Excerpt About Emptiness

Two Ways of Thinking about Emptiness

We can think of emptiness in two ways—emptiness of other and emptiness of self—each of which has many degrees. In order for anything to be liberated, including the individual consciousness, it must be empty both of other and of self. By “other” I don’t mean other people, but anything that is extrinsic to our basic nature. For the individual consciousness to be empty of other means for it not to be patterned by extrinsic factors, factors that are not inherent to it. So when we are limited or defined by elements that are not fundamental to us, not inherent, not ontologically primordial, then we are not empty of other. Emptiness of self is a matter of recognizing that apart from freedom from other, the individual self, the individual soul, does not have its own ultimate existence. So when I say that realizing human freedom requires a thoroughgoing understanding of the self, I mean on both of these levels. We need to investigate deeply both emptiness of other and emptiness of self. These two kinds of emptiness are connected and, as we will see, they can merge at some point.

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