This is a follow-up for the episode titled “Understanding the fear of nothingness”. Emptiness is the same nothingness I spoke of, seen from a different perspective. Many fear that after death, they’ll just float around in empty space forever, doomed to infinite boredom. Others already feel a kind of inner emptiness, and they struggle with this feeling a lot. I’ll deal with both of these problems in the same episode, because they’re interconnected.
In both cases, understanding the nature of emptiness is the first step. Before I speak about the personal emotion, let me start with the question of absolute emptiness that Buddha also mentioned. According to him, form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. But what does he mean by that?
Before we go into that, let’s see what emptiness means in itself. We refer to something as empty when it has no content. Furthermore, something can be empty only of something else, so emptiness is a relative term. For example, even when a glass is empty of water, it is still full of air. When a room is empty of furniture, it is full of roominess. Even when something is devoid of everything else, it is full of itself, and only then is it pure.
If we zoom out to outer space, we can say that the universe is mostly empty. Yes, but empty of what? Empty of visible matter. But is it truly and absolutely empty? Science says that ordinary matter constitutes only 5% of the total mass, while dark matter – the one we cannot see – is about 27%. The rest of the universe – almost two third – is an unknown form of energy known as dark energy.
So even empty space is not empty at all. But what about the 5%, the ordinary matter we can see with our very own eyes? Let’s return to the Earth now on our imaginary journey, and start zooming in with a microscope. We will see molecules, then atoms, then subatomic particles, and if we continue even more, we will reach emptiness again.
According to science, an atom is 99.999% empty space. If we were to, hypothetically, condense all atoms, by removing the empty spaces in them, the entire human population would be downsized to the size of a sugar cube. So no matter where we look, we find empty space. But we already know it’s not really empty, it is full of itself.
There, I just gave you two reasons not to be afraid of emptiness. First, everything is already empty, and second, emptiness is equal to fullness. Emptiness is also useful, because without space between concrete things, everything would just melt into one thing, and the world wouldn’t exist as we know it. If you pack a room totally full of furniture, it becomes impossible to live in it, it loses its roominess.
Thus relative emptiness is required in the world of forms, but forms in themselves are empty. They are empty of substance, empty of matter, empty of concreteness. That’s what the Buddha referred to, and that’s the ultimate nature of reality. The Buddhamind is nothing else than a mind empty of thoughts, pure in its essence, and fully immersed in itself. It’s not something to be feared, it’s something to be achieved.
What then, is the feeling of emptiness, the personal experience of feeling empty? In the Western world, the feeling of emptiness is labeled as a negative emotion, often associated with social alienation, apathy and depression. Why then did I just say that you should strive to reach emptiness?
Because the feeling of emptiness and the experience of emptiness is totally different. When you resist the inherent emptiness of your self, it creates a negative emotion. You are running away from your true self – which is emptiness itself, and hiding behind the facade of the ego. But behind the facade, you can still sense the emptiness, you have an unforgettable lurking feeling that something is missing. The ego is just a thought-form, and as such empty, like all other forms.
Yes, you are isolated, but not from society, but from your own true self. Your ego is fighting with this emptiness and does everything to be fulfilled. When your stomach is empty, you can stuff it with food, and soon it will be full. But you are not your ego, so no matter what you feed it, it will never be content. Feeding your ego is like trying to fill a leaky bucket.
Instead of trying to escape the existential hole, face your inner emptiness with full force. Realize the emptiness, the falsehood, the illusory nature of your ego, and you’ll break through to the experience of emptiness. But this kind of emptiness won’t be personal but universal. It won’t be emotional but existential. It won’t be negative but positive.
It will fulfill you instead of making you bloated. It will make you whole instead of leaving a hole. It will make you holy instead of leaving you empty. Because when you experience this kind of emptiness, you realize that it’s really a fullness.
If you want to know more about death from a spiritual but down to earth perspective, you should read my book: The Power of Death. Click on the link below, and get it now! I’m deadly serious.