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V 1-12 Causal Emptiness and Effect Emptiness 谈谈“因空”“果空”

Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比,怎么写,都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.


What is Emptiness? As all of you may know, the nature of the world is empty from the Buddhism perspective. Not only do we need to practise Buddhism, but also our state of mind needs to transcend beyond time and space. It is essential for us to discern and accept that emptiness is how we should view the fundaments of this world, and that emptiness is absolute. However, there are several ways that emptiness is conceptualised. Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism understand the term “emptiness” in different ways.

Theravada Buddhism asserts that the reality of emptiness is the 'not-self' nature. What does that mean? It means there is no self and there is no eternal consciousness in this universe. ; however, there is no locus of control in this world as far as not-self is concerned. This is Theravada’s understanding of emptiness. Theravada Buddhism also postulates “Emptiness of Effect”. It is when one’s understanding of the law of cause and effect, and, the outcomes and the reality in this world are, in itself empty. There is no permanence in the collective fundaments of this world. The emptiness of effect means that one’s state of mind is empty and the element that controls it is eternally empty, it is non-existent.

For example, water is made up of water molecules. Hence, it is a collective compound. But, when water evaporates, can we deny its existence, henceforth? While a person may assume a particular state of mind in one or two seconds, it could also vanish completely within the same lapse of time. What could be the reason for this tenet of Theravada Buddhism, by Mahayana Buddhism? It is because Theravada Buddhism is built on an already available and existing foundation. Its philosophy of emptiness is based on the “existence of emptiness”. Clearly, there is still the phenomena of existence. Hence, it is not empty.


Mahayana Buddhism’s mode of explanation, on the other hand, is “Causal Emptiness”. What is causal emptiness? Even the cause (in the context of cause and effect) is empty, let alone the effect. The cause is non-existent. For example, today, someone made a negative comment about you. In the absence of a cause, you would have ignored their comments. Hence, you would neither be angry nor sad. Consequently, the effect has not taken place. However, Theravada Buddhism tends to explain this concept differently that is, after listening to negative comments, upon which an effect takes place in your mind, you then focus on eradicating its cause. With the notion of causal emptiness, the cause is non-existent. As such, no effect shall take place in the mind. This is the advocate of Mahayana Buddhism, where even the fundamental elements that form all matters are also empty. As the Zen Sect stanza says, “Since intrinsically everything is empty, where can dust alight”. The other realisation of Mahayana Buddhism is “emptiness of physical matter”. This means that what we see with our eyes is thoroughly empty and non-existent. As all worldly things have no substantiality, you should not allow yourself to develop attachment, anger or delusion.


Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the principle of this universe is inherently empty; it is all unreal, and all things in this natural world are fictitious and illusory. What is reality then? For example, a couple is together today, loving each other deeply and affectionately. But after a few days, they hate each other like enemies. Would you consider this to be real or unreal? Hence, one must possess intelligence and wisdom to prevail over one’s ignorance. When you start to feel that all phenomena in this world are fictitious and that in essence, they are devoid of any self-entity, it goes to show that they are unreal. All that you own at this present moment are temporary; it is not permanent; they are not real. If everything you possess today is lost, then it’s gone. Likened to when our parents pass away, then they are gone. Everything in this world is just false possession, don’t think that you can permanently possess something. Everything will change. We must use an objective mentality to see things as being in a state of constant change. This way, we won’t be upset when things don’t go according to our plans. When we encounter a problem, we must use a standard of constant change to see it and not perceive it with a simple one-sided viewpoint. Through this mentality, you will always live a life filled with hope. When one lives amidst hope, one will perceive the world to be boundlessly beautiful. Conversely, when you perceive the phenomena of this world as unchanging, the world will appear to be doomed where all hope is lost, and you may even give up on your life. Take note: self-harm is never an option for a wise person; it is ideation of the unwise and a disconcerted mind.


You must use your comprehension to experience and realise life. Cultivation of the mind is a practice of self-restraint and so that our state of mind could ascend towards higher levels of spirituality. It is an arduous process, that’s why it’s referred to as a painful ascetic practice. We must control ourselves to be able to refrain from any forms of desire and correct any of our shortcomings. Only after correcting our shortcomings are we one step closer to attaining enlightenment.

Guan Yin Citta Buddhism in Plain Terms Volume 1 Chapter 12

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