No change has been so profound and far reaching in the reform movement of the Mahayana as the concept that we call emptiness. This is a concept that challenges many of the rigid categories of traditional Buddhism. It also introduces an spirit of affirmation and almost of infinite possibilities that wasn’t present in the earlier tradition. In this series of articles we're going to try to understand this complex concept:

  1. Emptiness: A Revolutionary Philosophical Concept: It is a challenge to develop an understanding of this difficult concept. A balanced understanding will help us account for both its positive and negative dimensions. I think that the doctrine of emptiness is one of the most profound and challenging religious concepts in the world, and one that, if you can grasp, will help you see not just the basic categories of Buddhism, but also lots of important categories of life in a radical different way.

  2. Implications of the Concept of Emptiness: With the concept of emptiness, the Mahayana completely reoriented and changed the conceptual system of Buddhism. The doctrine of emptiness results in a concept of non-duality. If everything is empty of any real identity, then there can’t be any real difference between any two things.

  3. The Two Truths: This is an important aspect of the concept, the doctrine of the "two truths". There are two separate perspectives you can take in any ordinary aspect of our experience. A true understanding of emptiness holds both of these together simultaneously.

  4. How We Come to Understand Emptiness: How do we live if we really understand this paradoxical concept? Nirvana isn’t anymore a kind of a goal you have to reach from where you are.

  5. Everything is Possible: A lot of people think that if everything is empty of any kind of identity, then there is no reason for us to take seriously anything that we do. If you come to a true understanding of emptiness, you feel some sort of a surge of infinite possibility. Often the doctrine of emptiness is expressed as power. Not as disability, but as being genuinely powered.

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