Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is a preeminent teacher of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. His books include The Small Golden Key, Magic Dance, and White Sail, published by Shambhala in 1992. He presently spends part of each year in the United States and Nepal.

The term nihilism figures prominently in your book White Sail. What do you mean by it?

According to my understanding, nihilism means not believing in any spiritual point of view. Nihilists only believe in what they can see, what they can hear, and what they can think, or the substantial reality of whatever temporarily exists in front of them. For example, they believe only in this life and not in previous lives or future lives, because they don’t believe in continuous mind, although it is inevitable that mind is continuous. Nihilists don’t accept Buddhist beliefs such as the interdependence of reality, or that relative truth, whose essence is delusion, only exists according to beings’ reality habits. When something happens through previous karma, if nihilists cannot find any explanation to prove why it has happened, they think it is just coincidence.

From a Buddhist point of view, nihilism is just a habit of mind. Even though nihilists have the potential of Buddha-nature, from their lack of belief they have no capacity or method to change their fragmented phenomena toward the continuity of a sublime level. Even though they are born with a precious human body, they have the great self-deception of keeping a nihilist outlook. Therefore they don’t consider karmic consequences and rely instead on opportunistic habit, taking advantage of circumstances for momentary benefit instead of creating good karma that leads temporarily to long-term positive energy and ultimately to the attainment of fully enlightened Buddhahood.

Is this what you call materialist-mind? The mind that just trusts in one’s own limited senses?

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