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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Nirvana Day

buddha_golden.jpgToday, 15 February, marks the Buddhist holiday of “Nirvana Day.” It celebrates the Buddha’s death at the age of 80 and his transition into paranirvana — the ultimate nirvana. 

The idea of paranirvana is predicated on the idea of rebirth. When the Buddha died he was, according the traditional view, liberated from the cycles of death and rebirth. He did not have to be reborn unless he chose to. 
There’s a lot of epistemological baggage with this idea that is not sanguine to a lot of Westerners. Stephen Batchelor has articulated a secular form of Buddhism in his beautifully written Buddhism Without Beliefs and more recently Confession of a Buddhist Atheist.
It’s possible for us all to be Buddha without subscribing to any particular form of Buddhism or any of the untestable ideas such as rebirth. If the idea of rebirth appeals to you, you will find great comfort and color in the practices and beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism.
Nirvana (or nibbana in Pali) is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Buddhism (right up there with karma). It’s often mistaken for some kind of blissed-out realm or state of being where everything is light and love. 
Nirvana means “cessation” or more literally “blowing out” as you would a candle flame. It refers to the cessation of all the mental activities that creates suffering and is the promise of the Third Noble Truth. When we stop indoctrinating ourselves with anguish-producing thoughts there is a release into what is called nirvana. 
Now, of course, this experience may be accompanied by peacefulness, serenity, bliss, and a feeling of great expansiveness. It can also be quite ordinary; a simple coming to the ground of now. 
To read more about Nirvana day, you can check out this story on the BBC
 
  • Kathryn

    Arnie,
    How old is this idea of extinguishing anguish-provoking thoughts? I usually think of that as a product of modern, hectic lives, but perhaps this is much older.
    -Kathryn

  • 2netis

    May I offer –
    The idea of idea of extinguishing anguish-provoking thoughts is ageless dating back for as long as shamanism itself. A slightly more user friendly and more achievable version is to just note the anguish and not follow it excessivly or obsessively because these thoughts will exponentially raise the level of anguish if unwise attention is paid – if personal identification with them is made. This anguish is the inevitable result of having a mind and 5 senses – of being human. The idea as the Buddha stated it, is that we have these thoughts and we suffer in varying degrees eventually – it is unavoidable. This is the first Noble truth of Buddhism. The other 3 of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are an outline for dealing with suffering and gaining wisdom – or for pointing to the path of awakening. The Buddha said that he was “awakened” when first asked about it. He awakended to the understanding of the root cause of suffering. Many an ancient shaman has done the same. Many also have been misguided in thinking that suffering is an entirely personal thing and have medicated themselves with belief, drugs and all manner of dead ends.
    The Mahayana view – Mahayana is a relatively recent understanding of Buddha’s teachings – is that Nirvana and Samsara are the same thing. This is a non-dualistic understanding expressed in the experiential finding that reality is in both phenomenal form and the empty existence of all form – at the same time and not otherwise. In the Mahayana, ordinary mind is the fusion of form and formlesness as there is no thing outside of this one mind. Suffering is optional as most (as mental) suffering is generated from misunderstanding.
    Respectfully,

  • Bernard Long

    Where is February 15th celebrated as Nirvana Day?
    I South East Asia, Wesak Day, the full moon of May, is generally regarded as the day on which the Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed into Parinirvana, although not, of course in the same year. It is a public holiday even here in Muslim Malaysia.

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