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Thread: The Experience of Buddhism Sliding into Nihilism

  1. #1
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    The Experience of Buddhism Sliding into Nihilism

    I was raised in a Christian tradition and slowly gravitated away from it. When I started to explore Buddhism I found the idea that there is no permanent self troubling. It was hard to adjust to such a teaching after coming from a tradition that emphasized a highly personal view of a self so permanent that it was intimately integrated with a soul that survives death.


    From a logical perspective I can see that the we take in all sorts of information from our senses, have ideas, concepts, emotions, and moods but we identify with that as an ego or permanent self. (I know I am over simplifying complex subject matter but I'm trying to be brief to get to a point) I also see that the idea of our personality as a permanent self is flawed. From observation we can see that someone who suffers a very traumatic brain injury may have a completely different personality after such an event, which begs the question where is that "person" that is so permanent. Another example would be someone who develops Alzheimer's and loses all sense of who they are and those around them in the final stages. So again, I see there is no permanent self.

    In exploring mediation, I can see the analogy of a dirty body of water stirred up will eventually become clear if it comes to rest and allows the contents to settle. I can appreciate the value in pure awareness without concepts, ideas, cravings, etc. -just awareness.

    Now to my point, or what I am struggling with. I feel like by letting go of the ego, attachments, and seeking pure awareness, I am inching closer to nihilism where nothing matters and everything is ultimately meaningless. This is not a place where I want to be.


    I hope I can get some help with this struggle. I'm coming from a "personal" experience of trying to follow Buddhist precepts, not one of trying to logic chop or be overly philosophical.


    Thanks in advance for reading and any replies.

  2. #2
    Hello and welcome, seekah.

    This article might be helpful:


    Self-view, Personality and Awareness.

    by Ajahn Sumedho


    When I was a teenager in the United States, to say that someone didn't have a personality was considered the biggest put-down. If you said, 'Oh, she doesn't have any personality,' it was a real insult. Because personality is terribly important if you're an American, to be a charming, intelligent, attractive, interesting person. A lot of social conditioning goes into being that, trying to become 'personality-plus'. But now, if I heard someone saying, 'Ajahn Sumedho has no personality,' I'd be flattered, honoured.

    When we hear of the Buddhist teaching of letting go, people might think, 'If I let go of my personality what will be left? Will I be just a zombie? If I don't have any personality, how am I going to relate to anybody? I'll just be a blank, a totally empty form that sits there. No matter what happens, there will be no kind of emotion, no kind of language, or reaction.' It's very frightening to think of no longer being a real person, a personality of some sort.

    Continues at the link below:


    https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/A...ersonality.htm

    With kind wishes,

    Aloka

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by seekah View Post
    I was raised in a Christian tradition and slowly gravitated away from it. When I started to explore Buddhism I found the idea that there is no permanent self troubling. It was hard to adjust to such a teaching after coming from a tradition that emphasized a highly personal view of a self so permanent that it was intimately integrated with a soul that survives death.

    In exploring mediation, I can see the analogy of a dirty body of water stirred up will eventually become clear if it comes to rest and allows the contents to settle. I can appreciate the value in pure awareness without concepts, ideas, cravings, etc. -just awareness.

    Now to my point, or what I am struggling with. I feel like by letting go of the ego, attachments, and seeking pure awareness, I am inching closer to nihilism where nothing matters and everything is ultimately meaningless. This is not a place where I want to be.


    I hope I can get some help with this struggle. I'm coming from a "personal" experience of trying to follow Buddhist precepts, not one of trying to logic chop or be overly philosophical.


    Thanks in advance for reading and any replies.
    1 I was raised Methodist, but had come to terms with the idea of a non permanent self before I became a Buddhist.

    2 The analogy of the dirty water is better if you think about a pond. Once the water becomes clear, you can now see everything in the pond that was there before, but now clearer.

    3 So when the water clears, you see everything that was there before but was rather difficult to observe. Rather than 'nothing' being the end point of Buddhism, you gain everything. Nothing new, except the clearer way that you now see things. Things which were already there but needed to be seen in a different way. In Buddhist terms you have to let go of everything before you gain everything. It seems like nihilism until you let go of nihilism too.

    Hope this helps.

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    Thank you so much for your reply and insight! I have bookmarked the link provided and look forward to reading further.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by philg View Post
    1 I was raised Methodist, but had come to terms with the idea of a non permanent self before I became a Buddhist.

    2 The analogy of the dirty water is better if you think about a pond. Once the water becomes clear, you can now see everything in the pond that was there before, but now clearer.

    3 So when the water clears, you see everything that was there before but was rather difficult to observe. Rather than 'nothing' being the end point of Buddhism, you gain everything. Nothing new, except the clearer way that you now see things. Things which were already there but needed to be seen in a different way. In Buddhist terms you have to let go of everything before you gain everything. It seems like nihilism until you let go of nihilism too.

    Hope this helps.
    I really appreciate the words and insight above. You're third point really resonates with me. While I haven't "seen" things from that perspective above yet, I believe it is possible and it will have a satisfying peace that comes with it.


    I'm sure we would have a lot to converse about regarding our Christian backgrounds. And like you, I wrestled with the idea of a non-permanent self for a long time before being open to go further down the Buddhist path. One of the many things I like from the Buddha's teachings is he doesn't demand belief, but rather encourages individuals to have enough "faith" try it for themselves and see. I thinks I've read the Buddha likens the path to medicine prescribed by a physician and that an adept must have enough faith to at least "take" the medicine.

    Kind regards.

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