Emptiness is Fullness: realizations of Jewish Mysticism and Buddhist
The Spirit and Flesh World Religion and Spirituality Online Library: uniting seemingly opposed ideologies and vibrations into the true, pristine harmony of cosmic oneness.
Emptiness is Fullness: Comparative Religion:
Correspondences Between Jewish Mysticism and Indian Religion-Philosophy.
Some Significant Relations to Science
Axel Randrup and
In a widely known paper Katz (1978)
emphasizes differences between Buddhist views and Jewish mysticism. Surely
such differences exist. Particularly, the central position of God in Jewish
mysticism contrasts with the abscence of God in Buddhism. Still, in the
literature we have also found significant similarities in Jewish mysticism
to Buddhist and also non-Buddhist Indian views. Of course both Indian
religion-philosophy and Jewish mysticism have long histories, and each
comprise several schools. The features we find corresponding may not be
found in all Indian or Jewish schools, some of them are restricted to
certain schools only.
Some Significant Traits of Jewish Mysticism
God is fundamental in Jewish mysticism as in all Jewish tradition, but God
is imagined in various ways. The expereienced scholar, Daniel Matt,
professor of Jewish mysticism, Berkeley, USA, writes that "God is greater
than any thing one can imagine, like no thing." (Matt 1990, p. 121). In the
Jewish literature God is often referred to as nothingness (ayin
in Hebrew) or as Ein Sof (with no
end, infinite) (Dan 2003, pp. 139-142; Matt 1990, pp. 127, 129 etc. and
1994, p. 29; Scholem 1955, pp. 5, 12-13, 25 and 1991, pp. 51-52; Steinsaltz
1980, pp. 35-37).
2. Nothingness is also fullness
The negative theology in Jewish philosophy and mysticism emphasizes the
understanding of God solely by means of "no", but Jewish mystics of the
kabbalist school (an important part of Jewish mysticism) see God as the
paradoxical fullness of the great divine nothing, and they maintain, that
the nothing is infinitely more real than all other reality, more existent
than all the being of the world, that it contains a wealth of mystical
reality, and that the nothing is brimming with overwhelming divine reality;
it is mahut, the "whatness", the
quiddity of God. Ayin is said to
symbolize the fullness of being that transcends being itself, the mysterious
palace of ayin, in which everything
dwells (Matt 1990; Scholem 1955, p. 25; Werblowsky 1971, p. 30; Winther
1986, p. 126).
Jewish mystics also maintain that the world was emanated from God (Kook
quoted by Bokser 1998, p. 165; Matt 1990, p. 129; Scholem 1955, p. 221;
Steinnsaltz 1980, p. 37; Werblowsky 1971, p. 30).
The Jewish mystic of the hasidic school, rabbi Kalman Epstein wrote about
the essence of divinity, "That He was, is and will be and that He is the
ground and root of all worlds." (Jacobs 1977, p. 220).
The idea that the world emanated from God is often understood in the way
that the world also is God (Elior 1993, p. 59; Matt 1994, p. 24; Winther
1986, p. 124). This may give the impression, that there are two parts of
God, the nothing, incomprehensible to humans, and the emanation, the world
which humans know. Such an idea would, however, contrast sharply with the
strong belief in Jewish tradition, that God is One, a unity. Kabbalist
speculation (represented in the medieval book Zohar) is bent to the task of
escaping from dualist consequences ( Matt 1994, p. 24; Scholem 1955, p. 13
and 1991, p. 52) Various solutions have been suggested.
Thus it is maintained, that the hidden God, of which nothing is known to us,
and the living God of religious experience and revelation are one and the
same. There is a distinction merely from the human point of view (Elior
1993, pp. 60-61, 77; Matt 1994, pp. 68, 153; Scholem 1955, pp. 13, 220 and
p. 52; Winther 1986, p. 124).
It is also said, that the something is in the nothing in the mode of
nothing, and the nothing is in the something in the mode of something (Matt
1990, p. 132).
