Words on nihilism

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Tiago Simões
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Words on nihilism

Post by Tiago Simões »

I'm looking for discussions on nihilism, especially what mahasiddhas said about it, but it can be any quote from any master, or even from anyone here. Just anything that can be used as a counter for nihilistic views.

Thank you
:anjali:
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Queequeg »

tiagolps wrote:I'm looking for discussions on nihilism, especially what mahasiddhas said about it, but it can be any quote from any master, or even from anyone here. Just anything that can be used as a counter for nihilistic views.

Thank you
:anjali:
Nihilism is nothing.
-me
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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dharmagoat
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by dharmagoat »

  • Nihilism is certainty of nothingness, the extreme view that all is desolate. It is as much a feeling as it is a thought. Avoid certainty and you wont go wrong.

    - Some opinionated goat
Last edited by dharmagoat on Fri Apr 08, 2016 11:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Queequeg
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Queequeg »

Dharmagoat answered while I was posting... this is more or less the same thing.

On a serious note, nihilism is wrong view (See Digha Nikaya 1, Brahmajala Sutta). I can't think of anything specific about its detrimental effects or criticism - other's with a wider knowledge can probably help you there.

Nihilism is difficult to counter. A person who has taken a nihilistic world view has a priori decided that "Nothing" is the Truth. No matter what you offer is absolutely negated.

That said, I don't think there are very many real nihilists. That level of delusion is a feat. There are people who entertain the proposition and its implications, but I'd challenge that they're really just affectations. I am skeptical that they've really explored the idea. If this is the case of the individuals you want to address, I think the most effective approach is to challenge them on proving "Nothing". Its impossible. They may offer the impossibility as proof of "Nothing", but its not - the conclusion of "Nothing" from impossibility implicitly requires a leap, a positive assertion.

That said, assuming nihilism is bad for you. If you wish to help them overcome it, you might plant the idea of undertaking Buddhist meditation under an experienced and knowledgeable instructor.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Losal Samten
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Losal Samten »

Queequeg wrote: I can't think of anything specific about its detrimental effects or criticism - other's with a wider knowledge can probably help you there.
It is the worst of all wrong views, and for a Buddhist who has taken refuge to fall into it, undeniably causes rebirth in Avici per Mipham. The Buddha said it was better to have of the self as large as Meru, rather than having the view of nihilism (can't find the exact quote right now).

The response to nihilism is that it is generally founded upon materialistic views, so countering mind rising from matter, showing that mind logically requires a previous instant of conciousness (ad infinatum) thus proving rebirth, refutal of something being capable of arising from nothing, denying that only direct perception is valid (as according to the carvakas), and so on are the basic methods.
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Grigoris »

Political nihilism or religious/philosophical?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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muni
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by muni »

Hi,
A person who has taken a nihilistic world view has a priori decided that "Nothing" is the Truth. No matter what you offer is absolutely negated.
Nihilism is cold craziness. This is the truth.

Saying nothing is the truth can maybe contain some truth in a way of all what we say is not expressing how nature is, since it is completely impossible to express. If it was, it would be very wonderful.
Simple negatings truths is not the way. Saying what is the truth neither.

I heard saying: there are many wars ever started because of the idea: truth. We see that also on a Buddhist forum, then it is called discussion. :smile:
*I do not teach separation.* sz.

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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Vasana »

Mind isn't some "thing" because even the conquerors have never seen it.

Yet it isn't nothing since it's the basis of which samsara & nirvana appear.

(Not an exact quote but something like that appears often)

One of the functions of Nagarjunas fundamental wisdom of the middle-way and the prajnaparamitra sutras is to go beyond the extremes of nihlism and essentialism ,nonexistence and existence and so on.
ཨོཾ ་ མ ་ ཎི ་ པ ་ དྨེ ་ ཧཱུྃ ། འ ་ ཨ ་ ཧ ་ ཤ ་ ས ་ མ །
Om Mani Peme Hum ། 'A Ah Ha Sha Sa Ma
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Tiago Simões
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Tiago Simões »

Sherab Dorje wrote:Political nihilism or religious/philosophical?
religious/philosophical
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Lazy_eye »

Mother's Lap wrote:showing that mind logically requires a previous instant of conciousness (ad infinatum)
Would you mind demonstrating why this is so, exactly? I'm not quite seeing it.

