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I am sensing this disenchantment from letting go. Meditating on impermanence feels like nihilism to me. There is a fleeting moment of joy from the liberation and just watching emotions go by. And I also notice the joy of it but I let it be and not cling. Then suddenly comes this pointlessness feeling. Something like nihilism. I also don't cling to that but it worries me I may lose control and just do things carelessly.

Any guidance on this?

  • 2
    Related question: Shamata and vipassana - loss of willpower – Thiago Apr 20 '15 at 6:38
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    If you have a teacher, get some guidance on vipassana stages maps. NIbbida-nana (contemplation of disenchantment/misery/depression, depending on translator) is one of them. Acknowledge the feeling and let it go. – eudoxos Apr 20 '15 at 12:41
  • life is a bardo - right ?? – sorta_buddhist Apr 21 '15 at 19:04
5

There are the five hindrances (also here) to meditation and practice.

Your question can be part of restlessness-worry and also doubt. But it sounds to me more like doubt.

You can read more from the essay of Ajahn Brahmavamso:

Doubt refers to the disturbing inner questions at a time when one should be silently moving deeper. Doubt can question one's own ability "Can I do This?", or question the method "Is this the right way?", or even question the meaning "What is this?". It should be remembered that such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an intrusion, obscuring one's clarity.

The Lord Buddha likened doubt to being lost in a desert, not recognising any landmarks.

Such doubt is overcome by gathering clear instruction, having a good map, so that one can recognise the subtle landmarks in the unfamiliar territory of deep meditation and so know which way to go. Doubt in one's ability is overcome by nurturing self confidence with a good teacher. A meditation teacher is like a coach who convinces the sports team that they can succeed. The Lord Buddha stated that one can, one will, reach Jhana and Enlightenment if one carefully and patiently follows the instructions. The only uncertainty is 'when'! Experience also overcomes doubt about one's ability and also doubt whether this is the right path. As one realised for oneself the beautiful stages of the path, one discovers that one is indeed capable of the very highest, and that this is the path that leads one there.

The doubt that takes the form of constant assessing "Is this Jhana?" "How am I going?", is overcome by realising that such questions are best left to the end, to the final couple of minutes of the meditation. A jury only makes its judgement at the end of the trial, when all the evidence has been presented. Similarly, a skilful meditator pursues a silent gathering of evidence, reviewing it only at the end to uncover its meaning.

The end of doubt, in meditation, is described by a mind which has full trust in the silence, and so doesn't interfere with any inner speech. Like having a good chauffeur, one sits silently on the journey out of trust in the driver.

  • This is a great elaboration of the various kinds of Doubt. The sentence "As one realised for oneself the beautiful stages of the path..." and the last paragraph are So Beautiful! – user2341 Jun 27 '15 at 13:21
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It's perfectly normal. The point is to accept that you have little to no control.

It leads you to the "I do things carelessly" zone, or even "I don't care" zone. You cared because you thought through permanence, so you're simply crossing an incomfort zone where you have to redefine what is relevant to YOU knowing that you have little to no control.

Embrace uncomfort. If you're in an uncomfortable zone, then it means you're asking the right questions, even though it changes you.

After this period, you'll start caring again, but you'll know why, and it won't be because you assumed so.

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It is only within the narrow focus of the ego that it fears 'nihilism'. Let it be there, and you may reveal that you truly 'do' favor spiritual purposes, and you do maintain an intention for the good; pointlessness cannot lie there.

What it is likely to be is fear of boredom. Your mind is looking to cling to something, when you are still capable of letting go of that feeling. 'Slipping' into something in the future or becoming stuck are fears of what may come.

The mind is looking for amusements and novelty, and is clever to keep itself entertained. However, you may find yourself readjusting and moving through discomforts, which can be normal phases of growth. By letting the feeling be there for a while and decide for surrender, the feeling will dissolve.

The permanence of impermanence needs no purpose; it is abundantly fulfilled. Within that fulfillment is constant movement. It be help to also contemplate these dualities.

1

The answer depends on the polarity of the person.

If you ego centric and think you have a mission or role in the the world a bit of nihilism would be of help but (sans any beliefs that action do not have consequences)

If that is not the case then there are two out looks of the world.

  • The world and being are made of "solid building blocks" of which some elements persist. As for entities they have a core which you can identify the individual across rebirths
  • The world is a process and life it self a process which has certain events. In the case of the physical make up of a person or anything else the process takes the form of solids, liquid, gaseous and heat which are always changing. Life is a process also (with no core) which takes different forms, and events, stages along the way which is conditioned and driven by the process of Dependent Origination.

So what is in the world does have meaning but not conventionally accepted meaning. Like there is solidity, there is a permanent entity driving the whole process, there is and entity in one self which is permanent, there is no entity in one self and not process (everything is random and chaotic), the world is random and chaotic and lacking a driving process which brings about cosmic order, etc.

The meaning is:

  • There is cosmic order of things
  • There is a process that ovens life

But in a sense again it is not worthy to attach any value as in absolute terms it is beyond ones control. Trying to control is misery and attaching temperament attribute perception something which will change is also misery.

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There're many categories of nihilism: metaphysical, epistemological, mereological, existential, moral nihilism, etc. The kind of nihilism the Buddha advises us to avoid is a kind of philosophical materialism which believes that life ends in death and that actions do not bring results in future lives. This type of nihilism is also called the doctrine of non-existence since it denies existence of afterlife and of kammic retribution taught by Ajita Kesakambali, one of the Six Samana during the Buddha's time. So from what you described, you shouldn't worry too much about falling into this kind of nihilism. Just make sure to add a bit more Virya into the practice and you'll do fine. Also should check out SN 46.53 where the Buddha taught the right and wrong times to cultivate the various enlightenment factors:

...Monks, when the mind is sluggish, that is the right time to cultivate the enlightenment-factor of investigation-of-states, the enlightenment-factor of energy, the enlightenment-factor of rapture. What is the reason? A sluggish mind is easy to arouse by these factors.

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