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Learning Dhamma in a small way


 

Sunyata or Emptiness as explained by Gautama Buddha

What is Sunyata? is a question many has come across while learning Buddhism or being interested in Buddhism. Sunyata ( or Emptiness) is a subject that is most discussed in the Buddhist philosophy. Many books and essays are written on Sunyata but there is very little discussion on details of Sunyata, appearing in Sutta Pitaka. So let us see what we can find in Sutta pitaka regarding Sunnata. It is prudent first to learn the Dhamma content in the Sutta and then to discuss what we can learn from the discourse. What we consider now is the Cula Sunnata sutta of Majjima Nikaya. Many discourses of Sutta pitaka is considered as the “Buddha bhashitha” Dhamma discourses or verbally delivered suttas by the Lord Buddha himself. Cula Sunnata or the Smaller Sunnata sutta is one of such. Let us learn the content of the Sutta now.

Place where the Sutta was disclosed is Migara Maatha Storeyed Temple at Savatti
Ven Ananda asks Lord Buddha that some time back in a small town in Sakya kingdom, Lord Buddha stated that “ I am now dwelling mostly in “sunyata”. Is my asking on that acceptable or approvable by you, Lord?”
Ofcourse Ananda, it is a thing of importance and is a well comprised question. Ananda, not only then but even now also I dwell mostly in sunyata.

Ananda, just consider this Migara Maatha storeyed Temple.
Just as this Migara Maatha storeyed Temple
is being sunyata of Elephants, Bulls, Horses and also
is being sunyata of Gold, silver , females and males
yet there is “ non sunyata” (asunyata) also.
That is due to the Bikkus as a cause ( residing in Migara Maatha storeyed Temple)

Ananda, just like that, a Bikku, with the non attention of “perception of a village” (gaama sanna), with the non attention of “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), but concentrates with the attention of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), as one. Thus the “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna) as a cause, gets hold, bound , in the mind of the Bikku quite strongly and well.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of a village” (gaama sanna), that “ there is no bearer of “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna) as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that “perception of a village” (gaama sanna), is of sunyata. “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata or asunyata also. That is due to the “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna) as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.
Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.

More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of a village” (gaama sanna), with the non attention of “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), with the non attention of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna), as one.
The Bikku without considering the uneven places on Earth, such as Rivers and Passes, Thorns and rocks etc. concentrates on Earth element , like a skin taken off a dead Bull stretched evenly with the use of a hundred of nails, making the skin smooth and flat, concentrates on “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna), as one.
Ananda, just like that, a Bikku, with the non attention of “perception of a village” (gaama sanna), with the non attention of “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), with the non attention of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), but with the attention of “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna), as one.
Thus the “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna),as a cause, gets hold, bound , in the mind of the Bikku quite strongly and well.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), that “ there is no bearer of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna),as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of humans” (manussa sanna), is of sunyata. “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna) , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to the “perception of Earth” (Patavi sanna) as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.
Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.

More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), with the non attention of “perception of Earth ” (Patavi sanna), , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Akasananchayathanaya” , as one.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of a forest” (aranna sanna), that “ there is no bearer of “perception of earth” (Patavi sanna), Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of Akasananchayathanaya ” as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of forest” (aranna sanna), is of sunyata. “perception of Earth” (Patavi sanna) , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to the “perception of Akasannayathanaya” as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.
Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.

More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of Earth” (Patavi sanna), with the non attention of “perception Akasannayathanaya” , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Vinnananchayathanaya” , as one.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of Earth” (Patavi sanna), that “ there is no bearer of “perception of Akasananchayathanaya.” Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of Vinnananchayathanaya ” as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of Earth” (Patavi sanna), is of sunyata. “perception of Akasannayathanaya , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to the “perception of Vinnananchayathanaya” as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.
Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.

More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of Akasananchayathana”, with the non attention of “perception Vinnanayanchayatana” , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Arkinchanchayathanaya” , as one.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of Akasannayathana”, that there is no bearer of “perception of Vinnanayanchayatana” Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of Arkinnanchayatana ” as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of Akasannayatana, is of sunyata. “perception of Vinnananchayatana , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to the “perception of Arkinchachayathanaya” as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.

Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.


More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of Vinnananchayathana”, with the non attention of “perception Arkinchanchayatana” , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Nevasannanasannayathana” , as one.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of Vinnananchayathana”, that there is no bearer of “perception of Arkinchanchayatana” Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to the “perception of nevasannanasannayatana ” as a cause.
That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of Vinnananchayatana, is of sunyata. “perception of Arkinchanchayatana , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to the “perception of Nevasannanasannayathanaya” as a cause.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.

Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.


More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of Arkinchanchayatana”, with the non attention of “perception Nevasannanasannayathana” , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Animittan Cheto Samadi” , as one.
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “perception of Arkinchanchayatana”, that there is no bearer of “perception Nevasannanasannayathana”. Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to this Body being caused due to the Six Bases signifying this very Life

That Bikku has perfect knowledge that. “perception of Arkinchanchayatana, is of sunyata. “perception of Nevasannanasannayathana , is of sunyata. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to this Body being caused due to the Six Bases signifying this very Life

Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.

Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.


More ever Ananda , the Bikku with the non attention of “perception of Arkinchanchayatana”, with the non attention of “perception Nevasannanasannayathana” , but concentrates with the attention of “perception of Animittan Cheto Samadi” , as one.

Thus the “perception of Animittan Cheto Samadi” as a cause, gets hold, bound , in the mind of the Bikku quite strongly and well.
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that “Animittan Cheto Samadi” also is “abisankathan and abisanchetaiko” or having determinants that are impermanent with the quality of “Nirodha” or cessation.
Gaining this knowledge , the Bikku’s mind gets released from the stains of Kama,Bhava and Avijja ( Kama asrava, Bhava asrava and Avijja asrava). Thus gains knowledge that he is “released “ (Vimuttamiti Gnana). Fulfilled Brahmachari path or the Path to the Nibbana so that no more Birth for him and nothing more to be done .
The Bikku considers well and forms perfect knowledge that “ there is no bearer of “Kama asrava”, that there is no bearer of “Bhava asrava”, that there is no bearer of “Avijja asrava” Even though there is a bearing, what of but due to this Body being caused due to the Six Bases signifying this very Life.
He knows this bearing is sunyata from Kama asrava, sunyata from Bhava asrava, sunyata from Avijja asrava. Even with this sunyata, there is non sunyata also. That is due to this Body being caused due to the Six Bases signifying this very Life
Thus the Bikku knows with perfect knowledge that when nothing remains , then there is sunyata and when there is something remains, then there is non sunyata or asunyata.
Ananda, thus the Bikku knows this noble and truthful “sunnathavakkanthi” or the “returning back from the sunyata”.

Ananda, In the Past, if any “Released” person who fulfilled the Noble path to Nibbana or Freedom, attained the most highly acclaimed and most pure “sunyata status” they all dwelled the sunyata explained thus.

Ananda, In the Future, if any “Released” person who fulfills the Noble path to Nibbana or Freedom, attaining the most highly acclaimed and most pure “sunyata status” they all dwells the sunyata explained thus.

Ananda, in Present, if any “Released” person who fulfilled the Noble path to Nibbana or Freedom, attaining the most highly acclaimed and most pure “sunyata status” they all dwells the sunyata explained thus.

Gautama Buddha thus preached the sunyata expounding and Venarable Ananda with utmost happiness accepted the discourse of the Lord Buddha.

 

 


Discussion


Here in the sutta, Lord Buddha first cite the Temple he is residing as an example to explain the nature of Sunyata. It is the cognizable objects that Lord Buddha take in to the example to explain Sunnatha to Ven Ananda initially. For example one is the building that Lord Buddha is dwelling at that time, Elephants, Bulls, Horses ,Gold, silver , females and males and Bikkus comprise the others. This simple method Lord Buddha uses to explain Sunyata to a non achiever of sunyata. Then Lord Buddha proceeds into higher and higher mental status taking a Bikku as an example and taking his attention (manasikara) to the “status of a Arahath or a “ Released one” from the Bikku’s
Perception of Village – and then to
Perception of Humans – and then to
Perception of a Forest – and then to
Perception of Earth – and then to
Perception of Akasananchayathanaya – and then to
Perception of Vinnananchayathanaya – and then to
Perception of Arkinchanchayatana – and then to
Perception Nevasannanasannayathana – and then to
Perception Animittan Cheto Samadi and gaining Vimukti Gnana

In every stage Lord Buddha cites a status of sunyata that is being negated by the presence of another status until a status of emptiness or sunyata, most pure that can be achieved only by a Buddha, or an Arahath who attended Nibbana status with Animitta Cheto Samadi getting rid of the stains (Asrava) of Kama , Bhava and Avijja. From the foregoing, it can be assesed that Sunyata that of most pure and ultimatum as a status of a consciousnesses ( because such a person knows there is sunyata) of the highest form is achievable to a person attended the status of Nibbana by completely eradicating Lust, Hatred and Delusion (Raga,Dosa,and Moha) and the Path to that goal is well defined in the Middle Path or Majjhima Patipada.