It seems to me this is like saying that if we have a glass of lemonade, there must have been a prior glass of lemonade from which it came. But that's not so. The lemonade came from lemons, sugar and water. Likewise, while consciousness must have arisen from something, it doesn't logically follow that the "something" was a prior instant of consciousness.
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Wayfarer »

'arisen from something' means 'conditioned'. All phenomena are like that. I think 'mind' has its phenomenal aspect - manas, organ of cognition. But in Mahayana Buddhism I think there is also a conception of 'subtle mind' which is transcendent. For example, the quote referred to by Vasana above is from the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, which contains this verse:
It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, be realised.
But care has to be taken because by naming it, it is re-ified, i.e. turned into an object of cognition.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by muni »

Lazy_eye wrote:
Mother's Lap wrote:showing that mind logically requires a previous instant of conciousness (ad infinatum)
Would you mind demonstrating why this is so, exactly? I'm not quite seeing it.

It seems to me this is like saying that if we have a glass of lemonade, there must have been a prior glass of lemonade from which it came. But that's not so. The lemonade came from lemons, sugar and water. Likewise, while consciousness must have arisen from something, it doesn't logically follow that the "something" was a prior instant of consciousness.
Lemonade is an example of composed appearance/phenomenon, which is for example dependent on its' parts, dependent on our thinking labeling mind in order "to exist".

The phenomenon thinking labeling mind or thinking consciousness is immaterial phenomena. Or thinking mind is also called small mind and is a restrickted form of Consciousness/ Empty Mind as being a misperception of how all is. It therefore actually does not exist other than being idea. From that mistaken restrickted form all problems derive, all is seen as things on themselves since the limited consciousness is identifying itself as a self with characteristics, a self to protect, separate of all/its' objective world around him/her.

Empty Mind is already before thinking mind thinks to exist. Therefore it is impossible to realize Empty Mind, since realizing is thinking. Also so to speak, small mind derives from Mind, not opposite.
Of course we can use Compassionate navigation/guidance to recognize, very much.
There is said realizing that restriction as fake by opening our heart is a wonderful thing.

I heard an example of such small mind as being the actor in ones own produced movie.
*I do not teach separation.* sz.

Wisdom beings know that we are not separate. This is why they are able to grant blessings."
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Losal Samten »

Lazy_eye wrote:
Mother's Lap wrote:showing that mind logically requires a previous instant of conciousness (ad infinatum)
Would you mind demonstrating why this is so, exactly? I'm not quite seeing it.
Mind can neither arise from matter, nor from nothing, thus the only reasonable inference is that it requires a previous moment of consciousness, which itself required a previous moment as it could not have arisen from matter, nor from nothing, and so on. Something from nothing is an obvious logical fallacy which needs no explanation.

With regard to mind from matter, they are of such a distinct nature, that is, one is fundamentally aware and one is fundamentally unaware, if one could produce something so distinct from itself then anything could arise from anything else, such as coldness from a fire, and things would be demonstrably random. Mind-streams that are transformed return to their true state of wisdom, so if mind could arise from matter, then matter could produce the unproduced wisdom of the buddhas, and the karmic tendencies that unenlightened mind-streams carry.
It seems to me this is like saying that if we have a glass of lemonade, there must have been a prior glass of lemonade from which it came. But that's not so. The lemonade came from lemons, sugar and water. Likewise, while consciousness must have arisen from something, it doesn't logically follow that the "something" was a prior instant of consciousness.
A glass of lemonade doesn't remain the same glass of lemonade till it's drunk, or the glass is smashed, but from instant to instant it is not the same, for if it were, then the two instants would be identical, in which case they would not be two separate instants. It is also however not different, for if it were, then we would have the problem of randomness again.

Neither the same nor different is the motto when it comes to continuums.

This is basically an argument negating "production from self" and "production from other". Mipham's commentaries on Shantarkshita's Madhyamakalamkara and Candrakirti's Madhyamakavatara go into this very well, using the examples of a father that "produces" a child, and a seed that "produces" a sprout; I highly recommend giving them a go. Also the Khenpo Brothers' Opening the Wisdom Door of the Madhyamaka School makes an excellent primer, and lays out the arguments in a very graspable manner.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Lazy_eye »

Mother's Lap wrote:
With regard to mind from matter, they are of such a distinct nature, that is, one is fundamentally aware and one is fundamentally unaware, if one could produce something so distinct from itself then anything could arise from anything else, such as coldness from a fire, and things would be demonstrably random.
A butterfly has a distinct set of properties compared to a caterpillar (i.e. it can fly); yet it arises from the caterpillar. An ice cube and running water have different properties (solidity vs. fluidity). The properties of a living body differ from those of a corpse; you yourself mentioned seeds and sprouts. The world is full of examples of things that change into other things, with other properties -- but it's not random and haphazard, as these processes follow a known set of laws.

