Over the last few weeks, I have come across several references to Buddhism and The Work, and other similar approaches, as leading to nihilism… It is obviously coming from people who haven’t tried it out for themselves, and project something onto it, but it can still be useful to look at.
The easiest way to talk about it is through the filter of the absolute and relative…
From the absolute, from void awake to itself, no stories are real… they have only limited and temporary truth to them, their reversals each also have truth to them, and altogether they reveal the inherent neutrality of any situation. It is all God, God’s will, the play and appearances of God. No matter how it appears, it is just appearances temporarily covering up God’s play. The world of form, the content of awareness, is the infinitely varied faces of God.
If this becomes a belief, a story taken as true, it can look pretty weird… it can easily take the form of nihilism, apathy, anti-social behavior, lack of empathy, reckless disregard for social norms and rules, and so on, dependent on what else is going on in the personality.
But if it is realized, if void is awake to itself, it is very different… here, it is expressed through natural empathy and compassion, through a deepening and maturing of the human self it is expressed through. It is expressed in a deeply human way… It looks like clarity, wisdom, compassion and wholehearted engagement in the world. It looks like a life lived for the benefit of the larger whole, in a deeply (and deepening) mature and skillful way.
It is the void playing the game through a human self, knowing it is a game, and acting from the compassion, wisdom and engagement that naturally comes up in this human self when it functions in the context of void awake to itself.
And this difference between belief and realization is why, on the relative level, all nondual traditions emphasize ethics and norms… before the void awakens to itself, live your life in an honest and sincere way, in a way that does as little harm to others and the larger whole as possible, and in a way that supports life as much as possible. These may all be the temporary appearances of the awake void, but this path is one that leads to the void to be awake to itself, and the suffering is real in that it is experienced as real… so why not reduce it as much as possible.
The absolute is free from good and evil (or bad), but at the relative everyday level, it is a useful distinction… live your life in a way that minimizes suffering and optimizes well-being and joy for yourself and others, including future generations.