Fear of Emptiness

abra's picture

Average: 4.8 (22 votes)

Emptiness = Voidness = Nothingness = Shunyata

Fear of Emptiness = horror vacui

Quotes of gurus relating to the fear of emptiness:


Meditation for the fear of emptiness. Make it a point every night before you go to sleep to close your eyes and for twenty minutes go into your emptiness. Accept it, let it be there. Fear arises – let that be there too. Tremble with fear but don’t reject this space that is being born there. Within two to three weeks you will be able to feel its beauty, you will be able to feel its benediction. Once you have touched that benediction, fear will disappear on its own accord. You are not to fight with it.

Swami Chaitanya Niyam:

The fear of emptiness. This is humanity's most dark, and most dangerous, secret. Buried into everybody's collective subconscious, it is this fear that goads civilisations to run, to achieve, to desire, to declare war, in fact, to do
anything but sit still and watch the clouds float in the sky.


This emptiness is not a trivial thing. It's the most supreme state. But in the consciousness there is this itching, and I use this term: the athlete's foot mind. In the mind the thought is coming, there is this itching, and it feels it needs a scratch, you know. Like a question arising, something more to be solved, or resolved. But I say: only stay as this, and that itchiness will subside. When this itchiness is there, there is the temptation to start to scratch it, but it just makes it more bloody and awful. So just take note of that for the moment. But stay as you are. Because you cannot improve this emptiness. So many of the beings are longing to be this emptiness, to return to this emptiness, you see, consciously. When you go to sleep, you leave all your cares and your concerns about yourself and your life. And you love to be without these concerns. How much money we spend on the bed, on the bedroom, to get the best sleep so you can forget everything ! And when the waking arises there is refreshment in the being, you see, because it puts away all these concerns. This emptiness that you speak of now seemed eclipsed by your concerns and where you put your attention, and while you're attending to your concerns and activities and affairs of life, then you're being disturbed actually. So a little bit of meditation or self-enquiry returns you to this affirmation in yourself, this recognition: all there is is just a sort of emptiness, beyond the concept of empty even.

Riktam Kantu:

Merely all your doings, being and identities are driven by your mind's addiction to content or more precisely, your mind's terrible fear of emptiness which is the direct cause of this addiction.

For the mind, emptiness means non existence. The mind does not exist as a separate independent entity of its own. It is just the collection of mental activities, of thoughts and emotions. And if there is emptiness of them, i.e. they are not, the mind also is not.


Now, if you consider, you will see that one of the reasons for the desire to accept a belief, is fear. Because, if we had no belief, what would happen to us? Wouldn't we be very frightened of what might happen? If we had no pattern of action, based on a belief - either in God, or in Communism, or in Socialism, or in Imperialism, or in some kind of religious formula, some dogma in which we are conditioned - we would feel utterly lost, wouldn't we? And is not this acceptance of a belief, the covering up of that fear - the fear of being really nothing, of being empty? After all, a cup is useful only when it is empty; and a mind that is filled with beliefs, with dogmas, with assertions, with quotations, is really an uncreative mind, it is merely a repetitive mind. And, to escape from that fear - that fear of emptiness, that fear of loneliness, that fear of stagnation, of not arriving, not succeeding, not achieving, not being something, not becoming something - is surely one of the reasons, is it not?


An addiction to knowledge (1) is like any other addiction; it offers an escape from the fear of emptiness, of loneliness, of frustration, the fear of being nothing. The light of knowledge is a delicate covering under which lies a darkness that the mind cannot penetrate. The mind is frightened of this unknown, and so it escapes into knowledge, into theories, hopes, imagination; and this very knowledge is a hindrance to the understanding of the unknown.

Vimala Thakar:

Nothingness, nobodyness, emptiness—even the intellectual understanding of this frightens women. It frightens women! At the depth of our being there is fear because of our physical vulnerability, because of our secondary role in human civilization. It is in the subconscious, not in the consciousness. On a subconscious level there is fear. If I get converted into or if I mature into nonduality, into nothingness, into nobodyness, what will happen to my physical existence? Will it be more vulnerable? Will I be able to defend myself in case of difficulty, in case of some attack against me? That is a basic fear among women.

