4 Notes

Life is empty and meaningless


"Playing in earnest" is creating meaning rather than "uncovering" it

Life is empty and meaningless. From a Western point of view, because life is meaningless, we suffer (nihilism). We are preoccupied with meaning, with somethingness. Our metafysics and spirituality is profoundly geared toward meaning. Observe, for example, how the dense cultural mass of christianity pulls everything in orbit around it. Christ is destined to die on the cross for our sins. Here, meaning is derived from weight (destiny) and purpose (sacrfice). See how easily this translates into relationships: are we meant for one another (destiny)? Does suffering give meaning to our relation (sacrifice)? In fact, does suffering give meaning to our lives?

A full cup is useless.

From a Zen Buddhist point of view, thinking can be less important than nothingness. It doesn’t mean anything that life doesn’t mean anything. Rather, this gives us the freedom to make it up to mean whatever we want it to. It is through creating meaning, not possessing it, that life is revealed. A full cup is useless.

The feeling of despair that is often coupled to the sense of meaninglessness can be turned into a dynamic subjective process that may lead - eventually - to a transcendence of this attitude in a transpersonal realization of “emptiness”. By confronting the existential problem of cosmic meaninglessness (meaning and nihility), you may be faced with despair when you ask, “What is my life for?” However, you can answer this question in a life-affirming way by embracing “emptiness”. Embracing emptiness involves living in a spirit of compassion. Which is a means of turning emptiness into form, by giving (“dana”) toward all sentient beings while realizing at the same time that there is no set rigid identity. It is also a means of turning form into emptiness, by overcoming the form of the ego when we ourselves forget that very same principle (“anatta”). Embracing emptiness also involves “playing in earnest”, that is creating meaning rather than “uncovering” it. Finally embracing emptiness involves appreciating the true nature of reality. There is no problem of choice, action happens spontaneously.

Always now - just now - come into being. Always now - just now - give yourself to death. Practicing this is Zen practice.
Soko Morinaga

To sum up. We rush forward into the world by the dynamic nature of nothingness (impermanence and infinity):

  • With compassion: “I vow to save all sentient beings, even though there are no separate individualities”.
  • With the attitude of playing in earnest: “Through creating meaning, not possessing it, life is revealed”.
  • With the attitude of ‘just this is enough’: “Where ‘just this’ is the embodiment of suchness - an appreciation of the true nature of reality in any given moment - and ‘enough’ is the cessation of comparative thought”.



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