Some body close to me said to me, "you failed in the real world and so now you are chasing Nirvana and running away". It hurt me a little but set me thinking if he is right?

The story is, I come from a Hindu background and long story short I got into terrible life situation. By some miracle I got stumbled on Ajahn Brahm's talk on youtube four years back. I started digging deep and now calling myself a Buddhist, I sitting on my cushion aiming Jhanas and Nirvana.

But could he be right, imparting status quo worldly wisdom of 'I should fight, I should work harder, I should not give up on my worldly goals'

I have given up my job and no relationship. I spend all my time meditating and listening and reading Buddhism. But have I taken this path as sort of run away from responsibilities. Did I even had a choice to begin with in doing what I am doing. Have I chosen this path or I am just blindly riding what has came to my way with no say of mine.

  • Consider the opposite: maybe your close one failed the path to Nirvana, and is now chasing the real world?
    – OfirD
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 14:50
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    We can't answer this for you as this stands. Firstly asking if you should turn away from Buddhism on a Buddhist forum is more likely, as I'm sure you're aware, to return plenty of people telling you not to change (that is the easy path). Secondly we cannot know why you turned to Buddhism but it sounds like you aren't too sure either (else you wouldn't need to ask us). I've met people who have successful jobs and relationships but are more compassionate, wise and mindful of their actions than some who devote their life to Buddhism. Study, no matter how hard, doesn't change behaviour on its own. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 15:33
  • In a way one has to suffer some kind of setback or loss to turn to the Dhamma in the first place. It could be a loss of someone or something that makes you realize that everything is impermanent. No matter what made you turn towards the Dhamma, you have chosen the right path, therefore have no doubts about it. Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 15:45

14 Answers 14


This is a profound question. Somebody may want to delve into spirituality because he is a "loser" and isn't prospering in life. This is not a new concept. In fact, the Ratthapala Sutta addresses this very point. You should go to the link and study the sutta in full.

In Majjhima Nikaya 82, we are introduced to the ascetic Ratthapala, who took up the life of the holy man even though he was from a privileged background, and wealthy, athletic, successful, in the prime of his youth. We are led to believe that, in the secular life, he had countless opportunities at his disposal.

In the Sutta, the king asks the ascetic Ratthapala, in effect, Why are you joining the spiritual life with the other ascetics, when they are not rich or strong and successful, and you are?

King Koravya sat down on a seat made ready and said: "Master Raṭṭhapāla, there are four kinds of loss. Because they have undergone these four kinds of loss, some people here shave off their hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth[.] What are the four? They are loss through ageing, loss through sickness, loss of wealth, and loss of relatives.

And what is loss through ageing? Here, Master Raṭṭhapāla, someone is old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage. He considers thus: ‘I am old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage. It is no longer easy for me to acquire unacquired wealth or to augment wealth already acquired....

And what is loss through sickness? Here, Master Raṭṭhapāla, someone is afflicted, suffering, and gravely ill. He considers thus: ‘I am afflicted, suffering, and gravely ill. It is no longer easy for me to acquire unacquired wealth.... This is called loss through sickness. But Master Raṭṭhapāla now is free from illness....

And what is loss of wealth? Here, Master Raṭṭhapāla, someone is rich, of great wealth, of great possessions. Gradually his wealth dwindles away. He considers thus: Formerly I was rich, of great wealth.... But Master Raṭṭhapāla is the son of the leading clan in this same Thullakoṭṭhita. Master Raṭṭhapāla has not undergone any loss of wealth.

And what is loss of relatives? Here, Master Raṭṭhapāla, someone has many friends and companions, kinsmen and relatives. Gradually those relatives of his dwindle away. He considers thus: ‘Formerly I had many friends and companions, kinsmen and relatives....'

Answering the king, Ratthapala more or less responds that worldly success and prosperity is overrated, and not worth chasing. It doesn't bring peace.

“Great king, there are four summaries of the Dhamma that have been taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened. Knowing and seeing and hearing them, I went forth from the home life into homelessness. What are the four?

‘Life in any world is unstable, it is swept away’: this is the first summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened. Knowing and seeing and hearing this, I went forth from the home life into homelessness.

‘Life in any world has no shelter and no protector’: this is the second summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…

‘Life in any world has nothing of its own; one has to leave all and pass on’: this is the third summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…

‘Life in any world is incomplete, insatiate, the slave of craving’: this is the fourth summary of the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One who knows and sees…"

Personally, I see nothing wrong with somebody taking up the spiritual life simply because he is a "loser" in the "real world". Don't feel self-critical; don't feel lonely. There are a lot of "losers" in the "real world", almost all of whom cope with severely dysfunctional forms of escape (alcohol, drugs and whatnot). It is better to have "escapism" with something that is actually an escape, and more importantly, develop the ability to help others to truly escape, losers and successful people alike.

Remember that losers and unsuccessful people, suffering people, full of confusion and despondent from lack -- are the very reason that the Tathagata appeared into the world.

Don't let anybody, especially non-Buddhist, criticize you for following Buddhism for the wrong reason; they don't know any better. Grow yourself. Decide for yourself whether you "need" more material prosperity than you currently have, but don't be stressed or distraught about it. Practice skepticism towards ideas that aren't life-sustaining, and that weren't developed with your interest at heart. Choose good role models, people who actually have empathy and inner peace of mind -- not just the the temporary trappings of what passes for status or success. Learn what is beneficial for this life, and the hereafter, and follow that.

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    A beautifully wise and compassionate response. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:32
  • A teacher I once practised with tended to remark that having immense attachment to spiritual goals is often seen as hypocrisy by those who have few. But what is missed by those others is that such attachments are self-limiting. They take us a certain way down the path, they do their work, and the very work that they motivate us to perform ends in their extinction. Or, as others put it much more simply: there is practice, and there is awakening. No need to confuse the two. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:36
  • Worldly successes may be overrated, but can one truly convince oneself of that assertion before having actually experienced such successes to at least some degree? In that sense, it seems to me that such worldly detours may—at least for some people—be necessary waypoints on their path toward enlightenment—if we assume such a thing exists.
    – Will
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 4:24

Just ask yourself if you would abandon the pursuit if your circumstances changed. There is your answer.

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    This is the best answer imo, what matters most is asking yourself why you are doing something. Answer honestly and find out who you really are. What anyone else has to say about you doesn't matter. It's their "narrative", perhaps it's their own way of justifying their existence by insulting you. Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 12:14

If you feel freedom following Buddhism, it is the right path.

The Buddha abandoned the world.


I use to think that people which state this kind of ideas (the criticism made to you) do it under the implicit assumption of life having a clearly objective way to follow, while any other path being a deviation from it. This tends to happen when people is too attached to their own traditions and cultures, and maybe it's because they don't know people from other backgrounds and places, which could have completely different lifestyles, worldviews and goals.

In the west (me being from a western country), this is really common, and there's the impression that of something is not following our contemporary practices, that thing is objectively bad, unhealthy, inmoral or ugly. If we westeners are following the obviously objective best way to live, every other kind of action needs to be justified.

The life under the Dhamma is your chosen path, because there are certain kind of values and ideas that resonate with you. Should there be any more justification than this?

We all do things to achieve satisfaction and well-being, and to avoid dissatisfaction and disconfort. It just happens that the Dhamma offers some views about how to achieve those general goals (and how to not do it), while giving us reasons and the chance to put such reasons to test. I think all of this is way more that what most people tend to do with their paths; paths which most of the time are not chosen with a well-informed mind.

If this path is what helps you to achieve those general goals above described, I think that's what should matter the most.

Kind regards!


It's praiseworthy, good householder, if one reflec5s serious on critic and investigates it first to gain right release from doubt and use this critic as a well-meant gift, yet to prove.

The Uposatha of the fox as well as corrupt escapetism, both are very common this days, not of shine and glory, and righteous success is seldom to trace.

