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  • lora
    • Jun 2008
    • 122



    I just had a very interesting conversation with a friend about this, that and everything and she posed a question that had me stumped for an adequate answer. I kinda, sorta talked about this and that and then owned it and said I'd get back to her.

    May I have feedback from anyone, the question is:

    If everything is an illusion and is empty, what stops you from being apathetic about everything?

  • Hans
    • Mar 2007
    • 1853

    Re: Apathy

    Hello Laura!

    Well although there's no LoneRanger figure actively stopping us from being apathetic (should we choose that path... Hassan I Sabbah's "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" comes to mind) and the universe gives us humans plenty of opportunities to be selfish idiots, through the practice of Zen we can come to the understanding (first on a purely intellectual level and later on as practice matures as an ever deepening realization) that ultimately there is no self-other division,which means that caring about oneself and caring about thy neighbour are kinda the same thing from a certain perspective.
    Nevertheless, on a relative level we all experience different kinds of pain and suffering in general to be very real things, and by extension we can relate to the hardships of others, which means we usually won't just shrug and think "who cares?" (although the question "who cares?" is a great koan in and of itself).

    Once we stop to discriminate between our happiness and other people's happiness, their suffering and our suffering, it becomes increasingly difficult to not develop a deeper level of empathy.

    IMHO it'd be plain stupid to be apathetic once one has begun to cultivate/experience a perspective that is along the buddhist notion of "right view" (incorporating aspectslike interconnectivity etc.).

    Adding to that there is a difference between viewing reality as being empty of any kind of eternal self nature/not truly possessing any lasting features and saying it's just plain nothing. Next time you cut yourself with a kitchen knife all that nothingness-talk is not going to save you from experiencing the "ouchness" of the situation.

    Please note as well, that in most of the buddhist sutras, reality is usually said to be "like an illusion", which is quite different from just stating it "is an illusion" in general.

    Let me add that Buddhadharma is an option (relatively speaking) not something one is forced to embrace. If individual sentient beings decide to shoot themselves in the foot continuously,they have plenty of opportunities to do so.

    my worthless two cents




    • Kanno
      • Dec 2007
      • 13

      Re: Apathy

      Well said, Hans.

      I agree that there is a distinction to be made about "nothing lasting" or "there is no me/not me" vs. "nothing existing." The first thoughts lead down a path of allowing one's self to let go of worries and attachments. The second thought, at least to me, seems more nihilistic.

      So, in regards to the original question... If you look at it instead in terms of "nothing lasts", then being apathetic causes you to never truly experience the moment. You'll simply coast through a beige existence, not being able to grasp the real, beautiful world that exists around you.

      When approached from the thought that "there is no me/not me", apathy explodes. "Though beings are numberless, I vow to save them." It is very hard to be apathetic when confronted with suffering. It becomes almost impossible when you are mindful that the person/creature suffering is you in a different skin.

      So, there's my ha'penny interpretation. I'm interested in seeing what others think.




      • Eika
        • Sep 2007
        • 806

        Re: Apathy

        Originally posted by lora

        If everything is an illusion and is empty, what stops you from being apathetic about everything?
        Because I care about things (in spite of emptiness/no-self/non-dualism/etc).

        [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage


        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39450

          Re: Apathy

          Hi Guys,

          Let me look at this one through the view of the Heart Sutra

          ... everything is empty, everything is like an illusion, there is no abiding "self" as you think there is ...


          ... everything is perfectly as true as true can be, although you alter that truth by how you act and how you perceive it. The life you lead is the life you lead moment by moment - and what you make of it moment by moment, there sure is a "you" and what you do with that "you" is very much up to you.

          All of those perspectives are simultaneously true.

          In other words, being apathetic is a choice, and the apathetic reality you choose to make.

          Being Wise and Compassionate is a choice, and the Wise and Compassionate reality you choose to make.

          I will be talking about this more on the "Sit-a-Long" in a couple of days about the words of the Heart Sutra that say:

          No/ old/ age/ and/ death/,

          No/ ces/sa/tion/ of/ old/ age/ and/ death/;

          No/ suf/fer/ing/, nor/ cause/ or/ end/ to/ suf/fer/ing/;

          Gassho, J


          • AlanLa
            • Mar 2008
            • 1405

            Re: Apathy

            Isn't apathy like that buji zen Jundo was talking about? Or am I oversimplifying?
            AL (Jigen) in:

            I sat today


            • Dojin
              • May 2008
              • 562

              Re: Apathy

              i cant really be apathetic, i know it is already getting old but with time compassion seems to rise from this practice ( at least for me ), and i just cant stay apathetic.

              well at least that is the answer for me, what i can and sometimes do... is pick my battles... which is not the same things.
              sometimes i might choose to to intervene because something are better left alone.

              i think there is truly one right answer to this question. than again there rarely is...

              I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment
              - the Buddha