The world is a boundless interweaving of mutual dependencies.
Once, Buddha was talking with one of his disciples named Shariputra. Standing in front of him, the Buddha raised a clay bowl with water and asked Shariputra:
“Is this bowl full or empty?”
“Complete, Enlightened,” the student answered.
“This is not entirely true,” Buddha shook his head. “She is indeed full of water, but empty of much more.” From farmers, buffaloes, villages and so on. Do you agree with me, Shariputra?
“Yes,” he nodded.
Then the Buddha poured water and raised the cup again, asking:
- And now? Is the cup full or empty?
“Now it is empty, Enlightened one,” Shariputra replied not so confidently.
“This is not entirely true,” the Buddha said again. Now it is empty not only from buffaloes, farmers and villages, but also from water, this is true. But she is full of air! In addition, it is full of possibilities: now you can pour something into it.
Then the Buddha explained that all things are empty at the same time and full of something. Nothing is just complete or empty.
“On the whole, Shariputra,” he said, the whole world is empty and full. It is full of phenomena, worlds, people and other things, but empty of independent existence. Nothing exists independently. Everything is conditioned by something, everything consists of something. This bowl is made of clay. But I was inaccurate when I said that it was free of water: for if there had been no water, there would have been no clay. So there is water in this bowl. Moreover, I said that it is empty of farmers, but this is also not so. After all, if there were no farmers, the potters would die of starvation, which means that there would be no clay. So, in this bowl there are also farmers. The same can be said about villages, and about buffalos, and about everything else. The whole world is present in this cup. The world is a boundless interweaving of mutual dependencies. And there is no such thing that would stand apart, would not depend on anything, and would not add up to anything. Therefore, Shariputra, all things are full of other things, and therefore empty of independent existence.