Empty Nature

I read a lot of people speak of empty nature, but I think that it needs to be explained clearly and concisely.

Empty nature (Sunnatta or Sunyata) does not mean “nothing nature” where nothing exists, but “no permanent nature” (Svabaava or Svabhāva). Things do exists. There are elements of matter and they collect into aggregate forms which we interact with.

Understanding empty nature is understanding that we are all like sandcastles. We are formed and appear to be an object, real and definable. The reality is that we are still just sand. We are still just part of the beach. We are all interconnected and impermanent: subject to atrophy and erosion back into the universe to be formed again. The moisture that holds us together evaporates and becomes the ocean again. Nothing of the sandcastle remains and yet new sandcastles arise and fade away again. We cannot find the sandcastles that have passed nor can we expect the creations of the future. Thus the form we see and define as a sandcastle isn’t truly able to be defined. It is in a continue process of creation and destruction, it came from nowhere and returns to nowhere. It has no “castle nature” but it is empty.

This is what we call the realization of “conditioned reality.” That the sandcastle itself is not permanent. The definition is created by us, because a fish certainly would not call it a sandcastle, a bird would not, a child who has never seen a castle would not. Its very existence as a castle is constructed in our minds just as a child forms the shapes in a bucket with sand and water.

Through the practice of Buddhism, we can see the truth of this. We can then engage in the world with an unconditioned nature. We can make judgments of our actions without attachment to that which is not permanent or conditioned for response. We can accept the world as it is, and be in the moment.

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Categories: Buddha, Dharma, Four Noble Truths, Kharma, Mahayana, New Age, Noble Eightfold Path, Philosophy, Theravada, Tibet


Joshua Hudson is a license clinical social worker with post graduate certificates in mental health. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he has worked as an healthcare advocate for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Director of Psychological Health for the Air Force, in-patient counselor for inpatient adolescents, child and family therapist; and currently is a Prevention Interventionist for the Air Force creating programs to reduce interpersonal and self-directed violence (e.g. Sexual assault, suicide, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.) in the military


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