www.TheLogician.net © Avi Sion - all rights reserved
© Avi Sion
All rights reserved
© Avi Sion, 2003. All rights reserved.
Appendix 2: Feelings of Emptiness
There is another sense of the term “emptiness” to consider, one not
unrelated to the senses previously discussed. We all have some experience of emotional
One of the most interesting and impressive contributions to psychology by
Buddhism, in my view, is its emphasis on the vague enervations we
commonly feel, such as discomfort, restlessness or doubt, as important motives
of human action. Something seems to be wanting, missing, urging us to do
something about it.
negative emotions, which I label feelings of emptiness, are a cause or
expression of samsaric states of mind.
This pejorative sense of “emptiness” is not to be confused with the contrary
“emptiness” identified with nirvana.
However, they may be related, in that
the emotions in question may be essentially a sort of vertigo upon glimpsing
However, they may be related, in that the emotions in question may be essentially a sort of vertigo upon glimpsing the void.
Most people often feel this “hole” inside themselves, an unpleasant
inner vacuity or hunger, and pass much of their time desperately trying to shake it off,
frantically looking for palliatives. At worst, they may feel like “a
non-entity”, devoid of personal identity. Different people (or a person at
different times) may respond to this lack of identity, or moments of boredom,
impatience, dissatisfaction or uncertainty, in different ways. (Other factors
come into play, which determine just which way.)
As this partial and disorderly catalogue shows, everything we consider stupidity or sin, all the ills of our psyche and society, or most or many, could be attributed to this vague, often “subconsciously” experienced, negative emotion of emptiness and our urge to “cure” it however we can. We stir up desires, antipathies or anxieties, compulsions, obsessions or depression, in a bid to comprehend and smother this suffering of felt emptiness. We furnish our time with thoughts like: “I think I am falling in love” or “this guy really bugs me” or “what am I going to do about this or that?” or “I have to do (or not to do) so and so”. It is all indeed “much ado about nothing”.
If we generalize from many such momentary feelings, we may come to the
conclusion that “life has no meaning”. That, to quote William Shakespeare:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
Of course, we can and often do also react more positively, and give our
life more constructive meaning. I believe this becomes possible once we are
able to recognize this internal vacuum when we feel it, and make sure we do
not react to it in any of the negative ways we unconsciously tend to react. Once
we understand that this feeling of emptiness cannot be overcome by such foolish
means, we can begin to look for ways to enjoy life, through personal growth,
healthy activities, helping others, learning, creativity, productiveness, and so
Regular meditation is a good remedy. Sitting quietly for long periods
daily makes it easier to become and remain aware of emotional emptiness when it
appears. Putting such recurring bad feelings into perspective gradually frees us
from them. They just seem fleeting, weak and irrelevant. Life then becomes a
celebration of time: we profit from the little time we have in it to make
something nice out of it.
 These emotions are classified as forms of “suffering” (dukkha) and “delusion” (moha). According to Buddhist commentators, instead of floating with natural confidence on the “original ground” of consciousness as it appears, a sort panic occurs giving rise to efforts to establish more concrete foundations. To achieve this end, we resort to sensory, sensual, sentimental or even sensational pursuits.