As you know, Wholeness underlies all things. It encompasses all that exists yet is beyond anything that can be termed to exist – it is ineffable but also deeply paradoxical as we are in and of the Whole yet experience ourselves as separate from it. That is why deep down we feel so isolated and alone as though we are cast adrift within this vast oceanic Oneness.

Wholeness lies at the very core of our being and fundamental spiritual beliefs such as the soul, spirit, Self, God, Godliness and Oneness stem from it. However, these are concepts created by us so that we can find ourselves. We go in search of Wholeness to fill the empty hole deep inside us but more often than not we fill it with spiritual identities rather than realize our authentic identityless nature – a crucial point that many of us fail to fully appreciate.

This is where the ancient wisdom of emptiness comes in as it challenges these beliefs by challenging us to step into the non-conceptual experience of ourselves, free not only of our misidentifications with the ego but free also of our identifications with the soul, spirit, Self, God, Oneness, Wholeness … and, of course, even emptiness.

This may sound strange at first because it challenges many of our deeply held beliefs about Wholeness. Ironically, however, these beliefs can stand in the way of our realizing our true nature. These shortcomings are rarely recognized let alone addressed, yet without doing so what becomes of the search for Wholeness?

Emptiness points to an understanding of experiential unity that actually loses its potency if equated with God, Oneness or Wholeness (as they are usually understood) because it challenges the belief, or better yet, our identification, with them by breaking through the unconscious egoism of spiritual materialism. For example, look at the following two quotes:

All religions emanate from the same Source – Madame Blavatsky

God has no religion – Mahatma Gandhi

The first points to the unity of all religions because they all come from the same Source, and thus, ultimately, are all One. The second drops the idea of religion altogether, let alone the Oneness of them, since authentic spirituality never even entertains the idea of religiosity.

In this sense, we can say that Oneness in constructionist whereas emptiness is deconstructionist; Oneness negates the idea of division by pointing to a greater underlying unity whereas emptiness negates the joint idea of division-unity by negating the object of division-unity. Get it? … It is very subtle and you may have to chew over it for a while.

Inevitably, people always try to unite the two paradigms into a greater Oneness, but this misses the point of emptiness – and the greater non-conceptual reality that both Oneness and emptiness point to – and this is why it is often seen as a completely different paradigm than Oneness, although it is better to understand it as a paradigm shift.

Let me explain, the fundamental difference between Oneness and emptiness points to how emptiness was devised to remedy certain problems with Oneness, particularly absolutist interpretations of it that reject the reality of the dualistic world. When someone becomes identified with Oneness there is a greater possibility that he or she will mistake the bliss of experiential Oneness and formless awareness for liberation, but in actuality, become trapped in a gilded cage of blissful escapism.

This is because they are subconsciously seeking to preserve their limited sense of self through the greater identity of the Self or God rather than drop the attachment to self that is the source of the sense of separation in the first place. Therefore, identifying ourselves with God, Oneness, Wholeness …and emptiness... actually draws us away from our true nature, and in so doing, stands in the way of genuine liberation.

As Linji said, “If you want to be free, get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it, you become further from it; when you seek it, you turn away from it all the more.”

Author's Bio: 

Mark Kelly has spent several years on a spiritual odyssey traveling the world learning from traditional wisdom keepers and modern spiritual innovators. He is dedicated to bringing the best of the ancient wisdom traditions to the modern world because the survival of both depends upon them coming together in this time of great change. He is now writing and speaking about what he has learned, in particular about emptiness and the Middle Way.