Steinsaltz (1980, p. 36) writes in a more complicated way, that there is an
unbridgeable gap between God, the infinite and His finite creation, a gap
that is more than a consequence of the inadequacy of the human mind. To
bridge the abyss, the infinite keeps creating the world, His creation being
not the act of forming something out of nothing but the act of revelation.
The world being constantly created is also mentioned by Elior(1993, p. 61).
Shoham (1994, pp. 326-327) writes, that kabbalah views the inner self of man
as identical to the universal awareness of God. Man's pure self, his Ani,
and God are one. The Ani does not reflect God - it is the Godhead.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman described the human soul as a "part of G-d above", a
spark of Godliness which inhabits the body in order to create an abode for
the Allmighty in this world (quoted in Dubov 2005, section: The soul
3. No isolated or independent existence
In Jewish mysticism it is maintained, that there is no such thing as
isolated existence, everything is linked with everything else, and nothing
exists outside God (Elior 1993, pp. 49-50; Scholem 1955, pp. 223-224).
The hasidic school teaches, that defending an independent sense of self is a
sign of false pride. Independent existence may be experienced from the human
point of view, but not from God's (Elior 1993, p. 50; Matt 1990, p. 139;
Winther 1986, p.124).
For Kook all existence is an interdependent, or organic, universal whole. He
noticed the great difference between human personalities, but found that it
is precisely through their differentiations that they are all united toward
one objective, to contribute toward the perfection of the world, each person
according to his special talent. Through the fusion of all the diverse minds
and physiognomies there emerges a unified structure of consummate harmony (Bokser
1978, p. 6).
Steinsaltz (1980, p. 38) writes about the ten sefirot (emanations from God,
fundamental in the world view of Jewish mysticism): "The ten Sefirot taken
together constitute a fundamental and all-inclusive Reality; moreover, the
pattern of this Reality is organic, each of the Sefirot has a unique
function, complements each of the others, and is essential for the
realization or fulfilment of the others and the whole." Scholem (1991, p.
43) states, that the sefirot are connected with one another by means of
secret "channels", tsinorot.
Kook's description of human cooperation as well as the descriptions of the
interaction between the sefirot actually have much in common with modern
systems science (www.isss.org).
4. Reconciliations of conventional thinking with the world view based on God
As a bridge between conventional thinking and mystic experience kabbalists
maintain: "All created existence has a certain kind of reality to itself in
which it appears independent .... But in the sight of the mystic the
separate outlines of things become blurred until they, too, represent
nothing but the Glory of God and His hidden Life which pulsates in
everything" (Scholem 1955, pp. 223-224). The hasidic school teaches, that in
the mystic's gaze the world no longer appears as essentially distinct from
God. "If we perceive the world as existing (independently), that is merely
an illusion" (Matt 1990, p. 143).
Matt (1986, p. 367) writes about Jewish mystics thinking that alignment of
legal and mystical realms is not an imposition or an overlap of one realm on
the other, that the two are in fact one. Abiding in the presence of God, the
social mystic abides by the law.
5. Experience of nothingness
Within Jewish mysticism there are various views about human experiences
related to the divine. Devekut, meaning cleaving to God, communion with God,
is a fundamental and general experience, but among scholars there are
different opinions about how close the communion can be. Scholem (1955, pp.
122-123) writes, that even in an ecstatic frame of mind the Jewish mystic
almost invariably retains a sense of the distance between the Creator and
his creature, so it is only in extremely rare cases, that ecstasy signifies
actual union with God. But Idel (1988, pp. 35-73 and 1988a, section 12, pp.
123-134) proposes an alternative view on descriptions of unio mystica in
kabbalah: "far from being absent, unitive descriptions recur in Kabbalistic
literature", and he gives many examples. Also Jacobs (1977, p. 223) and
Halevi (1979, p. 91) write about attaining the unio mystica, or complete
union with God.
