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About vacuity

By Matthieu Ricard on March 02, 2011

On emptiness
When Buddhism states that emptiness is the ultimate nature of things, it means that the things we see around us, the phenomena of our world lack any autonomous or permanent existence.  But emptiness is not at all a void, or the absence of phenomena, as early western commentators of Buddhism once thought.  Buddhism does not at all espouse any form of nihilism, or the belief in nothingness. Emptiness does not correspond to non-existence.  If you can't speak of real existence, you can't speak of non-existence either.

In his Fundamental Treatise of the Perfection of Wisdom, Nagarjuna says:

‟Those who become fixed on emptiness are said to be incurable”.

Why incurable? Because while a belief in the real existence of phenomena is dissipated by meditation on emptiness, if you get attached to emptiness itself, making it an object of your belief, you fall into nihilism. The same text therefore goes on: ‟Consequently the wise abide neither in Being nor Non-Being”.

According to Buddhism, learning to understand the lack of intrinsic reality of both our mind and of phenomena is an integral part of the spiritual way, since it is essential to dissipate suffering.