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Posts Tagged ‘Nirvana’

Impermanence is everywhere in our lives and yet no one likes impermanence.  We all hope for our newest relationship that is going so well will be permanent, or that great new job we have will be permanent, or that new car will stay divinely perfect with no scratches or dents forever!  Oh well, they won’t!

Bhante Gunaratana writes about this in his wonderful book The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English as he tells the story of a student of the Buddha.  As he was meditating he heard the voice of the Buddha saying:

Destroy attachment to self,
As you could an autumn lily in your fist.
Cultivate the path to peace,
The Nirvana taught by the Well-Gone-One.

When he opened his eyes, the young monk saw that the beautiful lily, once so bright, fresh, and lively, had withered away.  So, he meditated on the impermanence of the beauty, freshness, and life of the lily. Reflecting that his own handsome, young, healthy, and strong body would grow old and wither just as the flower had, he attained liberation from attachment to his body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness (page 58).[1]

And thus, we too get all caught up in this world of attachment and impermanence even though we don’t realize it.  One of the things I learned early on in Zen was about attachment and so I began to see how long I could go without being attached to anything.  I had a new car and one day I saw a scratch on my door where someone must have knocked into my door with theirs.  My first response was to start to get mad, then I remembered my goal of “non-attachment” and so I let it go and continued to run my errands.

I was very proud of myself and as I went through the day I praised myself off and on for not getting attached to the scratch on the car until I realized that all

I had done was switch my attachment from that to being attached to my ability to “not be attached.”  Yikes! I had just attached my attachment to something else, oh boy! It ain’tKermit_the_Frog easy being green as Kermit the frog would say.  And it ain’t easy being me trying to be a Buddhist.

Wow, that Buddha guy sure didn’t make anything easy! Now I do know that my beautiful Kermit green Ford Fiesta is impermanent and after many years it will be worn out and I will have to give it up and get a new one and maybe even take it to the junk yard and watch it be torn apart or squeezed into that big car crusher and god only knows where MY car is going!

But little-by-little after 12 years of studying and practicing Buddhism I am able to be less attached to things.  I can throw out old clothes that don’t fit me anymore, I got rid of my old silverware that had nothing matching and bought a new set, and I can give up eating ice cream before I go to bed.

Okay that last thing was a lie!  But I’m working on my attachment to the Heavenly Hash ice cream (How’s that for an oxymoron?). I only eat it once or twice a week now.  Soon all attachments will be gone for it and I just hope and pray I don’t switch it for chocolate peanut butter ice cream instead!  Oh well, I guess I’m still a work in progress.  How about you?

[1] Gunaratana, B.  (2012) The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English, Wisdom Publications: Boston

[2] picture of Kermit: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/…

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We continue our thoughts on these verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Remember when reading this sutra you are the bodhisattva regardless of whether you feel like it today or not.  It is an inherent characteristic of you that cannot be denied, removed, or ignored:  When we try to do so it simply finds ways to remind us.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Paramita

With no hindrance of mind.

No Hindrance, therefore no fear,

Far beyond all such delusion,

Nirvana is already here.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

This is prajna—no gain and no loss.  There’s nothing coming in or going out because there is no place where anything can come to or go from. There is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy. This is reality beyond our conceptual and calculating way of thinking (p. 194). [1]

This may be a difficult concept to grasp as we live in the physical world and we see birth and death every day in our lives and on our TV.  And yet the famous healer and author Joel Goldsmith wrote about this same idea in his book Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Our Life, (1958)

All through the ages, duality has separated us from our good, but it is a sense of duality, not duality, because there is no duality.  The secret of life is oneness, and oneness is not something we bring about.  Oneness is a state of being.

There is no such thing as God and man, any more than there is an outside and an inside to the tumbler, separate and apart from each other. The outside and the inside are one (page 56).

The nature of our existence is immortality, eternality, infinity (page 58).[2]

Just as Okumura says, there is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy—tumbler energy appearing as a vessel for us to use when we are drinking.  Our bodies and our minds are like this vessel and thus there is no gain and no loss, there is nothing coming in or going out and when we grasp this idea we also lose the idea of “hindrance.”  This understanding relieves us of our fears and delusions.  Thus “Nirvana is already here.” Thus we are already the bodhisattva!

Yet, we keep forgetting.  Sitting is a great way to help us remember. Practicing the principles of Buddhism is a great way to remember.  Living a life of compassion and peace is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.  Simply sitting as often as possible and as long as possible is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.

And from these demonstrations come results in our lives: less fear, less delusion, less hindrance of mind. This is “reality” beyond our everyday thinking. And that is the perfect place to be today!

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything that is keeping me from focusing my attention on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and delusions.
  3. I am not looking into the future for Nirvana because it is already here in this now moment!
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[2] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958). Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in our life. HarperSanFrancisco

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