"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

August 23, 2012

Nirvana isn't Nothingness or Annihilation!

"Nibbana is often held to be the ultimate goal in Buddhism, and yet it is rather ill-defined. It is considered to be remote, indicative of a superhuman vision that sees the illusory nature of the world, and hence, is free from grieving about its misfortunes. For many people, this gives Nibbana about as much appeal as an anaesthetic―and a difficult-to-obtain one at that.

So most people don’t want to go to Nibbana, there’s nothing there; nothing at all. Look at the roof and the floor here. The upper extreme is the roof, that’s a ‘becoming.’ The lower extreme is the floor, and that’s another ‘becoming.’ But in the empty space between the floor and the roof there’s nowhere to stand. One could stand on the roof, or stand on the floor, but not on that empty space. Where there is no becoming, that’s where there’s emptiness, and, to put it bluntly, we say that Nibbana is this emptiness. People hear this and they back up a bit, they don’t want to go. They’re afraid they won’t see their children or relatives.”

~ Ajahn Sucitto, ‘The Dawn of the Dhamma,’ p 97

LOL!  Don't worry, you will!  The Buddha's advice is that we don’t get stuck in views about nibbana/nirvana.  It could never be what the conditioned mind thinks!  Emptiness is not empty of anything except conditioned views and the suffering of being stuck in them.  Be assured—in Buddhism, waking up isn’t annihilation, nihilism, or disappearing into a big, undifferentiated cosmic blob.

As Lama Anagarika Govinda explains:

“Individuality and unversality are not mutually exclusive values, but two sides of the same reality, complementing, fulfilling, and complimenting each other, and becoming one in the experience of enlightenment.  This experience does not dissolve the mind into an amorphous All, but rather brings the realization that the individual self contains the totality focused in its very core. Thus, the world that hitherto was experienced as an external reality merges, or is integrated into, the enlightened mind in the moment in which the universality of consciousness is realized.  This is the ultimate moment of liberation from the impediments and fetters of ignorance and illusion.”

Instead of worrying about what nirvana is, or is not, or what "happens" in nirvana—as if nirvana was a place!—the  big idea is to be busying liberating oneself from those fetters of ignorance and illusion.  Then, we are "nirvana-ing" every day and we are walking into the spaciousness, joy, and peace that never end.


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