Emptiness or void, as used in Buddhism, does not mean nothingness, as in
"the room was empty after all the people left." It means, actually,
that the Original Nature of everything is emptiness, or even if the room is
packed with people, it should still be envisioned as empty. Because human language
is not adequate to convey such precise expression, the word "emptiness,"
which appeared to be closest in meaning, was chosen by the English- speaking
scholars who first came into contact with Buddhism. The word does create confusion,
but there is no other suitable term in the English vocabulary.
Because the truth discovered by the Buddha upon his Enlightenment was incomprehensible by ordinary human minds, he had to rely on the language understandable to the people to explain what is incomprehensible. Buddha's teaching was therefore delivered at two different levels: the mundane level and the Enlightened level. At the mundane level, the concept of self means there is an individual. At the Enlightened level, however, individual or no individual, self or no self, phenomenon or no phenomenon, name or no name, are all merely sophisms. At the Enlightened level, one envisions all people, including oneself, as those "seen" in a dream or who appear on a television screen. Such visions are therefore emptiness. Even the term "emptiness" is unnecessary and carries no real meaning. "Emptiness" is just a term arbitrarily chosen for the convenience of discussion among people at the mundane level.
The concept of 'self' at the mundane level, nevertheless, is the biggest hindrance to ordinary people in achieving Enlightenment, or, to put it another way, one cannot achieve Enlightenment and identify with Original Nature without first achieving the realization that the concept of 'self' is not only an invalid concept, but also a danger- ous concept, because with the concept of 'self' the concept of "that is mine" is established, and then the attachment of both self and "that is mine" becomes firmly planted in one's mind; in this way one can never be in harmony with Original Nature, one can never achieve Enlightenment and be rid of samsara, or recurring birth-and- death, which is the source of suffering.