Nirvana

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The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. – Lao Tzu

The laws of the Universe demand that everything remains perpetually in balance. Death and life appear simultaneously, though individually we usually only experience one of these poles at a time: last year, you celebrated the birth of a child; this year, you mourn the passing of a loved one. On an elemental level, disintegration and manifestation are a singular process as matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed. The only realm untouched by the Universal law of balance (or, if you prefer, the eternally balanced stream of Tao) is that of conscious experience. Not of Consciousness, mind you, but individual temporary conscious experience. Because we are unable to apprehend anything more than a mere fraction of the information around us through our limited sense organs, we feel as if any given moment in time is one of good fortune or bad luck. This, in turn, causes us to invent and conduct ourselves according to such conceptual pairs as justice and injustice, beauty and ugliness, sinner and saint, good and evil.

This is why human life is so unnecessarily difficult.

The Buddhist concept of Nirvana is wildly misunderstood in Western culture. Much like we’ve done with the idea of karma, we have tailored the word to align with our own philosophical understandings so that most people consider it the Buddhist equivalent of Heaven. It isn’t. Nirvana is not a place, nor is it an afterlife reward for having lived a morally upstanding life. It is simply a state of mind that sees reality as it is and consequently elevates the individual who achieves it to a condition no longer vulnerable to the suffering of ignorance. Though many auspicious lamas throughout the ages have claimed attainment of such a state, I tend to think of it more as an ideal to guide us in our psycho-spiritual development.

I know from direct experience that practices designed to aid an individual in the nurturing of wisdom and calm abiding are effective. Not all are to everyone’s taste, which is why there are a myriad of diverse meditative and yogic techniques for our correspondingly diverse mindsets. I utilize what methods work best for me and can attest to an enormous personal transformation over the course of the past five years from a surly, selfish, nihilistic drunk to…well, whatever the hell you’d describe me as now. But no matter how one might choose to describe me now, it’s an improvement, I assure you. However, I am not enlightened. I do not dwell in Nirvana as I am still just as vulnerable to the dualistic illusions of Samsara as anyone. So in speaking of the Eastern wisdom traditions as I’m obviously wont to do, understand that I only seek a lessening of personal and interpersonal suffering, not its complete eradication. Though I know it’s not always apparent in the words I utilize, I am always attempting to approach matters with the motivation of pragmatism as opposed to divine mysticism.

We tend to base our views of vital issues on the concept of time as it relates to our average human lifespan. For instance, if a person spends the majority of a lifetime struggling for social justice or equal rights and in their twilight years injustice and inequality only seem to have gotten worse, this person’s final thought may be that it was all for naught. That is a shame, because every noble struggle is worthwhile. However, if we really care about such causes for reasons beyond our own self-satisfaction, we need to realize that we may not see the fruits of our labors in our lifetimes that are but a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. Acting from compassionate virtue must be its own reward. Every action sooner or later yields a corresponding reaction; incidentally, that’s the actual definition of karma, not some supernatural system of punishment and reward. So your virtuous actions will yield positive results…just maybe not as soon as you’d wish.

Due to my personal predispositions, I tend to be quite passionate about issues of equality and rights. This goes hand in hand with my spiritual understanding of the inherent equanimity of all beings. As a result, those who have read my ramblings for any length of time have come to expect occasional admonishments of those who discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other surface-level classifications. Effective writing often demands a certain amount of hyperbolic idealism and absolutism, but I understand how things really work. In order for my words and actions to have any effect whatsoever, they must be shared and practiced by countless other individuals (and, of course, they are — usually FAR more vitally) because it is the collective mind that has to shift if any real, lasting change is to occur. Also, to avoid succumbing to discouragement, I have to understand that a massive psychic transformation on such a scale takes time. Whether I live to be 100 years old or die tomorrow, I will not be afforded the time to witness the effects of the virtuous human action of those currently inhabiting the planet. If this is the case, why struggle? Why care? Because spiritual evolution is not about the individual — it is about the forward motion of embodied Consciousness. If our selfish vantage points tell us that such efforts are futile, then we’re missing the point. Those who came before us brought us to the world we currently inhabit. We are doing the same, for better or for worse, for those who will come after us. If you are a parent, you might have a better instinctual understanding of the importance of leaving a better world for future generations. But this is something we all need to understand, whether or not we plan to pass on our genetic code.