And there is next to twofold social-misuse of many modern Buddhists also what is called "Spiritual bypassing".

There are of course duties, good householder, one needs to fullfil in regard of relations one uses and in regard of livelihood. As such is hard to combine with lay-life, for the most (seldom would one have a supporter). It would be of course a negative escapetism if one tries to neglect ones duties, say for example still enjoying sensual pleasures while living on alms. So in regard of livelihood and duties in a relation, if after a Contemplative Life, if one is after righteous and most praisworthy escapetism, then one should go after it with the highest blessing from all wise and good people and seek for ways which are made for it, the monastic order or look after alternative.

While it is natural, gain, lose, when caught in the world, the way of abounding both may appear for the unattentive as lose as he could hardly trace the only win which lasts, that of real freedom.

It's good to go after thing fully, of which requires giving up, only less are capable, but one should be sure that this path can be walked, inwardly, starting outwardly and means are given. This days there are a lot of those wishing to enjoy both, world and unbound and for the most they increase hindrances for prosperty in both and develop wrong views and act on them. Next that it is rightly criticized, it most harmful for oneself if using thing otherwise as thought by the giver.

May good householder have the strength and effort to go after the most holly escaping, the holly live, and may one be sure that the Devas open up the doors for one who goes after highest, wishing to leave both, enjoyment and duties in this world.

That one actually walks a righteous way first of all one needs to leave association with corrupt, traders, and seek for actually given means for ones aim.

Don't one follow the real ugly, as there are many "Buddhist", lay but also monastic, of this sort around, failing in regard of doing duties in regard of the Sangha and in regard of worldily sociaty going after the lose of all their merits, consume and incapable even outwardly to give. It's good for one to be kicked to work and be clear about ones ways not to live a useless live: in the youth not gained wealth, even in the old still not renounce as so many here around...

Prove all well and then, seen right way clear, go for it! (Here just burning a poor woman - who couldn't go after any gain, caught by the roots of suffering strongly - having died yesterday in the early morning hours in the near village) Don't one waste time and forget or neglect the paths of merits!

[note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, other worldbinding trades and for households, but as means to work one fast possibel out]


I should fight, I should work harder

If you are really following the path, believe me, you will have to do that and more. Much more. But ask yourself truly, are you running toward the dharma or running away from samsara? Which of the two more accurately describes your intent? If it's the former, have at it. If there is even a shred of the latter, stop. That is your practice first and foremost. Those causes, those obstacles aren't going to go away. In fact, you will find yourself dealing with them again and again on the cushion. You might as well disentangle them now. Determine their nature. What is it about you that are causing those feelings to arise? When you get to the root of things, I can promise you that you will have a different perspective both of the dharma and how you manifest your practice. You won't have to ask what is dharma and what is samsara, what is Buddha and what is not.

My advice to you would be to stop reading. Stop thinking. As Dogen writes, to practice the way "is to study the self; to study the self is to forget the self." Remain in the world, support yourself, but begin embarking on a long forgetting. And for the love of Pete, find someone to guide you along on the process.


The story is, I come from a Hindu background and long story short I got into terrible life situation. By some miracle I got stumbled on Ajahn Brahm's talk on youtube four years back. I started digging deep and now calling myself a Buddhist, I sitting on my cushion aiming Jhanas and Nirvana.

Sometimes failure in life IS a blessing, while worldly success is a curse in disguise. This explains why the Buddha said being born humans allows the most conducive environment to cultivate the Path. The devas had too much worldly merits, they don't know what suffering is, hence they don't see any need for training until it's too late. Even right here on earth, if one's born with a silver spoon in one's mouth, then grew up to become some successful businessman who has it all: wealth, health, fame, good-look, the most beautiful wife and kids, etc.. then odds are good that s/he will not pay attention to the Teaching, let alone practicing the Teaching. Only until old age, sickness, and death come crashing into his face would he realizes the urgency to cultivate, but it'd all be too late by then! By the way, the task of seriously cultivating the Dhamma is no easy task, and it's certainly not for the faint of heart or the lazy. So, bottom line is, only you would be able to tell deep down in your heart whether you use the Dhamma as your crutch, or as your new noble way of life. If it's the former, then your close friend did speak the truth, hence no reason to feel upset. If it's the latter, then have compassion for your friend and simply invite him to join you with the practice for a month to really see it for himself whether it's an escapist life or not!


