Buddhism: Realising (and Uniting) Internal and External Emptiness

Emptying the Mind of All External Reflection…

The interior of the brain (as the ‘mind’) is infinite in its ability to imagine, but none of what it imagines is a) real, or b) existent outside the brain as part of the material environment. This is where science and religion disagree. The above view is ‘scientific’ whilst the opposite view – namely that things imagined in the mind exist outside the mind – is typical of religious thinking. Only the thinking associated with Early Buddhism appears to agree with the scientific position. The Buddhist ‘empties’ the mind of its content to realise that the mind’s underlying reality is ‘empty’ of any inhered content! Although the external world seems to be full of various and diverse objects, it is also true that by far, the most present substance in reality is the empty space within which all material objects seem to exist. There appears to be a logical correlation between the realisation of ‘emptiness’ in the mind and the sensing of ‘emptiness’ in the environment. The Buddha seems to assume that the realisation of the underlying ‘emptiness’ of mind is the equivalent of directly experiencing the underlying ‘emptiness’ of material reality – so that the enlightened individual is accessing and referencing both types of emptiness simultaneously and within contradiction. This situation is achieved through the agency of ‘non-attachment’. There is ‘non-attachment’ to thought (within the mind), and there is ‘non-attachment’ to physical objects (outside the mind). The enlightened individual is ‘non-attached’ both within and without, so that there is no attachment to the ‘emptiness’ of the mind and no hindrance experienced when interacting with the objects of the world. The Latter Buddhism of the Mahayana take this analogy further and assumes that even physical objects are ‘empty’ of any material substantiality. This is not an unreasonable position to take, although it departs from the Buddha’s original idea that physical objects are a) real, but b) impermanent as a collection of ever-changing aggregates, etc. This does not contradict the Buddha’s teaching, but rather explains its implications to a greater degree of depth. This is an allowable assumption as the Buddha was the first Asian thinker to conceive of an atom (which, like a sub-atomic particle) appears to ‘flicker’ in and out of existence in a continuous manner. This would imply that every supposedly ‘existing’ material object also ‘does not’ exist at the same time, and it is here where Early Buddhist thinking morphs into its Mahayana variant. The Tantrayana took on this position and applied its philosophical implications to the physical world of convention and human culture – quite rightly pointing-out that none of these structures, regardless of their age or apparent ‘correctness’ – are in fact ultimately ‘correct’ or even ‘binding’ to the average human-being. In the Enlightened state, morality becomes a choice rather than a necessity.  

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