What is Emptiness?  

What is emptiness? Being free of attachments is the true state of emptiness. It does not mean being empty of matter. Zen Buddhism has reached the end of its Dharma,[1] however, and has nothing to teach. In this chaotic Dharma-Ending Period,[2] some who study it still stubbornly hold on to its theory of emptiness, acting irrational and absurd, as though they have enlightened to the fundamentals of its philosophy. Its founder, Boddhidharma, himself acknowledged that his Dharma could only be effective for six generations, and that afterwards there would be nothing to pass down. Why not awaken to it? If one says that everything is empty, with no Fa, no Buddha, no image, no self, and no existence, what thing is Boddhidharma? If there is no Dharma, what thing is Zen Buddhism’s theory of emptiness? If there is no Buddha, no image, who is Sakyamuni?[3] If there is no name, no image, no self, no existence, and everything is empty, why do you bother to eat and drink? Why do you wear clothes? What if your eyes were dug out? What are your seven emotions and six desires of an everyday person attached to? Actually, what a Tathagata means by “emptiness” is being free from every ordinary human attachment. Non-omission is the true essence of emptiness. To begin with, the universe exists because of matter and is composed of and remains as matter. How could it be empty? A teaching that is not imparted by a Tathagata is bound to not last long and the teachings will die out—the teaching of an Arhat is not Buddha Fa. Enlighten to it! Enlighten to it!

Li Hongzhi

September 28, 1995

[1] Dharma—this term is the conventional translation for the Chinese word “Fa” in the context of Buddhism.

[2] Dharma-Ending Period—according to Buddha Sakyamuni, the Dharma-Ending Period was to begin five hundred years after his death, at which point his Dharma would no longer be able to save people.

[3] Sakyamuni—Buddha Sakyamuni, or “the Buddha,” Siddhartha Gautama. Popularly known as the founder of Buddhism, he is said to have lived in ancient India around the 5th century B.C.