“Emptiness” is a rough translation of the Sanskrit term shunyata and the Tibetan term tongpa-nyi. The basic meaning of the Sanskrit word shunya is “zero,” while the Tibetan word tongpa means “empty”—not in the sense of a vacuum or a void, but rather in the sense that the basis of experience is beyond our ability to perceive with our senses and or to capture in a nice, tidy concept. Maybe a better understanding of the deep sense of the word may be “inconceivable” or “unnameable.”
So when Buddhists talk about emptiness as the basis of our being, we don’t mean that who or what we are is nothing, a zero, a point of view that can give way to a kind of cynicism. The actual teachings on emptiness imply an infinitely open space that allows for anything to appear, change, disappear, and reappear. The basic meaning of emptiness, in other words, is openness, or potential. At the basic level of our being, we are “empty” of definable characteristics.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche from The Best Buddhist Writing 2013, pages 120-121