The hardcore nihilist has come to the realization that everything is ultimately meaningless such that he tries lives that way. Heaven and hell are fictions for him, but also his everyday life is nothing more than a series of ‘here and nows’ that add up to nothing. The living body and the dead body are essentially the same in this regard.
For the less than hardcore individual, nihilism can often express itself as their inability to overcome pessimism or the same, to lose one’s optimism for a certain period of time. Such people are burdened with a lack of hope or confidence in the future. Even a culture, at times, can seem to be moving towards a pessimistic outlook falling gradually into decay and degeneration.
But who carries the torch of nihilism if not science who worships at the temple of ontological materialism: the belief that physical matter, which makes up physical objects, is the only reality; everything else including mind is a result of material interactions. Such a view will always result in nihilism. Such a view is far too limited.
Perish the thought that science has it wrong from the view of Buddhism. Buddhism reverses this. Physical objects are, at bottom, the nature of mind. To begin to grasp this requires a radical reformulation of our modern notion of objective reality. Rather than physical objects, including spacetime which they occupy, which seem to exist outside of us the world, instead, rests upon the ālaya-vijñāna, lit., the abode of consciousness (plural and singular).
As for how physical objects together with spacetime emerge and appear before us, they emerge from the interactions of consciousnesses (plural).
As primarily immaterial conscious beings within the ālaya-network, we have the means within us to rise above the condition of nihilism and to even discover from what consciousness, itself, is composed which is pure Mind.
What we perceive and imagine the world to be out there for us is not veridical, although we believe otherwise that it is true. It is only a representation of the interactions that are going on in the ālaya-network of consciousness-es which help the human species survive and flourish—not see the truth.
By the way, what I've briefly presented is based upon the work of Dr. Donald Hoffman, Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine. His work gave me the modern language I was looking for by which to explain Lankavatara ideas and how radical they are from a modern scientific world view.