What is nirvana?

Discussion in 'Alternative' started by Nick the Pilot, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    The question has been asked elsewhere on this forum, what is nirvana? Here are two Theosophists giving their descriptions, from the books The Masters and the Path and Nirvana — An Occult Experience.

    “The entry into [nirvana] is utterly bewildering, and it brings as its first sensation an intense vividness of life, surprising even to him who is familiar with the buddhic plane. The surprise has been his before, though in a lesser measure, whenever he mounted for the first time from one plane to another. Even when we rise first in full and clear consciousness from the physical plane to the astral, we find the new life to be so much wider than any that we have hitherto known that we exclaim: ‘I thought I knew what life was, but I have never known before!’ When we pass into the mental plane, we find the same feeling redoubled; the astral was wonderful, but it was nothing to the mental world. When we pass into the higher mental plane, again we have the same experience. At every step the same surprise comes over again, and no thought beforehand can prepare one for it, because it is always far more stupendous than anything that we can imagine, and life on all those higher planes is an intensity of bliss for which no words exist.

    “European Orientalists have translated Nirvana as annihilation, because the word means ‘blown out’, as the light of a candle is extinguished by a breath. Nothing could be a more complete antithesis to the truth, except in the sense that it is certainly the annihilation of all that down here we know as man, because there he is no longer man, but God in man, a God among other Gods, though less than they.

    “Try to imagine the whole universe filled with and consisting of an immense torrent of living light, and in it a vividness of life and an intensity of bliss beyond all description, a hundred thousand times beyond the greatest bliss of heaven. At first we feel nothing but bliss; we see nothing but the intensity of light; but gradually we begin to realize that even in this dazzling brightness there are brighter spots — nuclei, as it were — which are built of the light because there is nothing but the light, and yet through them somehow the light gleams out more brightly, and obtains a new quality which enables it to be perceptible upon other and lower planes, which without this would be altogether beneath the possibility of sensing its effulgence. And by degrees we begin to realize that these subsidiary suns are the great Ones, that these are Planetary Spirits, Great Angels, Karmic Deities, Buddhas, Christs and Masters, and that through Them the light and the life are flowing down to the lower planes.

    “Gradually, little by little, as we become more accustomed to the stupendous reality, we begin to see that, in a far lower sense, even we ourselves are a focus in that cosmic scheme, and that through us also, at our much lower level, the light and the life are flowing to those who are still further away-not from it, for we are all part of it and there is nothing else anywhere — but further from the realization of it, the comprehension of it, the experience of it.”

    George Arundale describes the entry into Nirvana as a blinding experience.

    [When one enters Nirvana for the first time,] “Light, of course, is the first discovery, for it is the primary, overwhelming experience. I have spoken of "lightning-standing-still". Entry into the Nirvanic world is as into lightning, blinding, penetrating, drenching. One plunges into a sea of vibrant, vocal lightning. One cannot sink, but one has to learn to swim. One does not sink, because the light within makes one buoyant. It is impossible to conceive entry into this kingdom without the warrant of the awakened light within....”

    Here, George Arundale describes Nirvana as being nothing but light, yet having points of light within the light. (George was a Christian, and his Christian bias comes through loudly in this passage. But nontheists can read around George’s theistic language, and still get a meaningful idea of what he is saying.)

    “Let me try to put my visions [into words]. I look upon the world, and I see our Lord the Sun expressed in myriad suns. Each monad I perceive to be a Sun in miniature. The Sun Divine throws off spark-suns charged with all His attributes. The process of evolution begins, and these sparks burst into color, or rather gradually. unfold in terms of color; rainbows with sun-hearts, or nuclei or centers. God's Light thus imprisoned in form begins its long pathway of transcending form, thus acquiring self-consciousness. Every atom of light is an atom of unconscious Divinity, slowly but surely fulfilling the will of the Sun that it shall become unfolded into self-conscious Divinity. Every atom is a Sun unconscious, and shall become a Sun self-conscious. And the Sun-Light, which is the Light that is free, shines upon the Sun-Light, which is the Light imprisoned; Light the wanderer in the darkness, until the Light within and the Light without blend into a perfect whole, earth-light kissing Heaven-Light and becoming Sun-Light. “Bathed in the Lightning-standing-still which is Nirvana, I perceive the imprisoned lightnings in all things. I perceive the Light which is dull — the savage; the Light which is bright — the man evolved; the Light which is glory — the Superman, the Master. I see color everywhere in process of transmutation, of glorification, of transcendence. There is no blackness anywhere in the sense of a negation of Light. God said: ‘Let there be Light.’ And there was and is light everywhere. His Light shineth even in our darkness.’ “And as before I might express my vision in terms of sound, of music, in terms of gloriously growing forms. For, as time passes, I begin to perceive that while my first impression found instant expression in the word ‘Light,’ and specially in the phrase ‘Lightning-standing-still,’ I now know that this Light conception is but a quality of Nirvana, an aspect, a facet of the diamond sphere. In truth, Nirvana is an essence of things and a flower of things.”

