The nature of emptiness and Buddhist ethics

  • Kenneth K. Inada
Keywords: dynamic nonself, emptiness, ethics, middle way, relational origination


Buddhist ethics can be compelling by the sheer force of its principal doctrines. It focuses on the nature of the elusive but dynamic nonself (anatman) doctrine and brings together such concepts as the middle way (madhyama-pratipad), relational origination (pratitya-samutpada) and the nature of emptiness (sunyata). But more basic to the understanding of these concepts is the need to practice the well known Eightfold Noble Path that finally caps in meditative discipline (samadhi) that breaks open into the perception of things under the aegis of emptiness. The result is a rare vision, an insight (prajna) and compassion (karuna) for all living and nonliving creatures. The dynamic nonself is important in that it exhibits the contemporary significance of the content of a doctrine expounded by the historical Buddha. Without this doctrine, it would not be possible to develop Buddhist ethics. It compels us to perceive our contacts, association and actions in a group or social setting in a broader, deeper and flexible ways. The nature of emptiness allows this perception. More specifically, the awareness of others in mutually binding and dynamic ways give rise to a unique form of moral sense. It binds people together in ways that are gainful and harmonious, thus perpetuating and sustaining a healthy and productive society.


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How to Cite
Inada KK. The nature of emptiness and Buddhist ethics. FV [Internet]. 2016Jan.17 [cited 2020Jul.7];22(3). Available from: