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Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree

The word suññatā has had a checkered history of interpretation and explanation since the Buddha’s time. Now that Buddhist books abound in English, and differing teachings and interpretations are offered as Buddhist, we need to bring the teaching of suññatā into its proper place at the center of Buddhist study and practice. This can only be done if we correctly understand the meaning and importance of suññatā. We hope that this little book will help. Here, we will explore it as it appears in the Pali texts of Theravada Buddhism...

In this book, Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu points out that the “heartwood,” the pith, the essence of the Buddhist teachings is the practice of nonclinging. It is living with a mind void of the feelings of “I” and “mine.” He masterfully shows us how to develop this practice and how to take voidness as our fundamental principle. When we do this, we have a wonderful tool for understanding and making use of every one of the many concepts and skillful means that lie within the Buddhist tradition. This tool also allows us to distinguish those things that are alien to Buddhism. Drawing fluently from material in the Pali Canon, Ajahn Buddhadāsa makes immediate and practical terms and concepts that often seem dauntingly abstract.

The text translated here represents the first time he took suññatā as the exclusive theme of a talk and spoke about it in great detail. At first, there was no controversy. Later, he began to explain suññatā in terms he thought anyone could understand; he began to speak of cit wang, “void mind” (or “free mind”). Many traditionalists, scholars, and advocates of Western-style development took exception. As had happened before, Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu was criticized in the newspapers and reviled from pulpits. “This is Mahayana, this isn’t Buddhism.” In the end, suññatā​ and cit wang became well-known and, in many cases, correctly understood for the first time...


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Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teachings on Voidness by Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu.
Original translation from the Thai by Dhammavicayo. Edited by Santikaro Bhikkhu.
Published by Wisdom Publications, Boston.
(For Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, published by Silkworm, Chiang Mai).