Buddhism and Nihilism
by Harold Stewart
The Buddhist technical term Shunyata, like its Taoist counterpart Non-Being, has long given rise to misunderstanding among Westerners, who erroneously construe such negative words to mean nothingness, the absence, deprivation, or extinction of Being. This produces a righteous repugnance to what is wrongly believed to be a nihilist doctrine, despite the Buddha's express warning to the contrary, for he condemned both extremes of absolutism and nihilism as contrary to his Middle Way. Emptiness, the Void, Non-Being are negative only in verbal form, and since they negate all negations actually affirm the most positive though ineffable Reality. One should constantly be on guard, therefore, against misinterpreting Shunyata either as the emptiness of absence or the emptiness of annihilation. It should be envisaged not as mere vacuity but as the Emptiness of Emptiness, that is to say the non-conceptual reinstatement of every minute particular in its permanent actuality. So this Void is simultaneously a Plenum. But of what, it may reasonably be asked, can a Void be full? The only answer is: of infinite possibilities, manifest and unmanifest, in a coincidentia oppositorum.