Matt (1990, pp. 121, 128, 135, 140) states, that the ayin cannot be known by
thought, but can be experienced directly; in this experience thought may be
annihilated. Other authors describe the experiences of spiritual ascent and
approaching or uniting with God or ayin as associated with the qualities of
bliss, joy, and light and with annihilation or dissolution of thought (Idel
1988a, pp. 77-83 and 184; Jacobs 1977, p. 151; Winther 2001, pp. 296-297).
The first step in the emanation of the world from the nothingness of God
(the highest of the ten sefirot, the keter) is often also designated as ayin
or "the annihilation of thought" (Matt 1990, pp. 129-130 and 1994, pp.
40-41, 176). Fortune (1995, p. 107) reports about her ascent towards keter
"....at the one occasion where I touched its outermost edge, it appeared to
me as a dazzling white light, in which all thought was completely
The hasidic school of Jewish mysticism (founded around year 1750) is said to
psychologize the kabbalistic material. Ayin does no longer belong to
theology but has become a psychological reality, the only state of mind
appropriate for one , who seeks to become a divine vessel. In the
annihilation of the intellect distinctions vanish; all is equal. The mystic
empties himself and makes room for an infusion of divine wisdom from beyond
the normal borders of consciousness (Matt 1990, pp. 139-140; Winther 1986,
pp. 124, 144-146). The immersion in nothingness does not induce a blank
stare, it it has been described as the highest experience for the Jewish
mystic, and it may be associated with extreme delight and enthusiasm,
hitlahavut (Jacobs 1977, p. 219; Winther 2001, pp. 292-297). The state of
ayin is said to engender new mental life through a rhythm of annihilation
and thinking; a hasidist, Lev Yitzhak of Berditchev,has declared: "When one
attains the level of .... gazing at ayin, one's intellectis annihilated ....
Afterwards, when one returns to the intellect, it is filled with emanation."
(Matt 1990, pp. 139-140) (Note 1).
6. Compassion directly related to religious views and experiences
Compassion and care for the welfare of other people are essential in Jewish
mysticism (as in all Jewish tradition) and is directly related to the
religious views and experiences.
Steinsaltz (1980) writes, that the soul of man is a part of the Divine (p.
51) and that any injury to another person is like doing an injury to the
divine image in oneself (p. 169). A deeply entrenched phrase in the
tradition is gemilut hassadim, the granting of kindnesses which denotes a
general mitzvah: to do good and help people in every way possible (pp.
169-170). Mitzvot (plural of mitzvah ) are acts beneficial for one's fellow
man and also acts of performing religious ceremonies.
Winther (2001) writes about uniting the desire to become absorbed in God
with concern about the material welfare of associated people (p. 266) and
also states, that the more intense the search for God is in te heart of man,
the more the love for all humans will grow in him (p. 329).
Jacobs (1977, p. 219) writes, that if a man wishes to attain to the stage of
refined prayer, with stripping away of corporeality, he must study the Torah
(the five books of Moses) and carry out good deeds.
The school of German hasidism respected the "heavenly law" which was
particularly about social relations and demanded altruism. In the state of
true fear and love of God a flood of joy enters the soul and sweeps away
every trace of mundane and egoistical feeling (Scholem 1955, pp. 94-95;
Werblowsky 1971, p. 35).
In the 20th century Kook (Bokser 1978) wrote: "Whoever contemplates divine
ideas in their purity cannot hate or be disdainful of any creature or any
talent in the world, for through each does the Creator reveal Himself" (p.
8), and he emphasized a love for all people and a love for all nations,
expressing itself in a desire for their spiritual and material advancement
(p. 136). Kook also extended his concerns to animals (pp. 8, 22-23).
