This Discrete Charm of Shunyata (Emptiness) and Zen in the Art of Basketball

  • Stefan Sencerz Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, TX 78412


The concept of shunyata-emptiness plays a central role in Mahayana Buddhism. It is also one of the most difficult concepts to grasp, both by the Westerners and the Easterners (including Buddhists themselves). On the flip side, the game of basketball and the rituals surrounding it are sometimes hard to appreciate by those who are not already the game’s aficionados. Somehow, they tend to miss on the philosophical, spiritual and even mystical aspects of the game (and generally sports).

I argue in this paper that the language and rituals surrounding the game of basketball provide ‘windows’ on what Buddhists call shunyata. Thus, they help us to understand metaphysics and epistemology developed in the context of Mahayana Buddhism (especially Zen Buddhism). In turn, the language and rituals developed within the tradition of Zen help us to understand what sometimes happens on the basketball court.


Key terms:
Mahayana Buddhism, basketball, shunyata-emptiness, samadhi, awakening.

Word count: @13450