So women very rarely take to meditation. They take to devotion, to bhakti yoga. They can take to service, seva yoga or karma yoga. But not meditation, dhyana, samadhi. Consciously, intellectually they understand everything, because regarding the brilliance of the brain there is no distinction such as male and female. But psychologically, at the core of their being is this fear. And that fear has to be dispelled. Woman has to understand that nobodyness or nothingness, the emptiness of consciousness in samadhi or meditation, generates a different kind of energy and awareness which is more protective than self-conscious defensiveness. When woman appreciates that, when she understands that, then this fear will be dispelled. Otherwise it is very natural for a woman to feel frightened even by the idea of nothingness.

Mary Grigolia:

The spiritual challenge is to step out of our cultural assumption that preconditions us to run away from emptiness at any cost. Emptiness is neither inherently bad or inherently redemptive. It is a way of checking in with yourself. It’s like a tuning device. When I am living in tune with myself, to rest in the great emptiness in meditation is a pleasant experience. When I’m not in tune with myself, it’s uncomfortable to be present to the lack of fit between how I’ve constructed my life, what I’m doing and what life calls me to do or be.

It’s not easy to step out of our cultural assumptions that emptiness is bad and must be medicated or filled with more and more stuff. Although we experience the emptiness individually, this way of thinking, responding, and consuming is part of a global sickness tied in with the extraordinary growth of international capitalism. As capitalism expands, it destabilizes traditional religious and philosophical systems that guide individuals through emptiness to meaning and action. The battle we fight now with emptiness and lack of meaning affects the whole world family.


Meditation and working out of emptiness -
Meditation has often been misunderstood in the West and confused with contemplation or observation. In his training Rahasya introduces different meditation techniques and guided meditations that help the participant to come in touch with their "Inner emptiness". In the West this may be a not very desirable state, and the fear of meditation may very well be the fear of this inner emptiness. Nevertheless as we get a little more familiar with this space, it can give rise to beautiful spontaneous and original responses to the moment during a session and saves the client from the preconceived ideas of the Counsellors own psyche. The capacity of the counsellor to wait and to rest in himself/herself, even if there is a gap of emptiness, can bring session to a much deeper level.

Geshe Rabten:

For someone who has preceded his meditation on voidness with much study and training and has thus developed a strong predisposition towards this view, the actual realization that the self is devoid of inherent existence will come as a very joyful experience, like a poor man’s discovery of a lot of money. But for those of us who have not acquired such a disposition through previous inquiry, the realization that the I is merely imputed can be a very frightening experience. When we talk of “fear of voidness,” it is precisely this experience we are referring to.

santthosh kumaar's picture

Santthosh HI



santthosh kumaar | Mon, 06/30/2008 - 10:45
abra's picture

mental experience of emptiness

I am referring here to the mental feeling of emptiness and voidness, not to the Buddhist concept that no thing exists (= nothing-ness).

The two are indeed related but the link is in the experiential mental realm not in the conceptual.

abra | Thu, 08/07/2008 - 16:26
Phroggy's picture

Good stuff

An excellent compilation. Yes, that's the fear, the restlessness of mind, the boredom, and since mind is identified with, it becomes an existential fear. Mind's activity has no place in this emptiness and ego is contained in the memory of mind. How wonderful that all we have to do to see this is stop everything and watch closely what happens.

I'm particularly in agreement with the last quote which seems to suggest that clarity must be developed prior to meditation. Many have entered this emptiness or void or nothingness in meditation, but because of the segmented nature of meditation, it becomes a temporary experience of a mind state, and cannot be sustained. Mind gets to crank itself back up again after the meditation is over, and it knows this going in. The experience may be useful, but experience is not the goal. The goal is to let go of the experiencer, and this requires a devotion to the truth of the matter, no small measure of humility, and the intuitive clarity that results from such determination.


Phroggy | Thu, 08/07/2008 - 17:51
Omkaradatta's picture

Meditation and time

> Mind gets to crank itself back up again after
> the meditation is over, and it knows this
> going in.

