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Avoiding the near-enemy nihilism

adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
edited February 10 in Mindfulness

There have been a few discussions on here recently about the risk of becoming nihilistic through Buddhist philosophy. We’ve mostly agreed that nihilism was far from the message of the Buddha.

My problem is, when I get depressed, the nihilistic approach is all I can see. I go to the wisdom that usually inspires and encourages me when I’m feeling well, and it leaves me feeling empty, not in the good, interdependent way. In the hollow, everything-is-pointless way.

Life is suffering —> why continue?

So my question is how to avoid or correct this. Anyone have the same issue?

If it helps to know, I originally came to Buddhism because of depression a couple of years ago.

Comments

  • For people who believe in reincarnation or rebirth we continue because if we die that's not the end of things for us as a being. So our next rebirth or somewhere along the line if we keep making connections to the dharma eventually we will free ourselves from how we are caught. Death itself doesn't on its own free us. Even if unsure if we quite believe in reincarnation we can still hope to free ourselves in this life. And in the mean time life is not all bad as @person said. I enjoy my cup of coffee each morning even though I can't solve all problems via a second, third, or 20th cup of coffee. And I look forward to not only coffee and things like that but also many of the people who I am temporarily sharing this world with.

    KundopersonKeromeShoshin
  • This might be useful/helpful. Hope so.
    https://www.facingus.org/#

    Buddhist solution
    https://www.lionsroar.com/ask-the-teachers-26/

  • Life is suffering —> why continue?

    Actually if life is dukkha, why do we continue to cling to existence? Because of delight in the senses.

    'This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. [3] But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality & dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.026.than.html

    Awakening does not mean death.

    “What is the arising of identity? That is, it is craving conjoined with lust and delight for future becoming, delighting with craving here and there. This is called the arising of identity.

    “What is the cessation of identity? That is, it is the abandoning without remainder, giving up, vomiting out, eradication, fading away, appeasing, and vanishing of craving conjoined with lust and delight for future becoming, delighting with craving here and there. This is called the cessation of identity.

    https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/sa123

    "What, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbana-element with residue left.

    personlobsterShoshin
  • What must be annihilated is identity view.

    "Just as when boys or girls are playing with little sand castles:[4] as long as they are not free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, that's how long they have fun with those sand castles, enjoy them, treasure them, feel possessive of them. But when they become free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, then they smash them, scatter them, demolish them with their hands or feet and make them unfit for play.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn23/sn23.002.than.html

    annihilate - to destroy something completely so that nothing is left:

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited February 11

    @adamcrossley said:
    There have been a few discussions on here recently about the risk of becoming nihilistic through Buddhist philosophy. We’ve mostly agreed that nihilism was far from the message of the Buddha.

    My problem is, when I get depressed, the nihilistic approach is all I can see. I go to the wisdom that usually inspires and encourages me when I’m feeling well, and it leaves me feeling empty, not in the good, interdependent way. In the hollow, everything-is-pointless way.

    Life is suffering —> why continue?

    So my question is how to avoid or correct this. Anyone have the same issue?

    If it helps to know, I originally came to Buddhism because of depression a couple of years ago.

    First I'd investigate the initial premise that life is suffering. What does this mean? Does it mean that there is no life aside from suffering or that life suffers?

    Since there are the other three NTs I have to surmise that if suffering were taken away, there could still be life.

    We are told our individuality is an illusion which means we are not really separate beings.

    I know from experience that helping others helps myself. I also know from experience that others can help to pick me up without expectation of any reward.

    Some people say that ignorance or sin is our true nature but that sounds wrong to me. I would imagine that before life became self aware, there was just cooperation.

    It probably isn't just a coincidence that it feels right to make someone smile.

    Life is suffering --> Use the illusion and cooperate consciously.

    The Middle Way... knowing the objective reality while living subjectively.

    Even if we make meaning instead of finding it to exist inherently, let's not waste it. It may not have been a plan by some deity but here we are, points of perspective come to life with ever more reasons and means to explore this world we are not separate from.

    That isn't to say we should cling to any self view. Use it while we got it, stay healthy and all that because we all have a unique way of seeing the world. That is what makes us useful.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited February 11

    @adamcrossley said:
    I go to the wisdom that usually inspires and encourages me when I’m feeling well, and it leaves me feeling empty, not in the good, interdependent way. In the hollow, everything-is-pointless way.

    Life is suffering —> why continue?

    So my question is how to avoid or correct this. Anyone have the same issue?

    I think it is true, it is one of life’s ultimate questions, why continue. But at the same time, when you sit in meditation, and you notice all your feelings and thoughts are empty, you can find equanimity in just sitting. Then you have to ask, why not continue?

    We were after all given this life by existence, in an unbroken chain from parents to grandparents to great-grandparents and their ancestors, stretching back into prehistory. And so now we experience it, it is our turn to struggle with the nature of mind.

    Because in the end, it is just the mind. When you sit, think of yourself as an empty shell experiencing just sitting. You will find the mind is really surplus to requirements, it is caught up in daily worries and also in what you think of as wisdom, but in the end you can let it all go and take joy in just sitting.

    “The mind is the root from which all things grow, if you can understand the mind, all else is included.”
    — Bodhidharma

    adamcrossleyJeffrey
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited February 11

    @person, thank you. That sounds like a helpful practice. Would you incorporate it into meditation, write it in a journal, think it through with a cup of tea? What have you tried?

    @federica, that’s wonderful advice too.

    What I managed to do over time, was to really, really bring myself into that moment, and connect as closely as I could with exactly how I felt. I LET myself feel it, to my core. Then, I'd recognise it. I'd name it. I'd address it, and accept it, as being part of that moment. an important part, an instructive part, a part that existed, was real and deeply-felt.

    This is something I was contemplating last night. There are some instructions that recommend paying attention to the breath to allow the thinking to stop (TNH says this, for instance), and there are some that recommend paying attention to the total experience, or to whatever is calling for your attention.

    When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, is it better to be mindful of the breath (or body, visualisation, etc.) and stop the thinking, or be mindful of the anxiety/depression?

    I don’t want to ignore/turn away from the experience, but at the same time, if there’s a place of calm available, I obviously want to access it.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    @person, thank you. That sounds like a helpful practice. Would you incorporate it into meditation, write it in a journal, think it through with a cup of tea? What have you tried?

    At this point in my practice I think I just generally always have a certain amount of gratitude in me, so it isn't really a conscious effort anymore.

    I usually think experimentation to find out what works best for you is the way to go. Gratitude practice is fairly well established, I'm sure you can find several articles or methods with a little searching.

    lobsteradamcrossleyJeffreyDavid
  • I've heard it recommended that walking meditation is good for depression because it can get energies flowing again. I can't recall the words but 'turn towards' the depression whatever feeling it is. And other things that in your experience get energies flowing again. Maybe going outdoors to a park or somewhere by the water or what have you?

    Other suggestions I have would be to listen or read the thoughts of Jon Kabat Zinn books or audio. He does a lot of stuff with the body including body scans, yoga, and mindfulness of activities such as eating. It's unusually body oriented whereas a lot of Buddhist meditation dharma talks are talking about more mental.

    adamcrossleylobster
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    What makes suffering painful is that we expect to NOT suffer. We tense up, we fight our discomfort.
    No, relaxing into it doesn't make it go away, but it changes how we feel it.

    Think of any kind of pain, and psychology says the more we resist it, the greater it is.
    Consider flu-shot clinics ... the kids resist, and end up quivering and tearing up before the short in the arm ... and bursting into wails and sobs after.
    But the adults, accepting and relax, don't even blink an eye.
    Now, yes, there IS a slight difference in how you give the injection, since children cannot be guaranteed to jerk. I have had it done that way (the nurse was practicing) as an adult and you CAN feel it ... but just.
    For the kids it is 99% their OWN self-creation that they experience this as pain.
    The more we resist something, the more we experience it as painful.
    And the FIRST teaching of Buddha's is that suffering HAPPENS .. why do we keep on thinking that we alone should be immune from this reality?

    And it is so, too, for emotional pain. I know this. Especially now. The dog I raised from a puppy, stayed with my ex when we split and I could not find a place where they would let me keep the dog. The dog is now riddled with cancer, and my ex doesn't believe in meeting death with pain medication nor with euthanasia. I constantly find pain over the dog's pain welling up inside me, and then helplessness ... and the normal desire to take that feeling and turn it into anger (which both distracts us from our pain AND makes up feel like we have power again). And the temptation to find some rationalization and justification FOR being angry.
    I calm down for about 18-24 hours, and then the tide comes back in and again I am trying to tread water. And this is after 18 years of guided practice in Buddhism. Pema Chodron tells us that in Buddhism we are trying to change a lifetime of mental/emotional habits .. and LIFETIMES (if we believe in rebirth) .. so it is not realistic to expect to master this quickly.

    For those who are upset for my dog, I did consider reporting animal abuse .. but the greatest fear this dog has ever had is when some stranger leads him away (the doggie-daycare, the vet, the groomer). And here he is dying and physically vulnerable and the absolute worst thing I could do is have some strangers take him out of his safe-spot, his home. He will be gone soon and out of pain.

    So it IS a struggle. And it should NOT be a struggle, since it is struggling which creates our pain. Yes, we get into Buddhism because we want to be happy and no longer want to be unhappy. And it is THAT aversion/attachment that IS the cause of our unhappiness.

    Sharon Salzberg talks about the Dalai Lama talking about a tour he took of a Catholic monastery where they made fruitcake and cheese to support themselves. And how, at the end of the tour, they offered him a piece of cheese. And at this point in the interview, the Dalai Lama says, "But what I REALLY wanted was a piece of that fruitcake" .. and then he burst into that laughter he is famous for.
    And that is what we aim for. To be open to our cravings, and NOT take them seriously .. to be able to laugh at where we are stuck.
    And you know ... from time to time, I think I just MIGHT be able to do that. I know I did this morning, talking to my sister about the tricks my mind was trying to place to turn my pain into anger. I ended up laughing at my ignorance. Will I stay at peace with this? Who knows. I can only know THIS moment and how I am relating to it.
    And .. most of our pain has nothing to do with THIS moment, but with self-created drama, of fear for the future, or pain from the past that we don't want to let go of.

    Sorry I went on for so long. I have to dance on marbles these past few days, in order to keep from falling down.

    Jeffreylobster
  • Great post @FoibleFull <3
    Here is some info for those helping with the route cause ...

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited February 12

    @adamcrossley said:
    There have been a few discussions on here recently about the risk of becoming nihilistic through Buddhist philosophy. We’ve mostly agreed that nihilism was far from the message of the Buddha.

    My problem is, when I get depressed, the nihilistic approach is all I can see. I go to the wisdom that usually inspires and encourages me when I’m feeling well, and it leaves me feeling empty, not in the good, interdependent way. In the hollow, everything-is-pointless way.

    Life is suffering —> why continue?

    So my question is how to avoid or correct this. Anyone have the same issue?

    If it helps to know, I originally came to Buddhism because of depression a couple of years ago.

    What do you mean, "why continue", if life is suffering? Remember the 4 Noble Truths: the Dharma shows the way out of suffering. Why NOT continue, when you have that beacon of hope shining in front of you?

    OP, I'm not understanding your dilemma. How can you miss, when you have these simple teachings?

    "Life is suffering, and here is the way out".

    ...Right, OP?

    OP?? :(

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Thought you might find this interesting...

    https://www.lionsroar.com/i-thought-i-was-alone/

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited February 12

    @FoibleFull, that was a really great post. Thanks for sharing it. I found your Dalai Lama story particularly inspiring.

    Sharon Salzberg talks about the Dalai Lama talking about a tour he took of a Catholic monastery where they made fruitcake and cheese to support themselves. And how, at the end of the tour, they offered him a piece of cheese. And at this point in the interview, the Dalai Lama says, "But what I REALLY wanted was a piece of that fruitcake" .. and then he burst into that laughter he is famous for.
    And that is what we aim for. To be open to our cravings, and NOT take them seriously .. to be able to laugh at where we are stuck.

