Nothing is real?

Background: I met a friend, who seems to be new into Buddhism. I do not know where she learned about Buddhism, but there is one particular statement or perhaps questions she made that prompted my response.

Quote: “I wonder if nothing is real and everything is an illusion, what is the point of living? Why do anything if it means nothing? What do Buddhists believe about this?”

Below is my response…

~~ — ~~

In my experience, after knowing many Buddhists and non-Buddhists, there are many know who has no idea what Buddhism is and what Buddhism is for. There also any, who think they know what Buddhism is and what Buddhism is for, yet their understanding is inaccurate. There are even those, who misunderstood Buddhism, and, misrepresented Buddhism; they are those what misled themselves, and misled others. However, to be a Buddhist, these people are not the challenge.

Ultimately, to be a Buddhist, is a personal commitment or conviction (if we use a more religious word). Since, it is a personal commitment, then the view of others, the misunderstanding of others, the misrepresentation of others, are all irrelevant. The real challenge lies within that person. How committed is he? If he is not committed, then most likely he won’t be able to complete the learning of Buddhism. How faithful is he to the Teaching? If he is unfaithful, then he will most likely be more interested in speculation, make unwise assumption, and lead to inaccurate interpretation to Teaching. Those who are uncommitted and unfaithful, are usually the ones that will fall from The Path.

Unless, your intention is to spread Buddhism? Sharing your knowledge about Buddhism to those who are not interested to learn, maybe a challenge. However, I think, if one is new to Buddhism, is best to the set higher priority to learning and practicing Buddhism.

You mail includes the term “illusion”. This is a very interesting term. If one reads into the scriptures, and reads into those that consider from older sources, one will notice, The Buddha don’t use such term. Most of the time, The Buddha use the term, impermanence rather than illusion. This has a big implication. Impermanence means things do not last forever. Something that does not last forever, does not negate its existence. It simply mean an existence or a phenomena, won’t be forever, yet at moment of its existence, it is considered as real. Illusion on the hand implied, literary, things are unreal; whether past, present or future. This seems to be a contradiction here. From what I have understand, illusion” is just an exaggerated form of the term “impermanence”. I also dare to say, it is an unnecessary exaggeration of the term impermanence. It is perhaps, an outright misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the term impermanence.

If things are as “illusion”, then the practice of our meditation is irrelevant and silly. What is the point for our meditation to study and analyze an illusion? Our emotion is there, it has its manifestation, implication and result. It is by such knowledge and understanding, we know, what is good (wholesome) emotion, what is bad (unwholesome) emotion. By knowing what is unwholesome, we put effort in reducing, limiting or eradicating a manifested unwholesome emotion. By knowing what is unwholesome, we put effort in preventing an unwholesome emotion to manifest. By knowing what is wholesome, we put effort in promoting a wholesome emotion to manifest. By knowing what is wholesome, we put effort in supporting a manifested wholesome emotion to grow into its full potential. This is what we call, Right Effort.

I remember, there was once, a person who claims he knows what Buddhism is about, he use such term “illusion” or “unreal”. I straight away asked him to give me all his money (“hey, is illusion, why do you still keep an illusion?”). I would say, his response was priceless…

Thus, don’t say it is “illusion”. Say it is impermanence. Knowing what it is impermanence, knowing that it will change, then put in the effort such that the change maybe a better one.

Be well, and I hope, what I wrote can be helpful to you.


~~ — ~~

End note: After I wrote this email, it occurred to me, maybe the term “illusion” is more related with the concept of Non-self than Impermanence. This maybe true, and I may have presented my opinion incorrectly. Nevertheless, the aim of my email was really to motivate her and telling not to be so pessimistic about life. There was not exchange after this email…

  1. Illusion or no illusion, this is the only life that we will get. Leave pessimism, participate fully, have fun, food, children, sex, perform your social duties (‘dharma’). When we go, we go.

  2. Gabriel says:

    well..IMO,everything,everyone,every situation that happen to us.We should take it as a thanksgiving to God. It’s His plan ‘putting’ us in the place we destined to live. A world that has freedom to make decision on how to live.Which situation ‘People live by the truth’ occurs everywhere.We human tend to ‘chase’ the world everyday which will never satisfy our need.For we human will never satisfy with what we have likewise:those who have no couple desperate for couple,after getting his/her own couple..feel the need to marry..after getting marry..feel marry is boring as have to raise up children,wish to retire fast..after retire then…til the end u will find the life u live all the way up is futile.Then,what’s the point we live in such a short term in this world.What make us so special that we don’t realise so far:
    Why we,God’s unique creation rule among all other living things..Besides the ability to think.
    Stay tuned on this link:

    Perhaps u will find the true reason God gave u life (although it’s such a short term(70-100years)/impermanence being in this world)

  3. Gabriel says:

    Feeling pity to us,christian is enough to show that there’s love which He planted in us,human which is unique among other creation when the world is created.Turn to His love while there’s still a time to catch on.God loves U and me that He willing to sacrifice His son,Jesus just to redeem our sin.I mean who we are? we are just His merely creation like other living thing also.But why He cared for us?Because He loves Us,make us as His most precious that being given authority to manage everything,and also living thing in this world.
    May His love filled up ur life one day!Because i feel it,so u to,a merely human would feel that too one day!Is His love make us obey to Him not because the decree ask us to obey,but we just love Him,and everything He gave us.So do u sis,i love u.One day i hope to see u out there,praising the LORD together. ^o^ Amen! Halleluyah!

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