Emptiness, Oneness and Sheaves of Reeds

People often think that something along the lines of “oneness” is a basic Buddhist principle. However, the Buddha actually avoided this view, saying that it was an extreme. In the Lokayatika Sutta, a brahman cosmologist (lokayata) asks the Buddha if the All or “everything” exists or does not exist, or that if it was a “oneness” or “manyness”. The Buddha rejected these as extreme views, and instead related the Middle Way by teaching dependent origination.

Well, if “oneness” is an extreme view – then so isn’t emptiness? Isn’t that like saying that the All does not exist? Well, no, not really. The principle of emptiness (sunna in Pali and sunyata in Sanskrit), as an attribute of objects, simply states that all things are without an inherent, abiding self (anatta) because they are dependently co-arisen. Therefore, “emptiness” in this sense is not an extreme view, but a relative one.

In the Nalakalapiyo Sutta, Ven. MahaKotthita asks Ven. Sariputta if phenomena were “self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or — without self-making or other-making — do they arise spontaneously?” Ven. Sariputta says that none of the aforementioned is actually the case, and uses a simile of sheaves of reeds to illustrate dependent origination:

“Very well then, Kotthita my friend, I will give you an analogy; for there are cases where it is through the use of an analogy that intelligent people can understand the meaning of what is being said. It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name & form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of suffering & stress.

“If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress.”

Advertisements

About bodhipunk

Just another anarcho-commie dhamma punk.

Posted on 05/22/2012, in anatta, dependent origination, dharma, emptiness, stories, suttas and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s