Recently, my son wrote a wonderful series on Buddhism. I’m a massive fan of history-based spiritual fiction. Therefore, I gulped it up with joy. In the final part of that series (which just got featured, thanks to Medha), he had discussed Shunyata or Emptiness.
Over there, I had commented that ‘I don’t get the emptiness part’. Akshay Bhai, who has showered truckloads of love on me, shot me an email asking me to share my views on this topic. So, here comes this post.
Buddhist philosophies talk about Shunyata, and Advaita perspectives speak of Brahman. The Tantrik scriptures describe the Divine Energy. What are these? How are they different? Allow me to explain these as best as I can in words.
Shunyata in Buddhism
In many Buddhist ideologies, Shunyata or Emptiness is the final state of realization. It is a state beyond the mind where we feel nothing. Reaching the state of Shunyata is known as Nirvana.
In other words, Shunyata is a teaching of negation. Thoughts are empty. And so are all preceptions and emotions, including love and compassion. Everything exists, but you experience nothing. That is, there’s no Divine per se. We feel a kind of Pristine Awareness at the attainment of Nirvana.
Brahman in Advaita
The concept of Shunya appears in some Advaitic outlooks as well. Though, this idea of Shunya is not entirely the same as Shunyata in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, the final state itself is emptiness. In Advaitic philosophies, only the mind – thoughts and emotions – is Shunya or empty. When we go beyond our mind, we experience the Brahman, the Divine Awareness or the Formless Divine.
Again, Brahman is not the same as Shunyata. Shunyata is an atheistic view where we experience Pristine Awareness and feel that this creation is empty. In other words, there’s no God at all. On the other hand, Brahman is a view where we experience Pristine Awareness and feel the presence of the Formless Divine.
Divine Energy in Tantra
The endpoint in Tantrik scriptures is very different. Here, it is Divine Energy. Some may call that energy Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi. Other ideologies like Tibetan Buddhism may refer to it in different terms.
Unlike the Buddhist Shunyata or Advaita’s Shunya, many Tantrik ideologies don’t consider our thoughts and feelings empty. In Tantra, thoughts and emotions are energies that can be channelized. Even in the final state, we experience this creation as an energy that feels Divine.
Interestingly, the Tantrik view matches the findings of quantum physics – that everything in this universe is a play of energies. Science does not view that energy as God, but Tantra considers it Divine.
Sri Vidya Tantra
There are three energy states mentioned in many Tantrik scriptures. At first, we experience a Divine Light and a Divine Sound. Then, we see an intermediate state where everything starts to merge into one. Finally, we grasp this entire creation as one single Divine Energy. That final energy is referred to as Sri Devi in Sri Vidya Tantra.
Sri Lalita Sahasranamam speaks of these three energy states. The first state where we feel Divine Light and Divine Sound separately is Sri Shiva. The second stage is Shiva-Shakti-Ikya-Rupini, where the Divine Sound unites with the Divine Light. In the final state, we experience everything as a single Divine Energy, known as Lalita Ambika.
Now, we can get to why I said I don’t understand Shunyata or Emptiness. At any given point in time, we can either feel Divine presence or not. We can’t experience God and no God simultaneously! Currently, there isn’t a moment in my life where I don’t feel the Divine presence. Hence, I can never feel Shunyata or Emptiness.
The Divine I feel is Energy. To be specific, my experience is as described in Sri Vidya Tantra. When I was at Sri Badrika Ashram, even the idol of Sri Hari appeared only as Sri Devi to me. Consequently, I can’t say that I merely experience Brahman or Divine Awareness. For me, everything is Divine Energy, and Sri Devi is my Truth.
In conclusion, when we go beyond the mind, we may experience Shunyata, Brahman, or Divine Energy. The one common requirement to experience any of these is to develop Pristine Awareness of the mind. Only then can we experientially Discover our Truth. To get there, we’ve to purify the mind and build one-pointed concentration. In a nutshell, that’s all there is to spirituality!