The most vivid description of Shunyata (Emptiness) and interdependence is Indras Net. In the Avatamsaka sutra there is a story about the Hindu deity Indra. Indra had a net hanging on the side of his palace on Mt. Meru that was infinite in size. Now imagine that every point where the strings of the net intersect there is a multifaceted jewel, maybe a diamond. An infinite number of diamonds. Now if you look at each diamond you will see the diamond you are looking at and a reflection of all the other infinite number of diamonds on the net. Even though each diamond appears to be separate from the others the reality is that they are each “full” of all the others.
Emptiness means that we are all really full of everything in the universe and only Empty of a permanent, individual, independent “self”. This applies to all things and not just living things. The “self” in the case of an inanimate object just means that “it” doesn’t exist independently from everything else. With any object if you look deeply enough you can see all the myriad things that went into making it just as you see it now. If you bend down and pick up a small stone, what do you see? Probably you will just see the small stone as it exist today. But if you really give it some thought you can see all the many different minerals that are in the stone. You can see the heat of a great volcano and the pressure from the weight of the Earth upon it. You can see that what makes this little stone up was there at the formation of the Earth. In fact all it’s component parts were there at the formation of the universe! They have always been here and always will.
In the example of Indra’s Net we are the diamonds and Karma is the net! One of the things that I have always loved about Buddhism is that you do not have to throw away your scientific beliefs to believe the Buddha Dharma. In fact it is amazing to me that a man sitting under a tree 2500 years ago could realize so many things that modern day Physicists are just realizing. To end this talk on Emptiness I will leave you with the most well know Physicist of all time. Who could say it better!
“If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism.”
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”