Shunyata, Śūnyatā: 17 definitions


Shunyata means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Śūnyatā can be transliterated into English as Sunyata or Shunyata, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

Images (photo gallery)

In Hinduism

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

Source: Sri Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

Śūnyata (शून्यत, “void”).—If you can concentrate on your body as void (śūnyata) or space and transcend all thoughts, even for a moment, your mind will be liberated and will take on the form of that void. It is important to note that you do not have to concentrate for hours and hours in order to experience this state. Even if you focus the mind for just a moment, it is enough to give you the experience of a heightened state of awareness. (see Vijñānabhairava verse 46)

Shaivism book cover
context information

Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Shaivism from relevant books on Exotic India

Ayurveda (science of life)

Source: Ayurveda glossary of terms

Śūnyatā (शून्यता):—Feeling of emptiness

Ayurveda book cover
context information

Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Ayurveda from relevant books on Exotic India

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

N Emptiness. That which is empty.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Theravada from relevant books on Exotic India

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Śūnyatā (शून्यता, “emptiness”) or Śūnyatāsamādhi refers to a type of Samādhi, representing a set of “three concentrations” acquired by the Bodhisattvas, according to the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter X. a) Some say: Śūnyatā is seeing that the five aggregates (skandha) are not the self (anātman) and do not belong to the self (anātmya). b) Others say: Śūnyatā-samādhi is the concentration in which one knows that the true nature of all dharmas is absolutely empty (atyanta-śūnya). c) Furthermore, śūnyatā is the eighteen emptinesses (aṣṭadaśa-śūnyatā).

According to chapter XXX, “the teaching of emptiness is the emptiness of beings (pudgala-śūnyatā) and the emptiness of dharmas (dharma-śūnyatā).”.

According to chapter XLVIII, there are “eighteen emptinesses” defined:

  1. the emptiness of inner dharmas (adhyātma-śūnyatā),
  2. the emptiness of outer dharmas (bahirdhā-śūnyatā),
  3. the emptiness of inner and outer dharmas (adhyātmabahirdhā-śūnyatā),
  4. the emptiness of emptiness (śūnyatā-śūnyatā),
  5. great emptiness (mahā-śūnyatā),
  6. the emptiness of the absolute (paramārtha-śūnyatā),
  7. the emptiness of the conditioned (saṃskṛta-śūnyatā),
  8. the emptiness of the unconditioned (asaṃskṛta-śūnyatā),
  9. absolute emptiness (atyanta-śūnyatā),
  10. the emptiness of beginningless dharmas (anagra-śūnyatā),
  11. the emptiness of dispersed dharmas (avakāra-śūnyatā),
  12. the emptiness of essences (prakṛti-śūnyatā),
  13. the emptiness of specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa-śūnyatā),
  14. the emptiness of all dharmas (sarvadharma-śūnyatā),
  15. the emptiness consisting of non-preception (anupalambha-śūnyatā),
  16. the emptiness of non-existence (abhāva-śūnyatā),
  17. the emptiness of existence (svabhāva-śūnyatā),
  18. the emptiness of non-existence and existence (abhāvasvabhāva-śūnyatā).
Source: A Study and Translation of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā

Śūnyatā (शून्यता) refers to “emptiness”, according to the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā: the eighth chapter of the Mahāsaṃnipāta (a collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtras).—Accordingly, “The great vehicle (mahāyāna) is made with four wheels (cakra), namely with the means of attraction, the spokes (ara) are well fitted as the roots of good have been transformed with intention, [...] is in accordance with the mental capacity of followers, strives for all practices of Bodhisatva, is superior because of infinite knowledge (anantajñāna) and immeasurable virtue (ākāraguṇa), and is connected with the knowledge of knowing everything that is emptiness (śūnyatā) endowed with all sorts of excellencies”.

Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Mahayana from relevant books on Exotic India

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: Brill: Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions (tantric Buddhism)

Śūnyatā (शून्यता) refers to “(becoming) liquid”, according to Ratnākaraśānti’s Bhramahara (Cf. Isaacson 2002, 162, lines 9-15).—Accordingly, the practitioner should generate himself as Hevajra in the First Union (ādiyoga). The practitioner, who has the form of the seed syllables, should enter the womb of Nairātmyā, Hevajra’s consort, through Hevajra’s mouth, become liquid (i.e. the state of śūnyatā), be emitted outside the womb, and have the form of Hevajra.

