For a more detailed treatment of emptiness from The Truth about Enlightenment: How to Find Egolessness, Nonduality, and Wisdom on the Buddhist Path, view this sample chapter.
Emptiness is a pivotal term and experience in the Dharma. A nice way to think of it is as being without thingness. That which is empty has no characteristics of a thing, such as form, color, place, or size.
Mind is empty. If we try to hold mind in our hand or describe its form, we will be unable to do so. It is this emptiness of mind that changes the world’s appearance for those who realize mind’s true nature. In the presence of emptiness that which was once a solidly existing world, deeply rooted in reality, becomes an illusory one, dream- like and without a sense of solid existence. In other words, it is emptiness that makes the real world- that seen by those in touch with true reality- appear as unreal.
Emptiness is not simply nothing; in fact, it has many rich qualities. It is inseparable from awareness, the two constituting the major aspects of mind, and experiencing it leads to a sense of vastness, restfulness, compassion and bliss.
Probably the most pleasurable aspect of emptiness is its freedom. It is impossible to limit emptiness; after all, there is nothing that can be limited. This is a somewhat conceptual way to explain why it is free, but be assured it is also that way experientially. This boundless freedom leads to the sense of bliss inherent in it.
Emptiness is an aspect of enlightenment. There is no enlightenment from a Buddhist sense without it. It is fortunate for us that the true nature of reality is naturally free and compassionate because of emptiness. After all, who is to say it had to be that way?