Why does Buddhism suffer from nihilism?

Back in 1965 when I took refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha, there wasn’t a no-self taking refuge or merely nothing whatsoever taking refuge. What was taking refuge was a confused self. This self for far too long had been attached to things that brought only suffering. And then I tried to look into my future. What would it be like to be an old man, being sick or injured, facing my death any day, descending again into a kind of dark womb? I had no answer. I was hoping Zen would give me the answer.

Let me say that Zen eventually showed me the right path. Suddenly and unexpectedly, one night I saw the Buddha, dharma the sangha. My mistake was that for countless lifetimes I had attached to a conditioned world; not once did I see the unconditioned (asaṃskṛta). And I truly was unconditioned. Clearly, the problem was this: if you are intrinsically unconditioned and attach to the conditioned you will suffer. That is Buddhism in a nutshell.

In this light, Buddhism is not really nihilism. It only seems like nihilism when our true nature becomes a problem for itself. We must always keep in mind that Zen is about kenshō, seeing our true or self-nature 自性. This nature is equivalent to original mind 本 心, original nature 本性, real nature 實性, the mind of suchness 如如之心, original face 本來面目, and Buddha-nature 佛性.

A lot of western Buddhists only see Buddhism nihilistically. In that regard, they are following a false teaching and a false path that will get them nowhere. They have closed off their minds from the light of truth. In this regard, they actually seem afraid of the truth.

The Zennist

Author of The Zennist blog since 2007.

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