Meaningless effort?

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    Hello all…

    So I’m watching a YouTube video by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu on mindfulness, and it’s very interesting. However, towards the end, he talks about how, in the search for temporary happiness, human beings spend a lot of time working hard in order to procure the things they believe will make them happy, to the point where they sometimes strive at things that are ‘meaningless.’

    Perhaps I’m allowing myself to sink too far into the idea of eliminating problematic emotions and becoming somehow so ‘at peace’ that things seem to cease to matter, but it does concern me — if at some point, one were to learn how to eliminate all need for material things in order to be happy… hm. How to put this?

    How could one motivate oneself to do things which are unpleasant or ‘pointless’ (such as the physically demanding and more or less pointless job I have now) in order to help other people, such as dependent family members?

    Or would it even matter, because if I didn’t care and could see things with complete objectivity… well, I guess I could tolerate any kind of horrible job without even seeing it as horrible, and just go on until my body and mind refused to go on.

    What do you think?


    It also leads on to my wondering… if you realize it’s pointless to be ‘attached’ to family members and emotions you attach to people, and even to yourself, do you become so dehumanized that you can no longer relate to those people or feel anything towards them?

    Where does self-love and love for others come in if the goal is to see everything as nothing?



    Its not that there’s nothing, such as emptiness with nothing there. Rather, its an emptiness of inherent meaning from its side. The job’s not horrible, its perhaps repetitive, but we bring the horror to an otherwise empty canvas. Removing confusion and false views doesn’t make us robotic such as empty of desire, making the job pointless, rather, it helps us keep our attentions on what does matter, tend our desires skillfully.

    Such as, if you don’t prefer your current job, the dissatisfaction, thinking, worrying, complaining… can use up far more energy than the job itself. If we learn how to drop the horror aspect, that energy could go toward building a better dream, one that inspires our passion, our heartsong. The job becomes a crutch, a helpful tool in getting you onward, but not part of you, not defining of you.

    As far as apathy for self or others, consider that if you drop a hammer on your foot, it hurts. When we share a good hug, we feel warmth. Its not nothing, these things do matter. They’re just impermanent, like smelling a blossom. Sure, it fades, but its a jewel while it lasts. Sure, pain fades, but holy shit while it lasts. Trying to deny it just leads to suppression, over cognizing, trying to escape into philosophy. Lasting happiness comes as we see that the hammer and the hug don’t produce lasting happiness or suffering, they’re empty of any defining quality. Smile with the hug, weep with the hammer, move on, be free. Happiness builds from our inner light that rests alongside these blips.

    Finally, consider picking up a metta meditation practice. Your song has notes of hopelessness, which as reasonable as it feels, it really just means your light has burned dim. Metta helps us find a smooth, peaceful mind, so we can approach our puzzle without all the dread and fear. Our story isn’t horror, dear brother, its a comedy. So much buzzing.

    Namaste, dear friend, may your mind settle, heart blossom.

    With warmth,


    Matt, I’m really going to dwell on what you’ve said. Reading your words of obvious, sincere wisdom to others has helped me in the last few days of serious confusion I’ve experienced in trying to figure out my own ‘puzzle.’

    I appreciate your taking the time to send some of that my way. I actually tried a metta meditation earlier today (one I believe you recommended to someone else), and I did find it soothing and helpful.

    I suppose what I need to really focus on breaking through is always forgetting the goal is not to completely get rid of all my emotions, but to stop being afraid of them, stop judging them as weaknesses, and perhaps to learn to accept and maybe enjoy being human. That’s my perception of your advice, here, and it rings true.

    I’ll try focusing my attention in a warmer, less self-demanding direction for a while.

    Thank you.


    I always viewed it to mean that you should never let anything be your “raison d’etre”. Because all things eventually slip away or end. Then what do you have? And to enjoy doing things for the doing sake, not the getting/having sake. Pretty deep stuff. I’ve been wondering the same kind of questions off and on for years.


    Thanks Matt and Inky. It is pretty deep kinda stuff.

    Hi N @chameleon

    I have not heard of the guy’s name whose u-tube you have watched. However, I will share my perspective based on the title of this post, “meaningless effort”.

    When I first started to read up on spirituality and gain more understanding on WHO AM I, I came across many such opinions and it was very confusing. If everything is nothing or somewhat pointless, then why waste time doing anything ? Why don’t we all just go and sit on Himalayas and meditate with DL until we are ready to leave the body, yeah ?

    After doing regular meditation for couple of years now, I have come to understand that when we are happy, life is flowing well and all our wants are being fulfilled, we don’t question anything as nothing. Everything is meaningful and beautiful on earth. Life seems like a bed of roses and if we had a choice, we wouldn’t let go of this state of being. However, like everything in nature, nothing is permanent so the mental state of calm is also limited for non-enlightened beings like us.

    Bring in meaningless tasks, unfulfilled wishes, unhappy relationships, unmet basic survival needs etc and all of us start searching for some form of relief. We beg subconsciously for peace, calm, happiness and contentment in life. Some people turn to spirituality, some to religion and some to D/A 🙂 etc

    If we could continue in the state of bliss in all circumstances, I doubt any of us would question anything as nothing. What provides bliss in life ? An awareness that everything is impermanent in this dimension and all things exist in duality. If there is sadness, there is happiness. If there is death, there is life. If there is darkness, there is light. If there are meaningful tasks, then there are non-meaningful tasks etc. By understanding this, we can enjoy being in the moment and truly embrace all that life has to offer without getting attached to anything or anyone. Attachment comes from falsely feeling and believing that someone or something is never going to leave us. This is against the natures law and this law works the same for all.

    What makes a job or anything pointless or even meaningful ? OUR MIND. Someone has nicely quoted that our mind is our biggest friend and it is also the worst enemy. Our mind helps us to come out of any adversity but it also helps us to remain attached to impermanent things if we do not take control its activity. This is probably the biggest difference between Dalai Lama and us. He still does all the mundane tasks that we all do but he doesn’t get attached to the outcomes. His mind doesn’t get disturbed by the outcomes. Whatever happens will be perfect and he accepts everything that comes his way. And what does this achieve ? A constant state of bliss and minimal mental chatter.

    How can we achieve a similar state and still fulfil all our worldly obligations ? I have found that meditation; selfless service to our bodies, families and community; acceptance of self and others; and unconditional love for everything and anything can go a long way in achieving above.

    What can take us away from this state of bliss ? Chasing things or people without questioning their purpose in our lives. And perhaps, this is what the you-tube guy is referring to when he says, “they sometimes strive at things that are ‘meaningless”. When we are constantly chasing money, fame, status, people etc without appreciating the beauty around us on a daily basis, everything becomes meaningless.

    Another thing I have come to learn is that we cant fully appreciate the “I” until we fulfil our worldly obligations as the “attachment to things and people” will keep dragging us back into the worldly dramas. We can truly only proceed to the highest levels of our spiritual quest once we are able to look after our and our families well-being to the fullest capacity.

    Until we reach that state of higher consciousness, everything that we do for living and surviving is very meaningful and necessary. We cant do a Phd until we go through all the levels of school, college, uni etc, can we ? Spirituality is very similar – we cant skip the steps by making an excuse that hey, what’s the use of it all ? Everything is a stepping stone and things become clearer as we move higher in our consciousness.

    Hope this makes sense.



    I love this thread! TONS of useful information and references to be used later when I need a reminder. Thanks to OP for the interesting question and the rest of you for the awesome advice. This forum is like no other..

    Peace and love to all of ya 🙂

    The Ruminant

    Hello all,

    Some wonderful posts here. Thank you all.

    N, I noticed that you went from “sometimes striving at things that are meaningless” to “everything is meaningless” quite quickly! Based on your first chapter, and not actually watching the video, I was thinking that people tend to do things like “if only I would have a nicer car, then I would be happy”. Then they decide that they are unhappy for as long as they don’t have that something, and they put their effort into getting that car or lamenting over it’s non-existence, and completely forget to do things that would actually bring happiness. The car isn’t going to bring lasting happiness anyway. It’s fun for a while and then emptiness sets in again, if happiness isn’t found from life itself. That’s just an example, but that’s what seems to be rather prevalent in my culture.

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things 🙂 At last!


    Thank you all so much for your replies.

    I’ve found the source of my unhappiness, confusion and depression, my ‘everything is meaningless,’ I think. It’s still really troubling me, but thanks to all of you I am trying to find positive ways to work through it.

    For years now, I’ve been suffering with the thought that God does not exist. Bad things happen, we decide that if there is a God, things like that would not occur. It’s a childish way of thinking, but it’s one we fall into when we don’t really know any better.

    Now… well, I’ve quit smoking, so I decided if I was capable of that, I was capable of other lasting change. I was miserable from the pain and withdrawals, I was experiencing a flood of emotions I couldn’t remember having and didn’t know what to do with, so I went to Google and looked up how to deal with anxiety and so forth, and here was Tiny Buddha.

    So I read blog articles, and forum posts, and they led me back to my old curiosity about Buddhism, because it’s concerned with eliminating emotional suffering and suffering being ‘cyclical’ — having dealt with cyclical depression from the age of ten, I could relate all too well.

    I was not only reading about Buddhism but devouring whatever information I could find, until: it got into karma, which lines up, to me, with Christianity’s ‘you’re a bad person, you’re going to hell, there’s not much you can do.’

    Then I stopped. Because as much as I hate to say it, I have done many things I have hated myself for most of my life. It wasn’t so much the pain and issues I dealt with in life that made me decide ‘God doesn’t exist’… it was my fear of judgment, my feelings that I didn’t deserve God. I was low-energy, I was depressed, I was afflicted with wrong, negative thoughts that obscured my ability to understand the way back, I gave up.

    I sank into smoking, not caring about anything, allowing myself to act in horrible, irresponsible, unstable ways because nothing mattered, and what was the consequence? Nothing, as far as I could see.

    After reading about karma, I was deeply troubled. I started thinking I could possibly still use Buddhist teachings to overcome my suffering, but they told me that no, unless I accepted all this pain and learned to really take responsibility for my life, work at it, deal with the things I’ve done if I can’t make up for them — I couldn’t.

    Then, out of curiosity, I researched Eckhardt Tolle and his ‘stillness.’ I tried to find it for myself. I accessed a silence in my mind that made me feel not joy or elation but NOTHING. It felt like it existed behind my ‘mind,’ behind my mental chatter, and it scared the hell out of me. I kept thinking ‘that’s where you’d find God, if you knew Him. That’s where he’d be. Right there, in your head.’

    That morning, I had a panic attack. I was convinced I was losing my mind. I’m still afraid that I might be, because I’ve always been unstable, right? What if this is just me being unstable again, chasing after something that isn’t real just because I want to feel better?

    And then I look at that, and I think that question is wrong thinking. I put it there, and it sits in the way of my making progress, my learning to be a better person, to forgive myself, to feel self-love and extend it outwards. I am trying. So. Hard. To realize that. To have faith and trust even though I keep falling backwards into ‘this can’t be real.’

    Why can’t it? I’m not the only one who can’t shake a belief that something exists besides us.

    And now that I’m looking at all of this, at different religions in which too many things coincide, and realizing that research and thought are ENCOURAGED, and that no, God doesn’t really look down on me or hate me or find me lesser because the lesson is that God is right there, in me, part of me, even if I’m not ready to accept His love yet because I haven’t put the work in … I can see that it isn’t that nothing matters.

    It’s just that I was afraid to let it matter before.

    If I ever get to where I’m going, I’m sure I won’t need to say or think things like this:

    I hope I’m not just going crazy.

    The Ruminant

    Hello N,

    I just read your post and wanted to share something with you in hopes that it might put your mind at ease.

    I’ve been through that self-examination and that feeling of emptiness, and yes, I felt like panicking as well. It was really, really scary. But I stayed with it, for several reasons which are unimportant now. After a while it kind of stopped being empty.

