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"Nada vs sunyata." The Notion of Emptiness in John of the Cross and in Zen Buddhism


Abstract: It is not seldom that some authors try to compare the doctrine of Zen Buddhism with the doc­trine of Saint John of the Cross with the intention of finding some parallels. The most striking similarity seems to be the term “emptiness” (nada – John of the Cross and sunyata – Zen Buddhism). The difficulty of the comparison stems from the fact that in both cases this term has an experiential meaning, i.e. it de­scribes subjective feelings one has while following the spiritual path. Therefore, the intent of the paper is to capture the metaphysical and epistemological meaning of this term in order to facilitate the com­parison. This effort has led to the conclusion that in both doctrines the essentially different meaning of emptiness reflects their different understanding of the ultimate reality. Consequently, meditational techniques which both forms of spirituality adopted to achieve the ultimate reality exclude each other, and the semantic proximity of Zen Buddhism and John of the Cross is misleading.
Keywords: emptiness / John / ultimate / Zen Buddhism / spiritual / nada / doctrines / sunyata

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