Nothingness can either be just emptiness or it can be a tremendous fullness. It can be negative — it can be positive. If it is negative, it is like death, darkness. Religions have called it hell. It is hell because there is no joy in it, no song in it, there is no heartbeat, no dance. Nothing flowers, nothing opens. One is simply empty.
This empty nothingness has created great fear in people. That’s why in the West particularly, God has never been called nothingness except by a few mystics like Eckhart and so on; but they are not the main line of Western thinking. The West has always conceived nothingness in negative terms; hence it has created a tremendous fear about it. And they go on saying to people that the empty mind is the Devil’s workshop.
The East has known its positive aspect too; it is one of the greatest contributions to human consciousness. Buddha would have laughed at this statement that emptiness is the Devil’s workshop. He would have said — Only in emptiness, only in nothingness, does godliness happen. But he is talking about the positive phenomenon.
For Eastern Masters nothingness has always meant no-thingness. All things have disappeared, and because things have disappeared there is pure consciousness left behind. The mirror is empty of any reflection, but the mirror is there. Consciousness is empty of content, but consciousness is there.
And when it was full of content, so many things were inside us that there is no way we could have known what it is. When the consciousness is full of contents, that’s what we call mind. When consciousness is empty of all contents, that’s what we call no-mind or meditation. To create nothingness within is the goal of meditation, but this nothingness has nothing to do with the negative idea. It is full, abundantly full. It is so full that it starts overflowing. Buddha has defined this nothingness as overflowing compassion. The word ‘compassion’ is beautiful. It is made out of the same word as ‘passion.’
When passion is transformed, when the desire to seek and search for the other is no more there, when we are enough unto our own selves, when we don’t need anybody, when the very desire for the other has evaporated, when we are utterly happy, blissful, just being alone, then passion becomes compassion.