What does this “Emptiness” concept mean in Buddhism?

Now emptiness can be understood in various ways in Buddhism.

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra explains emptiness this way:

Emptiness [shunyata] means that one can find nothing even after having sought it.

Although the Nirgranthas [Jains] also have a ‘nothing’, Liberation is not like that.

Emptiness is like this:

  • Concerning a honey jar, a butter jar, an oil jar, a water jar, or a yoghurt jar, no matter whether there is any yoghurt in the jar or not, it is still called a ‘yoghurt jar’, and
  • Similarly no matter whether there is any honey or water there or not, one still calls them a honey jar or a water jar.

How can one then say that the jar [structure] is empty or that the jar [structure] is intrinsically empty in the absence of that [yoghurt and so forth]?  If it has both form and colour, how is it empty?

Liberation is not that sort of [utter] emptiness, for Liberation also has a perfection of shape and colour and thus, just as one says that a yoghurt pot is empty because there is no yoghurt in it, even though one perceives that it is not empty, one says that Liberation is empty, while it is not [actually] empty. How can one say that it is empty while it has form [rupa]?

The term, ’empty’, is applied to Liberation because it is DEVOID OF the various aspects of the:

  • Kleshas [mental afflictions],
  • The 25 conventional modes of existence,
  • Suffering,
  • Mundane teachings, observances and arising perceptual domains,

just as the yoghurt jar is devoid of yoghurt.

Just as the form of the jar itself remains immutably, THERE IS regarding [Liberation]:

  • Utter Bliss,
  • Joy,
  • Permanence [nitya],
  • Stability / Unshakeability [dhruva],
  • Eternity [sasvata],
  • Supramundane Dharma, observances and perceptual domains.

Like the form of the jar, Liberation is Permanent, Stable and Eternal;

But the jar will [eventually] get broken, because it is merely established through causal circumstances.

Because Liberation [moksha] is not created [akrta], it will not perish. That which is Liberation is an unfabricated Dhatu [Element], and that is the Tathagata (emphasis added).” (Tibetan version).

Source:  http://www.nirvanasutra.net/selectedextracts1j.htm

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