Śūnyatā (“liquid”) according to Abhayākaragupta’s Vajrāvalī (abhiṣeka section).—The master should visualise the initiand in the udakābhiṣeka. The master should visualise that the initiand is made to enter the womb of the goddess, becomes liquid (śūnyatā), and is emitted outside the womb. This is a modification of the meditation in the utpattikrama practice.

Source: MDPI Books: The Ocean of Heroes

Śūnyatā (शून्यता) refers to “emptiness”, according to the 10th-century Ḍākārṇava-tantra: one of the last Tibetan Tantric scriptures belonging to the Buddhist Saṃvara tradition consisting of 51 chapters.—Accordingly, “[...] Having made offerings of the nectar and so on and [articles] originated in himself through the moon[rise] and sunrise, and having performed the confession of sin and others, he should reflect on compassion and so on. Then, [having made] himself being of the nature of emptiness (śūnyatā), he should contemplate [the mantra of] yogaśuddha (“being purified by yoga”). [...]”.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
context information

Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Tibetan Buddhism from relevant books on Exotic India

General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

1) Śūnyatā (शून्यता) refers to the “twenty emptinesses” as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 41):

  1. adhyātma-śūnyatā (Internal emptiness),
  2. bahirdhā-śūnyatā (external emptiness),
  3. adhyātmabahirdhā-śūnyatā (internal and external emptiness),
  4. śūnyatā-śūnyatā (emptiness of emptiness),
  5. mahā-śūnyatā (great emptiness),
  6. paramārtha-śūnyatā (ultimate emptiness),
  7. saṃskṛta-śūnyatā (emptiness of the conditioned),
  8. asaṃskṛta-śūnyatā (emptiness of the unconditioned),
  9. atyanta-śūnyatā (endless emptiness),
  10. anavarāgra-śūnyatā (emptiness of the extremes),
  11. anavakāra-śūnyatā (emptiness without beginning or end),
  12. prakṛti-śūnyatā (natural emptiness),
  13. sarvadharma-śūnyatā (emptiness of all things),
  14. lakṣaṇa-śūnyatā (marked emptiness),
  15. alakṣaṇa-śūnyatā (unmarked emptiness),
  16. bhāva-śūnyatā (emptiness of existence),
  17. abhāva-śūnyatā (emptiness of non-existence),
  18. svabhāva-śūnyatā (emptiness of self-existence),
  19. bhāvasvabhāva-śūnyatā (emptiness of the self-existence of existence),
  20. parabhāva-śūnyatā (emptiness of other-existence).

The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (e.g., śūnyatā). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

2) Śūnyata (शून्यता, “empty”) or refers to one of the “three liberations” (vimokṣa) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 73).

Śūnyata  also refers to “relating to emptiness” and represents one of the four “aspects in the truth of suffering” (duḥkhasatya) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 97).

Source: Shambala Publications: General

Shūnyatā (śūnyatā), Skt. (Pali, sunnatā; Jap., kū), lit., “emptiness, void”; central notion of Buddhism. Ancient Buddhism recognized that all composite things are empty, impermanent (anitya), devoid of an essence (anātman), and characterized by suf­fering (duhkha). In the Hīnayāna emptiness is only applied to the “person”; in the Ma­hāyāna, on the other hand, all things are regard­ed as without essence, i.e., empty of self-nature (svabhāva). All dharmas are fundamentally devoid of independent lasting substance, are nothing more than mere appearances. They do not exist outside of emptiness. Shūnyatā carries and permeates all phenomena and makes their development possible. One should not, howev­er, take this view of the emptiness of everything existing simply as nihilism. It does not mean that things do not exist but rather that they are nothing besides appearances. Shūnyatā is often equated with the absolute in Ma­hāyāna, since it is without duality and empirical forms. Be­yond that, the individual schools present differ­ing interpretations of shūnyatā.

Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

Śūnyatā, in Buddhism (translated into English as emptiness, voidness, openness, spaciousness), is a Buddhist concept which has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. In Mahayana Buddhism, it often refers to the absence of inherent essence in all phenomena.