I agree that we don't know how mind might arise from matter, but saying we don't know how doesn't mean it couldn't happen. The fact that there are different properties involved doesn't rule out transmutation form one state to the other. In theory, why couldn't something change from an unaware to an aware state, assuming there were a law or laws that governed this process?
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Losal Samten »

Lazy_eye wrote:A butterfly has a distinct set of properties compared to a caterpillar (i.e. it can fly); yet it arises from the caterpillar. An ice cube and running water have different properties (solidity vs. fluidity). The properties of a living body differ from those of a corpse; you yourself mentioned seeds and sprouts. The world is full of examples of things that change into other things, with other properties -- but it's not random and haphazard, as these processes follow a known set of laws.
A caterpillar and a butterfly is a material transition from one material state to another material state; awareness and knowing are characteristics of a mind, so until you have shown that those qualities are present in something other than a mind, then the argument is untenable.
I agree that we don't know how mind might arise from matter, but saying we don't know how doesn't mean it couldn't happen. The fact that there are different properties involved doesn't rule out transmutation form one state to the other. In theory, why couldn't something change from an unaware to an aware state, assuming there were a law or laws that governed this process?
There is an axiomatic mind-matter dichotomy in Buddhism, and this is resolved by proving that an external material world is untenable à la the Yogacarins. If there's an insistence on an external world/mind dichotomy, then an acceptance of the axiom of consciousness and matter being of a completely different nature has to be taken, as the Hinayanis and Sautrantika-Madhyamikas do.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
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Re: Words on nihilism

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Mother's Lap wrote: A caterpillar and a butterfly is a material transition from one material state to another material state; awareness and knowing are characteristics of a mind, so until you have shown that those qualities are present in something other than a mind, then the argument is untenable.
But this argument assumes the mind/matter dichotomy which is in fact what you need to demonstrate: it's a classic case of begging the question. Since you haven't (yet) shown the duality of mind and matter, there's no basis for arguing that a transition between the two is impossible.

I agree that the materialist view is not a certainty or even a near-certainty, as some people think. Until or unless someone comes up with a truly watertight explanation of how matter can generate mind, and is able to demonstrate this somehow in the lab, it will remain a possibility among other possibilities.

However, the same problem affects mind-matter dualism. From my point of view as a person who is curious and interested in the question, the important thing is whether you can show that the dualistic explanation is necessarily true -- that the materialist explanation is entirely ruled out. Any kind of explanation only moves from the realm of possibility to probability when you are able to rule out competing explanations.
There is an axiomatic mind-matter dichotomy in Buddhism...
This seems to be the crux of the matter. Sure, if you accept this, everything else falls into place.

So far, though, the arguments you have provided seem circular in nature (i.e. "dualism is true because mind is fundamentally distinct from matter").
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Losal Samten »

Lazy_eye wrote:
Mother's Lap wrote: A caterpillar and a butterfly is a material transition from one material state to another material state; awareness and knowing are characteristics of a mind, so until you have shown that those qualities are present in something other than a mind, then the argument is untenable.
But this argument assumes the mind/matter dichotomy which is in fact what you need to demonstrate
Like I said, something (mind) can not come from nothing, and something (matter) can not produce something (mind) that is fundamentally different. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly through a series of steps where each step is neither wholly different (as in it doesn't become a car), nor is it wholly the same, because it's material make-up has changed (alongside temporal change). The jump from nescience to sentience could only be instantaneous and is of a diametrically opposed nature.
Since you haven't (yet) shown the duality of mind and matter, there's no basis for arguing that a transition between the two is impossible.
Rocks do not have sense organs which can apprehend an object, triggering an instant of that sense's non-conceptual consciousness, upon which a conceptualising consciousness apprehends the previous non-conceptual instant of consciousness and reifying it. If you do not accept this you do not accept the words of the Buddha.
I agree that the materialist view is not a certainty or even a near-certainty, as some people think. Until or unless someone comes up with a truly watertight explanation of how matter can generate mind, and is able to demonstrate this somehow in the lab, it will remain a possibility among other possibilities.
It is not a possibility, because by using inference and scriptural authority from an a valid source, those being two of the three pramanas which Buddhism accepts, it is shown to be faulty.
However, the same problem affects mind-matter dualism. From my point of view as a person who is curious and interested in the question, the important thing is whether you can show that the dualistic explanation is necessarily true -- that the materialist explanation is entirely ruled out. Any kind of explanation only moves from the realm of possibility to probability when you are able to rule out competing explanations.
If you do not accept inference nor authoritative sources to be valid and only direct perception, you are a carvaka.
There is an axiomatic mind-matter dichotomy in Buddhism...
This seems to be the crux of the matter. Sure, if you accept this, everything else falls into place.