    I am no longer a religious person, so to me it’s not really about searching for God. It is not because I would be overly rational, but because I have accepted that there are things that I do not know and can no comprehend, so it’s better if I focus on the smaller things, which actually are within my grasp. It is not my job to define a God or what might happen after death. I will do the best that I can as a human being, and will surely make a lot of mistakes, but we can’t be expected to be perfect.

    All that said, I have found the stories of near death experiences very interesting and how people have repeatedly told that it’s not someone else judging them, but rather, they themselves have judged their own lives, and subsequently process it and then forgive. I find that same thing happening in life in general. We can be so harsh towards ourselves and judge ourselves and hold onto those past mistakes. It is as if we’d rather carry some guilt with us than rip off the bandaid and face and deal with the things that we regret and then move on after learning from those mistakes.

    You say that you are not ready to accept His love yet because you haven’t put the work in, but you have heard of unconditional love? If you had to put some work in, it would make it conditional 🙂 Meaning that you are already loved, accepted and forgiven. Whether you want to accept that is up to you, but unconditional love does not judge or value you according to your thoughts and deeds. Also, paradoxically, if you do accept that you are loved, the thoughts and deeds start to change as well from destructive to loving.

    You are not the first one to have gone through such thoughts and fears, so don’t fret that you are going crazy.

    Sometimes when I have trouble with too complex thoughts and wondering what’s the point of me or anyone, I tend to think about plants. They strive to grow regardless of their environment. A small flower can push itself through asphalt. It doesn’t just decide to stop growing or to be alive. This growing, and tending to life and blossoming regardless of the obstacles is somehow a very invigorating imagery for me. A flower doesn’t think that it’s pointless, so why should we? We are here, we’re alive, so let’s live!


    Thanks The Ruminant.

    Hi N

    Thanks for your thought out response.

    “For years now, I’ve been suffering with the thought that God does not exist. Bad things happen, we decide that if there is a God, things like that would not occur. It’s a childish way of thinking, but it’s one we fall into when we don’t really know any better”.

    – I used to think in a similar fashion until I realised that “God” has no role to play in the dramas that take place on world stage. It is the individual actions of people coupled with collective actions of a nation at large that leads to bad things happening. We like to blame everything on God as we dont know any better. Grow your consciousness and you will figure out that YOU are the GOD 🙂 who is part of the whole universal consciousness. Ie, we are all one and same. However, I am not going to impose my view on you as you need to figure this out for yourself when the time is right. For me this understanding came along from understanding the theory of Karma but from the right sources.

    For example: a set of parents have a mentally disabled kid. Whose fault is it ? Parents or kid or Gods. A disabled kid doesnt suffer as he / she doesnt know any better in that form. Parents may suffer in the knowing that my child is disabled and not a normal kid like others. On the other hand, some parents of such kids take it as a blessing and turn the diasbility into “differently abled” and there is no suffering on their part. Both parties continue their existence but it is their mind set, which sets them apart in the amount of suffering they go through.

    We can always look to blame things outside (such as GOD) or we can take personal responsbility for everything that happens. I have chosen to do the latter as then I can choose my reactions and any follow on actions. When I look for someone outside for help, I am goving my power away despite knowing that I am UNLIMITED.

    We have close to 6-7 billion people on this planet. Everyone is so unique and everyone is going to give you their perspective but no one’s persepctive is going to be the right perspective for you until you figure out where the responsbility lies – Outside or Inside. The moment you put the responsbility inside, all the craziness and confusion will disappear. You wont need any perspectives from outside as you will realise that at the end of the day, we are all one and same LOL. NO, you are not turning crazy and nor are you crazy now.

    Stop judging yourself so harshly. Once the judgment stops, mental chatter will start to die down and you will feel at peace. Please give up the smokes if you have picked it up again. You are not being kind to yourself by putting those chemicals into your body. Those chemicals are notorious for creating unstability of mind.

    Best wishes N and continue to spread your light.



    Hey guys. Thank you again for all your kind words. I just wanted to let you all know that I found the answers to my problems and questions, and I’m doing better than ever.

    I hope you’re all having the best possible day. 🙂

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