That is true, but it can be a trap to go into meditation thinking that the mind does *not* get to crank itself back up, too. The mind deals in time, and so it's either yes or no to this question. But truth deals in the Now.

If one can go into meditation for an indefinite period (perhaps on a day with no responsibilities at all), it can be more productive, as the whole time issue never enters into the picture. One is not wanting to "crank down" either temporarily or permanently, but just for now, forgetting about time altogether.


Omkaradatta | Sat, 08/30/2008 - 20:29
shira's picture

The universal remedy

Usually the fear/anxiety/restlessness of emptiness is not the case of scratching the bottom but just that simply the ever-addicted mind is in stress due to predicted upcoming lack of stimulus. This is what a drug addict feels in a nutshell when he is about to run out of drug stock, just in greater intensity, your drug is whatever mentally gives entertainment to your restless crying-baby mind.

The proven way out of it is to briefly observe it, accept it and then quickly turn your attention from it. It is important to emphasize the 3rd step by repeating it as many people though accept and observe this underlying anxiety of emptiness properly fall in this pitfall by dwelling in the anxiety and thus unknowingly strengthen it and thus this fear of emptiness continues to control and chase them ruthlessly: turn your attention from this feeling right after you briefly observe it, you have done your part, now ignore it and it will go, turn to alternative objects of observation like your breathing or get back to your daily activities and it will sort out by itself - there is a greater intelligence that takes care of things you have managed to observe and accept. Trust it or at least try it out.

shira | Thu, 11/20/2008 - 16:07
Jibanda's picture

Excellent assistance. Thank

Excellent assistance. Thank you!

I would also recommend the following link which discusses similar problems of restlessness when trying to meditate:


Jibanda | Thu, 10/08/2009 - 19:40
Gilana's picture


"Woman has to understand that nobodyness or nothingness, the emptiness of consciousness in samadhi or meditation, generates a different kind of energy and awareness which is more protective than self-conscious defensiveness."

Has anyone (especially women, but men, too) found this to be true? That a different kind of energy and awareness is generated?

I had an experience in mediation where I came up against a blankness, a void, where no thing could be; seemed like light, life, any type of existence was sucked out...scared the daylights out of me and I ran as fast as I could the other way. Been wondering about it since.


Gilana | Thu, 03/12/2009 - 19:49
easy-self's picture

emptyness is pointer..

Yes, emptiness is pointing back to yourself. No emptiness but self-existence.

Be in the remembrance of Easiness.

easy-self | Fri, 05/08/2009 - 04:27
madan_gautam's picture

No emptiness but self-existence.

Yes there at that point there is BEING only,but what is That BEING ?,self-existence or HE or something else can not be said as at That point only BEING is there and nothing and no thought and no analysis ,then who will say what is THAT.\
Name IT any thing does not matter.

madan_gautam | Fri, 05/08/2009 - 14:08
erez's picture

Another important quote of Osho about the fear of void

The following is from The Book of Secrets by Osho, pages 54-55:

Find out if there is any self in the mind. If you move deep, you will find that your identity is just like an onion. You peel off one layer and another layer comes up; you peel off another layer and still another layer comes up. You go on peeling layers off, and ultimately you come to a nothingness. With all the layers thrown off, there is nothing inside. Body and mind are like onions. When you have peeled off both body and mind, then you come to encounter a nothingness, an abyss, a bottomless void. Buddha called it SHUNYA.

To encounter this shunya, to encounter this void, creates fear. That fear is there. That is why we never do meditation. We talk about it, but we never do anything about it. That fear is there. You know deep down that there is a void, but you cannot escape this fear. Whatsoever you do, the fear will remain unless you encounter it. That is the only way. Once you encounter your nothingness, once you know that within you are just like a space, shunya, then there will be no fear. Then there cannot be any fear, because this shunya, this void, cannot be destroyed. This void is not going to die. That which was going to die is no more; it was nothing but the layers of an onion.

