Why the Doctrine of No-Self Is Not Nihilistic: Professor Roger Jackson explains how Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna reconciles the concepts of no-self and reincarnation

During the current retreat at Shambhala about “The Bardo of Becoming” a question was asked about what is the glue that holds everything together? The above article is simple enough for me to understand. Consider the following passages:

From the ultimate standpoint, there is no substantially existent causation or time or motion, or Buddha for that matter. But, in fact, conventionally all these things are reasonable and exist. And in fact, in one of the great jujitsu moves in Indian philosophical history, he says it’s not only that emptiness does not annihilate rebirth and the path and Buddhahood and arhatship. It’s that if things were not empty, none of this could actually be the case because the world is a changing, shifting, impermanent world. Dependent arising is simply the term that describes that, and things cannot dependently arise if they are not empty, because the opposite of being empty is being permanent, independent, and partless. It’s a brilliant move.

I would say that emptiness does, as Nagarjuna brilliantly argues, establish the validity of the conventional world, but what the conventional world actually consists of—whether there’s rebirth or not, whether the sky is blue, whether there’s Mount Meru—all these are matters for conventional philosophical debate.


Dependent co-arising tells us that there is no thing. That’s not nothing. :grinning:

Here’s another perspective on emptiness. Emptiness as containing…stuff… is a hard one for us to grasp because the very word implies, well, being empty. But, just as silence is always there until there is sound, emptiness is always there even as it is being constantly filled.

James Low has a wonderful image that he uses to describe the emptiness of rigpa mind. Mind, he says, is like a cornucopia…that fabled horn of plenty. Thoughts constantly appear within it even as they are constantly tumbling out. Emptiness is always full…and empty.


Full of luminosity . . . .