So far, though, the arguments you have provided seem circular in nature (i.e. "dualism is true because mind is fundamentally distinct from matter").
I'm am neither a skilled debater nor even talker. Read the books I suggested above, they can present a much clearer and tighter view than I possibly could. If they ring true, great, if not then I really don't know.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།
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Re: Words on nihilism

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Mother's Lap wrote: It is not a possibility, because by using inference and scriptural authority from an a valid source, those being two of the three pramanas which Buddhism accepts, it is shown to be faulty. If you do not accept inference nor authoritative sources to be valid and only direct perception, you are a carvaka.
This amounts to saying that the Buddhist view is true because it is the Buddhist view. It doesn't look like we can proceed much further with this discussion -- but thanks for engaging my questions!

The conclusion I draw from this is that being a Buddhist or Carvakan really boils down to acceptance of basic axioms (such as whether mind and matter are dichotomous). These axioms, unfortunately, can't really be "proven" at this point -- one just has to decide which of the alternatives seems most probable.

One reason the debate goes nowhere is because there are contrasting assumptions about what constitutes valid bases for knowledge. The framework that accepts scriptural authority and first-person testimony as a basis is obviously different from the framework of rational empiricism, for instance.

But this also means that a Buddhist cannot really "refute" or "respond to" a non-Buddhist -- because the underlying premises are so different. Mahayana finally boils down to faith in the authority of its scriptures and teachers.
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Losal Samten »

Lazy_eye wrote:The conclusion I draw from this is that being a Buddhist or Carvakan really boils down to acceptance of basic axioms (such as whether mind and matter are dichotomous). These axioms, unfortunately, can't really be "proven" at this point -- one just has to decide which of the alternatives seems most probable.
Pretty much, at least until one has the epistemological wisdom of a realised being. Mathematics for example is axiomatic (1=1 and a=a), which is seen as the height of logic; everything "proven" only works within the given system within which it operates.
One reason they can't be proven is because there are contrasting assumptions about what constitutes valid bases for knowledge. The framework that accepts scriptural authority and first-person testimony as a basis is obviously different from the framework of rational empiricism, for instance.

But this also means that a Buddhist cannot really "refute" or "respond to" a non-Buddhist -- because the underlying premises are so different. Mahayana finally boils down to faith in the validity of its scriptures and teachers.
Buddhists debated the tirthikas and carvakas, although they did not use authoritative sources as a basis for obvious reasons, only direct perception and inference. My use of authoritative sources was assuming you were coming from within a Buddhist standpoint, where such usage is acceptable.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།
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Re: Words on nihilism

Post by Lazy_eye »

Mother's Lap wrote:My use of authoritative sources was assuming you were coming from within a Buddhist standpoint, where such usage is acceptable.
I'm approaching this discussion from the standpoint of someone who is interested in the question and in how it could be resolved or answered. The OP was about how to "counter nihilistic views."

The point I would make is that arguments based on the pramanas accepted by Mahayana Buddhists are only going to work among Mahayana Buddhists (maybe those who have some nihilistic tendencies, but also sufficient conviction in the Mahayana scriptures to counter them through recourse to the sutras and wise commentators).

For nihilists who aren't Buddhists, such arguments aren't going to work at all -- for one thing, because there are other religious traditions out there, each emphasizing the validity and authority of scriptural knowledge. Unless you've made a decision to accept one of these and exclude the others, they all cancel each other out.
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