7. Reincarnation and its termination by perfection of the soul
Certain schools of Jewish mysticism, particularly the lurianic and hasidic
schools, believe in reincarnation. Each soul has a task in tikkun, the
restoration of the world, and in its own perfection or spiritual
restoration. As long as the task is not fulfilled the soul remains subject
to the law of reincarnation. Rebirth of the soul in another body is not only
a retribution, but also a chance of fulfilling its task, which was not given
the soul before, a continuing process of perfection. The soul that has
fulfilled its task can wait till after death for the perfection of the world
as a whole; it can also return to help another soul to fulfil its task and
so escape further reincarnation (Halevi 1979, pp. 29-30 and 1986, chapter 7;
Scholem 1991, chapter 5; Steinsaltz 1980, pp. 63-65; Werblowsky 1971, p. 41;
Winther 1986, pp. 71, 98-99).
8. Eating rules distinguish between levels of living things
Steinsaltz (1980, pp. 163-165) writes about the Jewish rules of eating, that
food is a matter of levels of essence, graduating in quality of being from
the level of matter to that of a living thing, plants. animals and special
kinds of animals, with a proportionately increasing number of restrictions
in the way each type of food is prepared and eaten.
With respect to vegetables the only restrictions relate to that which grows
in the Land of Israel . The holiness of the land gives things a higher level
of being and sensitivity to holiness. All that grows outside the Holy Land
is considered edible.
With respect to animal meat there are several categories of prohibition.
Most fish with fins and scales are permitted, and there is no special
preparation needed for eating fish. Of fowl there is a certain list of birds
that one may eat; but they have to be slaughtered in a special way, with the
recitation of certain prayers and with the least possible amount of pain and
suffering. Even more severe are the rules concerning the eating of the
higher animals. The slaughtering process and the preparation before cooking
are described with exactitude. More about Jewish eating rules, see Wikipedia
In the 20th century Kook has maintained that love is to extend to animals,
precluding our eating of them (Bokser 1978, pp. 22-23, 249). For a more
extensive discussion of Jewish vegetarian views, see Anonymous (2006).
Comparable Traits in Buddhism and in Other Indian Religion-Philosophy.
The subsections are here numbered in
parallel with the previous section.
1. Shuunyataa, emptiness,
Shuunyataa is fundamental in the Buddhist world view, particulatly in
Mahayana Buddhism as taught by Nagarjuna.
Shuunyataa is not a thing or a concept as
conventionally understood. This Sanskrit term is translated into English as
emptiness, voidness, nothingnes, or openness. This means that shuunyataa is
empty of concepts (mental fabrications) and without boundary (infinite), the
open dimension of being (Dechene 2004; Hayward 1987,
pp. 202-205, 262; Lindtner 1982, pp. 262, 275-277 and 1997 a, 2003; Wallace
1996, pp. 149-150, 159-160).
2. Shuunyataa is also fullness
In Buddhism shuunyataa is not seen as emptiness only, but as transcending
and embracing both emptiness and fullness. Its fullness is wondrous Being
and also what is, free from concepts and perticulars., the totality of
things as they really are, and the potentiality to give rise to all
phenomena as subject and object arise interdependently. Emptiness is seen as
a mark or characteristic of every phenomenon, and as the ground of all
(Austin 2001, pp. 570-572; Epstein1992, entry, emptiness; Griffith 1990,
section 3; Hayward 1987, pp. 203-225).
To the western mind it may appear paradoxical that
shuunyataa can denote both emptiness and
fullness, because it contrasts with traditional western logic, saying that a
thing can be either A or not-A. But
shuunyataa is not seen as a thing, and it conforms with traditional Indian
logic, both Buddhist and pre-Buddhist. This logic comprises also the two
possibilities: both A and not-A; neither A or not-A (Bagchi 2002).
Perhaps the combination of emptiness and fullnes can best be illustrated to
the western mind by means of reports of direct experience of the
combination. An atheistic western scientist and materialist writes:
At this point I merged with the light, and everything, including myself,
became one unified whole. There was no separation between myself and the
rest of the universe. In fact to say that there was a universe, a self, or
any "thing" would be misleading - it would be an equally correct description
to say that there was "nothing" as to say that there was "everything."
