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Meditation on Emptiness (Shuniya Meditation)


Sunyata is a Sanskrit word that means emptiness. Emptiness is the true nature of reality. Emptiness is the true nature of things and events. It is the actual nature of all phenomena. It is the absence of any self apart from the mental and physical elements of existence. 

All phenomena in their own-being are empty. All phenomena arise dependent on other phenomena. All things have no fixed identity, constantly becoming and decaying. All phenomena of existence are marked by emptiness.  There is nothing at all which is not dependent and therefore, there is nothing at all which is not empty.

A person cannot step into the same river twice, because the person and the river are constantly changing. Existence is always in a state of transformation. Things are in a constant state of flux. It is neither existent nor nonexistent.

Sunyata explains that everything is interrelated and interdependent .The Buddhist Philosopher Nagarjuna says that all phenomena exist interdependently and are void of self-essence. This doctrine explicates impermanence and insubstantiality.  Non-being and being are dialectically interdependent.

Sunyata is emptying the mind.  Sunyata is a state of meditative consciousness. Emptiness as a meditative state is said to be reached when “not attending to any themes or themeless concentration of awareness. This is not nihilism. There is no judgment, expectation, desire, opinion or wish. It is bare attention – awareness without thought). According to Yogi C. M. Chen the nature of Sunyata is one, but the condition therein and there out are many. Sunyata provides inner peace, there is no egoism. The realisation of sunyata leads one to no attachment and clinging.    

In this meditation the meditator brings his mind to a state of awareness in which the mind is brought to complete stillness. He experiences inner calmness.  It is a state of emptiness, where no positive or negative is assigned to things. The meditation is practiced through emptiness of thoughts with silence and stillness. It is a neutral state without attachments. This state of consciousness can be called “pure awareness” or “empty mind,” because it has no cognitive content (McGee, 2008).

As described by Michael Erb of the Universtity Hospital Tuebingen, Germany ,  Sunyata meditation practice is aimed to develop an ability to avoid discursive (wandering, long-winded) thought, and instead acquire insight into the nature of reality through direct perception of the internal (bodily) and external (sensory) states.

Hinterberger and group (2014) found decreased electrophysiological activity represents the conscious state of emptiness in meditation. Hernández and team (2018) state that the depth of mental silence is associated with medial fronto-insular-striatal networks that is crucial for top-down attention and emotional control.

According to J .Krishnamurti meditation really is a complete emptying of the mind. He further states that the meditative mind has no horizon. The mind cannot go from the limited to the immense, nor can it transform the limited into the limitless.

Ruwan M Jayatunge MD 
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