Sunya – The Worthless

Sunya, according to Edward Conze, means worthless as in ‘this tissue has no value to me, it is worthless’.

To quote Bodhidharma “all things are empty, and there is nothing desirable or to be sought after”, and to quote Edward Conze, “Things are empty in the sense that they are unsubstantial and unsatisfactory”.

This ‘unsatisfactoryness’ I associate with duhkha or contaminated suffering in Buddha’s original teaching.  This is the second of three signs or four seals within Buddhism that mark a person as being a buddhist. This sign states that all phenomena or dharma are unsatisfactory or marked with suffering. ‘Unsubstantial’ I interpret as to be ‘unable to fulfil desire’, and relate it to a difficult concept in emptiness – the phrase held by all schools that phenomena are not self-supporting or substantially existent. I will look at all these words over the next few posts.

Bodhidharma then is saying not that things are void like space, but empty of meaning or worth.  That there is nothing in samsara, or life as we know it, that is worth pursuing; it cannot fulfill your desires which are the desires for happiness or satisfaction. This is very important and explains the whole of Buddha’s position.


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