(Smith and Tart 1998, p. 100).
The western author Merell-Wolff (1973, pp. 36-39) has given a similar
description. He experienced voidness, darkness, and silence, but realized
them as utter, though ineffable, fullness in the sense of substantiality,
light in the sense of illumination, and sound in the sense of pure formless
meaning and value.
The words shuunya and shuunyataa
have a long history in Indian culture and thought. In mathematics
shuunya denotes zero, and in astronomy a
universe, an infinite space in which nothingness can flower into entities,
into living beings, and into interconnections among entities and among
living beings. In pre-Buddhist philosophical and mystical traditions
shuunya denotes Brahman, God on one side
and void or abscence of all phenomena, both material and abstract on the
other. Shuunyataa occupies a central
position in the Indian mystical tradition, even aside from its prominent
role in Buddhist philosophy. It is often crudely translated as emptiness,
but the term is complex in meaning and can also be interpreted as the
quality possessed by infinite space; a common meaning is the sense of
profound emptiness that a bereaved person feels upon the loss of a near one
(Bagchi in press; Sharma 1996, pp. 2-3 and 188).
Root (2004, note 6) thinks, that, in agreement with Advaita (pre-Buddhist,
Hinduist), the Mahayana (Buddhist) notion of emptiness is simply another way
of indicating the sole reality of consciousness, the deep realization of
which leads to enlightenment.
Sharma (1996) compares four main systems of spiritual non-dualism or
absolutism in Indian religion-philosophy. He reports both differences and
similarities and writes, that the Upanisadic seers and Buddha both believe
that the Absolute is at once transcendent to thought and immanent in
phenomena. Lindtner (1997, p. 112) thinks, that Brahman, atman, dharma,
Buddha, and nirvana were originally more or less synonymous terms.
According to Advaita Vedanta (a Hindu philosophy) only the innermost part of
you (atman ) is aware or conscious. It is the part of you that is really
you. Atman is believed to be the same as the underlying absolute reality of
the whole universe, which is called Brahman (Anonymous 1999; Anonymous 2005;
Sharma 1996, pp. 185-188).
3. No separate or inherent existence
The conventional belief in separate things, concepts and persons having
inherent existence is in Buddhism regarded as false conception, in conflict
with the absolute truth of
shuunyataa. This also applies to the I or self. The world is seen as a vast,
undivided, causal web of interdependent and interconnected phenomena (Bruun,
Lindtner and Boile Nielsen 1992, pp. 91-93; Epstein 1992, entry, no self;
Hayward 1987, pp. 49-53, 202-208, 217; Lindtner 1982, pp. 19, 272-275 and
1997 a, pp. 94-119; Miller 1996; Wallace 1996, pp. 149-160).
In a personal conversation Tetsunort Koizumi, professor at the Buddhist
university, Ryukoku in Japan stated, that he found Buddhism has much in
common with modern systems science. Macy (1991, see i.a. p. xii) has stated
the same view in book form. Modern systems science emphasizes the importance
of interconnected, organic systems in both the natural and the humanistic
4. Reconciliations of conventional beliefs and action with ultimate truth (shuunyataa)
In the fourth century the Buddhist theorist Asanga introduced "dependent
truth" as a bridge between the ultimate truth and the conventional beliefs,
thus elaborating Nagarjuna's doctrine of two truths, a definite (shuunyataa
) and a provisional. In the dependent truth the world and the mind are seen
as an ever-changing web of interdependent and impermanent phenomena. This
also means non-duality of mind and reality, and a rejection of metaphysical
realism, materialism as in idealist philosophy (Wallace 2001, pp. 222-223)
(Note 2). When inherent existence is seen as a false imputation to things,
and reality is experienced directly, the dependent truth is not really
different from absolute truth, shuunyataa (Hayward 1987, pp. 209-225;
Lindtner 1982, pp. 275-277 and 2003, pp. 3-15; Wallace 1996, pp. 149-150,
Hayward (1987. p. 210) writes: "When perceptions and thoughts, electrons,
emotions, and trees manifest out of emptiness, their nature continues to be
The Japanese Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki said, that enlightenment was like
everyday consciousness but two inches above the ground (quoted in Root,
Suzanne Segal (1996) has written an elaborate, book size report about her
experience of permanent emptiness/fullness compatible with normal
functioning, practical and social. She writes, that sexuality still
functions, but without the self-referencing aspects of that function. When
lovemaking occurs, there is no one making love to no one (no "I" or "other"
is experienced, separate or merged). Sex has no deeper meaning that makes it
anything but what it is at the moment (p. 143). Segal's experience differs
from the the dualistic mystical state experienced and described by Forman
(see subsection 7 below).
