What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount to the same thing. The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place - maybe Shangrila! - then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.
You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences, of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your mind literally made them up. If you don't understand this then you have very little chance of understanding emptiness.
This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists and philosophers - they have researched into reality too. Physicists look and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness.
If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your worldly problems - but you don't want to understand.
It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial, polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets - one, two, ten, one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind is superstition. We don't understand reality, and the intellectual life that we lead keeps us far from reality.
So we don't accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves with thick blankets and say "this is me". We hide our own reality and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again. In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is so complicated, that doesn't touch reality, that is so difficult to live in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything else.
If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that you think you are, then you would be shocked. "What is this monk saying?" But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality.
In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed. The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.
You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don't believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you resolve your depression.
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.
I will give you a good example. When a western man or woman looks for a girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. "Oh, so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside". They build up a perfect myth. They push and push., the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian they say, "Oh, he looks just like Jesus. She looks just like an angel. So nice, so pure". Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies onto each other.
If she is Hindu, then he would say, "Oh, she looks like Kali, like Mother Earth, like my universal mother"...and if you are Buddhist you fold your hands and say, "Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me the true nature of all things". You understand? "When I am near her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn't move, I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can't believe my energy!" I tell you all this is superstitious interpretation. You think that she is your spiritual friend and all she does is really perfect, even her kaka and pee pee are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps I shouldn't talk like this - I am a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about reality then we have to speak practically, from daily life, about what is earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.
What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster... Be honest. Be honest with yourself.
In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality exists in us now, it is born with us... The essence of your consciousness, your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You should not believe, "I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot solve my problems". Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now. Now!
So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean clear state of mind.
Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate now. So, close your eyes, don't think, "I am meditating", just close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your mind, just be aware. Don't interpret good, bad. Just be like a light - light doesn't think "I like this, I like that". It is just a light. Whatever is in your consciousness, whatever experience, just be aware. That is all.
Whatever your experience at the moment, whatever your colour, whatever appearance is there, just stay aware. Be aware. If it's black energy, then that black energy is clean clear. If it's white energy, just feel that clean clear state. Be aware of whatever is happening. No interpretation ... Don't try to hold onto something or to reject something.
Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983.