So yes, the problems we currently face are bigger than any one of us. From the standpoint of individual efficacy, they are quite literally insurmountable. Yet I know in my heart that if we can take a broader view and drop our personal arrogance and self-protective attitudes enough to join hands and form alliances with those whose lifestyles and outlooks we may not understand, the prospects for a brighter and more cooperative future are great. Here’s hoping we can all make an effort to do just that. And if you still need a little bit of pride to sweeten the deal, I think it’s perfectly harmless to envision a new generation that truly appreciates the bold and kind efforts of its predecessor. We should aspire to go down in history, not infamy. To paraphrase a line from a cheesy Belinda Carlisle song, Nirvana is a place on Earth.  Potentially, of course.  By tapping that potential, we become timeless.

 

14 thoughts on “Nirvana

  1. Brilliantly written as always. 2 thoughts: 1) I’ve always understood NIRVANA as being the absence of desire, almost achieving nothingness. No ego. No drives. No disappointment, no highs, no lows, true equanimity. Completely different from KARMA, as you so well stated.
    Also, on your comment: “Because we are unable to apprehend anything more than a mere fraction of the information around us through our limited sense organs…” Aldous Huxley often wrote of the human mind as being a mere safety valve, limiting our perceptions of the Universe so we could focus on the danger or opportunity in front of us: The Saber tooth tiger jumping from the bush, the car spinning out of control on 7th avenue, the opportunity to pick an apple from a tree, etc. Huxley felt that perceiving the Universe as it is, on the grander scale, was inherently dangerous to our survival. So here I am, jumping into your brilliance with my .02 cents. Looking forward to your next post…as always.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I love Huxley’s writing and in an earlier post whose title currently escapes me, I delved a bit into the virtual impossibility of panoramic perception but also — perhaps irresponsibly — advised the reader that a taste of it can be achieved through the use of psychedelics. When you use words like brilliance to describe my humble little diatribes, it’s very encouraging because you clearly possess a brilliance of your own. So I hope you’ll continue to always chime in with your .02 cents because it always serves to make whatever my point was much clearer…and better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Huxley was big on psychedelics to expand the consciousness. Me? Nanites are doing the same in my rather absurd story. LOL! And thanks for the compliment. You can count on me to throw in my .02 whenever possible on your blog as well. You’re well worth my time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand the “why when it doesn’t seem to matter” conundrum. I can cite several examples from mine and other’s lives I have witnessed. You’re right, when you say that it is still important regardless of whether we are around to see that change has happened. Perhaps we should stop focusing on seeing the grand change, and celebrate any “subtle shift” where we have been a privileged participant.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “Every noble struggle is worthwhile”

    Love it! I think something that many aspiring Buddhas miss is that Nirvana is simply understanding reality as it is, but that it isnt an intelectual understanding. We can study about Karma or Anatta and say “Ok, that makes sense” and then five minutes later we are right back to being our “self” centered unenlightened “selves”! Anatta is a hard nut to crack!

    You are having an effect. You sort of have to focus on the your desired end and not on your perception of the effect you are having. We generally never see the effects of our actions. Beleive me, your words have the power to affect change. The words you write plant seeds in the minds of others. You will very seldomly get the chance to see what they grow into, but I assure you they grow! Keep the awesome writing comming brother!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I, too, have shed my surly, selfish ways during the latest leg of my journey, though the “drunk” part remains a charming part of my character. 😉

    I get into long, drawn-out discussions with friends of mine, who take a certain … distinctly biased … look at humanity. They are of the “if everyone would work harder they would have as much money as me” crowd (I hang with princes and paupers alike). They carry with them a man-is-a-machine-to-only-make-money, pro-MAGA point of view. Equality is a buzz-word of the left; an attempt to raise their taxes.

    Having spent a good portion of last Sunday battling two of them at once (I got stuck in a corner), and a good portion of the last two years hearing their boasts grow ever stronger as their culture hero grew in power, it is such a refreshing balance to hear the truth ring from your prose. I cannot win over their minds. I cannot change their hearts. At times, I do not try (not often; I, too, am prone to pounce at right-wing buzz words).

    But Nirvana demands, Karma demands, the desert curmudgeon demands, that I fight on. For the world I’d rather live in, the one I will never see, I must persist.

    Tomorrow, I mean. Today is about the opening day of football. 😏

    Another fantastic entry, my man. I humbly submit my vote to you, for whatever position of influence you are seeking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is much to your credit, Tom. Exposing yourself to their point of view, though frustrating, constitutes an effort to understand people holding positions with which you disagree. I used to be much better at that but I have to admit that so far, Trumpism is beyond my powers of acceptance because it doesn’t even constitute conservatism — it’s a whole different animal. Acceptance is not agreement and the fact that you continue to give your friends of opposing views the respect that all people deserve is extremely admirable and important.

      Liked by 1 person

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