Various other examples of egolessness are quoted by Randrup (2005, section,
egoless experience). The experience of Austin is particularly relevant here:
" .... the purely optical aspects of the scene are no different from the way
they were a split second before.. The pale-gray sky, no bluer; the light, no
brighter; the detail, no finer grained. But there is no viewer. The scene is
utterly empty, stripped of every last extension of an I - Me - Mine."
Austin's experience did not become permanent, it lasted only a few seconds,
after which the experience of I gradually returned (Austin 2000).
Dechene (2004) writes about the two truths : ultimate truth (shuunyataa )
and the relative, practical, everyday truth, which he designates as
He thinks, that we must work out our lives in this illusory truth, we must
lead our lives, as if the unreal world is real. To a western and scientific
mind this would indicate, that the everyday world is real. The important
difference between these two views may be related to our life styles. To a
western engineer or consumer the world with all its particulars is the most
important and therefore the real, to a person much occupied by meditation
and experience of emptiness, nirvana, or closeness to God these experiences
are the most important and real.
The idea of fundamental impermanence may be seen as contrasting with the
belief of modern science in permanent structures (atoms, electrons etc.) and
in permanent laws of nature. We shall make a brief commentary to this by
referring to the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraklit who also believed in
impermanence. It is said, Heraklit postulated, that the same man cannot
bathe twice in the same river. We find this is true, if all features of the
event are considered, including the emotional state of the man, the exact
water flow of the river etc. But science extracts from this totality certain
features, which are repeatable, such as the DNA-profile of the man. Science
has in this way been able to make precise predictions of some events such as
moon eclipses, while other predictions are less accurate, for example the
weather forecast (Wiin Nielsen 1987). Although science believes, that the
development of the weather is fully determined by permanent natural laws,
predictions still suffer from some imprecision, because of the complexity
involved, and in some countries, like Denmark the weather is ever-changing.
The same goes for predictions and impermanence of human behaviour.
5. Experience of emptiness
In the Buddhist literature it is often stated, that shuunyataa can be
experienced directly. Austin (2001, pp. 570-572) thinks, that you can't
grasp emptiness from the outside, it must be experienced, not thought about.
And D. T. Suzuki (quoted in Forman 1999, p. 126) states likewise, that
shuunyataa is to be experienced and not conceptualized.
This spiritual experience is not seen as merely empty (a mere blank). It is
without conceptual discrimination, but is often described as having the
qualities of bliss, joy, clarity (luminosity, immense brillance), and
complete purity, fully open without boundary, or like a boundless space
suffused with transparent light (Austin 2001. pp. 570-572; Hayward 1987, pp.
211-217, 257-264; Lindtner 1998, p. 47; Wallace 1996, pp. 147-159, 187 and
2001, pp. 212-213, 226-228).
Chen-Chi (1960, pp. 162-163) writes about the elevated state samadhi, known
in both Hinduism and Buddhism: "blissfulness, illumination, and "thoughtlessness"are
the three basic experiences of samadhi." By "thoughtlessness" is meant a
stabilized illuminated awareness devoid of any thought-in-motion. Human
thought is awareness in motion, while samadhi is awareness at rest.
