I am curious as to how Buddhism deals with demotivation, in the sense of lacking goals and aspirations, and with nihilism, in the sense of feeling things are dissatisfactory and devoid of reasons to crave them.

I am aware the second aspect of my question is intimately tied with Buddhism, but I am somewhat asking: for someone lacking craving, what is there to be done in life?

From the Mahayana point of view, I feel compassion is a noble aim, but I have trouble developping compassion. From the Theravada point of view, spiritual development is a goal, but without much obvious suffering to propel our spirituality we can get caught in cycles of lethargy, complacency.

How does Buddhism deal with lack of motivation about mundane, every day things? What should one do in the worldly sense, when one isn't practicing?

Thank you.

5 Answers 5


This is what happens when you try to lead a monk life without leaving lay life. Why not ask yourself the question "what am I doing in lay life if I'm not motivated to achieve the goals of lay life?"

This isn't the fault of Theravada Buddhism. It's the fault of the individual who cannot pick one lifestyle. Lethargy or laziness is one of the five hindrances and there's no place for it in Theravada Buddhism, whichever lifestyle you choose.

If a certain goal does not interest you, stop bothering about it and work towards the goal that appeals to you. If no goal in lay life appeals to you, get ordained and practice diligently towards attaining enlightenment.


Sure Eggman. No joy, no progress an the path. To seek for joy doing merits, raw or fine are suggested.

Merits can be made all time and everywhere:

Merit: A Study Guide, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2005; 61pp./184KB)

Often misunderstood in the West as quaint and irrelevant to serious practice, the Buddha's teachings on puñña (merit) actually play an essential role in the development of a wise sense of self. This anthology explores the meaning of merit and how it functions to instill in the practitioner the qualities necessary to carry him or her to stream-entry and beyond.

"Of all the concepts central to Buddhism, merit (puñña) is one of the least known and least appreciated in the West. This is perhaps because the pursuit of merit seems to be a lowly practice, focused on getting and "selfing," whereas higher Buddhist practice focuses on letting go, particularly of any sense of self. Because we in the West often feel pressed for time, we don't want to waste our time on lowly practices, and instead want to go straight to the higher levels. Yet the Buddha repeatedly warns that the higher levels cannot be practiced in a stable manner unless they develop on a strong foundation. The pursuit of merit provides that foundation. To paraphrase a modern Buddhist psychologist, one cannot wisely let go of one's sense of self until one has developed a wise sense of self. The pursuit of merit is the Buddhist way to develop a wise sense of self.

The following readings show how this is done...."

Not for all practicioner, especially for householder, asubha or reflecting on "demotivating" things are useful to walk on in higher states.

Making merits bring joy, joy is the fundation for benefical concentration. Therefor one should seek for company of people delight in making merits, sharing merits and invite. Less are the possibilities for doing such, so be not lazy and do joyful sacrifies. They are the foundation for a benefical practice and the great field of merits has just one purpose, giving people the possibility.

See: Ten Ways of Making Merits

"We, Lord, are laymen who enjoy worldly pleasure. We lead a life encumbered by wife and children. We use sandalwood of Kasi. We deck ourselves with garlands, perfume and unguents. We use gold and silver. To those like us, O Lord, let the Exalted One preach the Dhamma, teach those things that lead to weal and happiness in this life and to weal and happiness in future life."

read further: Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta: Conditions of Welfare

Philosophy and mind-entertaining by seeking short cuts, does not help anybody. Just the deeds, take part an enjoy the fruits. There is no practice more destructive as the populat "Uposatha of the Jhains" given by the most, talking about emptiness and anatta and sitting right next to the refrigerator.

Even if celerbrating the Uposatha of the cowherds, which is done in many traditional Mahayana-areas or those then in wordily directions by laypeople, it still does not cut of the path.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gain by means of trade and exchange]


Dutiya Anuruddha Sutta (AN 3.128 or 3.130 or 131 depending how you count) --

Then venerable Anuruddha came to venerable Shariputra and said:
-- As much as I, friend Shariputra, look at things with purified Heavenly Eye, see things with thousandfold-superhuman vision, train in confidence unmovable, in awareness undimmable, in tranquillity imperturbable, and in focused mind unscattered, still I can't "having stopped maintaining intoxication, achieve liberation of mind".
-- All these thoughts, friend Anuruddha, of the kind "I look at things with purified Heavenly Eye, I see things with thousandfold-superhuman vision" -- this is your conceit.
And the thoughts of the kind "I train in confidence unmovable, in awareness undimmable, in tranquillity imperturbable, and in focused mind unscattered" -- this is your pathologic restlessness.
And the thoughts of the kind "still I can't "having stopped maintaining intoxication, achieve liberation of mind" -- this is your remorse.
You'd better, friend Anuruddha, these three thoughts abandon; To these three thoughts not attending, the deathless assemble with mind.


From the point of view of Theravadin Buddhism and the requirements for the achieving the full benefits from the practice of mindfulness meditation, both demotivation and nihilism would be viewed as hindrances to gaining upacara samadhi, an objective, calm, undistracted, and focused state of mind that is conducive to psychological insight (which, in turn, is required to overcome suffering). Nihilism, as you define it, is most certainly not “intimately tied with Buddhism,” except in the sense that Buddhism explicitly denies its truth. Question: “for someone lacking craving, what is there to be done in life?” Answer: He or she must heal the catatonic state that causes such wide-ranging indifference. There has to be some profoundly tragic event or trauma, perhaps in early childhood, that would cause such a profound withdrawal from reality. The practice of meditation while in such a state may only deepen the withdrawal. In other words, its seems to me that you are suffering from a mental disorder. Traditional Buddhism does not deal well with mental disorders. Traditional Buddhist teachers simply lack the expertise needed to treat them. However, there are mindfulness centers that offer MBSR and psychotherapy that may meet your needs. Otherwise, I recommend to find a fully qualified psychotherapist or psychiatrist to diagnose your situation and provide relevant treatment. There is no doubt in my mind that you are in a profound state of suffering even though you may not be feeling much pain. I truly hope that you will find the loving and wise help you need.


for someone lacking craving, what is there to be done in life?

Everyone has craving, except Arahats and the Buddha of course. You need to look more closely. May be your craving is for a state of no responsibility, perhaps?

From the Theravada point of view, spiritual development is a goal, but without much obvious suffering to propel our spirituality we can get caught in cycles of lethargy, complacency.

There is suffering, that is the first noble truth. May be you can contemplate on that, see how it applies to you?

Also I'm curious, based on this and your other questions as well, have you diagnosed yourself for ADHD ? I suspect you might have a mild case of ADHD, based on what you have reported - lack of focus, lack of interest in mundane things etc. (If that is the case, I see only two options - you have to find some innermost passion or obsession and use that as a fuel or use stimulant medication)

Hope this helps!

You must log in to answer this question.