Buddha insists on calling it emptiness, shunyata, and the Upanishads emphasize on calling it bliss – and they are talking about the same phenomenon. Buddha’s insistence is far better because it is more applicable to you. You are bound to misunderstand the Upanishad because the Upanishad’s way of telling is positive. It says it is bliss, and in you certainly it creates greed; you start searching for bliss. You are miserable and you want bliss, you desire bliss; you start making every effort to improve things so that you can be blissful. You go astray because of the word bliss and its positivity.
Buddha became aware of this phenomenon. Twenty-five centuries had passed between Buddha and Isa Upanishad. Isa Upanishad is perfectly right – it is bliss – but to say it to you is not right because you are bound to misunderstand it. Hence Buddha changed the whole expression; he said it is emptiness.
Calling it emptiness is of tremendous importance because nobody wants emptiness – Alexander does not want emptiness. It does not create greed in you. Who will be greedy for emptiness? The very negativity of it destroys greed, desire, ambition and ego.
And again and again Buddha was asked, “What happens when one becomes empty?” and he will remain silent. He will say, “Don’t ask me. You become empty and see what happens.” He will never say, “Bliss happens,” for the simple reason because you will immediately jump upon the idea of bliss. And to you bliss will mean only pleasure, at the most happiness – something of the mind, something of the body – but it will not be exactly what bliss is.
It is neither of the body nor of the mind. It is a transcendence – a transcendence of all that you know, of all that you have experienced, of all that you are. It is better to call it emptiness; it cuts you from the very roots.
But twenty-five centuries have passed since Buddha again, and people are so stupid that they will misunderstand everything. They misunderstood the Isa Upanishad which talks about bliss. Buddha tried to move to the other extreme, started calling the ultimate state emptiness, shunyata, just zero, pure zero and nothing. It worked for a time being, while he was alive. It always works when the master is alive – it works. Any method becomes magical when the master is alive, any word becomes significant when the master is alive. It is the charisma, it is the presence of the master that makes things work. It s his magic.
Once Buddha was gone, the same people who have misused the word bliss started misusing the word emptiness. People like Alexander, they started thinking emptiness is boring, emptiness is dull, emptiness is nothing but death. What is the point of attaining emptiness? Without knowing anything about emptiness they start condemning it.
Buddhism was uprooted from India for the simple reason that Buddha has used total negative terms, and India has become accustomed of positive, affirmative terminology. Buddha seemed very strange, not belonging to the tradition, antagonistic to tradition. He was trying to help.
Now I am trying to do both the things together. I am saying bliss is emptiness – another effort. Upanishads said it is bliss, Buddha said it is nothingness. You have escaped from both; I am trying to catch hold of you from both the sides. I say emptiness is bliss, bliss is emptiness.
You are saying things which you have not experienced at all. You say: