Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The ultimate Buddhist word

What is the ultimate word of peace in Buddhism? It would have to be NIRVANA. 

Nirvana -- cooling, blowing out a fire, slaking thirst, quenching craving, the deconstruction of all formations -- is a verb, a process, an undoing of suffering.

Nirvana is not a place, or "emptiness" (śhūnyatā), or nothingness, which exist. There is, for example, a sphere corresponding to the seventh meditative absorption, the third formless realm called the void or nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana). Confusing the ultimate with these conditioned states is a harmful wrong view. It is a nihilistic view.

Nirvāna is peace, a positive, desirable, unconditioned state. While it cannot be adequately described, it can be experienced consciously in this very life. It is not something one waits to see after death like the heavens.

Nirvana is not death (marana). The enlightened do not die because to die is to be reborn somewhere at sometime. It is always incorrect to speak of the Buddha "dying." He did not die. It is correct to say that he attained final peace (parinirvana). It is not a matter of semantics, not a euphemism for death.

Nirvana is completely different. All that we we saw of "the Buddha" that was passing away was always passing away, was always dying even as it arose. To say that he died automatically (logically and linguistically) posits that he existed in some ultimate sense.

But non-self (anatta) explains that we do not exist in anything but a conditional, dependently originated way. There is no self in the Five Aggregates (form, feeling, perception, formation, consciousness) and no self apart from them.
  • Nirvana is the deathless (unconditioned) state.
  • "Nirvana is the highest happiness" (Dhammapada 204).
  • "Where there is not anything, where nothing is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvāṇa do I call it -- the utter extinction of aging and dying."
  • "There is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unformed. If there were not that unborn, unbecome, unmade, unformed, there would be no freedom and release from the born, become [dynamic being], made, formed to be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unformed freedom and release from the born, become, made, formed is discerned" (Verses of Uplift, Udana VIII.3).
  • "‘The liberated mind/heart (citta) which does not cling’ means nirvana” (MN 2-Att. 4.68).

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