Shunyata, aka: Śūnyatā; 7 Definition(s)

Introduction

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.

In Hinduism

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

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)

(Source): archive.org: Sri Vijnana Bhairava Tantra
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.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

N Emptiness. That which is empty.

(Source): Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary
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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).

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Śūnyatā (शून्यता, “emptiness”) or Śūnyatāsamādhi refers to a type of Samādhi, representing a set of “three concentrations” acquired by the Bodhisattvas, according to the 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 Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XXX), “the teaching of emptiness is the emptiness of beings (pudgala-śūnyatā) and the emptiness of dharmas (dharma-śūnyatā).”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
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.

General definition (in Buddhism)

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 (eg., 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): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

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): Shambala Publications: General

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".

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

suññatā : (f.) emptiness.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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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.

Relevant definitions

Search found 57 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

Shunyatashunyata
Śūnyatāśūnyatā (शून्यताशून्यता) or simply Śūnyatā refers to “emptiness of emptiness” one of the...
Sarvadharmashunyata
Sarvadharmaśūnyatā (सर्वधर्मशून्यता) or simply sarvadharma refers to “emptiness of all things” ...
Parabhavashunyata
Parabhāvaśūnyatā (परभावशून्यता) or simply parabhāva refers to “emptiness of other-existence” on...
Anavakarashunyata
Anavakāraśūnyatā (अनवकारशून्यता) or simply anavakāra refers to “emptiness without beginning or ...
Atyantashunyata
Atyantaśūnyatā (अत्यन्तशून्यता) or simply atyanta refers to “endless emptiness” one of the “twe...
Abhavashunyata
Abhāvaśūnyatā (अभावशून्यता) or simply abhāva refers to “emptiness of non-existence” one of the ...
Alakshanashunyata
Alakṣaṇaśūnyatā (अलक्षणशून्यता) or simply alakṣaṇa refers to “unmarked emptiness” one of the “t...
Mahashunyata
Mahāśūnyatā (महाशून्यता) refers to “great emptiness” one of the “twenty emptinesses” (śūnyatā) ...
Asamskritashunyata
Asaṃskṛtaśūnyatā (असंस्कृतशून्यता) or simply asaṃskṛta refers to “unconditioned emptiness” one ...
Paramarthashunyata
Paramārthaśūnyatā (परमार्थशून्यता) or simply paramārtha refers to “ultimate emptiness” one of t...
Bahirdhashunyata
Bahirdhāśūnyatā (बहिर्धाशून्यता) or simply bahirdhā refers to “external emptiness” one of the “...
Lakshanashunyata
Lakṣaṇaśūnyatā (लक्षणशून्यता) or simply lakṣaṇa refers to “marked emptiness” one of the “twenty...
Prakritishunyata
Prakṛtiśūnyatā (प्रकृतिशून्यता) or simply prakṛti refers to “natural emptiness” one of the “twe...
Svabhavashunyata
Svabhāvaśūnyatā (स्वभावशून्यता) or simply svabhāva refers to “emptiness of self-existence” one ...
Bhavashunyata
Bhāvaśūnyatā (भावशून्यता) or simply bhāva refers to “emptiness of existence” one of the “twenty...

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