Nirvana: nothing holy about it
What does the Internet say about Nirvana?
Nirvana is an ecstatic state in which there is no suffering, no desire, nor sense of self. It represents the final goal of Buddhist practice. The synonyms are: paradise, pleasure, heaven, bliss, ecstasy, peace, and serenity enlightenment. This definition is totally misleading. The true meaning of the word has nothing to do with this divine and ecstatic description. Zen Buddhism is concrete, down to earth and more practical.
Like anybody else, Zen practitioners do have desires, emotions, suffering and get the karmatic effects of their intentions and behavior. The difference is in their intensity and duration by the way practitioners are controlling the main culprit behind suffering that is our ego-driven mind.
The Sanskrit word Nirvana means literally “to extinguish”, or “to blow away”.
Contrary to other religions, there is nothing holy about it, no bliss, no divine person, no ecstasy and no miracle.
To blow away what you ask? To blow away the flame which is a metaphor for suffering and its multi sources.
Our main sources of suffering being:
1) Ongoing and endless ego-centered, mind made desires about zillions of things 2) Hatred 3) Illusion/delusion. By far, most of our suffering are self-created by our ego and the rest from outside such as the death of a loved one or loss of job.
So, Nirvana is not a transcendent holy state, an ecstasy, a paradise on earth, free of struggle. It is a simple state where the mind and its emotional component are, most of the time, under our control.
Zen teaching is telling us that, in each of us, there is always a fire. This permanent fire is caused by the friction of 2 forces rubbing all the time against against each other, like two sticks.
This ever-present fire is generated by the subject that is the ego ME-I- MYSELF-MINE - rubbing against the objects that is “what I wants, don’t want and my delusions/illusions”; all of them being great sources of suffering.
When our conflicting emotions are under control, the flame - suffering- becomes weak if not gone and Nirvana appears, at least temporary.
This is the end of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and other negative emotions. The mind is at rest.
It is important to stress the followings:
Causes of suffering mostly from internal sources (endless desires, hatred, illusions) and also from external sources (lost a loved one) cannot be totally eradicate since life is and will be full of them. However, their negative emotional consequence that is effects such as anger, fear, etc. causing suffering can be controlled if not eliminated.
Since our mind is the main culprit behind our sources of suffering, learning to control it is paramount.
This is why mindfulness meditation is so important.
Being able to be totally or even partially free from our negative emotions is a giant step towards serenity and Nirvana.
This lasting inner happiness that Zen talks about does not mean having no personality, not looking for fun, joy and pleasure or being masochistic. Quest for joy and pleasure should not be deny, on the contrary.
Where and when can I find Nirvana?
Nirvana is already there, hidden and deep inside all of us. Like the ocean, we are agitated at the surface and quiet at the bottom.
Here are few practical approaches:
1) Try to stay in the present moment as often as possible including when facing challenges.
2) Accept the fact that 1) we don’t have too much control of anything, 2) things are what they are and not what we want them to be.
3) Be aware what your mind is doing. Then, bring it where you are and what you are doing in this present moment like we do during meditation. Bringing body and mind together is an effective way to experience reality and serenity.
4) Accept then let go what 1) you don’t like, 2) cannot get, 3) what you want and 4) don’t want especially when there is no solution to offer and when we realize that we cannot control.
If there is solution, of course look for it but only after controlling your emotional reaction by accepting things as they are.
5) Don’t trust all your thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Thoughts and feelings are products of the mind and the mind is just one part of you among many. It is not the real, genuine you. Thoughts do exist but are they real?
Using mindfulness meditation, causes of our ego-driven suffering can be minimized and their effects that is
suffering itself in the form of physical & emotional pain can be controlled if not eradicate.
This is Nirvana, nothing holy about. Emotional pain – the flame- will always appears, up to us to accept then
to control it if possible. When you eat, just pay attention to it: this is Nirvana.