That is why many times in deep meditation, when one comes nearer to this nothingness, one becomes afraid and starts trembling. One feels that one is going to die, one wants to escape from this nothingness back to the world. And many go back; then they never turn within again. As I see it, every one of you have tried in some life or other some meditative technique. You have been near to the nothingness, and then fear gripped you and you escaped. And deep in your past memories, that memory is there; that becomes the hindrance. Whenever you again think of trying meditation, that past memory deep down in your unconscious mind again disturbs you and says, "Go on thinking; do not do it. You have done it once."

It is difficult to find a man -- and I have looked into many -- who has not tried meditation once or twice in some life. The memory is there, but you are not conscious of it, you are not aware of where the memory is. It is there. Whenever you begin to do something that becomes a barrier, this and that begin to stop you in many ways. So if you are really interested in meditation, find out about your own fear of it. Be sincere about it: are you afraid? If you are afraid, then first something has to be done about your fear, not about meditation.

Buddha used to try many devices. Sometimes someone would say to him, "I am afraid of trying meditation." And this is a must: the master must be told that you are afraid. You cannot deceive the master... and there is no need -- it is deceiving yourself. So whenever someone would say, "I am afraid of meditation," Buddha would say, "You are fulfilling the first requirement." If you say yourself that you are afraid of meditation, then something becomes possible. Then something can be done because you have uncovered a deep thing. So what is the fear? Meditate on it. Go and dig out where it comes from, what the source is.

All fear is basically death-oriented. Whatsoever its form, mode, whatsoever its shape, name, all fear is death-oriented. If you move deep, you will find that you are afraid of death.

erez | Tue, 05/12/2009 - 22:30
Phroggy's picture


Aww, he's just conceptualizing and projecting, trying to hold his own beliefs in place by saying we're all doing the same thing wrong. Wake up, Osho! Hehe.

Phroggy | Wed, 05/13/2009 - 00:59
zoya's picture


I completely disagree with you. This and Mooji's are the finest texts I have ever encountered about this crucial spiritual situation. From the perspective of someone who was at that dark rock bottom level of awareness, it is clear that these two know what they are talking about.

When your time comes to experience this fundamental fear, you will understand this.

zoya | Wed, 05/13/2009 - 06:45
santana's picture

I second

No one can understand until he faces the dark night of the soul where all nice understandings and quick ideas fall in front of the rock bottom of the feeling of emptiness.

santana | Fri, 05/29/2009 - 11:25
Gilana's picture

Is this a serious comment?

Hi Phroggy,

You said, "Aww, he's just conceptualizing and projecting, trying to hold his own beliefs in place by saying we're all doing the same thing wrong. Wake up, Osho! Hehe."

Are you serious in this response on this subject? I can't tell, especially with the "Hehe."

Gilana | Sat, 01/02/2010 - 06:56
suzi's picture

I think he was serious and

I think he was serious and this was the sad part in the story.

suzi | Sat, 01/02/2010 - 13:40
santana's picture


Fear of emptiness is many times a fear of depression that hides there in between. The activity is meant to cover the glimpses of depression.

Next time you feal this cloud of emptiness, check if you can find, connect and feel the glimpses of depression. Do not be afraid.

santana | Fri, 05/29/2009 - 11:30
solomon's picture

better name: fear of non excitement

I found out that it is more transformative to call this fear "the fear of non excitement" rather than "the fear of emptiness".

This way you drop one unnecessary concept in between and can switch directly to the source: emptiness in this case, is just an aiding concept that means emptiness of excitement while on the other hand it has so many other connotations and usages that just divert our attention from the important issue: to try to be able to manage when there are no amusing excitements for the mind, to befriend with this state instead of fighting it with obsessive search for excitements.

solomon | Sun, 09/20/2009 - 08:29
yeshcheraz's picture

The last frontier

Coping with the nervesness of the mind when it is deprived from content (i.e. deprived from its mere existence) is the final and prime challenge.

Indeed it is difficult. Difficult no less than the phase a drug addict has to undergo in order to quit using addictive drugs.

Because by its nature, mind is content, mind is addictedc to content.

But it is possible. The fear and painful irritation you feel right now towards emptiness is the mind's view about it, not some neutral absolute view. When you cross the chasm you will see the same emptiness as a blissful serene thing.

Just have the courage to jump.

yeshcheraz | Sat, 02/05/2011 - 18:19