Book cover of Appearing and Empty

Appearing and Empty

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion | Volume 9

In this third and final volume on emptiness, the authors impart the Prasangika view of the ultimate nature of reality – selflessness of both persons and phenomena – and provide the means to eliminate our own and others’ duhkha.

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About the book

This final volume on emptiness, Appearing and Empty, reveals the Prasangikas’ view of the ultimate nature of reality so that we will gain the correct view of emptiness and the means to eliminate our own and others’ duhkha.

His Holiness and Venerable Thubten Chodron take us through the Sautrantika, Yogacara, and Svatantrika views on the ultimate nature of reality and the Prasangikas’ thorough responses to these, so that we gain the correct view of emptiness—the selflessness of both persons and phenomena. This view entails negating inherent existence while also being able to establish conventional existence: emptiness does not mean nothingness. We then learn how to meditate on the correct view by cultivating pristine wisdom that is the union of serenity and insight as taught in the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan traditions. Such meditation, when combined with the altruistic intention of bodhicitta, leads to the complete eradication of all defilements that obscure our minds. This volume also introduces us to the tathagatagarbha—the buddha essence—and how it is understood in both Tibet and China. Is it permanent? Does everyone have it? In addition, the discussion of sudden and gradual awakening in Zen (Chan) Buddhism and in Tibetan Buddhism is fascinating.


  • The Two Truths
  • Veiled Truths
  • Ultimate Truths
  • What Exists and the Reliable Cognizers That Know It
  • The World of Dependent, Imputed Appearances
  • Mind and Its Objects in the Yogācāra System
  • Nature, Natureless, and Selflessness in Yogācāra
  • The Two Madhyamaka Schools
  • Prāsaṅgikas’ Response to Svātantrikas
  • Unique Explanations of the Prāsaṅgikas
  • Insight
  • Insight in Chinese Buddhism and the Pali Tradition
  • The Diversity of Chinese Buddhism Schools
  • Yogācāra and Tathāgatagarbha in China
  • Madhyamaka in China
  • Buddhist Renewal

Overview of contents

Venerable Chodron reads an excerpt

Media coverage


This extraordinary book is a treasury of wisdom from two great teachers.

— Roshi Joan Halifax, abbot, Upaya Zen Center

Incisive, illuminating, and highly readable, “Appearing and Empty” is a welcome addition to the bookshelves of followers of the Dalai Lama and students of Buddhism everywhere.

— Roger R. Jackson, John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies and Religion, emeritus, Carleton College

I highly recommend “Appearing and Empty” to anyone who wishes to gain in-depth insight into Lama Tsongkhapa’s understanding of the union of appearance and emptiness.

— Geshe Kalsang Damdul, former director of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics

Providing explanations from the point of view of various Tibetan Buddhist tenet systems and incorporating commentaries from the Pali and Chinese traditions, this book is a must-read for those eager to comprehend the profound meaning of the two truths.

— Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery

About the series

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion is a special multi-volume series in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares the Buddha’s teachings on the complete path to full awakening that he himself has practiced his entire life. The topics are arranged especially for people not born in a Buddhist culture and are peppered with the Dalai Lama’s own unique outlook. Coauthored by one of his long-standing Western disciples, the American nun Thubten Chodron, each book can be enjoyed on its own or read as the logical next step in the series.