Creative Writing On Paper 2
Shunyata According to the Madhyamika Doctrine
The Madhyamika school of Buddhism is a school of thought that follows the framework of the ‘Middle Path’. The middle path was a natural progression towards the enlightenment of the Bodhisattva, who initially led a life of luxury and then a life of total self-abnegation, only to find wisdom in the Golden Mean.
The Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna initially propounded the practice of Shunyata. Nagarjuna used the concept of shunyata to expound on the ‘perfections of wisdom’ framed by the Bodhisattva. The perfections of wisdom aim to question even the basic assumptions held by man on any topic. This questioning of the basis of everything extends to questioning the concept of the dharmas, which were the essence of experience in any field, be it the experience of sorrow or joy, of colors or feelings. Such an approach to question everything and accept nothing is embodied in shunyata. According to shunyata, every human emotion, be it pleasure, pain, joy, sorrow, anxiety or despair exists as well as does not exist. As expounded in the ‘heart sutra’, ‘emptiness is form, form is also emptiness; just as feeling, perception, formation and consciousness are emptiness’ (Clear Vision). The pattern of accepting as well as rejecting follows the logic that if man were able to consider everything questionable, he would transcend his own ego and ultimately achieve nirvana.
The view of shunyata, the negation of the positive as well as the negative of everything is life, is logically flawed from the viewpoint of relative emotions. According to shunyata, there is no good and no bad, no happiness and no sadness. If one were adhering to the practice of shunyata, one would affirm that there is no good and no evil. However, in the real world, good and evil are polar opposites. If the concept of good were not recognized, there would cease to be rules, regulations and ethics in life. It might lead to a feeling of ‘anything goes’. If there were no standards, then the world of commerce would stall and collapse, as denominations of coins and currencies would hold no meaning. Thus, purely seen from the viewpoint of logic, shunyata has the limitation of being agnostic in emotion and thus being culpable of being charged with a certain lack of standard.
The concept of shunyata remains agnostic in emotion as well as in optimism. If one really follows shunyata, one would be adept at ‘vipassana’, an exercise where language and emotion are shut out, and finally the seeker tries to find the emptiness within emptiness itself. Therefore, the question as to whether shunyata is pessimistic or optimistic, if answered either way, would defeat the very concept of shunyata. The Bodhisattva and Nagarjuna would have averred that holding either of the optimistic or pessimistic viewpoints would serve to anchor the opposite emotion within consciousness, thus anchoring the human brain to the impermanence of the earth and holding it back from achieving true freedom.
The concept of shunyata serves to radically challenge the experiences of human emotions and of the world. While the logical dissonance holds true, the doubt would actually melt if a seeker went into the modes of continuous questioning and negation of everything. If everything is to be questioned and nothing is held sacred, the concept of shunyata forces the human mind to delve into the truth behind everything till the mind actually attains stillness and communion with the Brahman, the ultimate consciousness. In such a state, virtue and vice would appear two sides of the same coin, and negating either would only serve to draw the consciousness away from the Brahman. Therefore, the concept of shunyata has forced me to try to be more detached in life and not get overly agitated at anything. This feeling of detachment and lack of agitation, however, is not to be taken as a sign of withdrawal from the world. The concept of shunya does not mean that man is to become a recluse. Rather, man needs to take a holistic view of things and not get carried away by complexity. In the material world, in the information age, complexity is rising with every addition of transistors to chips. As a result, there is sensory and information overload in the modern world. The concept of shunya is extremely relevant in the modern context as it forces the human mind to avoid getting excited by pieces of information. Shunya teaches man that all information is ultimately composed of bits and bytes, and at the same time, the bits and bytes are not the essence of information. This negation of dualism forces the human mind to be aware of the possibilities of new awakenings. The mind remains alert as a result and acquires a keenness that is sorely required to lead a rich and satisfying life.
Thus, I would say that understanding the concept of shunya has made my world rich as well as shallow; the duality only serves to underline that I would hope to live life in all its colors, accepting nothing and rejecting nothing. This would open me to all experience with an open mind. As a result, shunya would paradoxically enable me to live life to the fullest, while all the time observing myself in a detached manner from outside my consciousness.
Clear Vision. “Madhyamika Teachings and Sunyata.” ClearVision.org. n.d. Web. April 9, 2015.
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