klqv wrote:i've just read dharmapala on the massive dangers of taking voidness literally - as an assertion that things do not exist. i just wanted to check that that's not the case with the selflessness of the person???
"Voidness" should not be confused with "sunyata" which is usually translated as"emptiness" , or with "anatman" which refers to the intrinsic
non-existence of a self.
If you think "I am not really here" that of course doesn't make sense, because otherwise that whole thought wouldn't even occur. So, it's not as though nothing is happening at all. You could think yourself into some dangerous places with that.
It is interesting that you have taken this question up in this particular order, because one of the discrepancies in early Buddhism was that while all agreed that the "self" has no intrinsic reality, some insisted that external phenomena did, and others said no, it does not. You have approached it from the other direction: external emptiness is no problem but what about the big "me"?
However, it is true that nothing can be said to exist
that is a self.
On a relative level, the sensation
of a self is certainly experienced. Ultimately, even that experience isn't really happening.
The mistaken view of 'voidness" is usually referred to as a nihilist view, that nothing exists. The problem that many people encounter is that they think the teachings suggest that a self doesn't exist
. The problem arises then, over the definition of 'exist".
So, I think it is more accurate way of understanding it is to say "there is no finite point from which you can say that a 'self" arises". And what that means is that anyway you look at any notion or concept of a "self" or of "me" you can keep chopping that up as being conditional and depending on other circumstances. There is no finite starting point for a 'self".
For example, who are you? are you your name? are you who your boss thinks you are? Is that really the same person your mother thinks you are? Are you the same person you were when you were born?
If you try to find any finite, continuous link, some permanent "thing" that is "me" or a self, there is no place you can find it. Your body changes constantly, your mind changes constantly. There is only the illusion of actual continuity.
So, if the literal meaning is "I don't exist, I'm not here right now, please leave a message at the beep"
then that is not accurate.
If the literal meaning is. "there is no thing that can be called a self" then that is accurate.