12. Forms of Emptiness in Zen

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Bret W. Davis

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch12

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Davis, B. W. (2013) Forms of Emptiness in Zen, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch12

Author Information

  1. Loyola University Maryland, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • action;
  • emptiness;
  • Mahāyāna Buddhism;
  • meditative consciousness;
  • ultimate reality;
  • Zen


This chapter examines the six forms that the teaching of emptiness takes in Zen. Before doing this, the chapter comments briefly on Zen's relation to the doctrinal sources upon which it critically and creatively draws. The Zen tradition understands itself to be based on Śākyamuni Buddha's profoundest teaching of Mahāyāna Buddhism, which has been passed down not through texts and doctrines but by way of face-to-face acknowledgment of awakening. The six rubrics which the notion of emptiness is used in the Zen tradition are lack of ownbeing, formlessness of ultimate reality, distinctionless state of meditative consciousness, no-mind in the action of non-action, emptiness (or emptying) of emptiness, and emptiness of words. Each of the six rubrics contains a cluster of closely related teachings. Moreover, there are certainly many interconnections, and arguably some tensions, among the rubrics.