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.
A true cessation is a realization. A realization which is the fruit of a Path. It is normally assumed that ‘cessation’ refers to a going out of the mind, or delusions, or the self etc. But the cessation refers to the ending of a Path. The Path ends in a Result, a fruit. Since paths (normal paths or ordinary ones) deal with delusions or aspects of our own mind they may appear synonymous, but they aren’t. A person enters a path to deal with the suffering of a delusion or to gain a realization. When the path is done a realization appears and the initial delusion, the original intention, disappears along with the path. If you bring the path back then the realization will fade and the delusion or ordinary mind will reappear. So, this is referred to as crossing the river, or ocean, and refers to the time in the mind when you are ready to abandon ordinary thoughts, or ordinary minds. There is no going back, or rather it would cost you a lot of effort to go back and create an ordinary mind.
It is interesting to note whether the process of destroying totally the boat (path) that you used to cross the river is normal and essential or whether Bodhisattvas retain this aspect of allowing the mind to return to normal in order to help others. There is dispute between the different paths (schools) as to whether and why you would do that.