Danger Of Clinging To Emptiness

If one clings to the relative forms of all phenomena,
one neglects the absolute emptiness of all phenomena.
One makes forms an eternalistic dogma,
and forgoes the wisdom of practising non-attachment [of the transient].

If one clings to the absolute emptiness of all phenomena,
one neglects the relative forms of all phenomena.
One makes emptiness a nihilistic dogma,
and forgoes the compassion of practising virtues [and precepts].

The Middle Path is to perceive relative and absolute reality simultaneously
and to function accordingly in each moment,
without negligence of forms or emptiness,
with compassion and wisdom.


When a mind of ultimate analysis finds that there is no ‘essence’ in [physical and mental] things [as they are changing from moment to moment, without a substantial fixed nature], this essence is not thereby confirmed as a new type of essence. Therefore, as we gain some understanding of emptiness, we must resist any impulse to reify emptiness itself  [i.e. make it ‘concrete’].  To warn of this, Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Treatise’ says,

The Conqueror [Buddha] said that emptiness
Eradicates all dogmatic views;
As for those who take a dogmatic view of emptiness
He said that they are incurable.

Some  Tibetan and Western interpreters of the Madhyamaka [Middle View or Way] tradition have [wrongly] taken this to mean that Madhyamaka is a radical form of skepticism in which the correct view (or perspective) is holding no view at all . In this reading, any sort of philosophical view or position is a dogmatic view that can be eradicated by seeing emptiness. Even holding that things are empty of intrinsic nature would then, it seems, be a dogmatic view.

Tsong-kha-pa disagrees: ‘A dogmatic view of emptiness does not mean taking the view that things are empty of intrinsic nature.’ The view that things are empty of intrinsic nature is the correct way to see things. It is the rare and precious understanding that will allow us to become free. Rather, a dogmatic view of emptiness is a view that reifies emptiness itself, failing to recognize that even emptiness is empty of any intrinsic nature. Having a dogmatic view of emptiness means thinking emptiness as truly existent, viewing it as something special that exists in and of itself… We need to have an understanding of ultimate reality that takes into account that even the ultimate [absolute] reality exists only conventionally [as conventional or relative reality].

Introduction to Emptiness: Tsong Kha-Pa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path
Guy Newland

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Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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