Many people are confused about emptiness, but it is not such a difficult subject when seen from the point of view of figure and ground. Emptiness is the ground, and interdependent manifestation, samsara, is the figure imposed on the ground. In this way, emptiness becomes the reason why anything is possible. It is the ground or space on which anything might be created, and is created: it makes the existence of samsara possible, and the attainment of enlightenment possible. The improvement of sentient beings is possible because of emptiness, and so is the activity of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Because everything is interdependent, when all the conditions are correct, anything can happen. Emptiness makes it possible for a sentient being who is suffering in samsara to also be a Buddha by nature. When that being purifies the relative samsaric obscuration that binds it, then it is possible for it to become enlightened. None of this could be done without emptiness. If everything in existence were substantial and permanent, no one could grow old or learn anything; nothing could change, either for better or for worse; nothing could be improved, because there would be no room for it. This is common sense if you see emptiness simply. Emptiness provides the questions and the answers to all the questions, because it allows for movement and change. It allows for insight and realization.
Tai Situ Rinpoche
from the book Awakening the Sleeping Buddha
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