    George Arundale describes objects (sentient beings) in Nirvana:

    “Each object is a personalization of Light-Sound, the personalization being the translation of Light-Sound in our lower worlds. Each object is a sun in humblest miniature, a tiny star, a world, a universe. Each object is a microscopic harmony. But each object, too, may have its elements of darkness and of discord, in which its true light and sound-values are thwarted. It is interesting to me to listen to and observe objects and to endeavor to sense their respective Sound and Light-formulae, their various vital notes and mystic chords.”
     
  2. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    As I understand it, Nirvana is the total eradication of greed, hatred and delusion.

    Which as far as Buddhism is concerned, is related to the anatta (not-self) teaching, "without understanding which, the whole of Buddhism becomes largely unintelligible."

    So greed in all its dimensions - the grasping of a self experienced as the centre of all reality. So with hatred. So with delusion.

    My understanding is that beyond faith that there IS a "a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned" any anticipation of just what the experience of nirvana would be/is will preclude "reaching" it.
     
  3. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Tariki, I agree. It has been said that our goal in life is to become so carried away with helping others that we completely forget about ourselves. Our goal in life, then, is to create this frame of mind within us. I think that, if someone does not have this frame of mind, if someone is still greedy and selfish, they cannot achieve nirvana.
     
  4. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    Very well said. I would add however, that one should never completely forsake themselves and their personal well-being. For without some sense of self, we cannot effectively help others. Jumping into the ocean to save a drowning man benefits no one if you can't swim.
     
  5. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Hi Nick and NJ,

    on the blance between self and others, here is a link to a worthwhile essay by the Theravada Bhikkhu Nyanaponika Thera.


    Protection Through Satipatthana
     
  6. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    Thanks. That's a great link. I do like this forum!
     
  7. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Here is an example of being too selfless. There are a lot of people around me who are suffering financially. I could help them out by giving them some money. But if I did this for everyone around me who is suffering financially, I would end up giving away all my money.

    I may give away a little money, but I won't give away a lot, and trying to figure out exactly how much money to give away is an example of the difficulty I have of getting the selfish/selfless balance right.

    I believe that, once we achieve nirvana, this problem will go away automatically.
     
  8. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    It seems a lot of people find themselves in a financial bind these days, but as you point out, it would be impossible for most of us to bail out everyone in need. Rather than buying them out of their financial bind, it might be of greater service to them if they were taught how to better handle their finances or give them ideas on how to raise additional funds on their own. Sort of the, "teach a man to fish" approach.
     
  9. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    NJ, I agree. I would add that we would also need to learn to do such things mainly from a non-selfish perspective. For example, I do a lot of religious teaching, but I never try to benefit personally or financially from it. In this way, I'm hoping to increase my selflessness to a level high enough for me to quality for nirvana. People ask, what is the purpose of life? The purpose of life is for us to accelerate our progress towards enlightenment and nirvana.
     
  10. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    I've posted here before, but I just realized that I've yet to answer the actual question, "What is Nirvana?". In simple terms, Nirvana is a perfect state of being. An absence of excessive greed, want, desire and depravity. Harmony with God and the universe. An everlasting inner peace. Easy to say, but difficult to accomplish. Especially with the demands and restraints placed upon us by modern society. It's a struggle just to manage life on a daily basis, let alone finding the time for all that piece, love and harmony stuff. Shoot, I've got bills to pay! Right? Seriously though, it's really not as complicated as you might think. It's all about balance and that starts with good Dharma, (righteousness). In other words, doing the right thing. Make a promise, keep a promise. Say what you mean, mean what you say. You don't have to rescue every stray puppy you encounter or give a handout to every person in need. Just have compassion and respect for all that God has created and do no harm. Help others when you can, but don't forsake yourself and family in the process. Your pursuit of Nirvana will fall short quickly if you spend all of your time and resources helping others while you and your family starve. If all you ever do in life is shelter, feed, clothe and love your family, in God's eyes you've done more to achieve Nirvana than a rich man trying to solve the world's problems with his money. It really is just that simple. Think about it. If every person just took care of their own, there would be a huge outbreak of peace throughout the land. Now that's Nirvana!
     