I think no one can give you a satisfying answer on this. You'll know. But in the future, when looking back. But maybe you are afraid about the consequences you have to face. (Concerning job and private life) But this "fear" is part of samsara.

I admire your courage. Because you are walking a path leading you out of this. But maybe not. Who can say now? Maybe you get totally new opportunities/perspectives. Important is, that you took a decision. I wish you all the best.


Indeed it is an escape. Escape from suffering. Someone told you that you are a failure and that is why you are running away from world, and you lost your faith. This does not suit a follower of Buddha. Having no doubt about the nature of the world is one the primary requirements for the spiritual growth. Don’t be so shaky. Test the knowledge of Dhamma yourself and then believe it.


Footsteps taken at the start of a journey do not control the footsteps taken at the end.

The feet that return to their first footsteps are different feet.

Let your journey do it's work and soon where you are will be less important than who you are.


There have always been, and currently, many successful people who followed a path of Buddhism Dharma. Prince Gautama, for example, relinquished worldly materials to awaken as the Buddha.

What success means in worldly concepts and wisdom concepts, are obviously different.


There's plenty of people in the West that - according to Western psychology - pursue escapism through hedonism, movies, sex and even work.

If Buddhism works for you - and you say that it does - then it's not escapism. It's Buddhism.


@Lio Elbammaf: I'm answering from a Buddhist perspective and what's wrong with that on a site devoted to Buddhism? It seems to me that the OP isn't critiquing the 'critique' and merely accepting it.

  • The question is really "Why does this person follow buddhism?" If they follow it because it makes them feel morally superior to people who measure success in other ways then they're no different, really, than those who choose the other pass times you suggested. They're merely stroking their own ego (and not truly following Buddhism). Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 15:24

It seems to me that you are asking multiple questions. Question 1 is about your motivation. For this question, I like the answer, "Just ask yourself if you would abandon the pursuit if your circumstances changed." If you can be honest with yourself in asking this question, you will know the answer.

Question 2 is about responsibility for your decisions. You are responsible for the decision to choose your current pursuit and to abandon all other pursuits. I am a Christian, not a Buddhist, so I can't encourage you in your current pursuit as it does not lead to life as I understand it. In Christianity, that requires a close relationship with Jesus. What I can encourage you to do is to take responsibility for this decision. If you are certain that it is correct, then you must continue. If you are not certain that it is correct, then you must consider the other options carefully and choose the one that seems best to you.


Me too faced a lot of mistakes and failures but i never give up or being escapism of issues. Nobody with me most of the time except some online Youtube Buddhism talk that simulating somebody with me when i was in pain too. I did a lot online research for improvement and solution too before i have a chance to learn Buddhism.

I do understand your pain. I had so many things i did (To "Divert" your attention/attachment) and i loved when i was single and not attach to a job. i.e. doing charity job, explore some natural jungle, join some sport contest n i won a championship because i wanna proof to my friend that 6 pax is emptiness and useless to claim no.1 in sport contest :D, etc. Hope some Chemicals hacks help you. You might miss some of it but dont forget you many others goodies waiting for you. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MgyQ2qYVMOaqdqbbJasDDVJj_WCJZFdk/view?usp=sharing

My personal answer for those always ask me what is emptiness as normally they will think Buddhist is all empty typically in term of financial, marital, material world stuff. Then i will answer that's for Buddha's level and i am way far from it. I just wish to create a best version of myself and share this link below as my life objective and be balance. If i share Buddhism quote, they won't understand a single and i think 4Q explanation below pretty compatible to my Buddhism study. When i further study of 4Q below then i slowly understand the hidden Gem meaning of the Sutta.

As conclusion, be best version yourself and step by step my friend.


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