Dharma World

Spring 2019, Volume 46

Spring 2019, Volume 46(PDF)

Is Emptiness the Goal?

Emptiness (shunyata) is a key concept in Buddhism. It is commonly associated with the Prajnaparamita sutras, and often understood to mean “nothing possesses a fixed, inherent nature because all things arise through causation and exist interdependently.” The realization of emptiness thus allows people to free themselves from attachments to things and events and attain spiritual tranquility.

Emptiness is also mentioned in several chapters of the Lotus Sutra, where it is described as a condition that allows people to enter the bodhisattva path of the One Vehicle.

The Buddhist concept of emptiness is even compared to some Christian notions of God (John Cobb, Jr.) and with the concept of kenosis, or Christ’s emptying of his personal will to become receptive to the will of God (Thomas Merton).

Although emptiness is an important concept, its meaning is multifarious and a clear understanding of it is not easy to achieve. It is open to multiple interpretations and often misunderstood to mean that everything is unreal, thus conjuring a sense of nothingness or hopelessness. However, many Buddhists understand the realization of emptiness to be the ultimate spiritual awakening―the goal of their Buddhist practice.

Emptiness is essential to both doctrine and practice. It is also a popular topic of meditation, especially in America. In the next issue, Dharma World will explore the concept and practice of emptiness: How it is understood and practiced by modern Buddhists, especially in the West; how it is employed in interreligious dialogue; what significance it has in the Lotus Sutra; and how it can be applied as a means to deal with conflicts in the world today.

Dharma World

  1. Spring 2020, Volume 47

    Violence in Buddhism

  2. Autumn 2019, Volume 46

    Manga, Anime, and Contemporary Religion

  3. Spring 2019, Volume 46

    Is Emptiness the Goal?

  4. July-December 2018, Volume 45

    The Buddhahood of Plants and Trees: The Environment and Buddha-Nature

  5. January-June 2018, Volume 45

    Buddhism’s One Vehicle in a World of Many Religions

  6. July-December 2017, Volume 44

    Religions Tackling Extremism

  7. January-June 2017, Volume 44

    Religion and Animals

  8. October-December 2016, Volume 43

    Features: Listening

  9. July-September 2016, Volume 43

    Contemporary Ideas about Karma

  10. April-June 2016, Volume 43

    Buddhism and Food

  11. January-March 2016, Volume 43

    Dual Religious Identity: Can One Practice Two Religions?

  12. October-December 2015, Volume 42

    The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

  13. July-September 2015, Volume 42

    Religious Rituals and Their Meaning for Today

  14. April-June 2015, Volume 42

    Religion's Contributions to Society

  15. January-March 2015, Volume 42

    Cultivating Hearts That Welcome the Other

  16. October-December 2014, Volume 41

    Buddhism and Language

  17. July-September 2014, Volume 41

    Life After Death

  18. April-June 2014, Volume 41

    Building an East Asian Community: Roles of Religions

  19. January-March 2014, Volume 41

    Aging Societies and Religion

  20. October-December 2013, Volume 40

    Nuclear Power and Contemporary Religion

  21. July-September 2013, Volume 40

    Where Does the Buddha Live Now?

  22. April-June 2013, Volume 40

    Modern Meanings of Festivals

  23. January-March 2013, Volume 40

    Transforming Greed

  24. October-December 2012, Volume 39

    Religions Coping with Prejudice

  25. July-September 2012, Volume 39

    The Significance of Religious Communities

  26. April-June 2012, Volume 39

    Buddhist Teachings on Spiritual Liberation

  27. January-March 2012, Volume 39

    The Meaning of Modern Pilgrimage

  28. October-December 2011, Volume 38

    The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

  29. July-September 2011, Volume 38

    Buddhism in North America

  30. April-June 2011, Volume 38

    Religion and the Power of Women

  31. January-March 2011, Volume 38

    What Is True Wealth?

  32. October-December 2010, Volume 37

    Dialogue Draws Religions Closer

  33. July-September 2010, Volume 37

    Tackling the Question "What Is the Lotus Sutra?"

  34. April-June 2010, Volume 37

    Religion's Role in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

  35. January-March 2010, Volume 37

    Help in Overcoming Alienation

  36. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Prayer

  37. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Media

  38. April-June 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Health

  39. January-March 2009, Volume 36

    The Changing Forms of the Family and the Role of Religion

  40. October-December 2008, Volume 35

    The Meaning of Giving in the Contemporary World

  41. July-September 2008, Volume 35

    Buddhism in the Face of Environmental Crisis

  42. April-June 2008, Volume 35

    The Many Forms of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin

  43. January-March 2008, Volume 35

    Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

  44. October-December 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Bioethics

  45. July-September 2007, Volume 34

    Respect for Ancestors

  46. April-June 2007, Volume 34

    Self-Examination and Peace Work

  47. January-March 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Social Responsibility: Boddhisattva Practice Today

  48. October-December 2006, Volume 33

    Buddishm in Dialogue

  49. July-September 2006, Volume 33

    Religions Working for Peace

  50. April-June 2006, Volume 33

    Creating the World of the One Vehicle: The Centennial of the Birth of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano

  51. January-February 2006, Volume 33

    The Human Condition and Religion: A Global Future?

  52. November-December 2005, Volume 32

    Remembering Hiroshima

  53. September-October 2005, Volume 32

    Spirituality and Development

  54. July-August 2005, Volume 32

    Women in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Society

  55. May-June 2005, Volume 32

    Rissho Kosei-kai 67th

  56. March-April 2005, Volume 32

    "Thousand Buddhas," Sanbanggulsa Temple, South Korea

  57. January-February 2005, Volume 32

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  58. November-December 2004, Volume 31

    Peace Building Through Multi-Religious Cooperation

  59. September-October 2004, Volume 31

    The Increasing Importance of Dialogue and Cooperation

  60. July-August 2004, Volume 31

    Paths to Reconciliation

  61. May-June 2004, Volume 31

    Religion in Crisis

  62. March-April 2004, Volume 31

    Spiritual Friendship

  63. January-February 2004, Volume 31

    Resolving Conflict

  64. November-December 2003, Volume 30

    Dividing Good From Evil

  65. September-October 2003, Volume 30

    Common Truths: Cooperation Among Religions

  66. July-August 2003, Volume 30

    Niwano Peace Foundation

  67. May-June 2003, Volume 30

    Religionists United in Prayer for Peace

  68. March-April 2003, Volume 30

    Life is Larger Than Globalization

  69. January-February 2003, Volume 30

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  70. November-December 2002, Volume 29

    Roundtable Disscussion at the World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom

  71. September-October 2002, Volume 29

    Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  72. July-August 2002, Volume 29

    The Most Reverend Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Recipient of the 19th Niwano Peace Prize

  73. May-June 2002, Volume 29

    National Treasure Tapestry Illustrating Shakyamuni Sermon to the Faithful

  74. March-April 2002, Volume 29

    Celebration of the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Birth

  75. January-February 2002, Volume 29

    Religious Delegates Gather in New York for WCRP Symposium

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