Adventures in Emptiness | Scholars’ Retreat

2 – 9 Aug | led by Dhivan and Śraddhāpa

The teaching of emptiness (śūnyatā) goes to the heart of Buddhism, as both a doctrine about the nature of reality and as a profound theme for meditation.

But emptiness seems to mean different things at different stages in the development of Buddhist teaching and doctrine.

In this study retreat, Dhivan and Śraddhāpa will explain and compare some of these presentations on emptiness. We will study the emptiness discourses from the early Buddhist tradition, which are concerned with the practical realisation of the empty nature of experience as a meditative realisation, and more generally the teaching that the world of experience is ‘empty’ (śūnya) of a self (ātman) and what belongs to a self. Then we will turn to some of the Perfection of Wisdom literature, in which a distinctive Mahāyāna teaching of emptiness begins to appear. Finally, we will study emptiness in the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy, in which the concept of emptiness was presented in systematic ways, although still in relation to meditation.

There will be study and discussion of key texts on emptiness from the Buddhist tradition, such as the Cūlasuññatā Sutta, from the Pāli discourse collection, alongside its Chinese and Tibetan parallels, and the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāparamitā, or ‘Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines’, as well as excerpts from Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu and other Mahāyāna thinkers.

The retreat will also involve meditations on emptiness based on these ideas, as well as some devotional activity.

This retreat is for Order members and Mitras with an interest in the development of Buddhist thought, and keen to explore the relationship of doctrine to meditation.