How today’s Buddhists view emptiness is not too difficult to guess. Maybe it is something like dark matter, or space. It might even be something like a super back hole. This would imply that emptiness is categorematic in the example of “man” or something that can stand on its own. Or we might use the example of the moon, or a tractor as an example of what is categorematic. But emptiness is not like this. It is nothing in itself. There is no intrinsic emptiness essence.
When we say the house is empty or the lot is vacant, the categorematic terms are house and lot. Empty and vacant tell us something about the condition of the house and the lot. But they are nothing in themselves like our house or the lot around the corner. If we learn from Buddhism that nirvana is the supreme void or the highest void (P., aggasuñña) this can only mean that nirvana is void or empty of conditioned phenomena this includes being empty of anâtman (non-self) which are the Five Aggregates and the defilements.
When we empty out all that is conditioned, which includes impermanence, suffering and non-self (the Five Aggregates), what remains is the element (dhatu) of nirvana. It is the ultimate essence, eternal, blissful, the highest benefit, undying, and so on. We get this same sense when Chandrakirti says the following about emptiness:
"Emptiness is not a property, or universal mark, of entities, because then its substratum would be nonempty, and one would have a fixed conviction (dristi) about it. In fact, it is a mere medicine, a means of escape from all fixed conviction. It is taught so that we may overcome attachment, and it would be a pity if we were to become attached to it. It is not a positive standpoint, but a mere turning away from all views and thought-constructions. To treat it as an object, and to oppose it to non-emptiness, is to miss the point" ( Trans., in Conze, Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom (Berkeley, 1975), p. 144, n. 4).
Chandrakiriti is really saying that if we wish to see our pure Mind or reach nirvana we have to turn away from all views and thought-constructions. This is what emptiness means. It works like the via negativa. In Zen, when we read about No Mind this really means the Buddha Mind that is empty of defilements which are various kinds of thought-constructions. Buddha Mind is substance; it is empty of all possible constructions in the same way the element of gold is empty of shapes like a ring shape or an bracelet shape. It can become shaped but is never itself a shape.