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Do the modern schools of Buddhism Soto, Rinzai, Jodo-shu, Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren, Shingon in Japan teach Buddhists, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas any varieties of solipsism and any varieties of nihilism?

Do the modern schools of Buddhism Chan, Pure Land in China teach Buddhists, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas any varieties of solipsism and any varieties of nihilism?

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  • Certainly not nihilism, which is the absence of any belief system. Buddhism is a belief system. Not solipsism either, since they are concerned with a cycle of reincarnation that is greater than one person.
    – causative
    Aug 19 at 20:58
  • That is: the modern schools of Buddhism Soto, Rinzai, Jodo-shu, Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren, Shingon in Japan do not teach Buddhists, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to deny that other people have individual minds? The modern schools of Buddhism Chan, Pure Land in China teach Buddhists, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to deny that other people have individual minds?
    – Jack
    Aug 19 at 21:06
  • Not that I've ever heard of. Indeed "compassion meditation" is a part of some Buddhist schools, where we meditate on connection and compassion with other conscious beings. There is "anatta" which suggests there is no essential or permanent self, but that's not the same as denying there is any self at all.
    – causative
    Aug 19 at 21:08
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I don't know why this topic keeps coming up. I think it's because these are used as methods of attack against Buddhist thought.

Buddha taught 'the middle way', between eternalism and nihilism, between an unchanging transcendental soul/identity/essence, and nothing continuing after death - this is typically translated into English as nihilism, though it doesn't conform entirely to the philosophical term. It's from two millennia before, and an entirely different culture so it's no great surprise! The idea Buddhism is nihilist in modern terms of moral nihilism or existential nihilism, are total non-starters. The morality and meaning-cosmology of Buddhist thought are highly developed, although the emphasis on return to your personal situation right now, in priority over any elaborations, can be related to a very specific understanding of nihilism as meaning and purpose never being truly external, absolute, and real outside our own personal experience.

Hindu thought is generally monist, and either non-dualist (advaita) or dualist (advaita). It's understandable how this can criticised as a kind of solipsism, and it us a very ancient mode of criticism. Discussed here: Different between Buddhism and Solipsism

Buddhist thought deconstructs conventional notions of the self. If there is no unchanging self, how can there be solipsism? Buddhism emphasises sunyata, also called dependent origination, and inter-being. This should be understood as an emergent understanding of identity, like bundle-theory of Hume, and is best illustrated by the ancient metaphor of Indra's Net.

It's worth saying Nchiren Buddhism dismisses previous Buddhist thought, and places Nchiren himself over other authorities, so I wouldn't consider it 'mainstream Buddhism', even though it shares many outward practices.

The Pureland schools of Jodo Shinshu Jodo-shu focus on other-power of Amithaba, instead of self-arising awakening of traditional Zen (Soto & Rinzai). Happy to go into more detail of schools or doctrines if you have further questions.

Relevant discussions:

How is the concept of "beyond word" viewed in many school of thoughts?

What are some good resources for learning Indian philosophy?

Is there anyway to prove things happen/exist if I'm not aware of them?

What are the problems in ontological relativism?

Does there exist truly objective thoughts?

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  • Thanks. All this schools do not forbid Buddhists to believe that other people have separate minds?
    – Jack
    Aug 20 at 13:38
  • @Jack: Seperate, isolated minds, can only be supported if they have some unchanging essence, something outside of causes and conditions. For Buddhists we are all interconnected, mutually arising, & manifest interbeing. This can be linked to the impossibility of a Private Language in Western thought: conceptual abstract thought, including notions of identity & self (eg, the cogito), require, presuppose, emerge from, collaborative intelligence of language (in Buddhism, alaya vijnana, comparable to noosphere or memesphere)
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 21 at 12:06
  • ok thanks. When I talk to a Soto or Chan Buddhist, does he believe that I have a mind and a feeling?
    – Jack
    Aug 21 at 12:16
  • @Jack: I think that's a really weird question. Of course they do. Most Buddhists don't think about the finer points of doctrines, any more than most Christians think about Bishop Berkeley's idea that only the mind of god sustains the reality of things that no one is perceiving. It'd be like asking if Wittgenstein couldn't keep his thoughts to himself. Having said that, you aren't the first person here to ask this. See: 'How do Chinese and Japanese Buddhists perceive people?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/81458/…
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 22 at 10:53

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