Buddhism talks a good deal about shunyata, emptiness. What is this emptiness? The earliest Buddhist texts provide a psychology of what we could call the point mind - a mind without content. Our modern (and later Buddhist) psychologies speak a lot about the content of the mind and much therapy and education is devoted to filling the mind up with supposedly good things. So is the mind full or empty?
The Japanese psychologist Tomoda who translated the works of Carl Rogers into Japanese and then went on to develop a system of psychology closely related to Buddhist and Taoist thought was particularly struck by the way that Rogers’ method (if not his theory) provided the client with a safe space in which he could be entirely alone, even though in the presence of the therapist.
To my way of understanding, the idea of shunyata can well be approached through this matter of aloneness. When one dies one is alone. One is alone facing a complete unknown. Whatever your belief about the afterlife, now what is happening for real and you know that something very powerful is taking place that you actually have no knowledge about. You can enter it in fear or in faith, but either way you do so alone. This is emptiness. Whatever connections, relations, loves, achievements or projects you have accomplished in your earthly life, all are left. You are alone. This is shunyata.
Buddhist enlightenment - spiritual awakening - is like this: to die before you die, to find that utter aloneness while still hale and fit for action here in this world. That is also faith, for you dare not enter such a state without great faith. It is a kind of fearlessness, which is not really to say that one never experiences the feeling of dread as a sensation, but rather that one has access to something that carries one through all difficulties. This something may be called the bodaishin or bodhichitta. It is not something that one can possess, but it is never unavailable.
Buddhism has a multitude of methods for helping people to approach such a state, but the final step - that in which one is seized by an other power - one must, as at death, take utterly alone, and, as at death, it is not something one can contrive nor be in control of.