The President of the United States is a thing that exists without inherently existing. We designate the label on the basis of an individual person using human rules and customs. In order to use this label correctly it is necessary to have a valid basis of designation that everyone agrees upon. A seven year old child is not a valid basis, etc.

Sunyata does not mean that The President of the United States does not exist. If you believed the The President of the United States does not exist at all you would be gravely mistaken and might take actions leading to bad consequences. The President of the United States has a lot of power in our world so it is important to understand that they exist.

Sunyata also does not mean that we can just go around giving labels to anything. If I went around declaring myself to be President of the United States and then tried to assume some power of the President it would not work and I'd be laughed at. So it is clear that just because something exists by convention does not mean that it does not exist at all nor does it mean that we can just magically label anything whatever we want: sunyata does not give us magical abilities.

What Sunyata is saying is that the President of the United States does not exist inherently. It doesn't exist as a thing arising under its own power. Moreover, Sunyata is saying that all things exist in a way similar to the President of the United States in that nothing arises under its own power. It is relatively easy for lowly sentient beings to see that the President of the United States does not exist inherently, but it is hard for lowly sentient beings to see that all things - most importantly the self - do not exist inherently.

Things appear to us as inherently existing. Sunyata is teaching us to see this is not the case. Sunyata is emphatically not teaching that things don't exist whatsoever. This is the Middle Way.

  • 1
    I agreed, the Buddha compared the consequences of understanding the Dharma incorrectly with grasping a poisonous snake in the wrong manner (see the water-snake simile).
    – Desmon
    Oct 17, 2023 at 14:51

From what I understand nagarjuna has said “even emptiness is empty”. So your understanding of emptiness is one thing and your experience of it is another

  • Yes, but I don't think that is the question. Also, what does it mean that emptiness is empty? It means emptiness is empty ... of inherent existence.
    – user13375
    Oct 17, 2023 at 16:49
  • @YesheTenley Sure that too
    – blue_ego
    Oct 17, 2023 at 16:56

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