The Zennist

A kind of bottomless negativity

The central message of modern atheism is not so much that God is dead as if to say there is nothing divine or sacred in the world that transcends birth and death, but rather it goes further.  We are to believe in nothing (not even ourselves) so as to become perfect nihilists.  But then, where does this take us if not to overlooking an abyss, a kind of bottomless negativity.

Maybe this condition begins with doubt then moves from there into skepticism in which truth does not seem to exist.  This is reflected in the notion of prasajyapratisedha, that is, absolute negation without positive implication.  In other words, I have searched for truth nothing can be found.  Bt there is an obvious contradiction to this which forbids any nihilist from asserting the truth that there is no truth!

The bigger matter to consider is that by using our imagination we are really saying there is no truth other than what is imaginable.  And if I can’t imagine it then there is no truth.  The error to consider here is that since truth (tathatā) cannot be imagined it must not exist.  But for Buddhism truth cannot be imagined since it is beyond the ken of the imaginable.  It is supramundane knowledge.  Gnosis or intuition is the only way to reach it.

Atheism is a cop-out just as much as imagining the divine or ultimate reality.  Nihilism in this regard is only gazing into the abyss limiting oneself to prasajyapratisedha.  It is really a form of insanity in so far as one is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

The Zennist

Author of The Zennist blog since 2007.