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.

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The Zennist

Author of The Zennist blog since 2007.

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