Several years ago, I was walking in the mountains with an 81 year old friend who is a dashing walker. After an hour, we reached a pass of 3000 meters, from where we could observe a grandiose landscape that stretched for several kilometers before our amazed eyes.
As we sat on a tall stump, contemplating this magnificent scene, he asked me:
– What does Buddhism mean when it says that all this is emptiness?
– This does not mean that this landscape is non-existent – that would hardly make sense – but that it is empty of its own, independent and permanent existence.
"And what is wisdom?"
– It is to understand this nature.
– What then is the difference between emptiness and wisdom?
– Emptiness is the true nature of phenomena, whether or not we have recognized it as such. Now if we recognize it as such, it is wisdom; if we do not recognize it, it is misguidance.
Looking cheerful, he added, "You see, I can't wait to learn more about all these things, because I don't have much time left."
Then we turned back through the forest, continuing our conversation.