The Buddhist term emptiness (Skt. śūnyatā) refers specifically to the fact that everything is dependently originated, including the causes and conditions themselves, and even the principle of causality itself. It is not nihilism, nor is it meditating on nothingness.
In an interview, the Dalai Lama stated that tantric meditiation can be used for "heightening your own realization of emptiness or mind of enlightenment". In Buddhist philosophy, attaining a realization of emptiness of inherent existence is key to the permanent cessation of suffering, i.e. liberation.
|“||Even while an ordinary being, if upon hearing of emptiness great joy arises within again and again, the eyes moisten with tears of great joy, and the hairs of the body stand on end, such a person has the seed of the mind of a complete Buddha; He is a vessel for teachings on thatness, and ultimate truth should be taught to him. After that, good qualities will grow in him.||”|
—Chandrakirti, Guide to the Middle Way, vv. 6:4-5
The Dalai Lama argues that tantric yoga trainees needs to realize the emptiness of inherent existence before they can go on to the "highest yoga tantra initiation"; realizing the emptiness of inherent existence of the mind is the "fundamental innate mind of clear light, which is the subtlest level of the mind", where all "energy and mental processes are withdrawn or dissolved", so that all that appears to the mind is "pure emptiness". As well, emptiness is "linked to the creative Void, meaning that it is a state of complete receptivity and perfect enlightenment", the merging of the "ego with its own essence", which Buddhists call the "clear light".
In Ven. Thubten Chodron’s 2005 interview with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the lama noted that we "...ordinary beings who haven’t realized emptiness don’t see things as similar to illusions", and we do not "realize that things are merely labeled by mind and exist by mere name". He argues that "when we meditate on emptiness, we drop an atom bomb on this truly existent I" and we realize that "what appears true... isn’t true". By this, the lama is claiming that what we think is real — our thoughts and feelings about people and things — "exists by being merely labeled". He argues that meditators who attain knowledge of a state of emptiness are able to realize that their thoughts are merely illusions from labelling by the mind.
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“A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its beautiful morality.”
—W. Winwood Reade (18381875)