    @Jeffrey, thanks for the advice to do walking meditation. I’ve been meaning to incorporate it into my routine for a while. It’s something I generally find a little alien. I practise yoga occasionally and usually find that very calming and restoring.

    @David, thank you too. I will try to focus on helping others when I am feeling down in the future. You’re quite right, it does help.

    @Dakini, it’s hard for me to think right now. I was quite down when I began this discussion, and that mindstate is hard for me to understand now. I’ll try giving an example:

    A common reminder in mindfulness practice is “thoughts and feelings come and go”. This is easy for me to grasp when I’m feeling, well, sane honestly. But when I’m depressed (which happily is not much more than once a week these days, usually for about 24 hours), it’s more difficult. In fact I sometimes find it even more depressing. I think, “Well, this feeling will go, but it’s here right now and it’s painful, and when it goes, it’ll still come back in the future.”

    Do you kind of see what I mean?

    I don’t want to lay the burden of my depression on you kind people, even though I know you wouldn’t mind. I have a therapist for that! I was more asking from a “practice” point of view.

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    Suffering is just the first Noble Truth. It's valuable Dharma you're experiencing if you can incorporate also the three remaining Noble Truths. Next try to understand the causes of the ending of suffering, then walk the path that ends suffering.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited February 12

    @JaySon said:
    Next try to understand the causes of the ending of suffering, then walk the path that ends suffering.

    Maybe a case of easier said than done? :p

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:

    @JaySon said:
    Next try to understand the causes of the ending of suffering, then walk the path that ends suffering.

    Maybe a case of easier said than done? :p

    The only thing that's easy is being a slave to your afflictions and creating bad karma. :p

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited February 12

    Moderator note:

    @Jayson, please don't try telling someone who suffers from clinical depression that in essence they're responsible for it. I will not tolerate 'blaming and shaming' and if you have never suffered from Depression (Capital 'D') you simply cannot even begin to imagine or understand just how debilitating it can be.

    To tell someone that by succumbing to depression, they're creating bad karma is astonishingly ignorant. Frankly, you owe @adamcrossley an apology.

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    @federica said:

    Moderator note:

    @Jayson, please don't try telling someone who suffers from clinical depression that in essence they're responsible for it. I will not tolerate 'blaming and shaming' and if you have never suffered from Depression (Capital 'D') you simply cannot even begin to imagine or understand just how debilitating it can be.

    To tell someone that by succumbing to depression, they're creating bad karma is astonishingly ignorant. Frankly, you owe @adamcrossley an apology.

    Sorry, can't apologize for teaching pure dharma. Ban me, I guess.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    That's not pure Dhamma; you are sorely mistaken.
    Insulting and belittling the severe mental issues and workings of another person, when you obviously have no grasp or understanding of the condition, is about as far from pure dhamma as you can get.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:

    @JaySon said:
    Next try to understand the causes of the ending of suffering, then walk the path that ends suffering.

    Maybe a case of easier said than done? :p

    It supposedly gets easier the more mindful we are. Maybe trying to end suffering is a tough call but easing suffering can only be a good start. Not only for others but for you as well.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @JaySon said:

    @federica said:

    Moderator note:

    @Jayson, please don't try telling someone who suffers from clinical depression that in essence they're responsible for it. I will not tolerate 'blaming and shaming' and if you have never suffered from Depression (Capital 'D') you simply cannot even begin to imagine or understand just how debilitating it can be.

    To tell someone that by succumbing to depression, they're creating bad karma is astonishingly ignorant. Frankly, you owe @adamcrossley an apology.

    Sorry, can't apologize for teaching pure dharma. Ban me, I guess.

    She isn't wrong you know.

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    The beginning of the path is virtuous actions and abandoning nonvirtuous actions. Then we cultivate meditative concentration. Then we use it to gain insight.

    So, because I said he should abandon nonvirtuous actions and see the afflictions as the enemy, you said that's belittling.

    Cultivating virtue and abandoning negative actions is just the beginning of the path and begins to make your mind more peaceful.

    We all have to live with our karma we've created in past lives.

    It's a good time for all of us to abandon nonvirtuous actions and make the mind more peaceful so we can progress on the path.

    It's cause and effect, or karma.

    What's your case for that being belittling?

    Shoshin
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 12

    Yes but having depression does not mean you can't cultivate concentration and insight. And depression isn't easy to abandon like giving up a food or something like that. It's very difficult to work with.

    I can see why it is confusing because of statements like this:

    Most living beings seek mental happiness and want to eliminate suffering, but just wishing will not bring this about. We may even create the opposite. So we must search for the cause of suffering and the cause of happiness. The afflictions are the cause of samsara, of all mental discomfort and suffering. The remedy is meditation.

    – 17th Karmapa

    However it's not a great idea "Oh you have a problem... I guess you are doing your meditation wrong". That is not a very good idea.

    Maybe a better idea: "Oh you have a problem... a very juicy problem... that is great manure for your practice"

    “All irritations are crucial”
    All the things taking place around our world, all the irritations and all the problems, are crucial. Without others we cannot attain enlightenment — in fact, we cannot even tread on the path. If there is no noise outside during our sitting meditation, we cannot develop mindfulness. If we do not have aches and pains in the body, we cannot attain mindfulness; we cannot actually meditate. If everything were lovey-dovey and jellyfishlike, there would be nothing to work with.

    – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness

    Davidadamcrossley
  • @federica and @JaySon, I didn’t particularly take offence. There could even be a case for not taking one’s own depression too seriously.

    I’ll have to post more tomorrow though, as it’s getting late for me. Thanks @David and @FoibleFull for more kind and helpful words, and @federica for watching over us.

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    @federica and @JaySon, I didn’t particularly take offence. There could even be a case for not taking one’s own depression too seriously.

    I’ll have to post more tomorrow though, as it’s getting late for me. Thanks @David and @FoibleFull for more kind and helpful words, and @federica for watching over us.

    I'm glad because I'm only trying to help. 👍

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @JaySon , sent a PM. :)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    There have been a few discussions on here recently about the risk of becoming nihilistic through Buddhist philosophy. We’ve mostly agreed that nihilism was far from the message of the Buddha.

    My problem is, when I get depressed, the nihilistic approach is all I can see. I go to the wisdom that usually inspires and encourages me when I’m feeling well, and it leaves me feeling empty, not in the good, interdependent way. In the hollow, everything-is-pointless way.

    Life is suffering —> why continue?

    So my question is how to avoid or correct this. Anyone have the same issue?

    If it helps to know, I originally came to Buddhism because of depression a couple of years ago.

    @adamcrossley

    It's easy for one's unguarded mind to slip back into old unwholesome habits...(it's had many years of practicing bad habits and has become quite the expert)....
    It would seem that when things are going well 'mentally' one may have the tendency to slacken off when it comes to daily meditation practice and monkey mind being monkey mind seizes the opportunity and is soon back up to its old tricks again...playing havoc with the mind...AKA the game of anxiety & depression ...on the scale of mild to moderate or severe...

    Have you heard of Professor Mark Williams ? He is a clinical psychologist who works with people who are clinically depressed...He has researched the Buddhist mindfulness technique and teaches it to his patients...I can no longer locate the full set of his guided mindfulness techniques, but here's a starter...

    Like how regular physical exercise strengthens the muscles... regular mental exercise AKA meditation will strengthen the mind so to speak...

    May your bouts of depression become less frequent....

    adamcrossley
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    ^^ See, now, that's helpful.. ^^

  • @JaySon said:
    Sorry, can't apologize for teaching pure dharma. Ban me, I guess.

    I can. o:)

    Sorry about that ... must be another story told by my esteemed marine mentor ...
    http://tinyurl.com/y37qulxa

    ... it leads to the impure Mahayana teaching of the eight verses ...

    The Octopus smiled.
    "Few will give up their burdens and attachments easily. This is why we find skillful means to remove their hindrances. Just as we deal with our own and learn about the nature of suffering. The reason we have to steal others karma is because we can own it, even though others may still be playing with it."
    Lobster though for a while and then smiling asked, "We have to steal their bad karma before it comes our way? So I guess it is in our best interests?"

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