“… awareness is said to be the essence of all things …” … “… In the emptiness teachings, there are no essences …” ~ Greg Goode
In Part 2 of this series – Can We Equate Emptiness with Advaita? – Greg delves into the differences between Emptiness and Advaita …
In the awareness teachings, awareness is said to be the essence of all things. In fact, “things” aren’t really things at all; there is awareness only. The sum and substance of everything is awareness. Nondual inquiry often proceeds in a reductive fashion, where one looks at the world, body and mind, and experiences in different ways that there can’t be any separate or distinct reality to any of it. Everything consists of awareness only.
In the emptiness teachings, there are no essences. Things are said to be empty, but they aren’t said to be made out of emptiness. Physical things are composed of various pieces and parts and constituents, all of which are empty. Emptiness is not a substance of any kind. Rather, it is a name for how things exist — in an interdependent fashion.
In the awareness teachings, awareness=I and I=awareness. Awareness is the Self.
In the emptiness teachings, I am said to be empty, but I am not made of emptiness. When the emptiness teachings say that there is no self, they are negating the idea of a partless, seamless, unified, independently existing essence that is supposed to be the basis of identity through time and space. That kind of self cannot be found anywhere, no matter how closely one looks. But the empty self is said to exist. This is the self that is a convenient, informal designation. It’s a placeholder, a bit of shorthand to refer to a constantly changing psychophysical complex. And underneath this complex there is no fundamental substance or nature.
Some Mahayana Buddhist teachings, such as the Tathagatagarbha and the Dharmakaya doctrines, come very close to affirming a Vedantic-like, Atman-like Self. But the emptiness teachings from Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and Tsong-kha-pa do not affirm anything like this. The congruent Western emptiness teachings do not posit any essential, Atman-like self either.
In the awareness teachings, it is sometimes said that appearances depend on awareness. But it is never said that awareness depends on appearances. Awareness stands on its own, never depending on anything else. Ultimately there IS nothing else. Any dependence is unilateral only.
In the emptiness teachings, dependencies are bilateral. Not only do things depend on emptiness; emptiness depends on things as well. The fact that emptiness depends on things is why emptiness is empty: it is not free-floating or independent. Emptiness depends on its base of designation (such as the cup), as well as upon cognition and verbal convention. It depends on being labelled as such.
In the awareness teachings, there are never said to be many global awarenesses. The nondualist slogan says, “Not two.”
In the emptiness teachings, there are many emptinesses, not one large general emptiness. Each thing has its own emptiness, its own absence of inherent existence. The cup is one thing; the saucer is another things. The emptiness of the cup is one thing; the emptiness of the saucer is another thing.
In the awareness teachings, awareness is totally beyond time. It is never created and never destroyed.
In the emptiness teachings, each thing’s emptiness lasts only as long as the thing itself. So the emptiness of the cup comes and goes with the cup.
In the awareness teachings, nonduality is related to the insight that experience itself, the self and the world are essentially nothing but awareness, and there aren’t two or more awarenesses. Nonduality here has a lot to do with singularity.
In the emptiness teachings, nonduality refers not to singularity but to the lack of dualistic extremes. Emptiness avoids both extremes: essentialism (the claim that things exist inherently) and nihilism(the claim that things are utterly void and without any kind of existence). Whereas awareness teachings say, “One” or “Not two,” the emptiness teachings say, “Not even one,” or “Neither one nor other than one.”
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And, here’s Part 1 of this series.
We are honored to publish this guest post series authored by Greg Goode and is sourced from one of his websites dedicated to emptiness. Greg is one of the teachers in Stillness Speaks library so please visit his teacher’s page for comprehensive information about his work.