In Theravada Buddhism, suññatā often refers to the not-self (Pāli: anatta, Sanskrit: anātman) nature of the five aggregates of experience and the six sense spheres. Suññatā is also often used to refer to a meditative state or experience.

"Śūnyatā" (Sanskrit noun from the adj. śūnya or śhūnya: "zero, nothing") is usually translated as "emptiness". It is the noun form of the adjective "śūnya" (Sanskrit) which means "empty" or "void", hence "empti"-"ness" (-tā). Sunya comes from the root svi, meaning "swollen", plus -ta "-ness", therefore "hollow, hollowness". A common alternative term is "voidness".

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Shunyata in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

suññatā : (f.) emptiness.

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Pali from relevant books on Exotic India

Sanskrit dictionary

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Edgerton Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Śūnyatā (शून्यता).—(Pali suññatā; in Pali an adj. suññata seems to have developed, see s.v. apraṇihita, but not in [Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit] as far as I know), emptiness, void, vacuité (S. Lévi, La Vallée-Poussin): often associated with ānimitta (an°), and apraṇihita, q.v. for Saddharmapuṇḍarīka 101.1; 136.13; 137.2; Lalitavistara 422.20; paribhāvitā śūnyata dīrgharātram Saddharmapuṇḍarīka 117.7 (verse), we have meditated long on emptiness; °tā-bhāvanatayā Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā 10.7, by the fact of realization of the emptiness (of things); °tāsu satataṃ gatiṃgata 10.16 (verse); there are different lists of kinds of ś°; eighteen in Mahāvyutpatti 933—951, found fre- quently in the same order in Śatasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā, notably in 1407.4 ff. where each is defined and explained at great length, and nearly the same list, but with three additions and one subtraction, making 20 in all, Dharmasaṃgraha 41; this list is: adhyātma-ś°, bahirdhā-, adhyātmabahirdhā-, śūnyatā-ś°, mahā-, paramārtha-, saṃskṛta-, asaṃskṛta-, atyanta-, anavarāgra-, anavakāra-, prakṛti-, sarvadharma-, sva- lakṣaṇa- (Dharmasaṃgraha omits sva), anupalambha- (not in Dharmasaṃgraha, which adds here alakṣaṇa-, bhāva-), abhāva-, svabhāva-, abhāvasvabhāva- (Dharmasaṃgraha adds parabhāva-); seven kinds listed and defined Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra 74.5 ff., lakṣaṇa-ś°, bhāvasvabhāva-, apracarita-, pracarita-, sarvadharmanira- bhilāpya-, paramārthāryajñānamahā-, and itaretara-; in Sūtrāl xiv.34 only three kinds, abhāva-ś°, tathābhāvasya ś°, prakṛtyā (prakṛti-)ś° (defined in commentary).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Śūnyatā (शून्यता).—[śūnya + tā], f., and śūnyatva śūnya + tva, n. 1. Emptiness, [Lassen, Anthologia Sanskritica.] 72, 10 (). 2. Unreality.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Śūnyatā (शून्यता).—[feminine] tva [neuter] emptiness, voidness, inanity; desert, loneliness; absence or wandering of mind; absence or want of (—°).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Śūnyatā (शून्यता):—[=śūnya-tā] [from śūnya > śū] f. emptiness, loneliness, desolateness, [Rāmāyaṇa; Varāha-mihira’s Bṛhajjātaka] etc. (cf. a-śūnyatā)

2) [v.s. ...] absence of mind, distraction, [Suśruta; Sarvadarśana-saṃgraha]

3) [v.s. ...] vacancy (of gaze), [Dhūrtasamāgama]

4) [v.s. ...] (ifc.) absence or want of [Cāṇakya; Kumāra-sambhava]

5) [v.s. ...] nothingness, non-existence, non-reality, illusory nature (of all worldly phenomena), [Śiśupāla-vadha; Sarvadarśana-saṃgraha]

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary (S)

Śūnyata (शून्यत) in the Sanskrit language is related to the Prakrit words: Suṇṇaia, Suṇṇavia.

[Sanskrit to German]

Shunyata in German

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

Discover the meaning of shunyata or sunyata in the context of Sanskrit from relevant books on Exotic India

See also (Relevant definitions)

Relevant text

Related products

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: