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this terrified me - nihilism, the end game of buddhism?

SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer
edited January 1 in Buddhism Basics

I am very new to the path - i have been meditating for a couple of years and have almost entirely healed a horrifying life long anxiety disorder, and have felt a slow, gradual "waking up". I take my Buddhist practice bit by bit, exploring it as it comes to me, carefully and slowly exploring it all.

Robert Wright - with his inquiring mind, his openness and natural skeptical lines of thoughts, has been great for me - he seems as interested in at all as I am, and still has, it seems, a discerning mind to pretty much all of it.

I stumbled across this video of his:

He is interviewing a guy who claims to have had such medative breakthroughs, after meditating for 25 years, that his mind is almost "now totally silent", that he clings to nothing, and has almost totally dissolved any sense of I, Mine, Me, etc - his "stories about himself have evaporated". He says that the medative state is now almost constant. This guy is a renowned figure in science and business, extremely intelligent, and is in no way woo woo. If you listen to him, there is a frightening logic and humility in what he says.

Asked by Robert Wright if he still is "attached to his daughters", he said, "I can honestly say no", after having consciously stopped clinging towards them after they left to university. Surprised, Robert Wright asks, "so you have no more feeling towards them than anyone else?", and he replied "yes, that is true. I don't have any different feelings to them as anyone else". He goes on to say that he feels no particular love or compassion for fellow human beings, although that mechanism is available to him. Listen to the interview - it sent a chill down my spine, being a father.

What price the quiet mind? Just what are we aiming towards, here? To loose all attachment that, say, if a child of our own dies, we feel no more sadness than if a stranger dies?

Give me noise and passion and terror, if it means i love my daughters and my wife and my friends, and my community?

To view the world with no attachments at all, even to our loved ones, who surely logically become "non-loved ones", then can someone explain to me what the benefits of buddhism are, other than a quiet mind?

I am kind of foreseeing the responses to this, but in summery - explain to me the difference between nihilism and buddhism when the logical outcome of buddhism is losing attachment to our children?

thank you, i really would love to hear some people on this path thoughts about this man.

happy new year!

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I haven’t watched the whole video, just enough to get a sense of this Gary Weber, he seems quite caught up in the academical approach to investigating meditation. But just in passing he mentions Sri Ramana Maharshi as a major inspiration to his meditative method.

    Ramana’s method was basically to keep repeating internally the question “who am I?” And to try to follow this to its ultimate conclusion. He said it was the ‘direct path’ to enlightenment, and was in his time held to be a clear exemplar of an enlightened being. He was not Buddhist, however.

    So it kind of makes sense for a meditator following Ramana’s path to eventually run into dissolving parts of the self, and possibly lose his feelings for children. It is not necessarily the same as the Buddhist path, which is not in the same way aimed at self-inquiry. So I don’t think Buddhist meditation methods would have the same result.

    Another interesting thing is that he seems quite distant, and doesn’t talk much about bliss. But he does seem reasonably content, if he is pleased with the outcome of his long process of meditation then perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judge it, after all we can’t experience it.

    adamcrossleySE25Wall
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 1

    I'd like to add that non existence probably couldn't be tricked into thinking it exists.

    The word "skillful" is used a lot in Buddhism which in itself offsets any nihilist understanding for myself.

    Remember Buddha had yet to awaken in Sidhartha when he left his family. When he got up from that tree, he could have started walking in any of the infinite directions or even hung himself, all things being equal. So why did he go back to help those he knew before enlightenment? To Sidharthas friends and family?

    I think it's because he would end suffering, not life.

    Although his love grew all encompassing, he did not stop loving his family or forget his responsibility.

    It isn't skillful to assign no meaning to a tool once we have seen it as such.

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

    A full answer is probably deeper than this, but I would say that Buddhism develops a sense of universal love and compassion in addition to equanimity. So it would be more accurate to say that someone accomplished in the path would more likely have feelings towards strangers similar to the feelings we might have towards our close ones rather than the other way around.

    In metta practice that is essentially what we do. We start with evoking a sense of love towards ourselves, then our close ones, then strangers, enemies and all beings. So we aren't removing love from people we are extending it to broader circles.

    And love and attachment are considered distinct experiences in Buddhism. Attachment is what is known as a near enemy of love, in that it is similar enough and mixed up enough with each other to fool us into thinking we have one when maybe we actually have more of the other.

    tom_hittadamcrossleystapeliadLinc
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    "Non-existence" is a misnomer in Buddhism. What is generally meant in use of this term is the lack of an abiding self, which is not a misnomer in Buddhism. Lack of an abiding self can feel, on first encounter, like nihilism. It isn't.

    Take, for example, the tale of the monk whose understanding was confirmed by his teacher. Word spread in the monastery of his imagined good fortune and the other monks gathered around to congratulate their fortunate brother. One monk asked the fortunate one, "How about your problems? Are they all gone?" To which the monk replied, "Nope, same old problems."

    @SE25Wall -- There are plenty of scary breakthroughs in Buddhist practice -- points at which the talk dissolves and the reality kicks in: This is not some smarmy, do-good philosophy ... it's just the truth and it isn't what I expected.

    I don't trust those who claim to have set aside all attachments. Human life, put another way, is simply "Attachments R Us" ... and it is important to see through it all. Not incinerate or disembowel or nihil-ize -- see through. It may be spookier than shit, but a little spooky never hurt anyone. Most bright-light understandings require a bit of time to digest, so keep practicing and SEE what happens. Enlightenment? SEE what happens. Nihilism? SEE what happens.

    Just keep practicing and don't believe everything you -- or anyone else -- thinks.

    Sorry ... just some rambling.

    SE25WalllobsterFosdickrocala
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    this terrified me - nihilism, the end game of buddhism?

    Do you think that Buddhism is nihilistic @SE25Wall ?

    If you are unsure then see for yourself "Ehipassiko" and stop taking what others say as gospel...bearing in mind that monkey mind likes gossip and to gossip...

    What I took from what he said ( around 27 minutes in) is he still has deep love for his daughters, but no longer in a possessive 'ownership' kind of way...AKA "attachment"...

    From what I gather... the deeper one ventures into the Dharma the easier it becomes to let go of what causes suffering/unsatisfactoriness... and much of what causing this is the notions that are clung to...

    Fear is the enemy which stir up the mud at the bottom of the pond...

    and given time ....this too shall pass....

    personFosdick
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I am kind of foreseeing the responses to this, but in summery - explain to me the difference between nihilism and buddhism when the logical outcome of buddhism is losing attachment to our children?

    In Nihilism everything is unimportant and in Buddhism everything is meaningful. Logical outcomes are not happening.
    To put it another way, no past, no future, for now - stillness.

    We are all children and precious. In a way we become attached to more ...

    SE25Wallstapeliad
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Gary Weber hasn't reached the end game of Buddhism so he's not an accurate way to judge "the end game".

    lobsterKundoSE25Wall
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Outstanding quote from @pegembara <3

    Give me noise and passion and terror, if it means i love my daughters and my wife and my friends, and my community

    :)
    You can love them all more ... (phew) but without noise, passion and terror (phew to infinity and beyond) Strangely enough you can love noise, passion, terror and othe hell realm demons once you are a boddhisatva and beyond

    Kerome
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer

    fascinating responses, thanks guys.

    Dakini
  • 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

    Hopefully you are put at ease, and perhaps comforted by the fact that even if someone sounds wise and experienced, they're not always right or accurate. But at least you followed the Buddha's counsel to investigate and research everything for yourself and not just rely on the testimony of those who preach without foundation....

    SE25Wall
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer

    @lobster said:
    >

    To put it another way, no past, no future, for now - stillness.

    lovely way of putting it...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited January 2

    If one tries to put into conventional words one's ultimate experience ( like Mr Weber
    :) )...things are bound to become lost in translation...( Dharma 'talks' for example can be quite challenging) Words are only directions and not the destination...and some people are good at taking directions whilst other aren't so good and need to be told more often and in different ways...

    Hence why Dharma practice can be seen as an experiment ....experiments that will eventually lead one to the truth AKA to see the true nature of things...

    Don't mistake the finger that points 'to' the moon 'for' the moon ..... always look beyond...

    FosdickSE25Wall
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited January 3

    @SE25Wall said:
    I am very new to the path - i have been meditating for a couple of years and have almost entirely healed a horrifying life long anxiety disorder, and have felt a slow, gradual "waking up". I take my Buddhist practice bit by bit, exploring it as it comes to me, carefully and slowly exploring it all.

    Robert Wright - with his inquiring mind, his openness and natural skeptical lines of thoughts, has been great for me - he seems as interested in at all as I am, and still has, it seems, a discerning mind to pretty much all of it.

    I stumbled across this video of his:

    He is interviewing a guy who claims to have had such medative breakthroughs, after meditating for 25 years, that his mind is almost "now totally silent", that he clings to nothing, and has almost totally dissolved any sense of I, Mine, Me, etc - his "stories about himself have evaporated". He says that the medative state is now almost constant. This guy is a renowned figure in science and business, extremely intelligent, and is in no way woo woo. If you listen to him, there is a frightening logic and humility in what he says.

    Asked by Robert Wright if he still is "attached to his daughters", he said, "I can honestly say no", after having consciously stopped clinging towards them after they left to university. Surprised, Robert Wright asks, "so you have no more feeling towards them than anyone else?", and he replied "yes, that is true. I don't have any different feelings to them as anyone else". He goes on to say that he feels no particular love or compassion for fellow human beings, although that mechanism is available to him.

    This is called Hīnayāna Buddhism. It doesn't matter if he is a Theravādin or Mahāyānika. Buddhism without compassion is the vehicle of individual liberation exclusively, and this liberation is second-rate. Severance from rather than freedom from.

    IMO you cannot rightly call Theravāda "Hīnayāna", because of many features that distinguish it from its historical rival schools, the Sarvāstivāda & Sautrāntika, who lacked a strong mettabhāvanā (cultivation of loving-kindness) component to their practice.

    Whenever you read the word "Hīnayāna" in an elderly Mahāyānika text, they are referring principally to the three śrāvaka schools of Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Pudgalavāda. This is because modern-day Theravāda is the descendant of the island tradition of Sri Lanka, which was largely unknown in medieval India and China, due to its status as a relatively isolated Island nation (likely a factor in its extraordinarily venerable feat of preserving the last full śrāvaka tripiṭaka in an Indic language).

    Perhaps the Theravādin focus on loving-kindness is what allowed it to survive where the rest of the śrāvaka schools died out. Theravādins even practise the six perfections of the bodhisattva. This dynamic engagement IMO is what kept the tradition from stagnating.

    lobsterpersonSE25Walladamcrossley
  • herbieherbie Veteran

    Hi SE25Wall

    buddhism often has been interpreted as nihilistic in the Western world. There are even scholars called 'buddhologists' or scientific/philosophical experts of buddhism who are biased towards a nihilistic interpretation.

    But I wouldn't worry about these nihilistic interpretations since the Buddha himself has made clear that both, nihilism and eternalism are wrong views.

    SE25WallKundo
  • 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

    (Hi @herbie, just to help - when "speaking" to a specific member, it attracts their attention and alerts them you have responded to them directly, when you put the @ directly in front of their forum name; it then highlights their title, as yours has been in this post. Just to help! :) )

  • @Vimalajāti, I agree with you. I think that was a really insightful way of putting it. However, is it accurate to make a distinction between “emptiness/equanimity practice” and “emptiness/equanimity + compassion practice”?

    In my way of thinking (copied wholesale from Thich Nhat Hanh), if your understanding of emptiness is perfect, your compassion will be perfect too. In his view, there couldn’t be individual liberation without compassion.

    I didn’t express that very well. Does anyone know what I mean? (Because I’m not sure I do...)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 4

    Does anyone know what I mean?

    Yes. ... eh No ...

    It is wise to be kind and compassionate. Metta is the activity of The Wives the wise of the dharma ...

    As we become An alchemical Still, we refine our empty flask to radiate ...

    In other words
    Let there be light (form)
    God (Emptiness)

    or to put it another perfect way:

    Kerome
  • A quiet mind? It does not make a bit of difference if your mind is quiet or not. The only time my mind is "Quiet" is maybe when I am asleep. That has never been the goal of my practice. Confidence, happiness for self and others, the celebration of life in all its forms however it presents itself. I have always had a temper, but it is now directed and I never stay angry, it does not control me. Anger now triggers, turns into positive action not negative destruction. Other's joy is my joy and other's pain is my pain. I have come to love myself enough to love others. I do not hold myself above anyone else. The beggar and the tycoon are of equal worth. Their social standing is irrelevant. I do not expect perfection from other and know that I am not nor will be perfect. and that is fine. Perfection is not the goal. Awakening, not extinction, is. awakening the Buddha within to enable the emergence of that Buddha state. Awake, I/we am/are Buddha. Asleep - ignorant, an "ordinary" human being. A Buddha is no different from an ordinary human being save he or she has attained the state of Buddha (or "is a Buddha") has awakened.

    lobsterSE25WallShoshin
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited January 5

    @adamcrossley said:
    @Vimalajāti, I agree with you. I think that was a really insightful way of putting it. However, is it accurate to make a distinction between “emptiness/equanimity practice” and “emptiness/equanimity + compassion practice”?

    In my way of thinking (copied wholesale from Thich Nhat Hanh), if your understanding of emptiness is perfect, your compassion will be perfect too. In his view, there couldn’t be individual liberation without compassion.

    I didn’t express that very well. Does anyone know what I mean? (Because I’m not sure I do...)

    One of my great poverties in life is my lack of reading Venerable Pratyudyānavasanta (this is Thích Nhất Hạnh's Sanskritic dharma name).

    Which book are you referring to of his wherein he spoke to you of "perfect understanding of emptiness, perfect compassion?" I am interested to know.

    One of the dharma's most mysterious aspects, to me, is how penetration into emptiness generates compassion. I ascent to it, I know it as a book-learned fact, but it still seems counterintuitive on a "gut" level!

    person
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer
    edited January 5

    i guess if you haven't got well worn neural pathways of compassion, or are unwilling to develop them, all the mindfullness and emptiness in the world wont make any difference. hence why i guess you get these very enlightened gurus acting in very bad ways,.

  • herbieherbie Veteran

    @SE25Wall said:
    i guess if you haven't got well worn neural pathways of compassion, or are unwilling to develop them, all the mindfullness and emptiness in the world wont make any difference. hence why i guess you get these very enlightened gurus acting in very bad ways,.

    Hi @SE25Wall,

    I think that it is not possible to judge on the basis of mere words. Words applied always have contexts that often cannot be known.

    Then as far as compassion and emptiness are concerned: one may approach starting with compassion and remain stuck there or one may approach starting with emptiness and remain stuck there. There is no difference in being stuck from the perspective of liberating wisdom.
    On the other hand one may approach starting with compassion or starting with emptiness and integrate both.

  • @Vimalajāti, I honestly can’t remember. If you want a recommendation though, I really enjoyed Body and Mind Are One, which is a series of talks:

    https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Body-and-Mind-Are-One-Audiobook/B00D3PG3K0

    Makes good listening in the car...

  • herbieherbie Veteran

    @Vimalajāti said:

    One of the dharma's most mysterious aspects, to me, is how penetration into emptiness generates compassion. I ascent to it, I know it as a book-learned fact, but it still seems counterintuitive on a "gut" level!

    Hi @Vimalajāti,

    honestly, I think one may get fixated on compassion as one may get fixated on emptiness as I've tried to express in my reply to SE25Wall above.

    The reason why one may get easily fixated on compassion is because compassion is this very prominent Mahayana doctrine which resonates so well with Christian love which we all are so familar with in the West.

    But neither the Buddha of the Pali suttas nor the Buddha of the Mahayana sutras has taught compassion or love to be truly existing final values.
    Both have taught compassion and love to be means to attain a final goal. That doesn't say anything about their presence or absence when that final goal is attained and I am far from making any assertions about that. However to me it seems very unlikely that my ordinary mind's understanding of what is commonly known as 'compassion' or 'love' would be relevant in the context of having attained any of these two final goals ('two' since actually the Theravada goal and the Mahayana goal are expressed differently).

    I don't think that 'penetration into emptiness generates compassion' as you put it. I would be inclined to put it that way: realization of emptiness may reveal hidden qualities. One of these qualities may perhaps (!) be likened to compassion for want of words, knowledge and experience, but it is likely that it isn't commonly known compassion.

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Vimalajāti said:
    One of my great poverties in life is my lack of reading Venerable Pratyudyānavasanta (this is Thích Nhất Hạnh's Sanskritic dharma name).

    Many of Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreat talks are available on YouTube, and a number of his books are available here if you can’t obtain them in other ways.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    yes there is compassion in the emptiness. it helps being grounded to avoid the extreames.felt it a while back.aware the emptiness.the instinct,recollection of buddha,avoid nihilism,came back to what is real.so there is danger,in my opinion,to zoning out in meditation.find your balance in meditation,virtue(compassion in action),and wisdom to use both

    those new to buddhism,this discussion is even too advance to me,this feels like vajreana buddhism .or tibetan.def,to advance for me.but i understand their compassion is important to avoid nihilism nothing matters,in nihilistic thinking.our grounding,walk the earth,people matter.

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

    I think TNH addresses the connection between emptiness and compassion when he talks about one hand comforting the other when it gets hit with a hammer. When the distinctions between self and other dissolve compassion flows more naturally. There's probably more to it than that though.

    David
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 5

    @Vimalajāti said:

    One of the dharma's most mysterious aspects, to me, is how penetration into emptiness generates compassion. I ascent to it, I know it as a book-learned fact, but it still seems counterintuitive on a "gut" level!

    Penetration into emptiness generates compassion because it doesn't denote a lack of being but the potential for change and the lack of seperation.

    As well meaning as any teaching is, if it equates emptiness with nothingness, it misses the mark and veers off the path towards nihilism.

    It's probably better to strive to be ever more mindful to the point of being fully awake rather than chase enlightenment. That way there are no pesky beliefs getting in the way.

    If meditation is the practice then perhaps living is the art.

    lobster
  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    this came to mind,nothing matters is extream.everything matters is extream.the middle way,somethings matter,somethings dont matter,to us.which ties in with being present in the middle of the relative and the absolute in concept and in life.that is why balance or middle way is,imo,timeless advice,.

    David
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer

    such fascinating responses. i wish we were all in a room together talking this. i don't know a single buddhist in my life - it can become a little isolating with all this wonderful stuff flying around my noddle!

    Linc
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer
    edited January 5

    my own experience with compassion has come to the fore recently in man subtle ways. i am far more patient, i laugh at many things that used to piss me off. To experience this has been profound. if i now believe, which i kind of do, now and then, that we are all intricately linked, that there is no separation, i have started to see the guy with his music blaring from his headphones on my commute less as a selfish sonabitch, rather an extension of me, in a way and it's difficult to get angry and what is just the the universe (which "i" am part of the process). i still want him to stop the bloody racket but i don't hate him for it, i don't stew over it, because i am starting to see that the "he" that i would normally have assigned him is a view seeped in illusion and probably doesn't exist in any real tangible form. its difficult to get angry when the world starts to appear this way.

    herbielobster
  • SE25WallSE25Wall London Explorer

    robert wright is great, btw. it's like if a monk walks into a pub and Wright is the bloke at the bar who is curious and asks him questions. wright knows his buddhism but he asks so many simple but pertinent questions that really have helped me connect with the path of buddhism because he feels like he has as much "special knowledge" as i have (i.e. practically none) approaching those very much with speical knowldge.

    Shoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Just keep practicing and don't believe everything you -- or anyone else -- thinks.

    The dharma as one of the four jewels (allowing for Tantric inflation) is the confirmation and unfolding of The Middle Way. Not everything, every lama, every beginner, every zennith is pertinent to our present being or mindful stumble ...

    Just keep practicing and don't believe everything you -- or anyone else -- thinks.

    Vimalajāti
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    @lobster said:
    The dharma as one of the four jewels (allowing for Tantric inflation)

    Tantric inflations are my favourite.

    lobsterpersonKerome
  • @SE25Wall said:
    such fascinating responses. i wish we were all in a room together talking this. i don't know a single buddhist in my life - it can become a little isolating with all this wonderful stuff flying around my noddle!

    You could train to be a noodle master

    Me bad. You said noddle ... :3

    Kundo
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