Chapter 5: The Fragrance of Nothingness
Therefore, O Sariputra,
in emptiness there is no form,
nor feeling, nor perception,
nor impulse, nor consciousness;
no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
no forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables
or objects of mind;
no sight-organ element, and so forth,
until we come to: No mind-consciousness element;
there is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance,
and so forth, until we come to:
There is no decay and death,
no extinction of decay and death.
There is no suffering, no origination,
no stopping, no path.
There is no cognition, no attainment
and no non-attainment.
Nothingness is the fragrance of the beyond. It is the opening of the heart to the transcendental. It is the unfoldment of the one-thousand-petaled lotus. It is man’s destiny. Man is complete only when he has come to this fragrance, when he has come to this absolute nothingness inside his being, when this nothingness has spread all over him, when he is just a pure sky, unclouded.
This nothingness is what Buddha calls nirvana. First we have to understand what this nothingness actually is, because it is not just empty - it is full, it is overflowing. Never for a single moment think that nothingness is a negative state, an absence, no. Nothingness is simply no-thingness. Things disappear, only the ultimate substance remains. Forms disappear, only the formless remains. Definitions disappear, the undefined remains.
So nothingness is not as if there is nothing. It simply means there is no possibility of defining what is there. It is as if you remove all the furniture from your house and put it outside. Somebody comes in and he says, “Now, here is nothing.” He has seen the furniture before; now the furniture is missing and he says, “Here there is no longer anything. Nothing is.” His statement is valid only to a certain extent. In fact, when you remove the furniture, you simply remove obstructions in the space of the house. Now pure space exists, now nothing obstructs. Now there is no cloud roaming in the sky; it is just a sky. It is not just nothing, it is purity. It is not only absence, it is a presence.
Have you ever been in an absolutely empty house? You will find that emptiness as a presence; it is very tangible, you can almost touch it. That’s the beauty of a temple or a church or a mosque - pure nothing, just empty. When you go into a temple, what surrounds you is nothingness. It is empty of everything, but not just empty. In that emptiness something is present - but only present for those who can feel it, who are sensitive enough to feel it, who are aware enough to see it.
Those who can see only things will say, “What is there? Nothing.” Those who can see nothing will say, “All is here, because nothing is here.”
The identity of “yes” and “no” is the secret of nothingness. Let me repeat it; it is very basic to Buddha’s approach: nothingness is not identical with “no,” nothingness is the identity of “yes” and “no,” where polarities are no more polarities, where opposites are no more opposites.