Thread: Compassion and Meaning : Moving Beyond Nihilism

  1. #1

    Compassion and Meaning : Moving Beyond Nihilism

    This is an article by By Sensei Alex Kakuyo, from the Buddhist Door website:

    Compassion and Meaning: Moving Beyond Nihilism

    Any thoughts about the article ?

  2. #2
    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Buckingham, Virginia
    I very much enjoyed the article. While not long, Sensei Alex Kakuyo made perfect sense in both describing nihilism, as well as how some try to justify using it against others.

    Compassion is of course, the key.

  3. #3
    Technical Administrator woodscooter's Avatar
    London UK
    Yes, it's a really good piece of writing. Sensei Alex Kakuyo sets it out very well.

  4. #4
    Forums Member
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    Mar 2017
    Personally I think it a dire piece of writing, misunderstanding the nature of nihilism and science, and even nihilism in Buddhism. It starts with a definition of nihilism, but then goes on to ignore that definition and concentrates on the narrow interpretation of one extremist group in Russia. It's nonsense to say that placing faith in science and the phenomenal world is nihilist, when it is the opposite of nihilism. If there is no meaning to anything, why go investigating everything? Why bother?

    He then turns it round and says that nihilism has done a lot of good, challenging existing norms of society. As if nihilism is the only challenging philosophical stance. He then uses this positive to return again to negative (a well-used strategy of persuasion using 'there are positives, but..'), once again attacking nihilism as if it forms the basis of modern society. As if it permeated everything, allowing us to hurt others as a kind of fall-back position.

    Next is how nihilism 'weaseled' its way into Buddhism in the West. As he explains, it is a misunderstanding of emptiness, but he then says that sunyata means that the phenomenal world is an illusion. Which it isn't. Our unenlightened understanding misunderstands the world, but it is no illusion. Totally misunderstanding the situation Kakuyo says "And if we examine it more closely, we find molecules, then atoms, then light waves, then nothing at all. The table, much like our thoughts, isn’t real." Which is nonsense of course. We do not find 'nothing' when we examine atoms and their constituents more closely, we find whole new classifications of things which exist. The table is real, as are our thoughts. They really do exist.

    So the next point he makes, "Because emptiness is only half of the equation in Buddhism. The other half is compassion; a compassion born of the fact that this world is an illusion, but we still need to live in it." is also mistaken. Compassion may arise in some individuals thinking this, but for me, it arises on contemplating many things in Buddhist practice, but the world being an illusion and not real is not one of them.

    The last part falls into ramblings which, frankly, are nonsensical and contradictory. I understand where he is coming from, but he doesn't.

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