If you believe in Buddhism or if you have come across someone who is an ardent follower of Buddhist texts, you might have heard about the doctrine of emptiness, also known as Śūnyatā (Sanskrit; Pali: suññatā). This doctrine, the Buddhists say, is the one necessary to achieve the state of true happiness. And they have reasons behind this claim. But is it really the holy grail of joyousness?
Let me tell you about this state of emptiness. For the sake of the article’s scope, I will restrict the application of the doctrine of emptiness to its effect on our happiness. I will also make the assumption that many of our day to day problems, which lead us to anxiety and therefore unhappiness, are caused by fellow human beings.
The doctrine of emptiness says that to understand the true nature of beings, you have to see things as they are. You should not judge people for anything that is happening with you, even if it caused by them. So when you are confronting a difficult person or an undesirable situation that arose out of contemptibly foolish human interventions, you simply have to take things as they are rather than what you believe they are.
In simple words, you just don’t have to make assumptions. You have to be absolutely blank and then see why people behave the way they do. To understand the true nature of people, you have to stop seeing them through your mind and instead observe them through your eyes.
For example you had a fight with your colleague because she acted like a total jerk in front of the boss. She became rude and tried to humiliate you. Now the fight is over but you can’t stop obsessing about the situation. This is making you restless.
The doctrine says that in order to stay happy after the fight, you should become totally empty when you think about it in retrospect. You should keep off any preconceived notions about her (like she is a jerk) and instead think about the situation from a totally impartial viewpoint. This absence of assumptions about your colleague will lead you to perceive the situation clearly and that will in turn encourage you to forgive her. Once you forgive her, you will release yourself of the chains of unhappiness.
You can only achieve the state of mind in which you were before the fight took place by erasing the entire episode of fight. And you can do it only by forgiving your colleague.
Perhaps this is not the way you want to react (maybe you want to beat the crap out of your colleague). This is not to say that she is not a jerk (may be she is). But your reaction to the situation, and the fact that she is a jerk has nothing to do with your happiness. Even if you beat her, or you prove to everyone that your colleague is a jerk, you will ruin your happiness in the process.