see full extract at : Shunyam and the Light of the Void
and full talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJPQ0cDM5J0 by Swami Sarvapriyananda
Shunyam/Emptiness and “Light of Void”
Why talk on emptiness? 1) great reverence and respect for bhagavan Buddha and 2) foundational text of this philosophy of emptiness by Nagarjuna, Chandra kirti and Dharmakirti 3) rare book called “Progressive stages of meditation on emptiness” (book on amazon)
One way of understanding Emptiness is to see it as a progressively deepening of this understanding through different Buddhism schools, none of the insights of the earlier stages are done away with it, just deepening of the earlier insights.
Sanskrit word swabhava that a thing has an essence is a typical Hindhu idea. But all Buddhist schools whether the Theravada or the Mahayana schools, Tibetan Buddhists, all attack this idea that things have an essence.
First understanding of emptiness literally means no self (the opposite of the Hindu view of Atma the Ultimate Reality that we are not the body not the mind we are this Immortal Self )
1.Shravaka or Theravada school says that there is no self . In all of our “experiences” they say there are 5 Skandas (or 5 pillars, 5 heaps or 5 aggregates).
- Rupaskanda (material form, i.e body).
- Within this form are the Vedanas (feelings like pleasant/unpleasant and many more mixtures)
- Perceptual Pillar/aggregate (hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and together as sangha. Mind is also a sixth sense.
- Samskara (Sanskara), mental dispositions of past conditioning, vasana.
- Awarenessness / consciousness of experiences. (scientists trying to solve the hard problem of this experiencing consciousness).
(This is similar to the Vedantic pancha kosha Viveka Annamayi, Pranamayi, Manomayi, Vignyanamai, Anandmayi kosha, but different model. Turiya Atma is separate from this as substratum). The point being none of these Skandas is the self, all of these are in flux, one thinks of self as continuous.
Buddhist say where is the evidence, some experience of anything separate. All these are continuously changing streams body and the mind ( stream of of thoughts and emotions and perceptions). Where is this continuous self . No self.
2. Mind-only (Chitta Matra) school.
Mahayana “hinayana” school, vigyanavada yoga understanding of emptiness second stage . Theravadas / shravakas are right about the idea of no self in the five Aggregates there's no self there. However they have just inquired into oneself, but not the outer world? The whole of reality? Full comprehensive understanding of reality is not just the emptiness of one this self (the 5 skandas are empty – no essence) but the external world is also empty (no inner substance or essence)
The goal is not just personal liberation, enlightened peaceful life and after the dissolution of the body Nirvana. But the Mahayana say that the ultimate goal (vow) is Buddhahood, the full Enlightenment of all sentient beings. ( “Mahayana” is which literally means the greater vehicle vs therawada which “hinayana” smaller lesser )
3. Madhyamaka school (Swatantra)by by Bhava Viveka
This is a branch of Madhamaka (middle path) School of Nagarjuna and his followers. They are the emptiness specialists are two varieties of Madhyamaka Swatantrika by Bhava Viveka and Madhyamaka Prasangika by Chandra Kirti. The difference between the Madhyamaka Svatantrikas and the Madhyamaka Prasangikas is that the former use arguments to refute the self-nature of phenomena (dharmas) and then further arguments to establish their true nature and says it is emptiness (shunyata). The Prasangikas only use arguments to refute self-nature, without trying to establish the true nature by reasoning at all. They are against any views/concepts. Leave the truth to be revealed by meditation only.
Ultimately, experience and reason are found to be in fundamental conflict and the resolving of the conflict can only come through the direct knowledge that arises from insight meditation. Thus the aim of all Madhyamaka systems is to clarify awareness by exhausting the reasoning mind and helping it give up its preconceived ideas concerning the nature of world. Svatantrika, which is good for refuting non-Buddhist systems, the Prasangika is very good for refuting subtle views held in other Buddhist systems. It shows how, although they all claim to go beyond concepts, they still have subtle concepts as long as they try to establish the nature of reality through reason and the use of concepts.
4. Madhyamaka school (prsangika) by Chandra kirti
The difference between the Madhyamaka Svatantrikas and the Madhyamaka Prasangikas is that the former use arguments to refute the self-nature of phenomena (dharmas) and then further arguments to establish their true nature is emptiness. The Prasangikas only use arguments to refute self-nature, without trying to establish the true nature by reasoning at all.
The Prasangikas are not saying anything about the ultimate nature of reality or of emptiness. That is not the aim of their system. Their aim is to free the awareness of its conceptualizing habit and to let the ultimate nature of reality reveal itself in a totally non-conceptual way. It is a very powerful system in that it gives the conceptual mind nothing to grasp onto at all. Dalai Lama and his Gelug sect of Tibetan buddhist follow this teachings. If you try to establish emptiness independently with arguments you are again proliferating Concepts. If you catch a snake by the wrong end you are in serious trouble. The person who thinks I have got the truth, is finished, nothing can save him. Sunyata can save you if you are in samsara and troubled by samsara. It will liberate you, it'll give you Nirvana. But if you catch on to sunyata and hold on to that as a concept, you are in serios trouble. So don’t hold to new independent concepts either.
5. Shentong school (also known as Maha (the great) madhyamaka)
They also call themselves synthesis of Mind-only school and madhyamaka school. The shentong school says in this vast emptiness samsara arises and Nirvana arises but why?
If it is only empty, why would just bare emptiness appear as anything at all. There should be nothing and yet there's always the quality of awareness, knowingness in samsara. When you are suffering or as a Buddha when you are fully enlightened, every time an experience, there's a phenomenological feel to it there is a light which illumines everything. You cannot deny it or you (madhyamaka) you will end up as nihilists as nothing and that Nagarjuna himself denies. So, something exists, the prasangika madhyamakas are right, but this emptiness is Luminous they call it the clear light of the Void.
(This clear light of the Void, it is pure Consciousness/pure awareness – sounds like Advaita.. A great Tibetan contemporary masters he reluctantly admitted there is no difference between the shentong view and advaita Vedanta. The final view of emptiness is advaitic view.)