  11. Nothingtoknow

    Nothingtoknow New Member

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    Thanks-didnt have to read volumes of different scriptures! to know this simple fact. Why is it then it is made such a complex subject and a state difficult to acheive?

    So you are saying all that animal behaviour and emotions which humans possess should be discarded, not transiently but permanently.

    I imagine a world full of 'Buddha' type individuals- no war, no competetion, no sport, no need for law, police, no starvation in sub-sahara, no disease, no smoking/alcohol/drugs, all vegetarians. Wow. All praying and in bliss for 24 hrs a day.

    Is that Nirvana! Is it the final goal?
     
  12. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    I really can't tell you why people make simple matters complex. For the same reason people read things into posts that are not there I suppose. In this case, I choose to put a complex matter into simple terms so more people would understand. People from all walks of life, from all over the world visit this forum. I see no point in alienating any of them with a lot of complicated verbiage.
     
  13. Nothingtoknow

    Nothingtoknow New Member

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    What you call greed, hatred are essential ingredients for survival in nature. Without greed or hatred human kind will be eradicated in no time! We may not want to try it either.

    If at all humans have 'advanced' over other animals in nature is due to his greed and competition for survival. Nature wants it that way i suppose.
     
  14. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Just to say that for me Nirvana/Enlightenment is a reality to be realised, not attained. It is a given, gift.

    As a Pure Land Buddhist I hear deeply the words of Shinran....

    "My eyes being hindered by blind passions,
    I cannot perceive the light that grasps me;
    Yet the great compassion, without tiring,
    Illumines me always"

    And Ajahn Chan, from another Tradition, offered this counterpoint......

    Do not worry about enlightenment. When growing a tree, you plant it, water it, fertilize it, keep the bugs away; and if these things are done properly, the tree will naturally grow. How quickly it grows, however, is something you cannot control.
     
  15. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    You speak to the soul my friend
     
  16. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Tariki,

    I agree that we cannot rush our progress towards enlightenment and then later onto nirvana. But we can accelerate our progress towards the two goals. The very purpose of all religions is to show us how to accelerate our progress towards enlightenment and then later onto nirvana.

    Seeing the difference between rushing and accelerating our progress is tricky.
     
  17. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Hi Tariki. Here are the suttas relating to this. It's about ferreting out the different hindrances and perceptions and constructs from the mind in the jhanas. In order to pick out the constructed, there has to be the unconstructed by which one can discern them. "For one who perceives, nothing is there."
    Here are the four Nibbana Utterances Buddha made at Anathapindika's monastery regarding the jhana cycle and being able to discern the fabricated from the unfabricated. I suspect the third one is the one you might be referring to.

    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (1)
    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (2)
    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)
    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (4)

    Here's a sutta (also from Anathapindika's monastery) where the Buddha goes into detail about the discernment and "ferreting out" of the qualities that arise and pass away associated with the jhana cycle and the "further escape" mentioned in the above four Nibbana utterances.

    Anupada Sutta: One After Another
     
  18. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Nick,

    Tricky is one word! For me it is more to do with acceptance and surrender than seeking to accelerate anything. "What we have to be is what we are", as one once said.

    Seattlegal, thanks for the links. I do have a lot of Theravada texts, hard copies and on kindle, and still browse. But I'm at home now in Pure Land Buddhism which blends better when playing with my grandchildren.

    Namaste Jesus, thanks.
     
  19. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Tariki,

    I know what you mean. For some people, enlightenment is more of a way of thinking, or a frame of mind, or having an "aha!" experience, than a goal that must be rigorously worked towards. This is especially true of Zen Buddhists (and possibly Pure Land Buddhists such as yourself too).
     
  20. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    This survey of nibbana, by Buddhists, is not confined to Theravada, so is even more valuable and helpful. There are many quotes from the sutras.

    http://www.amaravati.org/downloads/pdf/The_Island.pdf

    This how it begins:

     

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