1. Theravada, Gelug-pa, and Zen each emphasize the importance of emptiness, no-self, or buddhanature.
Explain these terms. What is emptiness? Explain this as clearly and accurately as you can. Why is emptiness
so important in Buddhism? Compare and contrast the techniques for gaining insight among these three
traditions. (30 points)
Emptiness, No-self and Buddhanature all refer to the goal of Buddhists, a state of enlightenment
Theravada Buddhism views emptiness as one of the many significant paths to liberation.
According to Theravada teachings, “There is no self either in the individual or in the dhammas”
(WTBT 58). “The Buddha’s teaching on Anatta, No-Soul, or No-Self, should not be considered as
negative…It is Truth; Reality; and Reality cannot be negative. It is the false belief in a non-existing imaginary
self that is negative.” Most importantly, “the teaching on Anatta dispels the darkness of false beliefs, and
produces the light of wisdom” (WTBT 66).
Theravada Buddhism did not develop a philosophy of Buddhanature.
One of the teachings of Zen, the school of Mahayana Buddhism, lies within the notion of
emptiness. Mahayana teaches that everything lives in interdependence with other things, lacking
both inherent nature and intrinsic existence. Considering this, everything is empty, because nothing
can exist completely on its own.
Nāgārjuna, a Mahayana Buddhist and famous philosopher, taught that “all phenomena-
tables, chairs, mountains, people- are simply empty of any real being” (BVSI 72). Him and his
followers called this vision ‘the doctrine of emptiness,’ (śūnyavāda) which is the “removal of
spiritual ignorance (avidyā)” (BVSI 73), that of which defeats the deep desires that we have, leaving
only wisdom behind. This, in turn, allows no such distinction to be made within things, considering
that everything is completely ‘empty.’ This mode of perception, allows one to see the correct vision
of how things really are.
By experiencing enlightenment, one is able to recognize that the root of existence is the
emptiness of which everything arises from, and into to which they return. Emptiness is viewed as
positive and alive, and once one is able to truly see what they already know without analyzing they
wake up to their true, Buddhanature.
In Zen, everyone is said to acquire buddhanature, that of which will be expressed upon
awakening. Buddanature, a fundamental doctrine of Buddhism, is “a concrete expression for the substream of
perfection and completeness (TPZ 398) that of which is living, dynamic, devoid of mass, unfixed, beyond
individual or personality- the matrix of all phenomena” (TPZ 85).
No-self (anātta): Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as Gelugpa, emphasize on what is contradicted when