In psychiatry the word nothingness (in French le vide, le néant) is used to
designate a completely different state of mind, which comes closer to a mere
blank, The patients in this state feel, that they miss or lack something,
and they often feel depressed, lonely, and bored; life has little value,
nothing has importance (Baruk 1959, pp. 1389-1394; Janet 1903, pp, 375-377;
6. Compassion inseparable from shuunyataa
In shuunyataa there is no separate or independent I or self and therefore no
real difference between I and other, who is none other than oneself. Indeed
this collective view extends beyond humans to all sentient or living beings.
And it is believed, that loving kindness, maitri, and compassion as the
corresponding action arise directly from this collective view. Compassion is
seen as inseparable from shuunyataa (Austin 2001. pp. 650-653; Bruun,
Lindtner and Boile Nielsen 1992, pp. 90-91; Chen-Chi 1960, p. 159; Epstein
1992, entry, compassion; Hayward 1987, chapter 22 and p, 264; Lindtner 1998,
pp. 10-12; Wallace 1996, chapter 25, p. 185 and 2001, pp. 209-229).
7. Reincarnation and its termination by attaining the state of nirvana in
Buddhists believe in reincarnation. According to Tibetan Buddhist
contemplatives there is an unbroken continuum of consciousness throughout
life, the death process, an intermediate state, and on to the next life. By
realizing the truth of the Buddha's teaching, especially the Four Noble
Truths and attaining the state of nirvana one can bring the process of
rebirth to an end (Bruun, Lindtner and Boile Nielsen 1992, pp. 59-61; Hsu
1990, pp. 89-90; Lindtner 1997, p. 109; McDermott 2005; Wallace 1986, pp.
Nirvana is described in various ways. Hayward (1987, p. 52) writes, that in
the dharma analysis neither "I" nor "things" are found among the elementary
constituents of experience, and thus this analysis leads to the realization
of egolessness and impermanence and thence to the underlying openness of
mind that is nirvana. Epstein (1992, entry, nirvana) mentions four qualities
of nirvana; Permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. Bhikshu (2005) thinks,
that nirvana is the end of suffering, while enlightenment is the wisdom of
emptiness. McDermott (2005) contends, that nirvana is an enlightened state
in which the fires of greed, hatred and ignorance have been quenched. It is
a state of consciousness beyond definition.
After attaining nirvana the enlightened individual may continue to live.
Nagarjuna wrote; "This is nirvana in this very life - one's task is
accomplished"(Lindtner 1997 a, p. 77, verse 11). A state of final nirvana is
attained at the moment of death (Epstein 1992, entry, nirvana: Lindtner
1997, p. 132; McDermott 2004).
An individual who has attained perfect enlightenment may delay entry into
final nirvana in order to help others. (Anonymous 2004, sections Nirvana and
Mahayana; McDermott 2004; Sharma 1996, p. 37). It is told about master Xu
Yun, that he was able to postpone his entrance into final nirvana .... until
he had fulfilled his sacred obligation to use his influence to protect all
clergymen in China. He entered final nirvana,. when he died in 1959 at the
age of 101 (Shakya 1996, end of preface )
Forman (1999, part 3) writes about "the dualistic mystical state" in which
an inner silence or emptiness is combied with perceptions, thoughts, and
practical life, "cutting carrots". Forman gives a comprehensive description
of this state including a detailed autobiographical account. He thinks, that
this state is comparable with the Buddhist nirvana in this life (p. 133) and
we agree with this.
8. Eating rules distinguish between animals and plants
Based on the idea of reincarnation including both humans and animals
Buddhism is against eating of animals, but not against eating of rice,
because plants, unlike animals are not generally considered sentient
(Epstein 1992, entries, liberating living beings and living beings; Ohlsson
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